The technology industry still struggles with diversity and inclusion. Most companies often fail to attract diverse talent due to inclusivity issues within the workplace. For businesses looking to sharpen their diversity and inclusion programs, the change can seem rather daunting.
According to EY, companies in the top quartile for racial and ethnic diversity are 35% more likely to have higher financial returns than their industry peers. Additionally, companies in the top quartile for gender diversity are also 15% more likely to perform better financially than their peers. So, it seems simple – diversity and inclusion drive business revenue and profits.
However, it seems we often neglect the ‘I’ in the D&I conversation. The challenge is in having a culture where all employees feel included. It’s a huge investment in time and money to bring talent into your organisation, so why bring them in if they’re not happy when they get there? You’ve got to get the inclusion part right. To make employees feel more included, appreciated and safe in the workplace, initiatives must be targeted to achieve specific results - inclusive workplaces attract and retain the best talent.
Nowadays, top talent see their workplace as an extension of their lifestyle; if their core values are not reflected in those of the company, it is unlikely that your employees will thrive in your business.
1. What are your diversity goals?
There are multiple considerations that need to be made when building a diversity strategy, but the first is understanding your end goals. Studies have shown that organisations building strategies that focus on one group, often alienate that same group. For example, it has been highlighted that programmes focused on increasing the number of women in IT, can have a positive and negative impact as it is perceived that not enough is being done to hone in addressing other diversity issues; including, racial profile, sexual orientation or disability.
The case for diversity must also be a holistic one, taking into account the benefits of diversity for organisations (such as enhanced employer brand, contribution to society, and corporate reputation) alongside the benefits for individuals at work.
2. Where does inclusivity fit in to your hiring strategy?
Diversity strategies and goals are a substantial consideration for all growth businesses, however a lack of understanding of the local talent pools and the impact on corporate culture creates greater problems for those whose sole focus is diversity. Studies have shown that too often, leaders focus diversity and inclusion efforts disproportionately leading to a forward thinking talent attraction programme and a lesser focus on retention and championing the vision that attracted the talent in the first instance.
To retain and nurture top talent, it’s critical to take an honest look at the end-to-end employee experience, with an eye toward creating conditions that promote inclusion on a daily basis and designing ways to measure the impact. Inclusion strategies are a great way to understand the impact on current employees who are not a target focus when driving diversity; different groups may feel disadvantaged due to diversity, not ability. Whilst building diversity and inclusivity programmes, retaining ALL talent in competitive markets is vital.
3. Use inclusive language
First impressions count and anyone applying for a job online through social media or a corporate website will build a picture of your culture and determine the fit before deciding whether to apply. Therefore, it is vital that your company literature is appealing to the audience that you are aiming to appeal to.
Social media company, Buffer, challenged their use of language used in computer programmer job descriptions as only 2% of applicants were female. This improved after a review of their job descriptions and job advertisements determined that there was unconscious usage of gendered wording.
4. Look beyond culture fit
Most employers seek to hire employees based on culture fit. Whilst it’s understandable that companies should wish to hire people who will fit in, it can lead to a homogeneous workforce.
Instead, employers should hire for culture add – targeting candidates that bring something unique to the company culture that doesn’t currently exist.
Cast your recruitment net wider to include people from underrepresented groups. Reach out to professional hiring organisations, attend conferences and networking events that cater to a diverse crowd.
5. Build a Mentoring Community
Every great community need mentors. Mentors voice concerns and overcome challenges for their community members. Communities can vary from race, gender, age, sexuality, religion and even remote workers - it's important that everyone feels respected and included in the same way. These mentors should take the time to learn about different cultures, races, religions, needs and backgrounds represented by their colleagues.
6. Acknowledge holidays of all cultures
One way to build awareness of diversity and foster greater inclusivity is to be aware of, and acknowledge, a variety of upcoming religious and cultural holidays. Your employees may be at work, but this matters to them on a personal level.
Use your company’s internal communications to help employees be more aware of, and keep track of, multicultural religious or holiday celebrations. Be respectful of these days when scheduling meetings and understand that employees may have different needs and therefore require flexibility.
7. A top-down approach isn’t enough
Top-down approaches drive compliance, not commitment.
From senior leaders to frontline employees, every individual must see and understand their role in company culture. This means identifying differences in employee experiences and values across the organisation, so that change can be made relevant for each person and knowing that lasting change must activate different parts of the system.
8. Inclusion is ongoing — not one-off training
It isn’t enough to just teach employees what it means to be inclusive. Like any form of behaviour change, inclusion requires individuals to identify key moments in which to build new habits or “microbehaviors” (daily actions that can be practiced and measured). When these habits are put into action in an environment that supports honest conversations and healthy tension, real change becomes possible.
One way to do this is to identify change cohorts within the organisation outside of the executive or management level. By equipping employees with the skills and information, you help them champion change within their departments, teams and working groups. This is much more effective than one-off training sessions which don’t move the needle; you want employees to incorporate these ideas and beliefs into their daily lives.
9. Embrace flexible working
There is a clear link between flexible working and the ability to attract and retain diverse talent. This ranges from flexible hours and ad hoc remote working through to dynamic working, part-time and job share opportunities.
Changing your default position to be a flexible employer can be a positive step in the right direction, especially as this is becoming more of an important option to today's employees. It's important that they feel as included and valued in company communications and team decisions as those based in your office.
10. Consider your brand
Brand and culture go hand-in-hand. The way in which you offer your products and services to the world reflect your values, and your biases.
In the journey toward building a more inclusive organisation, it’s important to consider the relationship between what’s happening inside and outside of your company. What is your brand saying about who you are as a culture? What experiences are being left out or misunderstood? This should be refined and made transparent to potential employees, so they can make an accurate assessment about the cultural fit before applying to a vacancy.
Workplace inclusion is something every workplace should strive for. It ultimately leads to increased productivity and employee well-being.
It’s worth remembering that a diverse workplace does not necessarily lead to an inclusive one. A targeted inclusion strategy can go a long way to fostering long-lasting diversity and inclusion within your workplace culture.