Why diverse IT teams have a competitive edge

Why diverse IT teams have a competitive edge

New Deloitte data shows the business importance of diversity and inclusion on IT teams. What are the leadership lessons for CIOs?

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January 15, 2019

More than one in three U.S. IT leaders (36 percent) responding to Deloitte’s 2018 Global CIO Survey say their organizations proactively recruit and hire diverse employees.

That’s a necessary step toward correcting disparities in the IT workforce. As one measure of IT’s relative homogeneity, 80 percent of technology executives are men, according to the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and 82 percent are white.

There’s clearly plenty of work still to be done, especially in an IT sector that regularly wrings its hands over skills shortages and cutthroat competition for talent. Some 44 percent of CIOs in the same Deloitte survey said their organizations have no particular initiatives in place to recruit, develop, or retain a diverse workforce.

Even those companies that are actively recruiting heterogenous teams aren’t always doing enough to invest in or retain their talent, which can undermine the long-haul benefits of building a diverse organization and reinforce problems such as a lack of women in the IT leadership pipeline.

36 percent of CIOs say their organizations aim to recruit and hire diverse employees, but just 15 percent focus on retention programs.

“While 36 percent [of CIOs] say their organizations aim to recruit and hire diverse employees, far fewer focus on training and development (22 percent) or retention (15 percent) programs that can help keep talented underrepresented employees on board for the long term,” write the authors of a recent a recent Deloitte report, “Repairing the pipeline: Perspectives on diversity and inclusion in IT.”

The report, which offers something of a “state of” update on the IT industry’s efforts to improve its workforce while addressing issues such as its notorious gender imbalance, offers six key takeaways for leaders. One of the big ones: CIOs and other execs must prioritize diversity and inclusion if they want to achieve real results, Deloitte researchers say.

[ Recommended reading: Today’s CIOs, by the numbers: 9 telling stats ]

“Organizations that focus primarily on recruiting and hiring diverse populations but not on retaining them may not be fully committed to true inclusivity,” the report states. “Many employees appreciate perks such as generous parental leave and on-site childcare, but they also want to work on IT teams that authentically prioritize and value inclusivity, provide advancement and development opportunities, and remove biases that may exist in HR and IT policies, [such as those reflected in] salaries, performance reviews, and flexible scheduling.”

How to make the business case for diversity and inclusion

Another key takeaway: CIOs must make the business case for diversity and inclusion. Consider, for starters, these findings from the book Which Two Heads Are Better Than One?: How diverse teams create breakthrough ideas and make smarter decisions, by Deloitte partner Juliet Bourke. According to the book, companies with inclusive cultures are:

  • Twice as likely to meet financial targets
  • Three times as likely to be high-performing organizations
  • Six times as likely to be innovative and agile
  • Eight times as likely to achieve better business outcomes

That’s a business case in four bullet points. (In fact, they all sound like digital transformation goals, don’t they?)

Another part of the business case: You can’t complain too loudly about hiring challenges if you’re not investing in diversity and inclusion. Not only do diversity and inclusion initiatives expand your pool of potential talent – and the chances of retaining the best people over time – but also, you become more attractive to job seekers.

[ Struggling to fill security roles? Read How to attract and keep IT security talent ]

We asked two of the Deloitte report’s authors –Kavitha Prabhakar, principal, Deloitte Consulting and Anjali Shaikh, senior manager, Deloitte Consulting – for a deeper dive on some of the important topics they covered, such as the value of inclusion and diversity as a competitive edge. Consider these lessons for IT leaders:

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Kevin Casey writes about technology and business for a variety of publications. He won an Azbee Award, given by the American Society of Business Publication Editors, for his InformationWeek.com story, "Are You Too Old For IT?" He's a former community choice honoree in the Small Business Influencer Awards.

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