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​It’s Never Been More Important to Diversify Your IT Department

If you haven't thought about it, you may be too late

18Nov

According to a 2011 study by Forbes, diverse teams were key to bottom-line business growth. For example, diversity increases innovation, problem solving and teamwork. As a result, business growth and employee satisfaction increases. Additionally, customer engagement will improve because diverse employees will better understand and connect with diverse customers. Therefore, following these four tips will increase the diversity of your IT department.

Management awareness

Department diversification cannot be successful without buy-in and support from executive management. At minimum, executives should be aware of the importance of diversity and publicly encourage managers to increase their diversity competence. In fact, executive management should institute annual mandatory diversity awareness training for supervisors and managers. This is especially important for human resource managers who must ensure that hiring practices do not violate federal anti-discrimination laws.

Executives who hold managers accountable for failing to incorporate diversity into their departments will increase responsiveness. This will help facilitate change in IT departments, which are typically dominated by certain demographic groups. IT departments that lack upper management oversight will never be able to truly diversify their workforce.

Data awareness

Executives tend to be fact-based, results-driven professionals who understand numbers better than words. Therefore, executives need access to internal diversity and hiring reports. They also should receive regular updates about industry hiring trends. HR managers will be able to use their human resource information system (HRIS) to submit regular reports that contain diversity, hiring and promotion statistics.

Therefore, IT managers will be able to adapt their job candidate selection process accordingly. Also, promotion statistics are very important because many companies publicly commit to diverse-friendly hiring practices, but fail to properly incorporate diversity into their promotion policies. Keep in mind that only a small percentage of Fortune 500 executives are females or minorities.

Public goals

Accurate diversity data will help management set measurable, objective diversity goals. These goals should be shared on the website and with internal policies. However, every department may actually need to have separate diversity goals because certain demographic groups flock to certain career fields. In fact, recent research shows that the most popular tech companies have serious diversity issues.

For example, both Apple and Google are made up of 70 percent men, 30 percent women. The majority of these male employees are Caucasians. However, 40 percent of Facebook tech employees and 40 percent of Yahoo employees are Asian. Still, these companies only have two to four percent of employees who are Hispanic or African American.

Internal goals

While public goals are worthwhile and necessary, it’s arguably more critical to create internal goals that place focus on bottom-line revenue. Companies that focus on revenue rather over flower image, will find comfort in their margins. And believe or not, this actually starts within the IT department.

Corporate goals usually entail cutting costs and increasing profit. The reputation of the IT department is that it eats up resources, not saves them. However there are ways to cut costs, like moving off enterprise solutions to free versions. For example, your organization may have 2-3 enterprise monitoring subscriptions, when a there are many capable free network monitoring solutions elsewhere.

Rethink hiring sources

Many IT department heads mistakenly assume that the key to successful hiring lies in being selective about hiring sources. For example, they may only hire from certain well-recognized colleges or technical schools. However, this severely limits the candidate selection. Instead, companies should ignore the name of the school and focus on the candidate's key qualities and skills. On the other hand, many companies prefer to hire from within. The benefit of this method is that HR can cut costs on the screening and selection process because employees are excellent referrals. However, people generally associate with others who are similar to themselves. Therefore, the company demographics will naturally represent the majority of employees. Instead, HR should simultaneously consider both internal and external sources for applicants.

There are many benefits to a diverse workforce, including better creativity, collaboration and productivity. A diverse IT workforce will be able to solve problems faster through innovative solutions. However, diversity can only be increased through management awareness, factual reports, public goals and diversified hiring sources.

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