Digital transformation needs a diverse workforce

This piece is the seventh article of our July issue of FOCUS, the theme of which is digital transformation.

2 September 2020

Coastal Infrastructure Commercial Maritime Defence and Security Energy and Resources Water Management

Digital transformation needs diverse workforce

Dr Nancy Doyle, Occupational Psychologist and CEO of Genius Within

Digital Transformation is well underway, with Cloud usage the norm and connectivity bringing the Internet of Things into everyone’s life, with recent events accelerating this process beyond our imaginations.

As well as AI and robotics in manufacturing and logistics, we’ve heard about digital adoption in the service sector with mindfulness apps replacing counsellors, chatbots used in call centres, and facial recognition ‘improving’ selection and assessment in HR teams. How worried should we be about these changes from a personal perspective and will the promised benefits outweigh any negatives?

The World Economic Forum report in 2016 produced a table of ‘winners’ and ‘losers’ in the AI revolution, highlighting a growing digitally-enabled service sector for those people who have enhanced discretionary spend for the first time. Disability inclusion is being transformed through technology. We now have the power to create, record and communicate without relying on dexterity, sensory ability and literacy. Remote working also creates accessibility for those with muscular-skeletal disability or social anxiety.

However, as with any enterprise technology, we need to keep a close eye on the widest possible population when considering adopting or even allowing technology to transform our working lives. 15-20 per cent of the UK population has a neurodevelopmental or acquired condition.

Whether it’s an individual with ADHD, Dyslexia, mental health issues or anxiety, it’s clear neurodiversity can no longer be seen as an anomaly.

And, when you add neurodiversity to the number of people with a physical disability, it’s easy to see why organisations need to think differently about their workforce’s needs in relation to Digital Transformation.

In HR, for example, visual recognition software being used to pre-screen candidates via video link doesn’t allow for sight-loss, facial tics, paralysis or autism. AI can have inherent bias written into the coding and Machine Learning is almost impossible to ‘correct’ in comparison to other code-based software as it’s no longer possible to single out an error.

More and more high-profile organisations, are already seeing neurodiversity as a talent strategy and recognise the strengths neurodiverse people can bring to the workplace. University College London reports neurodiversity diagnoses for over 50% of their undergraduate engineering. We’re shifting the entry barriers for unusual thinking styles and placing it firmly in the talent agenda as the demand for analytics, problem-solving and radical innovation grows.

And, at the management level, we are going to need higher cognitive flexibility, critical thinking and innovation, with team leaders who can respond and change; managers who can park their biases and welcome a diverse team, maintaining their own learning while attending to others.

With Digital Transformation, all organisations need to become learning organisations. It’s time to welcome in the new. Our customer base needs to be reflected in our staff team, in order to ensure we design for all.

New technology, new ways of working and a more diverse group of talented colleagues are needed more than ever; unusual minds for unusual times.

Diversity at BMT

"We are a committed equal opportunities employer that aims to recruit, retain and motivate the best talent from all sections of society. We take pride in being an inclusive organisation where everyone is treated with respect and dignity, and where their unique contribution is sought after and valued.

"Our diversity drives creativity, better decision making and innovation and helps to create a culture of equality alongside higher levels of employee engagement. Like most consulting industries ours has changed and is changing, but the industry needs to keep working in this area to realise the business benefits of having diverse teams and inclusive environments.

"Our HR Strategy has at its heart the need and necessity to have more diverse and inclusive representation as part of our wider strategic workforce planning, and this is true for all roles from juniors to seniors, across our global community.

"During the last few years we have rolled out a broad range of learning and development programmes to all our employees including a ‘Young Professionals Network’, ‘Consulting Woman Programme’ ‘Employee Engagement Group’ and training in Diversity and Inclusion’.

"Diversity and Inclusion also feature strongly in our competency framework and in our Leadership Programmes. We are about to launch a ‘Recruitment Passport’ where all our recruiting managers will undertake specific training in selection and recruitment with an emphasis on recruiting from as diverse a pool of candidates as is possible to enrich our inclusive culture and innovation across BMT.

"If you are interested in finding out more, either about BMT’s Diversity and Inclusion activities or the work of ‘The Genius Within’, please email us at"

Anne Segall, BMT’s HR Director

Meet the author

Nancy Doyle

Occupational Psychologist and CEO of Genius Within

Nancy Doyle

Occupational Psychologist and CEO of Genius Within

Nancy is a Registered Occupational Psychologist with 20 years’ experience of assessing, coaching and researching neurodiversity at work. Nancy has always worked closely with Occupational Health, HR, Managers and individuals to ensure win-win solutions. Nancy has delivered on New Deal, Work Programme and the National Offender Management Service and is committed to promoting the talents of neurodiverse people as a means of social inclusion. Nancy was part of the development and delivery of the Royal Television Society’s Documentary of the Year 2016, ‘Employable Me’. This BBC series illustrates the difficulties that people with disabilities face in modern workplaces and how these can be overcome through Positive Assessment and simple reasonable adjustments.

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