Despite ongoing efforts to hire more colorful people and women in technical roles, organizations are struggling to retain that talent. This is largely due to organizations that do not have an inclusive culture in the first place.
A Wiley’s 2021 Technology Diversity Report found that half of the respondents reported leaving or wanting to leave a technology or IT job because the company’s culture made them feel unwanted or uncomfortable. The majority of these respondents come from less well-represented groups (53% of respondents are women, 53% of respondents in Asia, 56% of blacks and African-Americans, 58% of respondents are Spanish or Hispanic).
DE&I initiatives should not be just an HR goal. At a time when talent and skills shortages are affecting the ability of all organizations to manage digital transformation projects to meet business needs and to compete, building a diverse, fair and inclusive workplace culture – which has been proven to attract and retain talent – must be a priority for both CIOs and engineering leaders.
A variety of engineering teams generate creativity and more innovative ways to solve problems. In turn, this leads to higher quality products that are available to more customers – all this is true good for business and for the people. An inclusive culture also encourages continuous feedback, which is key to the software development and engineering process and can lead to better software and service delivery.
So what can CIOs and leaders do to create and promote an inclusive culture in the engineering organization and begin to reap the benefits of a highly productive and diverse engineering team?
Results-based hiring approach
Hiring is not the end of building different teams, but it is one of the first steps. The way you write a job description has a big impact on the type of talent you apply for. The language or requirements in the description may dissuade some people from applying due to alleged biases implied by the list or by the applicant’s own perceived abilities and qualifications. For example, a job description that contains phrases such as “looking for a young and energetic candidate” or “graduate of the best university” may imply bias towards older workers or candidates from a particular socio-economic background. In addition, research has found that women will not apply for a job unless they meet 100% of the requirements. qualifications.
In addition to writing more inclusive job descriptions, another way to reduce bias and attract more diverse talent is to use a results-based approach to hiring. Instead of simply listing the job requirements and characteristics of the perfect candidate, the job description should highlight the challenge of the position. This can help you attract and evaluate talent based on performance results rather than individual qualifications. For example, a qualification-based hiring approach will look for applicants who are experienced bridge builders to cross the river. While a results-based approach would point to the challenge or problem (we have to cross a river) and candidates would show their skills and think about the best way to do it.
This hiring philosophy can help you gain a holistic view of the skills, achievements and motivation that the candidate offers to your team. The main purpose of the interviews is to give each candidate the opportunity to show how they would use their combination of skills, knowledge and abilities to achieve the performance results needed for the role.
Inclusive team culture requires space for feedback and psychological safety
Taking a page from the book on flexible engineering, one of the most important principles of an inclusive culture is the availability of a safe feedback space. You can do this by taking time each month or quarter to create space for team members to share their point of view. Ask questions like: do you feel comfortable sharing your opinion? Feedback from these checks can help uncover any trends that need to be changed.
It is also important for employees to feel safe when sharing their feedback, ideas and opinions outside of these surveys and inspections. Google researchers have discovered this psychological safety is the most important feature of highly efficient teams. This means a state of well-being in which team members feel safe to take risks and be vulnerable to each other. A culture of workplace where psychological safety exists encourages people to feel comfortable asking questions, sharing their ideas, and acknowledging a mistake or ignorance of something without fear of being judged or punished. Psychological safety is what allows the team to be open to giving and receiving new ideas and feedback, which can stimulate creativity and new perspectives on approaching a problem or building a solution.
Representation and mentoring at the top
Retaining from underrepresented team members can be difficult when your leadership team still looks like the status quo, because it may be perceived that there is no path to career advancement if men continue to dominate leadership roles. An inclusive culture requires top-down commitment, and part of that responsibility is to have leaders and managers who stand up for women, gender-neutral people, and BIPOC employees on their teams.
For team members who come from underrepresented groups, it can be a challenge for them to stand up for themselves or to know the best way forward when they have fewer examples of leaders who come from similar backgrounds to whom to search. Business and engineering leaders need to be involved in the career planning of their team members, covering areas such as: what path they would like to take in their careers, what are the next steps that will help them advance and what need to feel supported? Just as it creates safe spaces for feedback, leadership must look for opportunities and increase the visibility of team members who might not otherwise be heard or recognized for their strengths.
Business and engineering leaders must have an interest in ensuring that they build teams that are diverse and equitable, and maintain an inclusive culture in the workplace. When you have a diverse team and an inclusive culture in support of that team, you will see greater results and better products that meet the needs of the general public and your users.
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Why DE&I Should Be Part of Your Engineering Culture – And How to Do It