Last week, Facebook published its annual diversity report. To summarize some of the major findings of the report: there were slight increases in the amount of Black and Hispanic employees as well as women in technical roles, business and sales roles, and senior leadership. Black employees increased from 2% to 4% and Hispanic employees increased from 4% to 5%. Since 2014 the number of women employed globally at Facebook increased from 31% to 36%. Facebook’s numbers are very similar to that of other large tech firms. At Microsoft in 2017, 25.9% of their overall workforce was female. In that same year, 4% of Microsoft’s workforce was Black and 5.9% was Hispanic. According to Apple’s 2017 diversity report, the percentage of women within the company from 2016 to 2017 remained at 32%. There was, however, an increase in diverse new hires. The amount of Black new hires increased from 9% to 11% and the amount of Hispanic new hires increased from 13% to 15%. While any increase is a promising sign, some may argue that it’s not enough. In 2017, the Census reported that Blacks comprise 13.4% of the U.S. population, Hispanics make up 18.1% of the population, and 50.8% of the population is female. Why are these numbers not reflected in the tech industry? And why do tech companies continue to lag behind when it comes to their diverse representation?
Facebook admitted that they do encounter obstacles when it comes to recruiting Black and Hispanic employees to both technical roles as well as senior leadership roles within the company. While recruiting is a key aspect of diversity and inclusion, it is imperative that an equal amount of effort and attention is put on retention strategies. Here are some strategies that Facebook and other tech companies can adopt to foster a more diverse, equitable and inclusive environment for their employees:
The first strategy to implement into the diversity and inclusion goals is to check the temperature of the organization. At the surface level, does the company have diverse talent (women, Blacks, Hispanics, etc.)? How does the organization match up with others in the industry? If there is not surface level diversity, what factors are impeding the hiring and selection of diverse candidates? If the pipeline is not the problem but rather the inability to actually retain the diverse talent you hire, this is where the temperature check becomes vital. Frequently invite employees to voice their opinions via a meeting or a survey to analyze and understand diversity and inclusion challenges facing the organization. If the intention is to improve diversity and inclusion efforts within the organization, it is critical to first understand where the organization is, in order to assess how well any intervention tactics are working. How is diversity being quantified and measured within the organization? Temperature checks should be performed on a continuous and consistent basis.
Many companies credit pipeline issues for their inability to hire diverse talent. Examine and re-examine the talent pipeline. What are the hiring and selection procedures within the organization? Are the selection criteria clear and objective? Could the organization benefit from using a blind resume system? There must also be creative sourcing techniques that are being utilized. Examine Historically Black Colleges and Universities, and partner with organizations that support women and diverse groups. The first step towards building a diverse and inclusive workplace is representation. Diversity should be represented through the company website, among the employees, as well as in the organizational leadership.
Differences in interaction styles, as well as cultural background, may cause communication issues in the workplace. One strategy that can be implemented to foster stronger and more effective communication is the Round Robin technique. This technique allows each person during a meeting to give their feedback or input. One individual goes around during a meeting and asks each person for their feedback individually. Communication building strategies such as the Round Robin technique allow each employee to feel like their voice is being heard, fostering a more inclusive environment.
Aside from building stronger communication between employees to foster inclusion, different team building activities should be utilized within the organization. Depending on the type of organization, these team building activities could occur weekly, monthly or yearly. The goal of these activities would be to help build and strengthen connections between employees. These activities could include corporate retreats or potlucks, and incorporate tactics such as the jigsaw method, which was found to encourage listening and reduce prejudice. Research supports the idea that more supportive bonds and friendships at work reduce turnover intentions. Organizations should focus on creating more opportunities to form connections between employees.
Managerial goals and objectives should be tied to organizational diversity goals. Often times the belief is that having representation within the company automatically means your diversity and inclusion goals have been met. It is not enough to simply have diversity on the surface-level. Continuous efforts must be made by organizational leadership to foster an inclusive environment for all employees in order to retain diverse talent. There should be a level of accountability when it comes to assessing diversity goals and that can be achieved by linking leadership goals to organizational diversity goals.
Janice is a diversity and inclusion consultant and professor, located in the New York City area. Connect with her on Linkedin or visit her website at drjanicegassam.com.