What Can CIOs Do To Boost Workplace Diversity?

The key to diversity starts with data analytics
The key to diversity starts with data analytics
Image Credit: Ron Mader

As CIOs, because of the importance of information technology we spend our days surrounded by servers and making decisions about things like firewalls and moving into the cloud. Is workplace diversity something that we really need to trouble ourselves about? It turns out that creating a diverse workforce can be a critical part of any IT department’s success and so, yes, this is something that a CIO needs to spend time on. The trick is to make your workplace diverse and then keep it that way. This is not an easy thing to accomplish.

How Do You Make Your Team More Diverse?

One of the first steps that a CIO can take in an effort to make his or her workplace more diverse is to take a careful look at the data that is available to you. Specifically, take a look at HR data and recruiting data. You need to view boosting diversity as just one more business challenge that you can tackle. You need to take a careful look at your data and attempt to determine where there may be gaps in how you are attracting people to join your department. Its going to be your job to find out if the company has set up any barriers that are keeping people away.

Before you can have any hope of making your department more diverse, you first need to make sure that you understand just exactly what diversity is. Many CIOs view diversity as being a way to refer to “other people”. In a narrow view, diversity can often be limited to referring to only women or underrepresented minorities. A much better way to think about diversity is to view it as actually being inclusive of everyone who works in your IT department. What CIOs need to understand is that at its heart, diversity really is all about the things that make each one of us unique. A diverse group of workers can create a workplace in which new ideas and insights happen to create magic for the company. Diverse workforces create valuable outcomes.

In order to make your workplace more diverse, what you need to do is to take a look at how you are attracting people to come and join your organization. This means taking a careful look at the signals and the messages that candidates will be picking up from your career site and in the job descriptions that you publish. What you need to realize is that even making small changes to both language and to job descriptions can result in a large impact being made on who will become interested in joining your company.

How Do You Get People To Stay?

Once you have been able to create a diverse workforce, you will then be facing your next significant challenge. Getting people to stay. The good news is that the way that you get a diverse workforce to stay with your firm is exactly the same way that you get anyone to stay. This means that as a CIO you need to take the time to build the systems and processes that run your department that your workers believe are fair to them. You are going to want to make sure that your people are given the opportunities that they need in order to grow. As the person with the CIO position, you are going to want to be measuring the objective outcomes for each of your workers. The question that you’ll need to find the answer to is what is happening to the talent that your company has been able to attract? One of the key questions is if there are any disparities that are starting to show up along demographic lines.

Keeping track of all of these people and trying to answer these questions means that the person with the CIO job needs to get involved with people analytics. This means that you want to use data science to better understand your people data just like you would use it to better understand product success or user trends. Compensation is one thing that is easy to measure; however, it is generally considered to be a lagging indicator. Instead, you’ll want to take a careful look to find out if you are doing the right things and both growing and developing your staff.

Taking the time to look at what your data is trying to tell you about the diversity of your department is time well spent. This data allows you to see where the gaps in your department are. As an example, blacks and Latinos often end up leaving an IT department because they feel a sense of isolation. There are ways to deal with this problem and the creation of a company-wide employee resource group is one such way. If this group only sets up the occasional happy hour for a group of minority employees, then it won’t be an effective tool. However, if the resource group is used as a way to both grow and develop your talent, then you will have a unique resource. Within the resource group there will be people who rise up and take leadership roles. They will be the ones who interact with the company’s management. This is a great way for you as a CIO to discover new talent within your IT department.

What All Of This Means For You

By now just about every CIO has been told that having a diverse IT department is the key to being successful. The challenge that we are all facing is that creating a diverse IT department is a challenge and then once it has been created, keeping it can also be a challenge. What do we need to do in order to make this happen?

One of the first steps that a CIO can take is to take a look at HR data and recruiting data. What you are looking for are gaps that show where you are not being diverse enough. There are a lot of different definitions of diversity. CIOs need to view diversity as being inclusive of everyone who works in your IT department. Every IT department is sending messages out to people who are looking for a job. You need to become aware of what messages your IT department is transmitting. In order to get people to stay in your IT department once you have made it diverse, you’ll need to make sure that your processes are viewed as being fair. In order to grow and develop the people in your department, you are going to have to get good at people analytics. CIOs need to view the various employee resource groups as being a great place to identify and develop new diverse talent.

In order to be a successful CIO, your IT department needs to operate smoothly and be able to quickly come up with solutions to the various challenges that the company will be facing. Only by having a diverse IT department are you going to be able to accomplish this. Take the time to both create and hold onto your diverse team and they will be the ones that make you look good as a CIO.

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World IT Department Leadership Skills™

Question For You: Where do you think that you’ll find the best diverse candidate to join your IT department?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

Let’s face it: our companies are not in business just to keep the IT department up and running. Rather, it’s really the other way around. The IT department exists to help the company stay up and be successful using the importance of information technology. Of course we keep the company’s critical applications up and running and we spend our time crunching all of the data that has been collected, but what else should we be doing? The answer is actually fairly simple: help the company to get more customers. One way that we can go about doing this is be harnessing the power of artificial intelligence (AI).