The Challenges with Diversity & Inclusion

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Today, as tech talent continues to get increasingly harder to hire, it forces recruiters to adopt a different game plan — especially when trying to diversify to include more people from underrepresented communities. When unemployment is low, this can feel like an impossible task, but we have solutions for you.

Let’s clear something up before we dive in. There is a misconception that it takes “lowering the bar” because if underrepresented folks aren’t making it through interviews, or even to interviews, they clearly aren’t qualified. This thought is far from the truth. There are many barriers for underrepresented folks entering the tech industry, technical or not.

It’s time to change the perspective and shift actions to not accept the all-too-common consensus that diversifying teams is out of reach or requires lowering our standards. It isn’t, and it doesn’t.

In order to be successful in building a diverse team, we have to adopt a different mindset and make some changes before the hiring process even begins. Proactively focusing on growing an inclusive environment that makes diverse candidates feel welcome is critical as is spending time investing in and networking with communities that may be outside of your immediate circles. There is definitely an upfront cost in developing an inclusive team, but there is a high return on that investment in the long run.

Diversifying is hard work  

Diversifying [teams] is hard work because it requires a different kind of thinking — outside of the path of least resistance. Building an inclusive workforce challenges teams to have hard conversations, engage in active listening, and create space for people to bring their whole selves to work. These challenges can feel like tension or lack of cohesion on the team. In reality, bringing together perspectives from varying experiences and backgrounds enhances a team’s productivity. If there isn’t some feeling of “tension,” you’re doing it wrong. And we get it. Tension seems negative. But when you are able to collectively and inclusively poke holes in products and services, your team will improve output and increase successful delivery.

The Society for Human Resource Management reports that 57 percent of recruiters tailor talent acquisition strategies to attract a diverse range of candidates. But what does that really mean? Are recruiters seeing results from those strategies? Let’s dive into strategies to help your team invest in inclusive initiatives that will boost your ability to attract and retain diverse people long-term, because this is much more than a trend, perk or flashy recruiting strategy.

First we’ll look at why diversity is important, then we’ll talk about how to determine the right initiatives for your team.

Why diversity is crucial in the workplace

Maybe it seems easier to just tap people you know when hiring, because you know they can get the job done, but that’s where the problem starts. Before you know it, you have a team of people that have similar viewpoints and perspective, leaving you open to a lot of blind spots. We’re sure you have a hiring process that values experience, education and finding the most skilled person to do the job. You may even listen to the story that says if you prioritize diversity, you are going to have to settle for people with subpar qualifications that aren’t close to your top picks — but hold tight, there are better ways to look at this challenge.

This truly is an opportunity for your company and team to do better, improve the status quo and produce better results, but it’s going to take a mind shift and some work.

Studies keep reaffirming the importance of fostering diversity. It doesn’t just improve the bottom line, but also helps your company have an edge on attracting candidates who are in high demand. Offering a better salary and a broader benefits package is expected, not exceptional. Perks like ping pong and stocked fridges don’t set you apart. But building a more diverse and inclusive workforce separates you from everyone else. When done right, it’s known to improve morale and employee happiness, while also improving retention and loyalty. And isn’t that the ultimate goal — a company full of happy, loyal, and productive people?

According to Deloitte, companies that invest the time to recruit diverse candidates are twice as likely to exceed financial targets. Companies with a multifaceted and multicultural workforce are six times more likely to encourage innovation, three times more likely to execute daily operations at a high level, and eight times more likely to grow than competitors. Imagine what your company could accomplish if you could outgrow and outwork competitors by rebooting your recruitment strategy with diversity in mind.

Creating an inclusive work environment to welcome and create space for various backgrounds and experiences gives your company an edge because frankly, you are competing with other businesses looking for those same specialized skills.

How to increase diversity

Increasing diversity and inclusion in the workplace entails more than analyzing demographics; it requires a holistic, humanistic approach. Raising the morale of your team has evolved into a business imperative because people in the tech industry have plenty of options.

Leadership Leading the Change.  Building a company culture that values inclusion starts with the C-suite championing the benefits of diversity. If executives themselves don’t value inclusion, it’s unrealistic to enforce behavioral standards and strengthen accountability.

Changing company policies alone isn’t how you increase diversity, nor is reading more resumes. You have to lead from the front and lead by example when changing company culture. Tap into team members who want to help attract candidates from different communities and get engaged with Meetups or events with a focus on supporting underrepresented groups in tech. Don’t put all the work on your Human Resources team — this is a full-team investment. And when it’s led by your leadership, it has a lasting impact.

Getting everyone on board. At a minimum, your company’s talent acquisition channels need to align with your employee retention policies and internal talent development. To increase diversity, add leadership assessments to your training programs and always remember that accountability starts at the top.

Another way to get more of your team on board is through a mentoring program. Offer employees initiatives that will broaden their understanding of and increase collaboration between all groups within your company across race, gender, culture, religion and other self-identified demographics.

Reduce biases. It is crucial that all possible areas of bias be evaluated at all stages of hiring, because the main hurdle is often reducing bias. We don’t like to admit it, but we all have subconscious biases (at least). The key is not to deny having them, but to recognize them in order to improve the process. There are many strategies you can use such as skills-based hiring practices, standardizing interview questions, blind-screening resumes and competency tests. There is no one-size-fits-all solution here, so determine which tactics will work best for your team when implementing a diverse hiring campaign.

A little more on recognizing biases before we move on. It’s easy to presume that an Ivy Leaguer would automatically perform better than a recent graduate from a less prestigious university or someone who took a non-traditional education path, but studies show selecting candidates based on educational experience has little to no impact on a candidate’s success. Instead, focus on the skills required to perform the job, regardless of how they obtained those skills, is what ensures a successful hire. That’s a really hard hump for a lot of hiring teams to get over, so spend some time whiteboarding with your team on the true requirements a new hire needs to have on day one.

Hire competencies over credentials every time.

The humanpredictions tool is specifically designed to identify real-world competencies. It’s easy for people to over-emphasize their skills on a resume or website. But humanpredictions prioritizes candidates with competencies that are acknowledged by other tech folks, whether by the number of contributions using a specific language in GitHub repos, or by speaking at conferences, or by the quality of answers on Stack Overflow. Training your team how to look beyond proxies like credentials and experience in order to see skill capabilities can shift your hiring opportunities significantly.

Can candidates see themselves on your team? The next step is ensuring diversity within your hiring teams. This might not be an easy task if you have a fairly homogeneous team, but even more reason to be selective about who is conducting your interviews. This can affect how your candidate sees themself as a future team member and whether they will want to join.

Look at identities, personalities, experiences and cultures. You’re missing the boat if you’re not careful about who from your team is participating in the interviewing process, and that goes beyond forming a team of half men and half women — diversity is so much more than gender.

Once you form a diverse interviewing team, share the open job position with underrepresented communities. Use Meetups and professional groups to reach out to share with their members. If you’re still getting the same population of people applying to your open positions, be open to feedback to make the adjustments necessary to be more inviting to other groups of individuals.

When you get your candidates into the interview process, be sure there is a set structure and consistent assessment process to eliminate gut instincts that are often rooted in biases. Lastly, before eliminating candidates or extending offers, evaluate and discuss the assessments to hold the hiring team accountable for prioritizing diverse hiring to ensure you’re putting the best, most qualified candidate in the role.

Indeed, you’ll encounter several obstacles along the way, so here’s a breakdown of the most common pain points.

Common pain points when improving diversity

Expect a few setbacks. This will take time.

Anticipate that some people will push back on the concept of diversity, specifically when prioritizing it during the hiring process. Have the courage to be methodical even if a small cadre of employees dismisses your efforts.

Some people may leave. This is a hard one to accept, but there may be people who simply won’t understand the value that building a multi-faceted team and creating an inclusive environment will bring to the company as a whole. You many have to consider whether those people are adding to the growth of your organization and whether or not they are inline with the company’s long term goals. That’s okay, but it means those people may not add positively to the growth of your company. Have discussions about what it means to your leadership team to prioritize diversity and where you draw the line.

Keep in mind though, none of this will achieve results immediately or automatically. Diversifying your team and creating a more inclusive environment isn’t a trend or a nicety — this is a long-term investment in building a business that will have lasting growth opportunities. Be prepared to make changes and iterate along the way. Continue working on how your team invests in these initiatives.

What is your company doing to build a more inclusive and diverse team?

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