As tech companies strive to improve diversity, equity and inclusion, recruiting a diverse group of candidates isn’t the last step. To truly create an inclusive culture and better serve their company’s broad customer base, a tech leader needs to ensure that all of their team members have a voice in product development, company processes and customer service.
You’ve brought on a diverse slate of candidates because you understand the value they can bring to your organization — so what do you need to do next to ensure they have a real chance to shine? To give all of your tech team members a seat at the table when it comes to important decisions, consider these 15 tips shared by the industry leaders of Forbes Technology Council.
1. Have honest, candid conversations.
As today’s leaders attempt to address diversity and inclusion priorities and challenges, no matter how uncomfortable, they should encourage candid conversations to elicit actionable insights. Senior management, including boards and CEOs, should visibly stand for D&I, as demonstrating commitment is crucial to bringing others on the journey. – Kumar Parakala, GHD
2. Host cross-functional team meetings.
The way to ensure team members have a voice is to create a corporate communication structure that reflects this goal. We have cross-functional team meetings to get input from stakeholders in every department, from sales and product development to marketing and applications engineering. We also have a tiger team composed of department leaders who convey the thoughts and opinions of their staff. – Julie Song, Advanced RF Technologies, Inc.
3. Break down silos that exist in your company.
Silos are sometimes hard to spot, especially if you’re working virtually. Encourage cross-collaboration among your teams and departments to ensure everyone is on the same page and all ideas and concerns can be heard and addressed. Stay open to everyone’s ideas during your meetings, and be sure to follow up with action items so that you stay focused. – Gail Peace, Ludi, Inc.
4. Engage professionals based on talent.
The D&I subject isn’t new; 2020 was simply a wake-up call for companies. Advancing workplace diversity is more important today than ever before. I suggest focusing on talent and engaging professionals who can accelerate emerging technologies and solve complex problems. This will help drive diversity in teams and bring broad perspectives together, generating better business results. – Azmath Pasha, Paradigm Technology
5. Celebrate diverse opinions.
Employees willingly voice their opinions when they know they are not going to be judged, will not face any negative consequences when they speak up and their voices will be valued. As leaders, we need to nurture a culture celebrating diverse opinions, and that will ensure team members are more engaged in voicing their opinions. – Vishwas Manral, McAfee
6. Establish platforms where employees can offer input.
We developed a monthly forum called “Tech Thursday” that is open to everyone within the company to discuss technology and where we should position ourselves as an organization. We are an employee-driven, customer-focused company. We understand that our employees are the engine behind our excellent work. We encourage our employees’ input and participation in these forums because they understand our customers. – Calvin Rhodes, IP-Plus Consulting, Inc.
7. Promote awareness of the benefits of diversity.
Ensuring diverse team members have a voice in the strategic direction of the company starts with intentionally hiring and developing diverse talent. It continues with promoting awareness of how much better we are as a company when teams of diverse people, perspectives and points of view work together on our most strategic initiatives. – Nina Vaca, Pinnacle Group, Inc.
8. Regularly create and test new hypotheses.
I ask our business development and sales teams to create and test specific hypotheses every week, which we review in detail in a Thursday progress update. Constant awareness and stress-testing of assumptions keep everyone aligned on our core goals and KPIs while encouraging our team to think outside of the box to both meet and challenge those goals. – Aidan McCarty, Unum ID
9. Gather input from all team members during strategic discussions.
Our strategic discussions are a joint team exercise that explicitly goes through a phase to identify and gather input from all team members. This ensures we have surveyed the landscape and formed a full picture before narrowing the focus toward execution. We also collaborate with the product development teams and the diversity and inclusion office to create a “diversity by design” process. – Arthur Hu, Lenovo
10. Solicit feedback from all stakeholders.
We run a transparent roadmap process with an open-door policy, encouraging feedback and input from customers and employees. We also proactively solicit input from the team via office hours and open lunches with leadership, including an anonymized Q&A. We believe operating a high-trust environment requires making space for potentially uncomfortable questions, but that’s how the best work gets done. – Josh Koenig, Pantheon Systems, Inc.
11. Conduct inclusivity surveys.
There are many ways to improve diversity and inclusion, but one of the most important ways is to measure the inclusivity of team members. We conduct two surveys a year in which we ask each employee to rate their level of inclusion. We use that data to drive change in our hiring and onboarding and in the way we work. – Brian Bell, Split Software
12. Offer promotions, raises and rewards for diverse ideas.
Diverse teams bring a wealth of perspective that is critical to long-term success. I believe in fostering innovation by embedding it at the cultural level in our core principles. This enables staff at all levels to feel empowered to share their insights. A key part of creating this culture of innovation is to measure diverse ideas through reviews, promotions, raises and rewards. – Chuck Canton, Sourcepass Inc.
13. Build awareness of cultural differences.
A company embracing D&I needs to do a lot more than just recruit diverse candidates. D&I is a cultural journey, and it has to start with building awareness, imparting education and spotlighting cultural gains from embracing a more inclusive culture at the company. It should become a habit to focus on ideas instead of the person behind the idea. And ideas should become truly “colorless.” – Suresh Chintada, Subex
14. Promote communication, teamwork and mutual trust.
We operate by core values that include “radical candor” (as originated by Kim Scott) as well as our more original value, “Speak up, then commit,” which encourages earnest discussion during the planning phase and then full follow-through after decisions. All our values promote communication, teamwork and mutual trust. We are continuously building a culture of active participation where all voices are heard and respected. – Alex Lyashok, WorkFusion
15. Model the actions you’re seeking to instill.
The most critical action leaders can take to promote diversity and inclusion over the long term is to model, through their actions, how to honor and respect the dignity of every single person. When a company instills a people-centered culture as the priority, it can leverage the strengths and voices of a diverse set of people in the development of strategies, products and services. – David Dewolf, 3Pillar Global