Today, organizations that embrace diversity are leading the pack when it comes to innovation. A diverse workforce results in a winning mix of learnings and experiences, ideas and opinions, and innovation solutions. Across the board, companies know that the topics of diversity and inclusion (D&I) are essential to the success of their business.

In its 2017 Global Human Capital Trends study, Deloitte found that over two-thirds (69 percent) of executives rate diversity and inclusion as an important issue. D&I, the report established, has a direct impact on brand, corporate purpose, and business performance, with employees, shareholders, customers, and suppliers all taking a closer look at this issue. Studies have also shown that highly inclusive organizations generate 2.3 times more cash flow per employee, 1.4 times more revenue, and rate themselves 170 percent better at innovation.

Diversity and Inclusion as a Business Imperative

These measurable statistics illustrate the business imperative. Recognizing the importance of a diverse and inclusive culture is, however, just one piece of the puzzle. To be truly inclusive, businesses need to consider diversity as more than just a reporting goal. It must be embedded into their company culture, systems, and talent processes. And by doing so, they establish HR and D&I as the heart of an intelligent enterprise.

At SAP, we recognize that talent is ubiquitous, but opportunity is not. To address this, we drive access to opportunity primarily through our four pillars of D&I: Gender Intelligence, Generational Intelligence, Culture & Identity, and Differently-Abled.

Our focus also includes physical workspaces, intellectual thought processes, supplier and partner ecosystems, as well as operational processes and procedures. Currently we are measuring, monitoring, and making changes in the areas of workforce diversification, supplier diversity, and workplace of the future to ensure inclusive behavior is inherent in all our business transactions.

It is key to remember that what shapes a business dictates the business outcomes. We recently relaunched the SAP North America Diversity & Inclusion Council comprised of business leaders across all the company’s board areas. The aim of the council is to make recommendations for internal changes to create a more inclusive culture, focusing on areas such as talent attraction and recruitment, employee engagement and retention, employee development and advancement, and supplier sourcing strategies.

But diversity is clearly not just a topic for leaders; it must be lived and breathed at every level of the company. For that reason, we are also working with colleagues who serve as D&I ambassadors to help drive awareness, amplify impact, and execute D&I activities.

The Impact of Intelligent Technology

Like many companies, we also measure our progress in these areas to ensure we are constantly improving our D&I efforts. Key metrics we monitor include recruitment and management position data for women and underrepresented minorities, attrition and retention rates, and supplier diversity statistics. We also look to analyze the impact and ROI from taking part in, for example, recruiting events by comparing aspects such as the number jobs placed on job boards against the number of candidates hired per hiring manager or the level of branding exposure versus cost.

As intelligent enterprises, organizations can “leverage emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, the Internet of Things (IoT), and analytics to enable the workforce to focus on higher value outcomes.” At SAP, we are using smart technologies to conduct gender bias scans to identify and recommend language replacements in order to remove unconscious bias from job descriptions.

Workforces of the future also need to be agile and make data-driven decisions quickly. In an intelligent enterprise, data — be it structured or unstructured, in the cloud, or on premise — must become an accessible asset across an organization that enables all users to make confident decisions.

Embedded intelligence offers numerous ways to support businesses in their efforts to become more diverse and inclusive. But from payroll to recruitment to talent management processes, having analytics tools that can proactively eradicate users’ bias when analyzing data — more about that below — and provide accurate contextual information that allows users to make decisions faster, more easily, and with greater confidence is without doubt absolutely key.

Powerful but simple-to-use analytics capabilities built directly into HCM solutions allow HR professionals — and not just data analysts — access to insights across their business. Solutions that combine the full spectrum of analytics domains — business intelligence, planning, and predictive — can analyze and foresee trends that can be immediately considered in workforce planning. Natural language processing allows us to explore our data by asking questions just as we would with a search engine, while embedded models allow us to automate decisions and certain analytics tasks, so that both the HR and the data specialist users can spend their time on higher value tasks.

Preventing Bias in Our Behavior and Our Technology

AI also helps us with one of our most human traits: bias. On the one hand, machine learning algorithms such as the job analyzer mentioned above can help us avoid gender-biased language in job descriptions. On the other, it also helps us further upstream in the process in the analysis of our data. Even with the most extensive and accurate data at our fingertips, we can ultimately only find what we are looking for. We tend to look for patterns that confirm our existing beliefs. Intelligent analytics tools help to correct this by uncovering and making us aware of previously unrecognized patterns and insights. By doing so, software can help us embrace diversity at the level of solving business problems – enabling us to combine our creativity and empathy with technology.

Technology, too, can be susceptible to bias. The quality of the machine learning algorithms depends entirely on the quality of the data used to train them. Their “understanding” of the world is based on the information we feed them; and if the data they have consumed leads them to incorrect conclusions, their behavior will reflect that. This is why it is also so important to focus and invest in the quality of the data set.

Intelligent enterprises embed D&I into the DNA of their business. In the age of the data-driven business, diversity, creativity, and empathy are more important than ever. The future is about creating new ideas, not incrementally improving on the old ones. The creativity inevitably generated by a diverse mix of people with a diverse mix of ideas is by definition something that does not follow any fixed path. By combining, supporting, and fostering this with technology and AI, we are bringing together the best of both worlds — connecting people, ideas, and data.

At SAP, we leverage advanced analytics capabilities to measure, monitor, and drive activities to ensure accountability, accelerate excitement around current D&I initiatives, and improve what we’re doing and how we are doing it: to deliver on our vision of an ever more diverse and inclusive culture internally and for our customers.

Check us out this week at SuccessConnect in Las Vegas and follow @SAPAnalytics for more D&I knowledge and upcoming events.

For more on SAP Analytics Cloud innovations, join the upcoming #askSAP call on October 18. Check out pre-built HR LoB content start a free trial today.

Gerrit Kazmaier is senior vice president of Analytics Development and Database and Data Management Development at SAP
Margot Goodson is the SAP North America Diversity & Inclusion lead.