– Alex Harris
Workforce diversity and inclusion issues can no longer be dismissed, as some of the most successful companies in the world are being put to the test. The Google engineer who was fired for his controversial memo, former Uber CEO Travis Kalanick’s sexism allegations, and Facebook’s troubling workforce demographics come to mind.
Numerous research reports from sources like McKinsey & Company, the Institute for Public Relations and The Korn Ferry Institute have revealed that diversity increases company success for reasons such as improved innovation and creativity, differing approaches, and an enhanced ability to reach varied customer audiences, among others.
Although many companies implement traditional methods of preventing prejudice and unconscious bias in the workplace, research has shown that these often do not work—or worse, have the opposite effect. Diverse hiring methods warrant a higher priority—especially within leadership roles and the STEM industries where minority populations are consistently underrepresented.
Companies in Silicon Valley and elsewhere are starting to tap into a diverse population through internship and student programs. Many companies have programs like these in place, and have attested to their success. Leaders in diversity and inclusion initiatives are betting on internship and student programs, as well. Here are some reasons why:
1. Diversity starts from the bottom up. Several research studies have shown that 50 to 60 percent of interns turn into full-time hires. Through hiring diversified interns and creating training programs, businesses can create successful pipelines that accurately represent all demographics from the start, creating a funnel that leads to a diverse workforce.
2. Internship and school programs create interest across the board. Training programs and general internship programs aimed at schools can get the word out and drive interest in industries where certain demographics are underrepresented.
3. Jobseekers are paying attention. The Institute for Public Relations found that 47 percent of millennials consider the diversity and inclusion of a workplace an important factor when job searching. Jobseekers will notice a company’s efforts to embrace a diverse and inclusive culture, and in turn are more likely to see themselves in those positions or industries down the line.
While moving the needle on diversity from the bottom up is effective, this method is by no means comprehensive. Leadership roles and board positions, in particular, are still primarily homogeneous, which begs for other strategies aimed at higher-level talent. However, diversity among interns and lower level employees will have a ripple effect, and are a good place to start.
What are some ways you think businesses can drive change when it comes to diversity in the workplace?