The subject of diversity is a hot topic in leading tech companies today. Many of them would have you believe that cultural and gender diversity is an important subject that they actively promote. Frequently, they use diversity statements and marketing materials to advertise the importance of programs geared towards building diverse teams. All too often, these efforts end up being nothing more than empty words on a page.
While it may sound politically correct to support diversity and inclusion efforts, behind the scenes, many tech leaders dispute how important this work truly is. Throughout the years, I’ve been confronted with executives in leading enterprises who have privately denied the importance of diversity. In each of these situations, I’ve prevailed in making tangible changes that have proven the importance of diversity to the success of a company. As a result of these changes, we closed the gender compensation gap with women employees earning 99.8% of the total compensation of men, as well as increasing the population of minorities in leadership positions by 18% in a caucasian dominated environment.
Obtaining buy-in to adopt diversity from leaders who don’t understand its importance can be tricky and challenging. In my experience, the lack of buy-in is due to one fundamental issue. Most arguments in favor of diversity are usually based on subjective or social opinions. For example, in the following statement, “Diversity is good for companies because of today’s more accepting societal changes,” the subjectivity is undeniable.
The methodology for implementing changes is grounded in facts, but it is also based on the values of a company. I’ve found that when you use company values as a measuring stick in addition to logic and evidence, arguments in support for diversity are much more compelling. Arguing over whether or not diversity is a good or righteous is simply the wrong question to ask. A better one is, “How is the performance of our company linked to diversity?”
Once you ask this question you can begin to define what both “performance” and “diversity” mean in familiar terms. For example, you can define “performance” as KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) i.e. profitability, and market share etc; and “diversity” – as the blending of multiple characteristics of a company’s talent. After doing this, you can connect characteristics to demographics such as gender, ethnicity, race, age, experience, education, and attitude. Finally, after clearly defining “performance” and “diversity” you can point to many leading case studies that substantiate all the benefits of a heterogeneous workplace.
At TrueAccord, we believe that diversity is not just advantageous, but paramount to our success. We’ve experienced firsthand how this work can strengthen a company, especially in the following areas:
The diversity of thought and expression will help tech companies develop the courage it takes to move from what is familiar to what is different. When you bring people together with different backgrounds, cultures, and perspectives at the early stages of a company, you can seed the importance of fostering inclusion which promotes new ways of thinking as your company grows. The bottom line here is that diverse teams generate creative ideas that will ultimately drive your company’s results, and a company that harnesses that diversity has a much higher chance of success.
The rare opportunity to join a multicultural environment in tech is a key selling point when recruiting top-talent in the Bay Area. As a potential employee, first impressions can make or break your decision to join a team, walking into an office and seeing a diverse work force shows you that the company is committed to diversity. Working at a place that truly values this work is incredibly rewarding. The best talent comes in all shapes, sizes, and colors. Harnessing this talent to accomplish your company’s goals will unleash ideas and solutions that will remove many of the roadblocks for those who only hire the same type and class of individual.
Hiring diverse teams increases the range of knowledge and skills within that team, as each individual brings knowledge from past experiences to the table. This breadth of collaborative knowledge can be the secret sauce that gives your company the key advantage in a fast-paced, ever-changing industry like tech.
Concrete steps to increase diversity in your company:
#1 Remove unconscious bias during interviews
The recruitment process must support cultural, age, and gender differences at every stage; it’s important that managers are trained to combat the less spoken about unconscious biases they hold. This will curb the unconscious ability for managers to treat qualified candidates unfairly.
At TrueAccord we counteract the unconscious bias by redacting names and education on resumes which directs the focus to practical skills and accomplishments. Interviews are conducted with diverse panelists who focus on competency based questions, putting less importance on factors such as ethnicity, age, gender or the school someone attended.
#2 Make diversity part of your company culture
We’ve found that placing a strong focus on diversity contributes to higher employee engagement and retention rates. This is extremely important as technical roles typically have higher turnover rates.
#3 Implement a zero-tolerance policy for prejudice and install “Collaboration” as a Core Value.
Saying that diversity is part of our identity is a promise we take seriously. We take a zero-tolerance approach towards any negative actions or beliefs related to personal identity.
We also made a commitment to not just accept, but to celebrate our differences. To make this real we have implemented a Diversity Committee with rotating members who regularly serve as a resource to our working community by providing education, information, referrals, advocacy, coordination and support for specific diversity-related events and activities throughout the company.
One of the main challenges of managing diversity is the demographic changes in populations. The constantly changing demographic profile of the broader population means that organizations need to develop strategies that will meet the needs and desires of the communities they work within. At TrueAccord, we service all types of people in debt across the US. Our mission is to help consumers in debt by offering options and trust as an alternative to blame and conflict, and it has proven incredibly successful. And because we have a diverse population of employees that reflects the diversity of people we serve, we continue to experience tremendous growth. As of August 2017, we have an almost equal gender divide with 53.85% male and 46.15% female population. Our combined multicultural population consists of 60.29% staff compared to 39.71% caucasian employees. Compared to national leading industry surveys 28% female vs 72% male populations in proprietary software, 25% female vs 75% male populations in Information Technology, we are changing the perception of what populations tech companies employ.
While we’ve had and will continue to experience growing pains associated with our significant gains in revenue, we work to overcome obstacles by practicing full transparency when looking back on our mistakes. This type of transparency starts at a grassroots level. We’ve learned that creating feedback loops and cascade meetings works in a culture that incorporates inclusive behaviors. These behaviors extend to performance evaluations, training, and when remediating problems.
By building inclusive communication practices, encouraging differences in opinion, and not tolerating negative attitudes, we continue to increase the diversity of our teams as we scale and grow. Not only are we reinventing an 80-year-old industry through technology and values, we are also redefining what populations in tech companies can do when they are composed of people from different backgrounds, ages, and perspectives.