This article is part of Stronger Together, an in-depth look at diversity, equity, and inclusion in IT from the October issue of our magazine.
THE ADVANTAGES of championing and realizing a diverse workplace are statistically supported through numerous studies conducted by organizations like McKinsey, Tufts University, MIT, and many others, and include benefits such as better organizational performance, problem-solving, decision making, and more. Yet bias, both conscious and unconscious, often thwarts the ability to build a diverse workforce, which in turn can hinder organizational innovation and growth. There are deliberate steps you can take to overcome this, however.
As human beings, we’re all subject to biases that are often based on stereotypes, rather than actual knowledge of a circumstance or individual. One example of a conscious, or explicit bias, is the assumption that an individual’s suitability and/or compensation for a particular task, position, or promotion—or even their opinion—is diminished due to their age, gender, culture, disabilities, looks, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or more. Unconscious, or implicit bias, on the other hand, is acquired when we are younger as an influence of our environment and upbringing, and largely shaped by those closest to us.
Unconscious bias in the workplace can unfairly impact individual careers and personal growth opportunities. It also harms the overall organization by discouraging diverse candidates and women from applying for jobs they are qualified for because of fear of rejection. Lack of diversity, moreover, leaves gaps in organizations due to a narrow skillset and viewpoint among individuals and teams, leading to “groupthink.”
Groupthink describes the behavior of members in a given group to steadily drift toward the same attitudes, styles of thinking, and conclusions, eventually dominating a group’s culture and leaving little to no opportunity for members with different styles, perspectives, needs, or opinions to be heard. As a result, organizations limit their ability to reach and maintain a high level of innovation.
Here are 10 steps IT business owners can take to help champion and maintain a diverse workplace:
- Embrace diversity as an asset and promote respect and inclusion for all diverse team members and candidates at all levels of the organization.
- Ensure your job postings promote diversity, are gender-/sexual-orientation neutral, and use job descriptions based on performance goals for each position. Then post your employment opportunities to multiple sources to give the most diverse candidates the opportunity to apply.
- Provide identical, consistent job recruitment experiences for all candidates, including during the pre-screening and interview processes, and conduct more panel or group interviews with diverse interviewers.
- Eliminate graduation and work experience dates from job applications and resumes, allowing the opportunity for older candidates with broader skillsets and experiences to add value to the organization.
- Give consistent, honest, detailed feedback regularly to all your direct reports based on their performance.
- Remove bias from your performance reviews and promotion considerations and base your feedback and decisions on performance tied to business goals and skills that accelerate advancement.
- Seek out, identify, and take action when you witness episodes of unconscious bias and mentor your teams to emulate this behavior.
- Analyze and become self-aware of your own biases to help you maintain a high level of objectivity in people-based decisions. Coach your teams to do likewise.
- Encourage and promote open discussions within your organization and during meetings. Invite new, diverse perspectives and opinions to overcome groupthink.
- Realize the importance and benefits of diversity and make it an integral part of the culture and values of your organization.
When you level the playing field for qualified diverse candidates to compete for roles at all echelons of an organization and earn fair and equal compensation, you will not only be able to build a diverse workforce but also maintain it.
ERICK SIMPSON is one of the most sought-after technology business and channel improvement and transformation experts in the IT industry. Erick has authored over 50 business improvement white papers and best practice guides and four best-selling books, and is recognized as one of the top influencers and thought leaders in the IT industry.