Inclusion Advisor: Next Generation DE&I Coaching

July 5, 2022

diversity, equity, inclusion

While developing Inclusion Advisor, an AI-powered tool that allows users to check recognition messages for unconscious bias, I realized I had been on the receiving end of unconscious bias many times in my life. Though most forms of bias I experienced weren’t overtly discriminatory, they still caught me off guard.

I’m a female in a male-dominated field, an Asian American, and an immigrant. My experience with unconscious bias ranged from suggestions to change my engineering major to something “better suited” to girls, to stereotypical comments about Asian math capabilities, questions regarding my racial background, comments on my English, and assumptions that I didn’t work full time.

All these experiences, though they may seem trivial at first glance, have a compounding effect over time. They cause moments of embarrassment and self-doubt that build up inside. These subtle prejudices are more difficult to handle, control, or even articulate because people simply don’t recognize them as readily as more obvious acts of discrimination. As I continue to work with and examine unconscious bias in my role, I know I’m not alone in these experiences.

Detecting bias in recognition messages is a difficult task, as implicit bias can be covert and even embedded in the phrases we use on a daily basis. It’s for this reason that our work is so meaningful, and why we have a passionate team of linguists, data scientists, engineers, and researchers working to develop a solution.

A little bit about the team

The Workhuman® Natural Language Processing (NLP) team is made up of experts from a wide range of disciplines, from linguistics and applied mathematics to computer science, psychology, and many other fields.

Research interests on the team include studying the effect of inclusive recognition messages on retention and burnout, gender and leadership in the workplace, and the impact of recognition on memory.

The team’s greatest strength lies in its diversity of skills, experiences, and cultural backgrounds, driving us in our mission to develop technology that fosters positive, inclusive work experiences for people around the world.

What is Inclusion Advisor?

Inclusion Advisor is an AI-powered, in-the-moment DE&I coaching tool that empowers employees to make communication meaningful and inclusive for all.

Have you ever been the recipient of a message that was well intended but missed the mark? Conversely, have you ever written or said something you didn’t realize could be perceived in a negative way? Inclusion Advisor allows users to instantly check for bias, understand how their language could be perceived, and make meaningful edits using suggestions tailored to their particular message. Additionally, the tool provides valuable context for non-native English speakers, helping them feel confident in the content of their recognition messages.

AI-powered: Inclusion Advisor uses powerful, specially trained machine learning models to analyze messages and flag instances of bias.

Data-driven: Inclusion Advisor was developed and continues to be updated with real-life examples of micro-aggressions and implicit bias. Linguists analyzed countless recognition messages to identify problematic language and create a hierarchy of bias which ranges from unconscious bias to phrases that could detract from inclusion, belonging, work-life balance, and well-being.

Why did we build Inclusion Advisor?

With more than 50 million recognition moments in Workhuman Cloud®, we have a unique, rich source of data for studying bias and micro-aggressions in the workplace, in particular unconscious and unintentional biases framed in a positive light. Research shows that employees from underrepresented groups suffer in psychological health, self-esteem, and job performance when subjected to chronic micro-aggressions. As our team dove deep into the data, we found that micro-aggressions in workplace communication were far more prevalent than expected.

Here’s a peek at Inclusion Advisor to give you a better idea of what kind of biases can crop up in recognition messages.

Inclusion Advisor example of gender bias

Gender Bias: Workhuman research has found that women are far more likely to receive praise for their appearance or personality than men. Inclusion Advisor suggests highlighting this person’s work-related skills to make the recognition message more meaningful.

Inclusion Advisor example of well-being

Well-Being: This part of the message speaks to work-life balance and well-being. Praising someone for work consistently completed on the weekends and while on vacation could make them feel like they have to be “on” all the time and contribute to feelings of burnout.

Inclusion Advisor example of inclusion and belonging

Inclusion and Belonging: Referring to someone as your “secret weapon” could make them feel like they are a tool to be used and makes the message very writer-focused.

Inclusion Advisor gives users the opportunity to step back and take a moment to think about what impact their message could have on the awardee. It’s a private, in-the-moment coaching tool that empowers users to learn and grow each time they write a recognition message. Ultimately, Inclusion Advisor aims to deliver a personal and positive experience for each user that will have an impact far beyond recognition.

What’s next?

A recent study conducted by Gallup and Workhuman shows that recognition is most meaningful when it is individualized, authentic, and equitable. Our team has set out to make workplace communication more meaningful, equitable, and inclusive one recognition moment at a time.

Stay tuned for a closer look at how Inclusion Advisor was taken from an innovative idea to a powerful product, including challenges faced along the way and new features currently in development!

If you would like to learn more about Inclusion Advisor, partner with us on future research, or explore other potential partnerships, check out this Feature Brief or contact us today.