Many companies are developing diversity, equity and inclusion programs. Among the many benefits is a team that more fully reflects—and can therefore better serve—a company’s broad customer base. As technology’s impact in both the business and consumer worlds continues to expand, having a tech team with diverse cultural, educational and life experiences is especially important.
Tech leaders who actively work to form diverse teams can not only better serve end-users but can also tap into a wealth of new skills, creativity and potential. Below, 16 members of Forbes Technology Council share effective steps tech execs can take to diversify their talent pipeline.
1. Create tech apprenticeships.
The landscape is changing so rapidly that both workers and businesses have to continually update their knowledge base to stay relevant. Tech apprenticeships are growing in popularity as companies reach out to individuals with the necessary soft skills and offer to provide the training needed to get their technical skills up to speed. – Roland Icard, Simply iCard Consulting Inc.
2. Prioritize adding under-represented groups.
The single most important step that tech leaders can take is to prioritize diversity and inclusion. A company’s capability to support a heterogeneous talent pool can be a unique differentiator and competitive advantage. Improving the representation of women and people of color should be a key priority for every tech company. – Asaf Ezra, Granulate
3. Consider those with ‘non-tech’ backgrounds.
One strategy is to open up the way we hire. Traditionally, tech hiring practices have overemphasized an engineering background, which has led to fewer women in the pipeline. I do not believe you need an engineering background to be successful as a leader in tech. Good talent can come from anywhere, such as marketing and sales. We opened up our hiring practices and we have been able to bring more women into the fold. – Anneka Gupta, LiveRamp
4. Hire based on the requirements of the position, not convenience.
Don’t filter out those who could be great candidates based on criteria used for convenience or because of potential down-the-road issues. We were facing recruiting issues caused by changes to the H-1B visa program. Rather than excluding candidates, we recruited with a focus on the requirements of the position and committed to dealing with legal challenges if the candidate selected was the most qualified. – Akhilesh Agarwal, apex analytix
5. Tap into the power of social media.
Proactively seek out and engaging with various diverse individuals and communities through social media. This can create an amplification effect for any roles for which you might be hiring—importantly, reaching a more diverse audience than going through your own direct network. – Elias Guerra, Popwallet
6. Cast a wide net.
Diversify teams early, taking into account not only gender and race but also different experiences. You need differing viewpoints and perspectives to challenge norms and build excellence into products and your culture. If you hire tech talent based on whether the candidates are ex-Google, you reflect the low diversity levels at such companies. Casting a wide net helps build a truly diverse workforce. – Tina Huang, Transposit
7. Showcase your inclusive brand.
The best talent will look for places they feel welcome and where they can express themselves freely. Tech leaders need to demonstrate their inclusive employer brand and showcase their values. Word-of-mouth marketing, references and having a strong market reputation for your brand are important in attracting great talent. – Jacqueline Teo, HGC Global Communications
8. Create in-house training programs.
Hire nontechnical people from under-represented groups and invest in a “tech skilling” program inside the company. Tech skills can be taught at any age to anyone. Human resources and learning and development departments must make diversity a priority. – Karl Mehta, EdCast
9. Target high-diversity areas.
Target awareness campaigns and recruiting efforts in geographic areas that have highly diverse populations combined with broad technology skills. Given that many companies have learned how to work effectively with a remote workforce due to Covid-19, it is easier than ever to recruit and work with talent in geographies where your company doesn’t have a physical presence. – Charles Onstott, SAIC
10. Implement blind screening.
When hiring new tech talent, stick to blind screening in the very beginning. Whether we know it or not, we all have some biases. The name, gender and ethnicity of the applicant should be hidden from the initial screening team to remove unintended biases. This could be done through blind online tests or by redacting information from candidate profiles. – Komal Goyal, 6e Technologies
11. Mentor students from disadvantaged groups.
Teaching and mentoring students from disadvantaged communities is a great way to diversify the pipeline for tech talent. The idea is to grow talent by investing in people rather than harvesting skills built by institutions. – Olin Hyde, LeadCrunch
12. Have conversations within your organization.
Encourage open conversations about diversity, equality and inclusion within your organization. Talking about—and just as important, listening to—these critical conversations is the first step in understanding a path forward. If you’re not ready to listen to the hard conversations, then you aren’t ready to make a change that is not only a moral imperative but a business one, as well. – Matthew Zielinski, Lenovo
13. Consider more diverse skill sets.
Consider hiring talent from other industries. Much of what we do in technology is universal—a server remains a server, regardless. When bringing in diverse talent, I’d say diversify based on the skills and the background candidates bring to the table. You might open up doors to solutions you have never thought of. I have often hired talent from finance into healthcare. – Donny Patel, Baxter International Inc.
14. Consider cross-training.
Cross-train talent from other parts of your organization—particularly from departments that understand the underlying business drivers of your company. That way, you’ll be able to diversify by skill set, communication ability and business acumen in addition to expanding your tech ranks with gender, race and educational diversity. – Jason Hollander, Cymatic
15. Hire where the talent is.
The forced move to a distributed workforce prompted by the pandemic might be looked at in the long term as a silver lining—it will be a boon for the talent pipeline. It has allowed companies to rethink traditional geographic boundaries that would otherwise artificially limit the talent pool. Now companies can focus on skills, not zip codes. – Kim Huffman, Elastic
16. Ensure your culture is genuinely inclusive.
The one step I would recommend tech leaders take is to ensure their company is genuinely inclusive. This means that the company culture is authentically collaborative and its policies proactively discourage silos and exclusive or divisive behavior. Diversity without inclusion only creates churn. – Didem Un Ates, Accenture