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Innovation

2016 Trends: The IT Industry Will Start to Become More Diverse

Faced with sobering statistics, tech companies large and small will focus on diversifying their workplaces.

by Jennifer Adams

January 2016

Oracle Corporation Chief Executive Officer Safra Catz knows firsthand what diversity can bring to an organization. At Oracle OpenWorld this past October, she spoke about its benefits. “Diversity brings a different perspective and openness for companies,” she said. “Whether it’s women, or it’s minorities, or other unrepresented groups, getting the best out of people, when you have the whole population to choose from, is how you solve the hardest problems.”

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In order to stay competitive, businesses need to be innovative, and diversity is a great catalyst for that innovation. Diversity of gender, ethnicity, and educational background within an organization results in internal and external benefits such as better problem solving, an increase of new ideas, and more effective communication with customers. However, in 2015, top technology companies released sobering statistics on the diversity of their employee pools. The attention to the lack of diversity in the tech industry has set up 2016 to be a year of action for companies large and small.

Early education and community investments

Companies and influential individuals are investing in education for underprivileged students and underrepresented areas of study. In Silicon Valley, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan are planning to open a private elementary school for underprivileged children in East Palo Alto, CA. Meanwhile, Oracle Corporation is moving a charter school directly onto its Redwood Shores campus. The goal of these educational projects is to offer quality education to everyone and invest in the future employee pool.

According to a study done by McKinsey, companies with diverse leadership have significantly higher earnings and return on equity.”

Companies can invest in education and communities on a smaller scale and still drive results. In 2016, companies are planning initiatives such as community outreach projects and sponsored learning competitions. Actions like these will positively impact the community, encourage new talent, and help build a brighter future pipeline for employment.

Changes in hiring goals and recruiting tactics to attract ideal candidates

The tech industry has long been dominated by computer science graduates, even though employees with other degrees offer a different perspective in problem solving and communication. Companies are broadening the profile of their ideal candidate, and some have even announced new hiring goals for 2016. For example, Pinterest announced its goal of increasing female and minority representation in engineering and leadership positions, and saw a two percent increase in the number of female employees.

Diverse candidates, especially millennials, have high expectations of the way in which they are recruited. In order to attract ideal candidates, companies need to reduce the time from initial contact to the written offer. A success factor to faster recruiting is the use of social media to communicate with candidates even before an interview occurs. LinkedIn has been widely used by companies and job seekers, but other social platforms are becoming popular. For example, more than 60,000 jobs are posted on Twitter every day. Using social media as a recruiting tactic helps companies provide information to candidates quickly and establish a social brand. Companies should consider changing their hiring goals and recruiting tactics to attract more diverse candidates.

Companies focus on employee retention to maintain diversity

As important as it is to recruit diverse employees, it is equally as important to retain them. One way companies are increasing retention is by focusing on their employees’ diverse needs. Well-defined career paths, formal mentorship programs, flexible work hours and locations, and on-site child care are options. The parent company of WordPress, Automattic, allows all of its employees to work from home, which provides a better work-life balance. This type of flexibility is attractive to more diverse types of employees, such as caregivers looking after children or aging parents, or commuters who need more flexible schedules.

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Jennifer Adams is a Cloud Customer Experience sales consultant at Oracle.

The right type of training also plays an important role in retaining top diverse talent. Many companies focus training initiatives around products. While product training is important, companies should also focus on training employees in skills that are transferable, such as presentation best practices. If employees perceive they are gaining personal development through their employment, they are more likely to stay.

Increasing diversity in 2016

Taking action to increase diversity is good for the bottom line. According to a study done by McKinsey, companies with diverse leadership have significantly higher earnings and return on equity. Also, as Safra Catz pointed out, diversity enables companies to solve the hardest problems and stay competitive.

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