Prior to the rise of remote work, companies tended to focus their hiring on talent that was located near the office. Location bias has long been an issue for tech companies that has stunted their ability to access qualified candidates and a larger talent pool. Now at the cusp of the future of work, companies should consider diverse hiring practices because the benefits of a diverse workforce include better innovation and improved bottom line performance.
The Business Case for a Diverse Workforce
A lot of research has gone into demonstrating the relationship between a diverse workforce and improved business performance. The theory has been that a diverse team of professionals from different backgrounds can improve relationships with current and potential clients as well as understand how to appeal to a broad customer base with audiences from different social, economic, racial, and other backgrounds.
According to McKinsey & Company, the statistically significant correlation between a more diverse leadership team and financial outperformance demonstrated in previous research continues to hold true with their updated, enlarged, and global data set. In 2018, the Harvard Business Review found that diversity improved fund returns and led to more profitable investments when they analyzed financial performance of venture capitalists. A diverse workforce also helps attract and retain talent. A Deloitte study shows that younger talent will tend to stay with innovative companies that understand, respect, and respond to the needs of a diverse workforce – especially given that many of them grew up with the idea that inclusion and equity are important in society.
What Distributed Companies Bring to the Conversation
Now that many companies are embracing the distributed model where some employees can work from anywhere, geographic limitations are fading. This can have a meaningful impact on the ability for many businesses to diversify their talent pool.
Location has historically been part of the wage gap for people of color. According to Gad Levanon on CNN, “Part of the problem is that the bulk of tech jobs are located in cities with small Black populations, like San Francisco, Seattle, Austin and San Jose. That has impeded Black workers’ ability to enter into the industry. This geographical mismatch makes it harder for tech companies to recruit Black workers, and it shows in the data: The share of Black workers among top earners in the tech sector was just 2.3% in the Austin metro area, 2% San Francisco, 1.6% in Seattle and just 0.8% in San Jose,”. Now, with remote recruiting options and businesses operating satellite offices in growing US tech hubs, this could start to change. In a recent survey from The Conference Board, organizations reported an increased willingness to hire remote workers from anywhere in the US, some even globally.
By casting a wider net, this could help folks who previously did not have access to high-paying tech careers to work for high-growth companies based in Silicon Valley, Seattle, or even in growing cities like Pittsburgh, Indianapolis, or Kansas City. Fully distributed companies have a critical advantage because they are already structured for hiring for technology jobs across geographies.
Class Diversity Adds Another Dimension
Recently, conversations about adding social or economic class as a level or diversity adds another perspective to diverse hiring. Harvard Business Review maintains that companies need to integrate class into the conversation to truly embrace an inclusive culture and workplace. Data from the Department of Education indicates that 61% of college enrollees in 2011-2012 were from households that didn’t have a bachelor’s degree holding parent. Since this is the majority of today’s incoming workforce, companies need to understand the role that class is playing in the workplace.
Individuals who grew up underprivileged economically will have a unique set of skills and experience that can be valuable to a company that is trying to be informed about its many consumer bases. A study from the University of Virginia analyzed “social class transitioners” or individuals who managed to progress between socioeconomic classes during their lifetime. Then, it showed what value that experience brought into the workplace. The researchers said that “people who transition between classes can learn to relate to people in a more skilled way, and they are incredibly helpful in groups, as they can understand people from all walks of life,”. Traditionally, many disadvantaged populations are overlooked by top companies which stems from a lack of social capital and access. However, companies that are embracing diversity and its benefits should consider the fact that social class is an important factor.
Increasing Companies’ Access to Diversity of Thought
Diversity of thought is an important concept for companies to grasp. And it is not overly complicated. This is the concept that someone who has only worked in New York City or Silicon Valley will not have the same experiences as someone who grew up and stayed in the Midwest to go to school and start a career. It is the concept that someone who grew up in a household without any college-educated caretakers will think differently than someone who grew up in a household with multiple advanced degrees. Taking it one step further, companies with diverse hiring practices will boast multiple viewpoints and perspectives at the table, and this can easily be transformed into growth and innovation. According to Deloitte, some of the benefits are that diverse thinkers:
- Guard against groupthink and expert overconfidence
- Help organizations identify individuals who can best tackle their most pressing problems
- Increase the scale of new insights
Ultimately, the idea is that teams that have different racial experiences, economic backgrounds, geographic understandings, and more are able to approach problems differently. This might help a tech company come up with a new solution, a financial institution transform its customer experience, or a social enterprise tackle a community problem.
Thinking about diverse hiring is difficult. It is more than diversifying the recruitment pool. It involves changing company culture to be welcoming and accepting of new ideas and creating spaces for collaboration with the understanding that sometimes different perspectives disagree. To achieve the best possible outcomes for your business and your employees, ensure that everyone’s voice is heard and demonstrate respect for different traditions and backgrounds. And, of course, feel free to seek help implementing diversity, equity, and inclusion practices effectively.
At One America Works, we help high-growth companies connect to new talent and new opportunities across the country. Learn more about distributed companies and other relevant topics for growing businesses.