Tested steps to enhance diversity in tech

A binding, open, and measurement-driven commitment to inclusion, diversity, and equity (IDE) is a baseline strategy for companies of any size in any sector.

Unfortunately, technology has lagged behind many other industries in this regard – particularly in executive positions, where the overwhelming majority have been white males. Yet mature, future-forward organisations are actively seeking to change this. It’s not just good to be diverse; it’s better.

Businesses want to employ the most innovative, top-talent that the market can offer. The technology talent market is remote, global, and places high value on inclusion, diversity, and equity, which dismantles the stereotype description of innovative top-talent in tech. These individuals represent a range of descriptions, backgrounds, perspectives and experiences. If there’s any form of irrational prejudice applied to the hiring or promotion in this talent market, that company is choosing a lower potential for success by reducing its available talent pool.

To attract and retain innovative, diverse talent, organisations must demonstrate active engagement for diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging. Deloitte recently published a report showing that 75% of people seeking roles wish to work for a firm with a diverse workforce. And that more than half of Gen Z employees would leave a company with inadequate diversity and inclusion initiatives. Studies have also proven that problem-solving is more effective when people from different backgrounds are applied to those problems. These are uncontroversial arguments for diversity.

Having created more diverse teams, successful businesses understand that an inclusive culture is a cost-saving mechanism for long term talent retention for high-performing, diverse talent. When companies establish inclusive and equitable initiatives, all employees benefit from the outcomes.

A further motivation, alongside the moral imperative to do the right thing, is that most people consider corporate reputation and ethics before paying for goods and services.

Data, not policy

The reasons for robust IDE commitments are compelling and rooted in the unique experiences yielded from company culture. In today’s marketplace, robust IDE initiatives are a competitive advantage for attracting and retaining talent, as well as winning new business. The difficulty often comes in quantifying the work to establish best practices. Here are a few examples of what works for our company and others on a similar path.

The first step is measurement. There’s a business proverb, attributed to statistician W. Edwards Demming: “you can’t manage what you can’t measure” and nowhere is this truer than the path to IDE. We approach this work with a people-first mindset supported by analytics. We measure the employee experience to signal to our employees that their voice matters, and to create a culture that continuously supports inclusive and fair practices. This provides an efficient mechanism for identifying gaps in our offering or support for specific groups. We conduct annual surveys and a quarterly pulse to gauge progress. We also hold retrospective meetings to foster the feedback to establish best practices for how we deliver our programmes. While we are still learning how to best navigate this changing landscape, we also leverage opportunities to utilise our platform to ensure that our own technology supports how we serve our internal customers.

The second, most radical and sometimes most difficult step is to grow transparency around IDE. By publishing figures and updating them regularly, the company is establishing the importance of this data. It’s setting itself a benchmark and a test of the reality of its commitment.

Perhaps figures might be published internally to begin with, especially if levels of diversity might be off-putting to applicants outside majority segments. But the goal would be to publish them openly.

At PagerDuty, we published a live, publicly accessible dashboard compiling our IDE statistics, as well as an annual report which narrates our journey annually. This openness might seem frightening to some leaders, but if you aren’t telling your story, then who is? As an inclusive organisation, you must be transparent, or your brand will suffer in the long-term. IDE has shown a clear correlation with commercial success, and when embedded into the strategic development of your company strategy, it drives better outcomes. Our dashboard and report capture our commitment to contribute to a more equitable world.

It’s important that company leaders, and especially the CEO, are visibly and continually supportive and leading IDE initiatives. Some companies have created Chief Diversity Officers (CDOs) to sit at board-level and specialise in IDE. Others are wary that this might feel this puts diversity into a box when it ought to be a priority for every C-level executive and their team. David Kenny, the CEO of Nielsen, added the CDO title to his own leadership portfolio, saying this was because he wanted to, “set hard targets for ourselves and make those transparent to our board and measure them like we measure other outcomes like financial results.” The approach each organisation takes should be measured and structured to meet the needs of the organisation or the commitment they’ve made to growing in a specific time. Establishing roles like a CDO or a Head of Inclusion and Belonging without resources, capacity or alignment on its IDE position leads to competing business priorities and lowers impact. Like any executive, IDE leaders require a seat at the collective bargaining table, support from the CEO and Board, budget, and resources to operate efficiently.

Targeted results

With proper measurements and strategic alignment with the executive leadership and the board, an inclusive hiring strategy is well positioned to source innovative top talent with diverse backgrounds. If an organisation’s current hiring strategies aren’t producing improved diversity results, then they need to be reconsidered given the needs of the current and future workforce. Key considerations should be given to location – remote, hybrid or in office. Opening more remote opportunities increases your talent pool and ability to secure better representation from some groups with needs centred around flexibility. You may also want to consider a different approach to judging applicants – skills-based testing rather than bars set around formal qualifications and experience. This could open the doors to people who otherwise would not be able to apply. And very arguably, such tests of skill levels are a better guide to suitability than a certificate or a list of former roles.

A further step, to enhance inclusion, is to give people a voice that will be heard. Establishing or making space for employee-led groups has been viewed as particularly important in our organisation. We recommend support for Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) for staff to get support, educate others and share experiences. Some of these can be based around identities such as gender, ethnicity, or other statuses, and can help surface insights for leadership to consider to improve the business and employee experience.

Your approach to improve IDE does not have to be complex. Its primary functions should include building an inclusive organisation, creating fair and equitable practices and career opportunities. Despite your approach, metrics and measurements, resources, CEO engagement, fair and inclusive hiring practices and pay transparency are cultural norms that innovative thriving organisations must support. We live in an ever-changing world that continues to diversify and place more demands for an inclusive culture from the organisations that secure the talent. When organisations remain cutting edge, offer innovative products and services, and remain committed to supporting a culture that is inclusive, fair, and offers an equitable human experience for its employees and leaders, it will undoubtedly remain profitable and accountable to building a better world.

About the Author

Roshan Kindred is Chief Diversity Officer at PagerDuty. In an always-on world, teams trust PagerDuty to help them deliver an optimal digital experience to their customers, every time. PagerDuty is the central nervous system for a company’s digital operations. We identify issues and opportunities in real-time and bring together the right people to respond to problems faster and prevent them in the future. From digital disruptors to Fortune 500 companies, over 18,000 businesses rely on PagerDuty to help them continually improve their digital operations—so their teams can spend less time reacting to incidents and more time building for the future.

Featured image: Adobe Stock