Want To Be At The Top? Create A Diverse Workforce

Great minds may think alike, but diverse minds think differently. If you want to be at the top, its thinking differently that counts.

4 min read

The tech industry is changing with the speed of lightning, and the demands of our increasingly digital era have given rise to a global consumer base. To align corporate and consumer goals, companies need to evolve their business strategy to empower a mutually-beneficial relationship.

Companies now need to optimize resources and services to be more fluid, offer timely solutions and exceed end results. This demand for creating a responsive system has highlighted the lack of technical talent required to drive innovation and sustain relevance in the tech industry. Compelling studies on diversity and its positive effect on organizational performance are beginning to redesign many companies’ overarching business strategy. Let’s take a look.

A 2016 McKinsey study revealed that companies with a higher racial or ethnic and gender diversity ratio experienced a 35% and 15% rise in financial returns respectively from their national industry medians. A global analysis of 2,400 companies by Credit Suisse found a higher return on equity and net income growth when an organization had at least one female board member. In addition, the London Annual Business Survey revealed that companies with culturally diverse leadership experienced better output than those without.

Diversity is a catalyst in taking a company forward strategically and financially.

Even though companies are increasingly focusing on diversity in hiring and retention, workplace homogeneity is still considered to be ‘the norm’  and very few companies have managed to diversify their tech teams effectively despite the number of reports that point to increased financial returns such as discussed above.

The question is, why

Homogeneous teams offer comfort and familiarity. They are easier to manage, follow age-old protocol, promote in-group favouritism and tend to encourage ‘groupthink’ mentality. While there may be advantages of attributes like decreased hiring and advancement costs from recruiting within ‘boys networks’ and getting things done faster with fewer conflicting points of view, they seldom disrupt the status quo and often fail to bring truly innovative ideas to the table.

So, what is being done? 

Interestingly, diversity and inclusion efforts are on the rise as more companies start to use workforce diversity as a competitive edge for innovation. It’s seen that one in five Fortune 1000 companies now employ a Chief Diversity Officer; and their role in the organisation is to assist in attracting, hiring, developing and retaining a diverse workforce. They do so through internal analysis and monitoring, piloting mentorship programmes, graduate workshops, establishing and leading employee resource groups (ERGs) and working with HR to change hiring practices. Just because they have a Chief Diversity Officer, however, does not necessarily guarantee intended results.

Despite Google and Twitter’s efforts to build a more inclusive work environment, internal diversity reports fail to paint a rosy picture of change that we’ve come to expect of these tech giants. Out of Google’s 45,000 or so U.S. employees, women hold only 19% of technical roles. Additionally, women only account for about 15% of the technical workforce at Twitter last year. These companies, like many other, still have a long way to go in developing and sustaining a workforce that is both diverse and inclusive.

Why are such diversity efforts falling short? 

Diversity initiatives promote a sense of ‘otherness’, even if they are introduced with good intentions. Research into why diversity programs fail illustrate that such initiatives separate the minority groups from the majority which results in reluctance from both sides to accept and address the present bias.

A University of California study, conducted over 31 years, analysed over 829 companies’ diversity programmes to conclude diversity training and performance evaluations had barely managed to succeed in creating a fair work management system. This further proves that there’s still a clear distinction between perceiving and executing diversity-related efforts within the corporate hierarchy. 

These findings highlight the importance of why leaders need to understand how diversity has its own set of challenges and uncertainties, and why it requires not only senior leadership support but also accountability in reaching set targets and goals to avoid a critical impact on team and company performance. Diversity is far more than just a buzzword. If companies want to be at the top, not just in size but in respectability and sustainability (hello, shareholder value!)  a diverse workforce is an essential means to achieve that end. 

'We are only as strong as we are united; as weak as we are divided."
- Albus Dumbledore

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Sphoorti Bhandare is a PR consultant with a heart of a digital nomad. Sphoorti studied Electronics (B.Tech.) and pursued Masters in Public Relations in New York. A Bollywood dancer by nature, Sphoorti keeps busy by finding new PR trends, learning about social media tools and planning her next travel destination. She’s usually found mastering Zumba, making whipped coffee and hopping from one country to another.
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