DTW 2022: TM Forum launches new inclusion and diversity benchmark

Dawn Bushaus

DTW 2022: TM Forum launches new inclusion and diversity benchmark

TM Forum has launched a new inclusion and diversity benchmarking tool to help technology companies create working cultures that will retain and attract key digital skills.

Called the Inclusion and Diversity Score (IDS), the benchmarking tool was co-created by TM Forum members. It provides a single metric for both diversity and inclusion, and measures how the diversity of a company's leadership compares to its operational environment across a set of self-reported demographics such as gender, LGBTQ+ and ethnic or racial diversity. In addition, it uses machine learning-based sentiment analysis to provide insights into factors affecting a sense of inclusion.

TM Forum’s Inclusion and Diversity Council, chaired and led by CEO of Colt Technology Services, Keri Gilder, pioneered the benchmark tool. Over the last eight months 15 companies have piloted the IDS, including Accedian, Bain, BT, Colt, CSGI, Delta Partners, Detecon, Infosys, Red Hat and Telia. Their work, which draws on more than 180,000 data points has allowed TM Forum to define and refine the score, as well as the data collection and analysis methodology, all while ensuring the anonymity and data privacy of employees.

At Digital Transformation World in Copenhagen, Gilder spoke about the challenges ICT companies are facing. “The retention challenge in our industry is upon us,” she said, adding that telecoms is facing a looming retirement cliff along with the challenge of the Great Resignation. She cited the following data points:

Diversity and inclusion are both important to addressing the talent challenge, according to Gilder, but inclusion is paramount. “It starts with inclusion first,” she said, adding that diversity without inclusion is “completely pointless”.

Gilder was joined on stage by Danielle Stekelenburg, a partner in Bain & Company’s Performance Improvement and Communications, Media & Entertainment practices, who has been involved in development of the IDS from the start. She noted that the IDS is easy for companies to use and has been simplified since it was initially created.

The tool consists of a short, two-pronged survey. First it gauges diversity by asking employees how they identify themselves when it comes to gender, age and ethnicity, and whether they identify as being differently abled or LGBTQ+. Then it asks participants to rate on a scale of 0 to 10 how strongly they agree with the following statement: “I feel a sense of belonging in my organization, and I'm treated fairly. I have an equal opportunity to succeed, and I'm encouraged to bring my whole self to work.”

A comments section follows, allowing participants to expound on why they do or do not feel included at work. Then a machine learning algorithm is applied to the text in order to identify problem areas for companies and provide insights into factors affecting their employees’ feelings of being included.

Companies involved in the IDS pilot are now working together to create a set of best practices and interventions to help overcome the challenges IDS identifies. In addition, TM Forum members are collaborating on a broader set of talent challenges, including how to attract new talent to the industry; best practices for reskilling; and a leadership diagnostic tool to help CEOs and leadership teams understand their own transformation needs.

TM Forum will pilot the forthcoming leadership diagnostic tool, which has been created with Russell Reynolds Associates and builds on the TM Forum Digital Maturity Model, in coming months.

“Our industry is at a pivotal moment in its quest for growth, and recruiting, retraining and reskilling the right talent is now a critical issue for most companies. Despite clear evidence of the business benefits of building diverse, inclusive teams, as an industry our progress remains painfully slow,” said Nik Willetts, CEO, TM Forum. “IDS is the first industry-agreed score of its kind to make it easier to measure, diagnose and benchmark these complex issues.”

Telecoms, media and technology companies interested in taking part in the initiative can contact TM Forum.