Why Diversity and Innovation Play a Role in Becoming a Great Tech Company

Photograph by Tom Takigayama

People in the tech world don’t just want to make something of their careers. They want to make something new. That’s why an innovative culture remains essential for attracting employees with the skills that bring new technologies to life. At the same time, the most respected employers in this sector know their growth depends on the development of all team members to their fullest creative potential.

In 2017, that takes more than a break-room kegerator or an office dodgeball league. Many job candidates have long grown accustomed to the lavish perks that once turned heads at large tech headquarters. At the Best Workplaces in Technology—recently announced by consulting firm Great Place to Work and Fortune—robust benefits complement deeper organizational values that prioritize employee support and development. People working for the winning businesses, for example, were more likely than those at peer companies to say they’re offered training and other opportunities to enrich their careers. They were also more likely to say they feel good about the ways their organizations contribute to the community.

“Technology professionals look for employers that create value and do good things in the world beyond their doors,” said Kim Peters, executive vice president at Great Place to Work. “Team members at the Best Workplaces can count on their leaders to recognize individual contributions toward shared goals and values. For example, 90% of employees at the Best Workplaces, on average, agree their managers show appreciation for good work and extra effort.”

That type of positive feedback helps cultivate organizations that inspire people to expand on their skills and ideas. Zillow, for instance, hosts quarterly Innovation Weeks, when employees take time away from their normal work to explore new professional interests or craft tools to improve the organization. “The strong culture centered around core values gives employees the freedom to think big and innovate without the pressure or fear of negative repercussions. We’re encouraged to fix problems, because trying and failing is better than not trying at all,” said one Zillow employee.

The Innovation Index

Work environments that foster innovation tend to share a few things in common. An analysis of hundreds of businesses showed that the most innovative consistently inspire employees and encourage a sense of connection to their work. Survey statements assessing these traits form the basis of Great Place to Work’s Innovation Index. Employees at organizations with the highest scores on the index were four times more likely to say their teams are willing to give extra at work and eight times more likely to say they want to stay with their companies for a long time. Employees at these businesses suggested their workplaces maximize their professional potential. In fact, 97% of co-workers at innovative companies agreed they’ve found a great workplace.

VMware offers just one instance of the Best Workplaces in Technology inspiring team members who work in a fast-changing industry. Said one employee: “The most amazing thing about this company is its ability to transform itself continuously in the face of shifts in the IT landscape, change in executives, or change in internal operating structure. The single thing that matters to this company is that we forge ahead with innovative technologies in order to solve our customers’ needs.”

Diverse Ideas

The tech industry’s struggle to become more inclusive has consequences that reach beyond the experience of individual employees. In the idea economy, businesses risk missing promising solutions or entire markets for their products when they lack voices from diverse backgrounds. Great Place to Work has found that companies where fewer employees report fair treatment in regard to race or gender tend to score lower on measures of innovation, as well. Varied voices and perspectives are among the strengths in evidence at the Best Workplaces in Technology, where minority employees make up 31% of the workforce.

When everyone has a chance for success, anyone holds the possibility of creating the next revolutionary idea, noted Peters. “Our research suggests that workplaces admired by their employees put themselves in a better position to innovate. The nature of technology often leaves businesses with few certainties about their success over the long term. But diverse perspectives and a great place to work for all are among the most valuable assets for staying at the front of an evolving industry.”


Sarah Lewis-Kulin and Jessica Rohman are vice president and director of content, respectively, at Great Place to Work, the longtime research partner for Fortune’s annual list of the 100 Best Companies to Work For and other best workplaces lists, including the Best Workplaces for Technology.

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