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diverse tech staff at a Kanban board

Diversity & Inclusion in Tech

Part II: What tech gets wrong about diversity

August 14, 2017

By Franklin Reed

I recently shared some diversity hiring best practices but I did so with hesitation. Because while a lot of organizations focus on hiring a more diverse cohort of candidates—and the challenges in doing so—they may not be getting much out of their investment.

And it’s not because creating a diverse organization isn’t worth the trouble. It’s because diversity without inclusion won’t deliver on the promise of a high-performing, innovative workforce.

Inclusion programs increase performance and retention

At TEKsystems we've generally succeeded in hiring a diverse staff but, like many organizations, we've struggled with retention. We’d been running employee resource groups and seeking to improve our diversity for more than a decade, but we didn’t make inclusion a cornerstone of our talent and culture strategy until much later.

One of our Midwest offices is a good example of how diversity without inclusion affected performance. We had worked hard to create a team that reflected the makeup of our community, but women and minorities in the office experienced lower morale and performance—until we got serious about inclusion programming. In a year, the number of high-performing female sales staff jumped 300 percent and people of color 200 percent.

Overall morale and engagement in the office has improved remarkably. More importantly for us, our workforce has become more successful, with more people overall hitting sales goals this year.

Retention

While the tech industry doesn’t do a great job of hiring minorities, women or other underrepresented populations, retention is an even bigger problem.

A recent survey found that 37 percent of all people who left tech jobs did so largely because of unfair treatment—way more than the 22 percent of folks who were lured away by a better offer. Let that sink in for a moment: While you were worrying about your best workers being scooped up by competitors, your culture may actually have been driving them away.

Inclusive workplaces help companies and teams

We believe strongly that a diverse, inclusive workplace enables our team to perform at a higher level. Our diversity and inclusion programs are built into our goal of creating a high-performance team, one of the three pillars of overall company strategy.

Here are the specific ways inclusion helps us excel:

Authenticity. Have you ever hidden or covered some part of yourself at work? Part of your identity, social advocacy, your age? It’s emotionally exhausting, robbing people of energy that could be better spent on doing their best at work. An inclusive workplace allows people to shed that emotional baggage and just be their authentic selves.

Innovation. One thing IT leaders have in common: You’re on the hook for innovating now more than ever. Fostering a collaborative workplace—and challenging your workforce to think differently— helps drive that innovation.

Connection. Understanding others' points of view can help create authentic connections with your customers. Inclusive workplaces provide an environment for sharing, understanding and celebrating differences.

Diversity and inclusion best practices: What we’ve learned

Our D&I strategy has had a lot of successes—and some failures. The program that’s gotten the most buzz throughout the company, and I believe has helped drive real change in our culture, is a workshop we’ve built around covering.

We’ll share those successes, as well as what we’ve learned from our tech partners, in the coming months. Look forward to our article about covering in September. In the meantime, feel free to contact our team for advice on diversity hiring and inclusion programming

Franklin Reed is the director of diversity and inclusion for TEKsystems. He advises top companies, including Fortune 50 enterprises, in workplace inclusion programs and IT diversity hiring.  

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