Diversity Wins

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6 Ways Partners Can Build an Inclusive Culture

Based on the interest level at the Microsoft Inspire conference this year, attracting and retaining a more diverse workforce is a high priority for the leaders of partner organizations.

While it would be easy to think that recruiting is the first step in diversity initiatives, those partners who have been around for a while may need to start with an internal review. The cultural changes required to create an inclusive atmosphere in an organization with few women and minorities may be more difficult than expected.

A 2015 McKinsey study uncovered a wide gap between the perception of challenges faced in the workplace. For example, while 93 percent of women agreed with the statement, "Even with equal skills and qualifications, women have much more difficulty reaching top-management positions," only 58 percent of men agreed. While this study focused on men's and women's perceptions, it's not a big leap to think the same is happening for people of color. 

To build a more inclusive culture, take specific steps to understand your current situation and establish better processes.

  1. Ask the women and minorities in your organization for honest feedback. There may be subtle (and not so subtle) practices embedded in the culture you have no idea exist. Having an honest conversation with current employees can be an eye-opening experience. It's critical the conversations are confidential -- before, during and after. Trust is built over time.

  2. Raise awareness. Many of the situations and experiences that women and minorities find challenging in an organization are not meant to be divisive. Traditions like going out to a local watering hole on Friday are intended to promote camaraderie, but may no longer work for a more diverse team. Terminology, like labeling employees as technical versus non-technical, can carry a negative connotation. Leadership in the organization should take an objective look at the current culture to look for norms and practices that may have unintended outcomes.

  3. Foster practices that give everyone a voice. Research points to differences in the way women and men speak up in meetings. Establish practices that help everyone in the organization contribute. In meetings, promote respect for each speaker, controlling interruptions and people speaking over one another.

  4. Set achievable goals and report on progress. The tech industry has been dominated by white men for decades. Few partner organizations have women or minorities represented on their leadership teams. While you can't change the demographics of your company overnight, you can make a commitment to try. Set goals to increase representation of women and minorities at all levels within the organization. Report on recruiting and promotion results regularly to demonstrate leadership's commitment to progress.

  5. Provide multiple channels of communication. Don't assume your employees will speak up if they have a problem. Especially if your organization is not large enough to have an HR director, employees need to know they have options for reporting or discussing concerns. Proactively offer employees multiple avenues to have safe, confidential conversations.

  6. Find out how other partners are building organizations that foster diversity. The International Association of Microsoft Channel Partners (IAMCP) Women in Technology chapters reflect the changing channel. IAMCP WIT boasts more than 80 chapters worldwide and is growing rapidly. Join the local group and participate in the online and in-person events.

In addition to the practical aspect of simply needing more hands on deck, most partners understand the value of building a diverse workforce. Based on a long history of white men predominating the industry, there are bound to be cultural adjustments that need to be made. By acknowledging the challenges and taking a proactive approach, partners can tap the full potential of every person on the team.   

Posted on November 30, 2017


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