Businesses Need Bias Prevention Now More Than Ever

A lot has changed since SAP SuccessFactors launched its Customer Advisory Board to address workplace bias last year. For one thing, the workplace has emerged as an oasis for employees concerned about diversity and bias prevention.

L to R: Burlacu, Baur, Fletcher, Reid, and Wittenberg

“Folks are coming to work and talking about diversity,” said Patti Fletcher, Leadership Futurist & Solution Management at SAP SuccessFactors. “Work is becoming the place where we can talk with our colleagues and our boss. We all know what’s going on in the world, and while there are many opinions out there, within organizations with the right CHROs and other business leaders, that’s where the progress is happening.”

Fletcher was part of a roundtable session entitled “Using Technology to Drive Business Beyond Bias” at the SAPPHIRE NOW + ASUG  Annual Conference. The expert panelists talked about how HR professionals can respond to increasing demands for diversity in the workplace, moving from awareness to action.

For example, in a survey conducted just after last year’s U.S. elections, members of the Customer Advisory Board cited new priorities on top of race, race, and ethnicity.

“Issues like LGBT inclusion were way more important than last year,” said Gabriela Burlacu, Human Capital Management Research at SAP SuccessFactors. “They’ve been working overtime to make sure what’s out there in the media doesn’t detrimentally affect their diverse talent and their ability to attract diverse talent, which is a hopeful message.”

Fletcher also pointed out that diversity is a business imperative. “Women leave a company at twice the rate of men, and we know they’re not leaving a company, they’re leaving a boss. Our customers are looking to us for a collective change, and it’s starting to open up a conversation. They want to know what these new kinds of HR processes are and the role of technology.”

Workplaces have emerged as an oasis for employees concerned about diversity and bias prevention

Interrupting Bias

To make a dent in workplace bias, Brenda Reid, vice president of Product Management at SAP SuccessFactors, said chief diversity officers need to understand how technology can interrupt potentially biased decision-making processes in the broadest possible sense.

“We’re trying to embed in all of our applications equity and inclusive talent management decision-making practices,” she said. “We’re seeing niche solutions to individual problems, but no one else is looking at it end-to-end and holistically. That’s what unique about our approach. We’re looking at decisions that interrupt someone’s thought process in places likes compensation, recruiting, how you write a job description, enforcing quotas and analytics.”

Burlacu said that some of the latest bias prevention capabilities embedded in SAP SuccessFactors solutions include enhancements to workforce analytics for measuring diversity-related data, mentor matching for career development, and photo-less calibration for performance ratings.

Take a Hard Look at Job Descriptions

According to Anka Wittenberg, chief diversity and inclusion officer at SAP, descriptions in job postings are one of the first lines of defense against gender bias. Phrases like “assertive” and “politically savvy,” are gender-biased, and will tend to attract more male candidates.

“If we don’t start at the beginning of the chain, we’re not going to be able to change behavior throughout the organization,” she said. “People don’t change when you tell them to. They change when you enable them to by giving them tools that nudge a new type of decision-making and behavior.”

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