Implementing Diversity In Tech And Continuing The Conversation

Posted on August 25, 2020 by Bailey Crumpton. Tagged: Resources for Entrepreneurs, For Clients, DEIB

This summer, the United States is experiencing a renewed energy in one of the most expansive civil rights movements of our time. Nationwide, the impact of the Black Lives Matter movement has reverberated in social, economic, and political aspects of life. Businesses across the nation acknowledged the power of this shift. Most have put forth statements of support and found their own ways to commit to bringing more diversity into their organizations.

Continuing the conversation on implementing diversity and equality in our society starts from a place of learning and humility. Business leaders are more willing than ever to listen, learn, and incorporate stronger initiatives for diversity and inclusion tactics in their organizations. For many, the time is now to answer the question of how do companies go about continuing the conversation and implementing diversity, for good?

Reaching Out To Grow Within

In order to continue moving the needle on diversity initiatives that actually work, we must learn from experts in the field of diversity and inclusion. There is no shortage of information, resources, and consultants when it comes to learning about building diversity. Still, translating intentions into impact is what really matters. This article will outline beginning steps for implementing diversity in your company in more tangible ways.

In the meantime, the urgency of needing more diversity in leadership and hiring diverse individuals will remain a top priority for modern, growing companies. While the answers on how to diversify your team may be more complex and nuanced than simply wishing for more diverse candidates, the value of embracing this concept will serve your company moving forward.

It's worth reinforcing that increasing diversity has significant business value. Teams with people from differing background are better at problem solving and brainstorming creative solutions. In fact, companies that are intentional about diversity are 35% more likely to have financial gains above the industry median. This is no coincidence. A team made up of unique individuals brings a wealth of experience to the table, and in turn more ingenuity for growth factors and revenue.

Ideas From Implementing Diversity In Hiring Practices

Modifying internal structures to encourage more diversity in the hiring process is an easy place to start. Frequently, companies looking to audit their hiring process to better understand who it includes and excludes will hire a consultant or expert in the field of implementing diversity. Do not fret if a consultant is not in your company’s budget, there are also free online resources for diversity training.

Whether you are expanding on your organization’s current diversity efforts or building a program from the ground up, there are several minor tweaks that can jump-start growing a more diverse candidate pool. It is also beneficial to measure your candidate pipeline diversity at the application, candidate, and hire stages, to collect real time data on if new ideas are working. The following list includes the top 5 ideas for isolating aspects of the hiring process for greater diversity:

  1. Remote work is a catalyst for expanding your candidate pool. Regardless of how we got to the current state of remote work, for many businesses it will continue past the pandemic. Consider if the position you’re hiring for could be done by someone that lives out of state. Opening the doors for remote only positions drastically expands the availability of diverse candidates.
  2. Work on confronting unconscious biases when hiring. Unconscious bias can present itself in subtle ways, for example, to unknowingly prefer one candidate’s name to another. One proven technique for uncovering unconscious bias is conducting a blind resume review, in which candidate’s resumes are reviewed for their skills first with their name or background blocked in the initial scan. Another method is to flip the script on hiring for the right “culture fit.” From a seminar on diversity in recruiting, our team loved the concept of an individual being a “culture add.” Ask yourself what someone can bring to the table that’s unique, and consider it an added strength.
  3. Related to confronting unconscious bias, rethinking other requirements of a position and truly distilling what skill sets your company is looking for in a new hire is key. Does the project this individual will be working on require them to have a computer science degree? If not, removing such a requirement expands the candidate pool by including those whose talent deserves attention, but may not have had the opportunity for secondary education. Remember to consider other important factors like a candidate’s analytical thinking, reasoning, creativity, and history of teamwork.
  4. Examine your interview teams. Is your hiring team homogeneous? A known roadblock in expanding diversity is lack of representation in leadership. Consider who is doing the interviewing, and if a woman or person of color on your team would be equally suited for interviewing an incoming candidate. Also take a look at our tips for running a successful virtual interview in the work from home era.
  5. Finally, focus on the language of your job descriptions. Often times, aggressive, superlative, or male-centered language saturates job descriptions, especially in the tech industry. Online tools like Textio and Gender Decoder uncover language that unintentionally turns diverse and female talent away. By more carefully wording job descriptions, you can automatically increase the number of people attracted to the job posting in the first place.

Representation In Leadership Matters

Implementing diversity more holistically includes examining the demographic makeup of your own team. As we learned from our conversations with female leaders in tech this year, representation in leadership is more than a checkbox to fill in. Tech companies with women or people of color in leadership are more likely to attract other diverse talent to their teams.

Kathy Keating, CTO of business communication platform TextUs, out of Boulder, Colorado, noticed a difference when implementing a more intentional path for diversity. Her efforts are more important than ever, as the number of women graduating with computer science degrees has actually dropped from 40% in the 1980s, to less than 20% today, and over 83% of tech leadership is white. Keating, who has grown a diverse team here in Colorado, said “the most common advice I give executives when they ask me how I do it is start by cultivating and honest and trusting culture.”

Next, she hires an experienced woman into a leadership position. Then she helps her be visible publicly in things related to her job. This means topics besides diversity that are based on her unique skill set and professionalism. Noting this process has been successful multiple times, talented women and people of color have flocked to her team. She adds, “what’s interesting about this is you also find more LGBTQ, racially diverse, and a range of ages in applicants” when directly promoting a non-white male to her leadership teams.

What we can ascertain from Keating’s success at TextUs is that representation in leadership has a measurable impact. From Deloitte’s analytical piece Paving Diverse Paths to Technology Leadership, the skills we once thought were necessary for leadership can now come from a range of experiences. Our definition of what makes a good leader is changing, in a good way. When it comes to expanding diversity in leadership, thinking outside the box will help the tech industry invest in a new generation of leaders.

Implementing Diversity Takes A Team

Diversity and inclusion will continue to be an ongoing learning process, where companies must re-asses on a regular basis to analyze what is more or less effective. Another imperative piece of the puzzle is amplifying your efforts internally as much as in the hiring process. Creating process around valuing your employees is essential to retaining those talented people. Feeling undervalued is a top reason people search for new opportunities.

Part of this process is ensuring people who already hired have opportunities for development, mentoring, and career advancement. As tech talent is always in high-demand, new hires need to know they are set up for growth and success. Involve employees in your company's journey towards more diversity. Airbnb’s head of global diversity and belonging, Dr. Melissa Thomas-Hunt emphasizes that if companies are committed to diversity for the long haul, it will require a top-down approach.

“Organizations need to take every opportunity to communicate what is expected of their leaders. It is [an organization’s] job to weave their values into the processes and practices that reinforce company culture, making sure that everyone — from individual contributors to those in leadership roles — is demonstrating behaviors that align with them,” Thomas-Hunt says of practicing accountability.

She recommends actionable incentives to encourage managers to focus on being inclusive. These include “measuring diversity and inclusion efforts in performance evaluations, linking them to salary increases or other forms of compensation, and giving employees who demonstrate inclusive values public recognition.” In turn, these practices invigorate company values, and make inclusion routine.

Diversity And Inclusion Are More Than A Moment

Simply put, implementing diversity is deeply tied to self-examination. Examining how our own biases present themselves at work allows us to reinvent those stagnant practices from the inside out. Sustaining the work for a more equitable society means a willingness to collect feedback, and graciously accept the learning we all still have to do.

It’s reasonable to conclude that implementing diversity takes a village. Creating avenues for open conversations, feedback, surveys, and personal check-ins can make all the difference in breaking down this complicated, often emotional issue. Make sure your team not only has resources for learning about diversity, but also support for executing that work in real time.

In many ways, the workplace is already where people of diverse backgrounds coexist, bond, and work together in the name of innovation or improving lives. Subsequently, the workplace also has the potential to be the space where we can find healing and support in one another.

Here at BWBacon Group, we know and live what you are experiencing as an employer or job seeker in Denver, Boulder, Dallas, San Francisco, New York City or any of the other cities we work in. We believe great recruiting starts and ends with understanding people.

If you have any questions about living, working or playing any of the areas we serve, please contact us. We are happy to help. Seize the day, every day, that’s what we say!