Fighting Workplace Discrimination: A Commitment to Building Businesses Beyond Bias

Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) have long been talked about across global organizations of all sizes. We’ve identified and understand the benefits of bringing together diverse perspectives and their impact on innovation and business results. We also know it’s simply the right thing to do for our people.

Recent events in the United States, however, have put a much-needed spotlight on the fact that our discussions, and the efforts made to create a more diverse and inclusive workplace, have not been enough. The fact is, we continue to combat systemic racism across the globe and we need to do so much more to advance racial and gender equality, reduce economic disparities, and be active allies for those who are marginalized.

There are countless instances of racism and discrimination that take place every day in the workplace. Consider these sobering statistics: almost half of Black women say they experience discrimination most frequently in the workplace, according to a recent study from ESSENCE. A November 2019 inclusion study conducted by McKinsey found that only 67 percent of employees say people of different backgrounds have an equal chance of being promoted and 69 percent an equal chance of being hired.

We must do better.

As the leader of an organization that centers its business around motivating and inspiring people, I continue to spend time with family, peers, and my team to get better educated on the issues, dig deep to know where I can make my own changes, and, even more importantly, identify how I can better lead my business to actively contribute to a much larger, much more impactful solution. While we can all continue to learn, grow, and change, what I do know with certainty is this: Technology – specifically human resources (HR) technology – has a leading role to play in helping organizations live and work by diversity, equity, and inclusive practices.

SAP has been working on putting this principle into action for quite some time. When we introduced Business Beyond Bias in 2016, our intention was to help customers optimize features within their SAP SuccessFactors solutions to eliminate inherent biases around age, race and ethnicity, differently-abled, and LGBTQ+ communities. All of this functionality exists today:

  • Customers can use the job profile builder to help ensure only job-critical information is associated with a role and to help eliminate details that could introduce bias, such as physical location.
  • Managers can provide equitable and actionable feedback during performance reviews with the help of our writing assistant in SAP SuccessFactors Performance & Goals. The calibration tool in SAP SuccessFactors Compensation can also uncover unconscious bias in calibration and compensation decisions.
  • SAP SuccessFactors Learning can push relevant training to employees to make inclusion central to everyone’s curriculum.
  • Experience Management solutions from SAP (Qualtrics) provide powerful listening tools to help leadership listen, understand, and act to address how employees feel about their experiences and what they believe needs to change.

Technology is just one important part to the solution. To make lasting change to discrimination in the workplace requires strong leadership with a clear and actionable point of view, a culture of learning and transparency, and a willingness to listen and discuss the issues with employees, customers, and partners, even when it’s uncomfortable. At SAP, we have taken a number of immediate steps to rethink how we are addressing DE&I, from the inside out. Here are a few:

  • SAP is committed to double the representation of Black and African American employees in the U.S. within three years.
  • We’ve established a DE&I council within the SAP SuccessFactors organization, specifically, to ask the tough questions – both for our culture and our HR technology solutions. There’s still more work to do to advance our Business Beyond Bias initiatives across the entire employee lifecycle and for all underrepresented minorities.
  • We have initialized a series of focused DE&I conversations with customers to look at how we can address not only products and technology but how we can get to the root of the problem together.

These immediate steps are only the beginning. As an HR technology leader and one that prioritizes meaningful and personal employee experiences, we understand the critical role we play to improve DE&I for our people and our customers’ people. We can and will do more, and we commit to speaking about our efforts transparently and often.

For more, watch a leadership discussion about the role technology plays in diverse, equitable, and inclusive organizations here.


Jill Popelka is president of SAP SuccessFactors.