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How to get diversity initiatives right

Sharon Florentine | March 15, 2017
New research shows that the tech industry is still struggling to make progress on diversity and inclusion issues. Here are some strategies to get it right.

The study found training is most effective when it is mandatory, delivered over an extended period, integrated with other initiatives and designed to increase both awareness and skills. In addition, participants responded more favorably to programs that used several methods of instruction, including lectures, discussions and exercises. Factors like whether or not the training was held in a corporate setting versus an educational setting, or the gender or race of the trainer, did not make a difference in the effectiveness of the training, the research shows.

"What we saw consistently is that the volume of training really matters. The longer the training, the greater the impact. There's an inclination to do this 'quick and dirty,' but that doesn't make a difference in the long-term. It's also important to have training and education supported with other initiatives: affinity groups, cultural sensitivity work and emphasizing inclusive and diverse hiring and recruiting practices," Bezrukova says.

Combining multiple efforts in this way offers a "united front" and shows an organization's commitment to diversity and inclusion, instead of just a haphazard way to address compliance, she adds.

"It's critical to offer diversity programs as part of a series of related efforts, such as mentoring or networking groups for minority professionals. When organizations demonstrate a commitment to diversity, employees are more motivated to learn about and understand these societal issues and apply that in their daily interactions," Bezrukova says.

Affinity groups

Affinity groups are joined by employee's of a company. They have several varieties but basically it's a place within an organization for like-minded people to gather, network and share their experiences. Many companies uses these groups to demonstrate their commitment to diversity and inclusion. When done correctly they can be a tool for recruitment and retention as well.

Indeed's Mukherjee says within his organization, affinity groups for women, for people of color, for the LGBTQ community and others are seeing success in making the workplace more welcoming and helping the company understand the issues these groups face as well as how to help address them.

"There's so many dimensions to the issue of diversity, and the first problem is one of awareness if no one sees this as a problem. So, affinity groups are important in that they can bring issues to the attention of the larger organization, and can instigate change -- instead of feeling left out and that others are trying to step in and fix problems 'for' them," he says.

Affinity groups, networking and mentoring initiatives also are important for recruiting and hiring, as well as for retention once new hires are on board, Mukherjee says. While there are several technology tools available to help with sourcing and recruiting, you can't just rely on them to do the work for you, he says.


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