For this week’s newsletter, I interviewed Sameer Penakalapati, Founder and CEO of CEIPAL, an AI-powered SaaS platform that provides full-lifecycle management of the talent acquisition process. CEIPAL’s system leverages advanced technology to analyze vast amounts of candidate and employee data, providing actionable insights for meeting hiring goals and executing talent strategies.

Sameer is a serial entrepreneur who is dedicated to advising and investing in technology startups, specifically in the HR & AI space. His key interests include talent acquisition, talent engagement, and total talent management. As a regular contributor of thought leadership pieces to HR publications, Sameer was recently inducted into the Forbes HR Council and sits on Fast Company’s Executive Board.

In our conversation, we discussed how technologies like Artificial Intelligence (AI) and natural language processing (NLP) can be immensely beneficial for employers seeking to boost their company’s diversity levels. We also discussed why organizations need to put more emphasis on improving diversity levels among their contingent workforce, and how DE&I technology can help them achieve this.

Read on for Sameer’s insights about this important topic.

1. The significance of DE&I is well-established. In fact, researchers first uncovered the connection between a diverse workforce and financial performance over two decades ago! So, why haven’t we seen major improvements in this space?

As organizations seek to diversify their workforces, it’s also critical to ensure that the best talent available is being engaged throughout this process. There has been progress made in the last two decades in terms of education, training, and awareness programs within organizations, but despite that, contingent worker data tends to be scarce. This limits organization-wide visibility, particularly when it comes to evaluating talent sources.

In fact, one of the biggest obstacles to meaningful improvements in workforce diversity is a lack of such visibility. If you can’t accurately measure the demographic makeup of your own workforce and your talent sources, you’ll never see measurable improvements. While the EEO regulations have helped push things forward in terms of diversifying workforces in the U.S. over the last fifty years, some would argue that these rules have not evolved enough to keep pace with our changing times. Meanwhile, innovative technology has continuously evolved, and businesses are just now beginning to understand how this can move us closer to our diversity goals.

2. How can technologies like AI algorithms and natural language processing (NLP) technology help employers boost their diversity numbers? Can you give us an example to bring this to life?

In broad terms, AI and NLP can remove human bias from the hiring equation, as long as you have a clear view of where those biases exist in the process. For example, you have to know which words in a job description might create new biases and/or reinforce existing ones. Likewise, once you discover these potential liabilities, you must align these considerations with your algorithms to ensure you’re accurately removing them from the equation and adjusting your processes accordingly.

So, as you automate a task as seemingly simple as a job posting, it’s critical to have technology in place that’s capable of recognizing and remediating any language that runs the risk of perpetuating age discrimination or cultural biases, for example. At CEIPAL, we’ve managed to implement advanced AI-powered technology into the talent acquisition process by providing complete visibility into any workforce or talent pool.

3. Why is it so important for organizations to have diversity among their contingent or temporary workforce, and how can DE&I technology help them achieve this?

Labor laws and the EEOC bring some measure of accountability to full-time and contingent workforces. However, organizations lack visibility into these combined talent pools, which is a significant obstacle even for the most sophisticated organizations that are looking for a holistic and systemic approach to DE&I in terms of hiring efforts. In fact, large business leaders typically lack any kind of visibility into the demographics of their contingent talent pool. Meanwhile, the U.S. Government Accountability Office estimates that as much as 40% of the U.S. workforce is made up of contingent workers. Obviously, this is problematic when seeking to establish a truly diversified workforce. Fortunately, AI-powered technology easily solves the problem.

At CEIPAL, for example, we launched DEI technology that is capable of measuring the aggregate, demographic breakdown of any workforce or talent pool without relying on self-reporting and without reporting on the demographic background of any single individual. Applied to any database of names and locations, this technology enables you to see the demographic breakdown of the database as a whole. Our algorithms ensure this can be done quickly and with a high degree of certainty, all while respecting the individual privacy concerns of employees and candidates. That means you can see exactly where the diversity gaps exist within any organization or talent pool.

You can also add layers upon layers to solve many of the most daunting diversity challenges. For example, you might find out that your workforce is made of 40% women and conclude that your organization is doing well and trending toward some semblance of gender parity and set a goal of increasing your number of women hires to reach 50%. However, our technology enables you to dig deeper and ask more probing questions, such as, what percentage of those women are in leadership roles compared to the percentage of men in similar roles. Then you might dive even deeper and ask what those women in leadership roles are being paid compared to men in similar positions. This is just one example of how AI can be leveraged to evaluate an organization’s DEI progress without the need to ask intrusive questions.

4. Can you summarize the process employers should take to apply DE&I technology into their existing talent acquisition technology stack?

The first step is to assess your workforce diversity by gender and ethnicity. Once you know where your gaps are, you can then strategize and focus to create a diversity roadmap to fill those gaps. The plan should be comprehensive, but it also must be realistic. It’s not something that can be fixed overnight, but if you address all source points, you can build a more diverse workforce in time.

You also must ensure you have the right tools and technology that will empower you to execute the plan and address your talent diversity challenges at the source. Our AI-powered platform, for example, enables you to curate a qualified and diverse pool of candidates, including a diverse pool of temporary talent.

CEIPAL’s AI-powered passive candidate sourcing is another way to tap a more qualified and diverse talent source. No organization should rely solely on those actively seeking employment. Much of the best and most diverse talent out there is gainfully employed and might not be actively searching for the next opportunity. However, with the right motivation, this oft overlooked talent pool can be a great source of diverse candidates. AI-powered technology helps to ensure that no stone is left unturned when it comes to creating a more diverse workforce.

5. What does the future hold for DE&I technology?

When it comes to AI-powered DEI technology, we’re just now scratching the surface in terms of its capabilities. Regardless of the application, algorithms are only as good as the data they process, so we can anticipate that as the data improves, so too will our analysis. Over the coming years, AI will process the data more quickly and more accurately, which will enable us to provide customers even greater visibility and insights into their workforces and talent pools in a shorter amount of time.

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