The benefits of a diverse tech team are many, but one of the most compelling is that the team building tech should reflect the diversity of those who will be using it. This connects the development team with the audience on a fundamental level and ensures end-users’ true needs and wants are met.
Below, 13 tech leaders from Forbes Technology Council share valuable tips on building a diverse tech team to provide a comprehensive reflection of the company’s target audience.
1. Get ‘cultural permission to change.’
Building a diverse team begins with something I call the “cultural permission to change.” This means that when leaders set a precedent for transformation, they give their people permission to seek out new opportunities to drive innovation across the organization. Cultural permission unleashes diverse perspectives, new ideas and innovative potential to meet changing customer needs. - Jeff Wong, EY
2. Be mindful when building your team.
We’ve learned to go about building our tech teams with mindfulness, in the same way we approach our AI projects. By applying a mindful filter to all our solutions, we keep the goals, thoughts and even emotions of our end-users in mind. This has a remarkable way of ensuring we deliver “lovable” experiences for those clients—and it includes incorporating diversity into our approach. - Ahmer Inam, Pactera EDGE
3. Seek expertise from outside the usual talent pool.
Deliberately seek expertise from outside the usual talent pool and cross-pollinate expertise. For example, when building a business-to-business product, include tech resources who have experience building business-to-consumer products, or when designing a domain-specific product, seek talents who embrace new thinking in the areas of AI, blockchain and cybersecurity. Ensure prototypes are tested with the target groups, and re-jig as needed. - Kumar Ritesh, CYFIRMA
4. Hire where the talent is.
Elastic is a company that is distributed by design so we can infuse our tech team with different cultures and points of view by hiring employees in any location. This distributed ethos helps ensure the company remains diverse and benefits from some of the most capable talent the world has to offer. - Kim Huffman, Elastic
5. Purposefully tap into specific talent pools.
We have partnered very deliberately with the National Society of Black Engineers, and we have three new recruits from a career fair of theirs that we participated in recently. It’s very possible to source talent, purposefully, from specific pools. - Tony Safoian, SADA Systems
6. Leverage internal ‘crowdsourcing.’
One strategy for building a truly diverse tech team is to consider internal “crowdsourcing.” We see organizational structures starting to flatten and ideas becoming democratized in many industries, and one way to accelerate that is to encourage it internally. When we canvass all of our stakeholders—which tech lets us do now at the speed of light—we see a good reflection of our target audience. - J. Tyler Rohrer, Liquidware
7. Create an actionable diversity plan.
Make diversity and inclusion a core company value and reinforce it across your strategy, ops and people. Having a strategy isn’t enough. You need an actionable plan and metrics that measure the impact of your efforts. We have four company values that guide us in creating a workplace where all employees are empowered: “Be an Owner,” “Obsess over Users and Enterprises,” “Execute Thoughtfully with Speed,” and “Cultivate D&I.” - Chet Kapoor, DataStax
8. Eliminate cross-functional silos.
Hiring team members of different genders, socioeconomic conditions and educational backgrounds is the first step; however, you can truly make an impact when diversity is ingrained in your decision-making processes. Tear down cross-functional silos. Involve people from other parts of the business with different opinions in the product decision-making process starting early on and continuing through the design and discovery sessions. - Meeta Dash, Verta.ai
9. Strive to be fully customer-centric.
Customers will always keep you honest, so ensure customer-centricity runs through your tech organization. It will both broaden and deepen the thought process and force not only your tech team, but your entire company, to more closely mirror the diverse needs and thinking of the customers you serve. It is how we are able to accommodate tens of thousands of hotels across the globe. - Sankar Narayan, SiteMinder
10. Interview how you want to hire.
Any time you want to make a team a reflection of some demographic group, the best way to ensure that happens is by starting with the candidates you interview. For a simplified example, if you want a team that is 50% female and 50% male you must start by interviewing as many men as women. Your target will be more complex, and so should your list of candidates. - Chris Grundemann, Myriad360
11. Set diversity goals, and measure results often.
The value of a diverse and inclusive team can’t be understated, but it can take some time to get it right. It’s important to set goals and measure how you’re doing along the way. Create hiring strategies such as partnering with local community organizations or participating in career fairs. Last and most critical, build an inclusive culture so that you can retain all your great new talent! - Amy Czuchlewski, Bottle Rocket
12. Foster an accepting environment.
To build a diverse team, you need to make sure you are fostering an environment where different perspectives and backgrounds are embraced. It’s important this starts from the top down, with leadership driving the charge by creating educational opportunities, training and emphasis on employee enrichment programs. - Andrew Jornod, VertexOne