There can be little argument against the value a diverse workplace. It’s a critical element of driving innovation, increasing creativity and securing market share, but diversity also makes growth and recruitment more manageable and helps to limit the word all employers want to avoid — turnover. Diversity is significant enough that two-thirds of people polled in a Glassdoor survey said the level of diversity was important when evaluating job offers. This can prove to be a difficult task for a small business in the tech industry.
So what is workforce diversity? It’s more than simply not discriminating based on race, gender, national origin or disability. Diversity offers an alternative view or difference in opinions. Hiring employees with differing backgrounds in religion, from varying age ranges, sexual orientation, political affiliation, personality and education can become invaluable to an organization.
That being said, it can be nearly impossible to implement or force onto a set of employees. According to Harvard Business Review, researchers examined the success of mandated diversity training programs. While it’s simple enough to teach employees the right answers to questionnaires on bias or and appropriate responses for a given situation, the actual training rarely ever sticks, not more than a few days anyway. There have even been findings that suggest these mandated diversity training courses actually have adverse effects.
In the same article from HBR, managers said that when diversity training was mandatory, it is often met with confrontation and even anger. Some, in fact, reported an increase in animosity toward a minority group. On the other hand, when workers see the training as voluntary, the result is improved attitudes and an increase of 9-13% in the hiring of minorities five years from the training.
So if diversity is crucial to the success of a company or organization, but it’s also something that can tough to implement, how does an employer ensure that they are fostering a work environment that is diverse? There are a few things employers can consider when they want to step up their game in building a more well-rounded and diverse workforce.
Evaluate The Hiring Process
Assess the level of diversity in the company. Does it reflect the general workforce of the industry or of the community? Figure out which departments are behind or lacking and what the source might be. Is a team diverse in most areas but still behind in management positions? Are managers hiring based on personal biases?
Top leadership needs to be an advocate for diversity in all hiring decisions, from the entry level to leadership positions. If there is a hiring test, see that managers are adhering to it. The HBR articles noted that even when hiring tests were in place, they were used selectively and that the results were ignored.
Having a hiring panel, or a system of checks and balances, would ensure that no one person would abuse the hiring process to lean too much on their own biases. Employers should also seek out new methods or places to network.
Implementing a mentorship or sponsorship program will create a casual relationship between employees that will help alleviate some biases a manager might have and vice versa. Providing an opportunity for stewardship and responsibility allows the mentor to bestow knowledge on their mentee as they watch them grow.
Mentees will see the value in this experience and come to respect their mentor, laying away any preconceived biases or prejudices. They will become more invested in their work and the organization. Much like training programs, mentoring programs should be optional, not mandatory.
Similar to soldiers who serve together on the frontlines, employees who are part of a self-managed team and working as equals who work to complete projects will learn to dismiss biases on their own. Fostering an environment where employees can connect and collaborate increases engagement and allows for more contact than they may make when left to themselves.
In order to succeed in a global market, a tech organization must move past using “diversity” as a meaningless buzzword and step into action by developing and implementing an equal opportunity employment policy, following the Federal EEOC guidelines. Building and maintaining a diverse workforce is essential to growth and innovation in any industry, especially tech. But when handled poorly, or forced upon employees, it will cause more than a few headaches or even lawsuits. It requires change, a new take on leadership and creating a company culture based the business or service rather than a culture based on individual preferences or ideas.
Read the original article.
Cruikshank G. (4 December 2017). “Building A Diverse Workforce In A Small Business” [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbestechcouncil/2017/12/04/building-a-diverse-workforce-in-a-small-business/#2b42986a4250