Courtesy of Miami Children's Health System

It’s not just about recruiting.

By Bärí A. Williams
April 20, 2017

It’s almost that time of year when America’s top tech companies release their annual reports offering the public a glimpse into the number of underrepresented employees across their ranks. Uber kick started it when the ride-hailing company released its figures this Spring; during the summer months ahead, other tech companies are expected to release their reports. While they offer a glance into how companies are faring in the diversity department, they don’t tell the full story.

Diversity gets people into the room, but inclusion keeps them there. True diversity is about more than just numbers; it must come with a heavy dose of inclusion. That means a company must be intentional about creating and fostering a culture where everyone has a seat at the table, not just entry to the room to watch as a bystander.

So how do companies achieve that? How can executives measure progress?

Don’t just look at a company’s hiring and recruiting trends. Here are eight others ways to measure how

effective a company’s diversity and inclusion programs are. These metrics are all about equity and access, which is the real juice when it comes to creating a workplace that includes all regardless of gender and race.

Title and level within the company

If two people with the same experience and education are hired as peers, are their titles and pay equal? Because people of color and women are often underpaid, even when moving companies or switching roles, they lose out of money based on salary history. Assuring that rank and pay are fair helps keep people of color and women from being under-leveled and underpaid.

Rate and time of promotions

A closer look at the way promotions are given offers a key indicator for how women and minorities are judged at a company. Do minorities have to “count more wins” than everyone else to get promoted? How is success defined for the job? Is that a static comparison, all things being equal? How long does it take to achieve goals compared to other employees?

The answers to these questions can tell you if your organization offers everyone, regardless of race and gender, a chance to thrive. Companies must ensure that there are routine and consistent expectations for a role, metrics to determine success are clear and communicated, and all employees subject to those expectations are provided equitable opportunities to achieve said goals.

Access to special projects

Often times, tech companies pride themselves for allowing employees to learn while doing their jobs. It’s considered a luxury, as employees who fail are quickly forgiven and rewarded if they succeed. However, this the perk should be offered to all employees and not just a select few? While the tech industry deems itself a meritocracy, it is too often based on who you know, with key projects and roles being passed around an insular network. If a company is providing equal access to these opportunities, it’s an indicator that equity and the best ideas and execution rule the day.

Exposure to upper management

Lin-Manuel Miranda, creator of the Broadway musical, Hamilton, taught us that everyone wants to be in the room where it happens. This means companies need to provide exposure to decision makers, empower employees to make decisions with impact, and provide autonomy. A company shows that it values the contributions of employees with inclusion in high visibility work or publicity about company achievements to denote, and not just delegation of the grunt work.

Evaluate partnerships

Tech companies are partnering with various organizations and providing money to provide technical skill training, but does it result in job creation?

Companies must track pipeline program participants and their results of the programs. This includes participant’s college matriculation rate, selected major, admission to accelerators or other tech focused training programs, and employment rates. For a data driven industry, there has been little transparency into the success of the programs these companies are funding. Keeping tabs on the success rates of these pipeline programs (i.e. Howard West for Google, TechPrep users for Facebook) demonstrates a level of commitment the company has to actively solving the problem, instead of passively donating money for publicity and a tax write off.

Check support groups

How integrated and influential are employee resource/affinity groups (ERGs) in a company? When done right, ERGs create safe support spaces, professional growth, advocates for women and minorities. Tracking the participation rate of ERGs, their programming, and any result in uptick in hiring and/or promotion is information showing engagement of a certain population of the company is, as well as their commitment to their jobs. It can also point to internal influence marginalized groups actually wield in their company.

Consider age, too

The industry spends millions a year recruiting newly minted college grads, so it’s no wonder that most tech companies provide perks like air hockey, video games, free meals, and group outings – these make the transition from college to the real world easier. But these aren’t necessarily the perks that appeal to older employees, often with families. Success hinges upon hiring and integrating intergenerational employees in tech companies, particularly for large roles for successful companies.

Diversity of age and experience level in the C-suite yields notable results. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has Sheryl Sandberg. Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky has Belinda Johnson. Uber CEO Travis Kalanick is looking for a COO to provide “leadership help.” The commonality is the match of youth, innovation, and great ideas paired with experience, gravitas, and the knowledge to scale and lead. That is the benefit of age.

Supplier Diversity Program

The case has already been made for diversity in the tech industry, and how it leads to better outcomes via products and policies; this applies to suppliers and vendors within the industry. A supplier diversity program is mandated for government contractors, but not the private sector, and is a proactive business program which encourages the use of minority-owned, women owned, veteran owned, LGBT-owned, and differently able owned businesses to provide goods and services. While tech takes shots for low percentages of women and minorities among its workforce, not everyone wants to work for a Page, Kalanick, Zuckerberg, or Musk. Some want to be one. Implementing a supplier diversity program drives innovation with a rush of new ideas, products, and services, promotes economic opportunity, and assures a company that products and services are culturally nuanced and attuned to do business in all markets.

Bärí A. Williams is head of business operations at StubHub North America.

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