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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The Enterprisers Project: Can you expand on the importance of the I in D&I? It seems like inclusion is a potential blind spot, even in organizations that have taken some proactive steps to diversify their recruiting and hiring practices. What should CIOs and other leaders keep in mind here?

Prabhakar: Before getting into the importance of the “I” in D&I, it’s important to define the difference between D&I. Diversity is the different skills, backgrounds, attributes, and perspectives that we each bring to the table.

Inclusion is a culture where everyone feels like they can be themselves and are appreciated for the unique aspects that they bring to the table. Diverse teams are important; however, an organization or team that is demographically diverse isn’t the necessarily a good indicator of if each individual feels a sense of belonging within that organization/team. Inclusion brings diversity to the forefront of the organization’s culture – where everyone can be authentic and feel empowered to speak up and bring new ideas to the table.

Shaikh: The inclusion landscape for organizations has dramatically evolved recently – even within the last year, that dialogue, expectations, and objectives around inclusion are changing. As part of Deloitte’s research on inclusion, we’ve found that the proportion of executives who cited inclusion as a top priority rose by 32 percent from 2014 to 2017. Sixty-nine percent of executives rated diversity and inclusion as an important issue.

Our research also indicates that organizations with inclusive cultures are six times more likely to be innovative and agile, eight times more likely to achieve better business outcomes, and twice as likely to meet or exceed financial targets. Despite all of this, the research also indicates that only 12 percent of organizations have reached full maturity.

Many organizations are still just looking to check the box on D&I rather than shift their organizational culture.

However, many organizations are still just looking to check the box on D&I rather than shift their organizational culture – starting with their leaders – to be more inclusive. Inclusion tends to be a personal experience and has in large part still been addressed as a programmatic initiative rather than something embedded into daily experiences, interactions, and behaviors, which leads to what you’re seeing around it being a blind spot.

Prabhakar: CIOs and other leaders should keep in mind that inclusion starts at the top and everyone has a role to play Many in today’s workforce are seeking organizations where inclusion is rooted in their daily experiences. Additionally, they do not view programs as the only way to foster an inclusive culture. They want to see their leaders and peers demonstrate inclusion in their behaviors.

TEP: Can you discuss the value of diversity and inclusion as a strategy for bridging talent gaps and competing in a tight labor market?

Prabhakar: While an authentic, meaningful commitment to D&I is a core expectation for the workforce today, for CIOs and IT leaders it’s almost a key competitive advantage. According to our 2018 global CIO survey, CIOs are increasingly facing a talent war to get the skills needed to meet their mandates: 60 percent of global CIOs indicated that a top challenge for them is to find the talent with the right skills.

As part of attracting and retaining talent with the right skills and capabilities, CIOs need to recognize the culture they create is a competitive advantage.

For today’s workforce, especially millennials, inclusion is a non-negotiable today.

They need to rethink their existing talent strategies to acquire, engage, and retain employees, develop or acquire new skills and competencies, and invest in building cultures that attract diverse and high-performing talent. The war for talent can only be won if CIOs have a comprehensive talent strategy that takes into consideration diversity and inclusion. For today’s workforce, especially millennials, inclusion is a non-negotiable today.

Shaikh: In a recent Deloitte survey, respondents were asked whether inclusion influenced their decision when evaluating organizations to work for. Eighty percent reported that inclusion is important when choosing an employer. But inclusion doesn’t just play a critical role in recruitment. Thirty-nine percent of respondents reported that they would leave their current organization for a more inclusive one.

For millennials, inclusion played an even larger role in their retention, with over half the millennials reporting they would leave their current organization for a more inclusive one. Even more astounding, nearly one-third indicated they have already left an organization for a more inclusive one.

TEP: One of your other key takeaways for CIOs is to “walk the talk.” How can IT leaders learn to better discuss diversity and inclusion in an open, thoughtful, and respectful manner – especially so they can model this for the rest of the team?

Prabhakar: Deloitte’s recent report in collaboration with The Female Quotient outlines what IT leaders (and all leaders) should consider as they learn to advance D&I within their organizations and teams:

  • Model authenticity: Sharing stories, being vulnerable when appropriate, and inviting others to do the same
  • Communicate transparently: Discussing their perspective and being open, but also being an active listener and inviting other voices and perspectives to the table
  • Invest in relationships: Getting to know their team, fostering an environment where strong relationships are valued, being an advocate, and showcasing acceptance
  • Evolve constantly: Continuing to learn, grow, and develop new leadership traits, and constantly holding themselves accountable for advancing inclusion

[ What other concrete steps can CIOs take? Read our related article, How to build more diverse IT teams: 3 strategies. ]

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