Author: UB Ciminieri, Chief Editor of JobberTechTalk
Thoughts from the Tech Inclusion Conference
Our team had the great privilege of attending a conference last week, Tech Inclusion, in San Francisco. The conference focused on discussions about diversity and inclusion in the technology world. Many great D&I leaders from companies like Twitter, Pinterest, SAPLabs, Zillow and others gave great insight into their fairly new work with diversity and inclusion in their organizations. After spending a full day connecting and listening in, we’ve walked away with a renewed sense of purpose for helping drive diversity and inclusion. Here’s what we learned and what we think technology leaders should know to help grow their organizations.
The most important takeaway is how diversity is being defined. Overall, I believe most organizations are still looking at diversity very superficially – color, gender. Most initiatives are focused on just hiring more people of color or women and they judge their success on that. While we agree that yes, diversifying your teams away from just having “like” people is a good start, it’s also important to not overlook the diversity of thought that currently exists on your teams.
Cognitive Diversity, as it is starting to commonly be known, is focused on building teams who don’t all think, feel and speak the same way. If we’re just looking at diversity of thought, this doesn’t necessarily mean a visually diverse team, but it can. What’s important to recognize is that even in a very visually non-diverse team, experiences, education, upbringing can all contribute to a diversity of thought.
Studies have shown that team members who think differently and challenge each other are more productive and successful. Yet, most companies are failing to hire with this in mind. Most are continuing to hire “like” people and some are just checking off a box of diversity, if they’re even doing that, by hiring solely for color and gender differences. So why are these companies failing to see the benefits and failing to change their recruiting and hiring practices?
We believe the problem lies at the hiring manager level. Talent hiring policies and strategies are only so effective as those who are responsible for their execution. Unfortunately, no one is good at interviewing and making hiring decisions. Most managers are thrust into a position of authority that requires them to hire, without any training whatsoever. As a result, hiring managers fall back on what they know, and hire accordingly, which is either based on their last “good” hire or on finding people who are “like” them.
In order to truly understand diversity and its potential impact on your organization, you need to do two things:
This realization may not be much of a surprise, but honestly it needs to be said, over and over again. According to Twitter’s VP of Intersectionality, Culture & Diversity, Candi Singleton, diversity and inclusion work is not the sole responsibility of her or others in such roles. This is truly the work of everyone in the organization.
However, the obstacle we see to this is a lack of understanding of what diversity means to my organization, how we develop that into a talent strategy, and why are we doing this in the first place. Most diversity initiatives are born of a PR crisis or because leaders hastily want to play catch up and quickly say, “Hire more people of color and women.” Where is the thought behind that? Or the collection and analysis of data to support that?
To make diversity and inclusion a thread that runs through your entire organization, you have to define and develop the right strategy for your company first, then communicate with authenticity and clarity why this is the responsibility of the entire organization, not just one person or a small team of people with “Diversity” in their name.
The final big takeaway from our time at Tech Inclusion is this: expand your target talent market and stop hiring solely from the same place.
We’ve all heard this story: our CEO went to Harvard, so we’re only going to hire people who went to Harvard, and maybe other Ivy League schools. In my opinion, this is how the “hire-like” strategy became a thing. But times, they are a’changing.
Organizations no longer hold the power in this talent struggle – the talent does. Hence the need for organizations to clean up their act and tell a better, more authentic story to job seekers about who they are and why they do what they do. Job seekers can then decide whose story aligns more with their story and make the right decision for them. And companies can feel more confident that they are finding the right people to build their teams.
The next phase of this strategy is telling that story to different audiences, not the same old audience at the same school you’ve been recruiting from for ages. Just like we talked about better defining diversity, we also need to better define the types of people we need to build our organizations. This is a much deeper and critical conversation than just telling our recruiters to go to Harvard because that’s where our CEO went to school. We need the data to understand what makes our successful employees just that; and then we need to find those same success factors in parts of the population where they exist. This may not be at Harvard but at the technical school down the street.
If we’re not open to looking outside our own “box” for new, diverse talent, then we’re not fully dedicated to building a successful organization, in my opinion.
Diversity and Inclusion are not just the “hot topics” of the moment. These are critical pieces of talent acquisition and talent management, which lead to business growth and success, that have been overlooked for too long. In a time when people are every company’s primary asset, understanding whom the right people are to build each of our companies is just as important, if not more important, than the products and services we’re selling. After all, you can’t have the latter without the former.
Therefore, a great deal of effort must be put forth to understand and define the right fit, which includes diversity, so that our recruiters and hiring managers have a clear guide for what they need to hire with confidence. Defining the diversity needed for our teams, providing tools and resources, targets and messaging to find that in the population, and instilling the responsibility of these efforts in every single employee are a great start to putting your organization in a position for success.