Exploring Diversity and Inclusion Initiatives at the Company Level
Before we can start talking about how to increase diversity and inclusion, we need to take a step back to define what those terms actually mean.
Gallup defines diversity as the full spectrum of demographic differences, and it goes beyond just skin color and gender to include differences in religion, sexual orientation, age, socio-economic status, and physical disability. It can even include differences in lifestyles, personality characteristics, perspectives, opinions, family composition, education level, or tenure elements as well.
Inclusiveness, meanwhile, is defined by Gallup as “a strategy for using each person's unique strengths to increase individual contribution, team collaboration, and customer value.” Inclusiveness asks: knowing that my organization is made up of many different people, how do I create a framework that allows each of them to do their best?
Now that we know what diversity and inclusion mean and the value they bring, how do we increase them in our organizations? As with most persistent, complex problems, no silver bullet exists. However, there are examples of successful programs executed by pioneers that can be emulated, like:
- Investing in equal pay. When everyone is being paid equally for the same work, employee retention increases and national economies perform better. Beginning in 2015, Salesforce committed to making equal pay an integral part of the company’s DNA, and to date has invested a total of $10.3 million to ensure equal pay for equal work. At Very, meanwhile, we started our company with an open salary model, meaning that everyone in the company knows how much everyone else makes — you can even see salary ranges on each of our open positions. This level of transparency makes it easier to prevent, identify, and rectify pay discrepancies that put minorities at a disadvantage.
- Hiring intentionally. Pinterest had a history of improving their app’s offering by involving multiple different people in the product creation process — so they went one step further beginning in 2015 to ensure that their employee base looked more like the wide range of consumers they wanted to serve. By expanding the talent pool when sourcing candidates, involving employees from underrepresented groups in the interview process, and more, Pinterest continues to meet diversity hiring goals.
Building inclusive architectures goes beyond the purvey of HR and senior leadership, however. What steps can you take at the team level to increase diversity and build better products?
Increasing Diversity and Inclusion on Your Product Team
As an engineering or product leader, there are many changes you can make to empower not only minority groups but everyone in your organization.
A good starting point? Think about ways that you can help your junior developers succeed. People from minority groups with less access to opportunities may start out as junior developers, and if your existing processes, programs, and tools don’t intentionally set them up for success, they’re likely setting them up for failure.
A few examples of ways your team could be failing your junior devs:
- Incomplete onboarding documentation
- Overly complex codebase
- Lack of review opportunities or mentorship
- Relying on individual excellence instead of building a process that helps everyone be successful
Wait… did you notice something in the list above? A lot of those examples don’t just hurt your junior developers. They hurt your team and organization as a whole. Non-inclusive architectures make it harder to onboard and hire, delay productivity, and stagnate careers. Spaghetti code that only one person understands is virtually impossible to decipher after that person leaves, impacting your product and eventually your customers.
Here are a few steps you can take to support diversity and inclusion on your team:
- Define better development processes. Don’t rely on the heroics of a few brilliant team members to create and ship excellent products. Rely on tested, trusted, well-documented processes, and don’t ever stop asking questions about how those processes can be improved. At Very, we use the Agile and Lean methodologies for IoT product development, which help us to collaborate better with one another and with our clients to build better products faster.
- Delineate clear roles and responsibilities. Again, don’t rely on your most brilliant team members to get all of the work done, or expect conflict resolution to happen just because you’re all nice people. Teams need structure to govern who’s in charge of what so that things don’t fall through the cracks and toes don’t get unintentionally smushed. For just one example, Very follows the holacracy framework, which helps us create clarity and accountability on all of our teams.
- Frameworks make it easy to do the right thing. Development is hard, even for crazy-smart developers. Invest in frameworks that take care of the most difficult stuff for you. This will not only help your junior devs get up to speed faster but also increase productivity for the rest of your team. A few of our favorites include:
- Mentor the heck out of your team. Mentorship programs have been shown to improve inclusion and retention, boost leadership skills, reduce knowledge silos, and more to help both individuals and teams grow. One system we’ve expanded at Very is pair programming — here’s how we do it with a remote-only team.
Reality Check: How Are We Doing?
Throughout this post, we’ve mentioned several steps Very takes to build an inclusive culture and increase diversity, from our open salary model to embracing Agile processes and frameworks, to holacracy and pair programming.
But it’s critical to acknowledge that the work of promoting diversity and inclusion is never “done.” We want to be the IoT development company that makes the best products and we can only do that with the best team possible. We’re immensely proud of the people we employ and are committed to growing our team through more intentional hiring of people from underrepresented groups.