How to achieve true diversity in the workplace – and why it matters

Makers Academy COO Ruben Kostucki explains how to attract under-represented talent and how to tackle the diversity issue in practice.

Despite Google’s claims that it wants to improve diversity, the tech giant’s recent report on the issue shows that little has changed over the last year. Women still account for less than a third of the workforce, and the company has a high attrition rate for black employees. Why can’t the most successful and most coveted employer attract and hang on to talent?

Firstly are we really addressing the right issue? True, it’s very important to talk about diversity, but it’s not the right conversation. The real conversation is about inclusivity. Diversity is the outcome of what you get when you have a very inclusive environment.

That environment encompasses workforce, culture, brand and everything else in between. The starting block is to see diversity as the outcome and inclusivity as the path to getting there.

Before you can even step on that path as an organisation, you need to start with the right baseline question, which is: why does diversity matter?

Start with the right mindset

Ethical reasons are good but you need to find the real driving forces in your organisation as to why diversity is important. If you don’t have a real reason and you don’t have C-level leadership buying into why it matters, not much is going to change.

Once you’ve started asking why, is, stop blaming the labour market. Perhaps there are not enough minorities applying to software engineering jobs, but hiring organisations are part of the solution as well as being part of the problem.

It starts with being inclusive. Being inclusive is like a funnel: which means getting as many people at the start of the process and then narrowing it down until you find the right people. The problem is that most companies do the precise opposite.

They cut people out early in the funnel so they don’t apply. They talk about wanting to attract and recruit underrepresented talent but they do not create an inclusive environment to foster this.

The first thing that you do to improve your recruitment marketing is to look at your brand. What are your brand values? What do you care about and what do you not care about?

Know your brand

If you want to change the diversity of your team, be more inclusive. Start with your brand. Define it. What do you stand for? What do you not stand for? The values that come out will help you define your entire strategy as to how you’re actually going to find people.

Second thing is marketing. We’re in 2018: you can’t look at recruitment as just a funnel of people that magically come in and discover you. You need to actively go and find people. Get your marketing team to broaden their targets beyond simply finding customers.

Go ask them how to find the target audiences you’re looking to add to your team. For example, in order to get more female applicants in the top part of your funnel, you might have to actively go out and build relationships with groups like First Girl or codebar or STEMx, and coding groups specifically targeted for women.

This is active work. It takes energy to go there and present the opportunity to people that would not otherwise hear about it. And that’s the essential part of the work you need to do.

Pay attention to how you sell the job

The third step is job description. Be careful that the way you write job descriptions doesn’t stop people from applying. If you require people to have a number of years experience, you’re doing it wrong. If you’re asking people to have a specific Computer Science degree, you’re doing it wrong.

If you’re describing a person, rather than a challenge, you’re doing it wrong. It’s super important you write your job description well. The kind of words that you use matters. That’s where, again in the funnel, you could stop people from even considering applying for you.

Interviews are the same thing. What does it look like for a black female software engineer to be interviewed by three white males? Find a solution to these problems.

The interview process is also very different if you have a technical test that takes two days. If you’re a single mother at home, this can be kind of difficult. So, be aware of the people that will actually apply for you and consider all of these things.

Retention is as important as attraction

Lastly, your culture. Everything might seem fine and if you follow the steps outlined above, then you may find that your new diversity of talent starts arriving because you’ve done a very good job of being inclusive. Six weeks later they leave. Why? Because they don’t feel welcome.

Perhaps your toilets are gender toilets and this person is gender queer. They don’t fit in either of the toilets. Why do toilets need to be gendered? These are important questions that we need to be asking ourselves. Yet culture is not just about toilets; it’s about everything that you do in your company that has an impact of the people that work there.

Yet it requires a lot of internal work, starting with why, and realising that it’s all about being inclusive — for which your outcome will be diversity.