Five Steps to Take Today to Foster Diversity in Your Business

Achieving diversity can be a challenge. If you’re looking for the codex to solve this challenge, start here.

CompTIA’s Diversity in the High-Tech Industry report found that everyone believes it takes efforts from many places to set the right tone in the workplace. A company itself, individual workers, government policies and court decisions were all identified by the report as important contributors. But for 80 percent of middle-manager and staff workers, the report found, the ultimate responsibility lies in the hands of the company and its executives. However, among those executives, that number drops to 60 percent, with executives looking at middle-management and staff as where the rubber meets the road.

In other words, staff expects businesses to create formal policies and a structure that enable diversity. Think things like environment, hiring and advancement policies, and culture. But if a company is looking to its staff to embrace and exhibit that culture in more informal ways, think things like mutual respect, recognizing work done, avoiding hidden agendas, or simply being aware of one’s own biases and beliefs.

This dichotomy can create tension, as staff looks to executives for action and guidance and executives look to staff to be the mode to carry out those actions and guidance. Luckily, there are already some great best practices out there – things your company can do to establish the formal tone that can be embraced and carried out by staff in both formal and informal ways.

Another path explored by our diversity study was the items workers believed were necessary to have in place to earn a passing grade on diversity. If you’re looking for the codex to solve this challenge, here are five steps to follow:

1. Have HR actively recruit from a diverse talent pool: Broaden the geographic search area and leverage apprenticeship and workforce training programs.

2. Ensure the best candidate is hired without a diversity mandate: Increase the candidate pool size and consider all the skills a candidate brings.

3. Make your corporate culture top-down diversity-friendly: Go beyond hiring and include diversity training as an on-going curriculum for managers. Establish clear paths for promotion and opportunity.

4. Have a formal diversity policy in place: Measure results of diversity efforts by incorporating key performance indicators to monitor them. Establish clear and evident policies to protect against discrimination and retaliation.

5. Establish inclusion efforts to prevent employees leaving pre-maturely: Implement surveys to gauge employee inclusivity, celebrate and recognize unique contributions and create opportunities for team building.

For people concerned with tokenism or with a less-qualified minority candidate getting preference over better-qualified majority candidate, this list should ease your mind. Companies see net-positive benefits from recruiting from a diverse pool to find the best candidate for a job. From there, securing and developing that talent is crucial.

The last three items on this list speak to the very real problem in the tech industry: As you go up the chain of command, diversity dries up. According to the U.S. EEOC’s 2014 “Diversity in High Tech” study, 80 percent of tech industry executives are male, 57 percent are white, 36 percent Asian, 1.6 percent Hispanic, and less than 1 percent African-American. This distribution is skewed far from the general population. That’s not to suggest every company should look like a microcosm of the U.S. census. But it is more than evident that women, Hispanics and African Americans are being left behind in the tech industry – an industry that will only grow and become more embedded into the fabric of society. There is danger here.

The role of the employer is but one to be played. It is crucial, and employees look to their leaders for direction. By looking for ways to find diverse talent, hiring the best person from that pool, establishing a culture of celebrating diversity, creating and living a diversity policy, and including efforts to retain and promote diverse contributors are all steps a tech company can take now. As with any challenge facing a business, you must have a plan, you must measure its success and everyone must pull on the same rope. Factors such as government, courts and individual contributors embracing this plan will also play a role. But this is a great starting point for an industry desperately struggling to reverse a trend of exclusivity.

Click here to get involved with CompTIA’s Advancing Diversity in Technology Community.

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