DEI even more important in high-tech companies: Expert

'Employers are at risk if they don’t put something like this in place'

DEI even more important in high-tech companies: Expert

Most organizations have bought into the idea that diversity and inclusion is crucial for success today.

But for those employers operating in the high-tech space, it’s value is even more critical, says an HR expert.

“In order to be innovative, and being the first one to market, particularly, because of how important that is in the tech industry, getting those different perspectives and being able to tackle problems or come up with solutions before people even realize that they’re problems to begin with, is really, really important,” says Lauren Winans, CEO and principal HR consultant with Next Level Benefits in Pittsburgh.

In the past, most of the innovation has happened at the C-suite level and that mainly consisted of white, male executives.

“There’s a whole lot of other people out there that might be in need of new technology, new apps, new solutions, new tools, new resources and just by virtue of not having that perspective, the opportunities are endless,” says Winans.

For these types of organizations, it’s key to shoot for allowing that diversity in perspectives to reach the higher levels in order to succeed.

“Having someone in a development role, who maybe is developing software, or even at a leadership level within a technology company, would be able to bring just a different set of eyes to the same old creations that are being made out there,” says Winans.

New tech created through diversity of backgrounds

A recent example of this innovation came with the rolling out of new employee benefits whereby workers are able to draw on their upcoming pay cheques even earlier in order to pay maybe unexpected expenses.

“While that might be a pretty small example, I think what it’s really illustrating is that when people come from different backgrounds and different upbringings and different circumstances, there’s naturally an ability to open the eyes of other people who haven’t experienced or walked in those shoes. It just really allows for the high-tech sector to be thinking bigger and broader, and ensuring that they’re not moving in one direction that the rest of the world can’t keep up with,” she says.

Rolling out the DEI initiative is something that definitely falls into HR’s wheelhouse, according to Winans.

“Developing a diversity, equity inclusion and belonging strategy is something that maybe HR teams can do to really help guide what this could potentially look like for recruitment [and] attracting the right talent, as well as creating a culture within the organization where people are open and exposed to new ideas and accepting of them. It’s really contingent upon an HR professional to lay out what’s the roadmap here? What are we trying to achieve?”

Racism in the workplace is still happening, according to a recent report.

Laying out a ‘roadmap’ for diversity plans

By promoting this at the highest levels, it will enable the strategy’s best chance of working out, says Winans.

“Really being a C-suite partner, and being able to lay out a roadmap that is customized and specific to the organization, but also thinking bigger and broader, about how diversity, equity inclusion, belonging can be those tenets, those values, permeated throughout the organization and the employee population. I look at that as really listing out strategies that can be deployed by leadership; coming up with inclusive programs that can be launched and championed by the HR team; ensuring everyone that there’s equity across the board from a pay, compensation and benefits perspective.”

The most effective strategies are ones that are constantly being modified in order to account for new realities in business, she says.

“Ensuring that those that do fall into that marginalized space, in some cases, have people to go to, and folks that can help them when they might be feeling like, maybe their voice isn’t heard, HR can identify maybe where some gaps are, and fill those gaps with a really great action plan that helps the organization tackle the strategy, and it’s going to be something that you build upon year over year: it doesn’t happen overnight,” says Winans.

The benefits of having a robust and ever-changing DEI program that is effectively communicated are clear.

“When that great PR is done correctly, it can attract customers; it can attract revenue, just by people wanting to say: ‘I appreciate that this organization is championing diversity and equity, and all of these things that I believe in. I’m going to spend my money with them.’”

“The sky’s the limit once you establish yourself as an organization that cares, that is socially responsible, that wants employees to thrive, and wants diversity of thought to be something that is experienced in products and services that they produce. Naturally over time, you end up seeing that on the balance sheet,” she says.

Culture change should be managed by all employees, says another senior HR leader.

Don’t forget to measure effectiveness

Whether or not the effort succeeds, there are some metrics that should be considered, says Winans.

“From an organizational perspective profit and loss is incredibly important to be taking a look at if we implemented this diversity initiative in January, and by September, we are doing 10% more revenue than we were before. Let’s dig into that and see exactly all the factors that contributed to that because maybe diversity, maybe some of the things that we’re doing on the diversity front, is directly influencing and impacting that.”

And while the upside is clear, organizations should know what might happen for those who get it wrong.

“If an employer doesn’t already have initiatives in place and isn’t thinking in this way they will be left behind; their competitors will be thinking about this, and we’ll be implementing initiatives that will no doubt attract and retain talent and employers are at risk if they don’t put something like this in place,” says Winans.

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