How can diversity bring different dimensions at work ft. Katriina Tahka

Katriina Tahka:

Hello. My name is Katriina Tahka. I'm the CEO and founder of a human agency, a HR consulting organization based in Australia, servicing Asia Pacific.  

Q: How can one use technology to eliminate bias from the hiring process?

Katriina Tahka:

There are so many ways in which technology can eliminate bias. But I think the first thing I'd like us to consider is that there are actually ways in which it can also embed bias. So we need to remember that technology is built by and the data is inputted by human beings. And so there are actually a lot of ways in which the humans who are inputting the data in the first place may be building algorithms or assumptions that are based off their lived experience. So in the first instance, we do need to be aware that it is possible that if it's not built with that includes the lens, it could actually embed some forms of bias. However, having said that, I think technology is absolutely a tool that is here to assist. Most people in, in all countries to actually eliminate bias. It, first of all, increases transparency.  

It cuts a lot of the subjectivity out of processes by being able to automate hiring processes, succession planning, promotion processes, you can, add objective criteria into that. You can also use quizzes and other formats that are more inclusive than a face-to-face interview. We also know that you can use keywords to do searches when you are looking for certain capabilities or experiences so that you might actually be able to find out information that didn't emerge as naturally during an interview process. So I think there's a lot of ways in which technology is actually our friend and is actually a positive. But we do need to just think about the forms of questions we're asking and make sure that they are appropriate for the target audience and that they have been delivered in an appropriate way as well. So something that's intended as a tool for inclusion, doesn't actually become a tool for exclusion.  

The other thing that I think we have to be conscious of is does everybody have access to the technology that we're thinking of using? And certainly in Australia, this is something that was recently highlighted when there was an assumption that our school children would do learning from home. And we quickly realized that it, you cannot assume that every child has got a laptop or an iPad at home to use for remote learning. So we learned very quickly over the last 18 months, that access to technology has to be one of the starting points. If you're going to use technology as a tool for inclusion, and then you have to think through the language and the way in which the programs that are being used in order to drive inclusion.

Q: How would you advocate for diversity, equity, and inclusion with colleagues who don’t understand it’s importance?

Katriina Tahka:

This is a great question. And one that I talked to a lot of people about, and it's interesting what people interpret diversity and inclusion to mean. There's very many people that think it's about giving additional rights to other people, to other people that need those rights. So in a classic gender of quality debate, there's a perception that it is about giving more rights to women. And there's an implied thought process in that, that it means that we're taking away rights from somebody else. So, you know, do men need to give up some of their rights in order for women to get more?

And I think that is a real problem because inclusion is about how can you include everybody in the workforce or in the community? How can you enable all people to have access to opportunities and to have equal access to the ability to participate and to learn, for example, access to education.  

So for me, one of the compelling ways that you engage people in a discussion about diversity and inclusion is to make it something that is inclusive of the other person that you're speaking to, because usually you have to overcome their fear that this is potentially a negative thing for them. They might lose some power or some influence or some money. Whereas what we're really talking about, I believe in inclusion is equality of access, equality of opportunity, equality of education, even thinking about the previous topic about technology, maybe it's equality of access to technology, for example. So I think if we lift up to the equality for everyone level, then more people, uh, wanting to understand how we can become more inclusive of everybody. And it's not our men versus women conversation or a disabled versus able-bodied people conversation. It's not a versus, you know, we're not setting people up to argue against each other.  

It's actually about creating a greater ability to include everybody in these opportunities. And it's this way that DNI is, would not only for people, but it's good for business. It's about enabling the business to be able to attract more people, to be more successful because the people who work there love working there. And we all know that highly engaged employees are much more likely to perform highly as well. They're much more likely to have a higher output and that's a positive for the business. So, you know, diversity and inclusion lead to employee engagement, but employee engagement for everybody and that's good for business. So I try to take diversity inclusion and equality back to a very human conversation and make it about real people and real stories and helping businesses to understand the way in which, they might be able to improve their representation of all people.  

And I think there's also a really good opportunity here to talk about, customers. And it's very clear to my business of who their customers are. And in this global market, your customers are diverse and they live everywhere. And, you know, they represent all sorts of different types of people. So why would your workforce look any different? We know that the most successful businesses are able to represent their customers well. So your workforce should equally represent your customers. And you start by doing that by being inclusive of everybody and making opportunities for all people to work in your business.

And if there are people who you don't see in your business, then you need to figure out why it is that they've decided not to apply for those jobs or not to stay in your business. And there might be something in the workplace culture that is excluding certain people. And then you can come up with an action plan and a strategy to overcome that. So it really is good for people. It really is good for profits. It's all about performance. It's all about doing the right thing. But let's start with a very human perspective on diversity and inclusion and why it's good for everybody.

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