Introduction

Can we talk? As a small business owner, could your diversity and inclusion (D&I) efforts use a little help? Most small business owners responded “yes” to our survey and cited challenges like, “I don’t know where to start,” or “I don’t have the time and resources to dedicate to such an initiative,” or “I’m too small to think about diversity.”

If this sounds like you, CompTIA’s Advancing Diversity in Technology (ADIT) Community has heard you. We believe that it’s just as important for smaller businesses to think about diversity and make an effort to represent their broader communities as it is for enterprise organizations. Your small business can enjoy the same benefits as the big companies, provided that you truly commit to your D&I plan.

Study after study shows that diverse workplaces are highly impactful, driving productivity and profitability throughout the organization. It’s clear that leaders who prioritize more diverse and inclusive workforces elevate the effectiveness of their businesses, the satisfaction of employees and their overall success. In addition to the benefits to the business, implementing a D&I strategy can contribute to positive brand sentiment among your consumers and other companies. ADIT encourages small business owners to not only think about how they can recruit, retain and optimize diverse talent, but also to seek business partners and collaborators that consider diversity a priority. If you work with suppliers, make a point of choosing ones that are committed to diversity too, as they often outperform their non-diverse competitors and provide other types of value, such as access to new markets and customers.

Using the Small Business Administration’s (SBA) definition of small business—those with 1 to 500 employees—there are approximately 6 million U.S. businesses that meet this criterion. CompTIA surveyed over 200 technology solution providers to understand their challenges in planning and executing D&I initiatives.

While this guide is created in response to those challenges, the practices described are applicable to virtually any small to mid-sized business. There are a lot of components to consider when launching a plan in order to realize maximum results. We created this guide as a tool to assist your organization in navigating the complexities of a successful, scalable and sustainable diversity strategy. Depending on where you are in your D&I journey this guide can serve as a tool you reference as needed or a deep dive in your quest to leverage diversity. ADIT defines diversity as differentiators, including race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, age and ability. Finally, we seek to emphasize the importance of recognizing the value, engagement and utilization of all talent with respect to marketplace advantage.

 

Download the full Diversity & Inclusion Plan for Technology SMBs for additional tips, Q&As with diversity and inclusion experts, resources and more.

 

The State of Diversity in Tech

The business case for diversity is undeniable. As technology continues to interconnect our societies, our workplaces must mirror these changing environments. A diverse and inclusive workplace offers more creativity and innovation, plus empowers employees with the freedom to bring their best and authentic selves to the workplace. A company that is serious about its future success cannot ignore the financial and competitive benefits inclusivity brings.

5 Tech Truths Stranger Than Fiction
 
 

Planning for Diversity

The following section is intended to provide support and resources for inclusive workforce planning and diversity recruitment strategies. Workforce planning requires knowledge of current industry demographics as well as internal staffing needs and potential candidate pools, particularly on a regional level. While broad workforce recruitment can be done nationally, truly successful diverse recruitment and retention plans require small to mid-sized technology solution providers examine their hiring practices and make every effort to source new talent that is reflective of the communities they serve and in which they reside.

If senior management and/or human resources is unsure of where to start, pull the census info for your geographical region (accessible via the U.S. Census Bureau). This will provide statistical parameters for diversity inclusion goals as well as help to identify opportunities for growth.

Additional components worth assessing at the outset include:

Taking a detailed look at staff demographics.

Does a particular department have a more homogeneous culture in regard to race, ethnicity, gender, age, veteran or disability status? For example, you may find a one area has much higher percentage of employees approaching eligibility for retirement than others. By clarifying where current (or projected) diversity deficits exist, the company can better strategize for ongoing recruitment.

Reviewing minimum skill requirements and emerging trends of interest.

Both are appropriate benchmarks to establish when identifying a beneficial knowledge base for incoming employees. Avoid assuming that one staff loss equals one replacement. Be willing to ask the question, “What different skills sets are needed for the future?” (Particularly regarding company-wide, long-term goals).

Engaging lower management in workforce planning.

Entry-level supervisors often know exactly what skills and diversity their teams currently lack and the characteristics which are likely to add value to the group. While it is still nearly impossible to take workforce planning to an individual level (except during the start-up phase), valuable information can still be gained related to managers’ needs if they are involved in the process.

Anticipating the company-wide impact improving inclusion.

Evaluate if certain departments already have fewer employees and could use additional assistance. Should their staffing needs take priority on a fundamental level? Assess the frequency of highly skilled and knowledgeable employees of diverse backgrounds being offered promotions, transfers and/or other opportunities for advancement.

Developing flexible workplace plans that can accommodate unforeseen changes.

Many factors can impact diversity recruitment and retention, including fluctuating economic conditions, legislative changes or world events. Create low, median and high projections for recruitment and retention as baseline measures of success.

Remember: A workforce plan is a living document that should evolve with the tech industry and your company’s mission. As new skill sets become desired and weak spots identified within a workplace culture, workforce plans must be adjusted accordingly.

Diverse Workforce – Talent Acquisition and Retention Checklists

A shortage of technology professionals is an ongoing concern on an international level and the average employee retention period is approximately three years. Companies need to be invested in closing this gap with diversity and inclusion. Senior management should be committed to seeking diversity in terms of skills, experience and cultural backgrounds—plus they need to ensure this mindset is communicated throughout the organization. Senior management thereby sets the tone for prioritizing diversity in every aspect for the talent leadership team. This will also help increase retention rates by creating opportunities to address individual and collective differences among the staff as these initiatives are launched and expanded beyond recruitment into onboarding, professional development, leadership training, performance and evaluation, and workforce planning.

Acquisition

A three-year outline for drafting recruitment efforts aimed at obtaining quality, diverse talent should involve:

  • Prioritize “buy in” from senior management. This must happen before any lasting change can occur. Organizing offsite meetings or retreats to explore what’s working or not working with current D&I efforts. Asking questions like, 'What does America look like today?' and 'How is or isn't our company reflective,' can be a good place to begin.
  • Follow-up with internal diversity training for current employees. Eventually transition these into monthly strategy sessions (“power hours”). These may taper off to quarterly conference calls or brief in-person meetings after the initial six months or one year.
  • Deploy meeting transcripts or written recaps of key talking points to all meeting attendees and leadership team members within 24-48 hours of each session.
  • Give practical prompts intended to generate concrete connections—and solutions—to real-life workplace scenarios. (Examples: Name an effective D&I protocol in your department. Describe a challenge you are now facing in recruiting local talent.)
  • Create a system of support to track how newly acquired staff is adapting to the workplace culture.
  • Solicit industry and legal experts to facilitate ongoing D&I training modules such as the company’s attorney or an HR hiring specialist. These professionals can frankly address interview and hiring do’s and don’ts beyond best practices by also clarifying what is required—and prohibited—by state and federal laws regarding interview questions, reference checks and more.
  • Ask regularly, “How are we sourcing new hires at all levels?” D&I needs to be a priority at each employment tier. Also keep in mind that potential clients’ first impressions are formed by whom they encounter on your front line. Company guests should see people like themselves on the other side of the desk. It helps builds trust and confidence.
 
 

Retention

About 18 months into initiating improved D&I strategies, evaluating how new staff is acclimating to workplace culture becomes an equally important component to focus on. It can be one of the most accurate indicators of whether or not leadership and hiring teams are accomplishing what they set out to do (based on internal feedback from staff and turnover statistics). Organizations that retain high levels of diverse talent typically do the following:

  • Produce onboarding guides based on different hiring authority needs.
  • Provide online hiring resources for new managers (email templates, short video clips, etc.).
  • Create professional development plans for all employees (5-10 year projection).
  • Acquire interns who self-identify as the demographic in which diversity growth is needed.
  • Offer staff opportunities to be trained specifically in recruitment and/or data analysis.
  • Ensure visual materials (brochures, websites, social media posts) reflect workplace diversity.
  • Make a company-wide database to log previously screened and qualified resumes.

Your company should also create ways for your personnel to connect with each other through affinity or employee resource groups by providing networking, mentoring and social settings. Such groups increase employee engagement by demonstrating to individuals that people like themselves are not only finding success within the enterprise but are willing to help them succeed as well.

Strategies for Building a Diverse Pipeline of Candidates
 

Download the full Diversity & Inclusion Plan for Technology SMBs for additional tips, Q&As with diversity and inclusion experts, resources and more.

 

The Importance of Inclusive Cultures

When thinking about the importance of branding your organization as welcoming a diverse workforce and having an inclusive culture, it can be a struggle to represent employees from underrepresented populations, but it’s also crucial not to tokenize anyone. The worst thing that an organization can do is to be insincere. Your company should not try to represent itself as something it is not. Additionally, if your engagement with underrepresented employees is limited to asking them to be in marketing materials, but not decision-making processes, then you are starting in the wrong place. Show your workforce and culture at your company authentically, while articulating a vision for diversity and revealing your workforce composition.

What’s an Employee Resource Group and Why Do We Need One?

Employee resource groups (ERGs) support an organization’s inclusion and diversity goals and objectives as determined by organizational leadership and exist to benefit and advance their own group members by working strategically internally and externally. ERGs are entirely employee-led communities that allow employees to express themselves freely and drive organizational change. They are open communities that support and empower underrepresented groups and educate and inspire allies to drive equality. ERGs can drive customer engagement, transform culture and spark innovation.

Aligning ERGs with business imperatives and priorities show how an employee community can add value to an organization as well as develop its functions and brand. Also, ERGs give people the chance to develop their careers by learning new skills, presenting in front of leaders, managing budgets, leading strategies, and helping address business issues.

ERGs are good for business and can also:

  • Play an important role in supporting an organization’s business initiatives.
  • Act as a sounding board around strategic diversity objectives within the organization, in support of a more inclusive work environment.
  • Be a collective voice around shared issues or concerns that help to promote an inclusive, respectful workplace, by uncovering issues that are specific to the needs of a diversity community within the organization.
  • Provide opportunities for employee development, education, and training, recruitment, retention, and business outreach and development.
  • Support innovation by providing insights on new markets, product development and multicultural marketing, while enhancing the company reputation in the marketplace.

To learn more about the benefits of employee resource groups and the steps to establishing and ERG, download the full guide.

 

Supplier Diversity: Why Participate?

The phrase “money talks” is key when thinking about supplier diversity programs. Not everyone qualifies to be a diverse supplier; however, any entity can be a diverse spender because anyone can do business with diverse suppliers. How—and to whom—funds are allocated toward indicates what is valued on a macro-level. Spending with diverse suppliers is a way to demonstrate brand priorities, in addition to supporting more equity and inclusion across sectors. Being thoughtful about how company funds are spent can significantly increase positive impact—perhaps even beyond initial projections.

Deciding who gets your company’s spend can be something that is overlooked when thinking about making an impact on diversity and building more inclusive cultures within the technology industry.

Starting a Supplier Diversity Program

  1. Start with a small goal, say 10% of organizational spend for diverse suppliers.
  2. Identify areas for new suppliers to participate (network support, hardware components, etc.).
  3. Search online supplier diversity databases like ConnXus, CVM and THOMAS to find suppliers in your target categories.
  4. Continuously increase organizational commitment by evaluating more areas for new suppliers and set new goals for greater spend by 30-40% for example.

How to Effectively Build Diverse Supplier Bridge

  • Be visible! Look for new opportunities and potential partners.
  • Respond to the sources sought and request information on FedBizzOpps. A search on the site revealed that 13,360 IT related contracts were awarded during fiscal year 2019 (October 1-September 30).
  • Use the SBA Dynamic Small Business Search. There are over 3,658 IT related small businesses, indicating there are thousands of opportunities to partner with small businesses.
  • Intentionally and purposefully seek to make connections and network with small business liaisons of organizations with supplier diversity programs/initiatives.
  • Contact the small business specialist of the federal agencies you would like to do business with.
  • Pursue government contracts and engagements with prime contractors for diversity vendor set asides by registering with System for Award Management.

As a solution provider, if the thought of responding to another request for proposal (RFP) makes your head spin, consider changing your mindset. Preparing ahead of time can eliminate some of the frustrations of gathering information and rushing to meet yet another deadline. In other words, shift your mindset and think of an RFP as an acronym for “ready for proposal.”

 
 

Supplier Diversity and the Importance of Business Certifications

In today’s highly competitive market, many small business owners can leverage small business certifications to position themselves for greater success. Business certifications for small, veteran, minority and women-owned businesses elevate value and energize supply chain relationships. Business classification certification demonstrates to the buying organization that your firm has done its due diligence to show who you are and better positions you to compete for contracts and subcontracts.

Buyer-supplier relationships that celebrate diversity increase relationship marketing opportunities, CEO approval and consumer interest. In addition, stakeholder interest, government contract opportunities, profits and innovation reach new peaks when diversity is a shared common ground between business entities.

Explore Certifications

  1. Woman Business Enterprise (WBE) certification is a gender-specific certification for woman-owned businesses.
  2. Women-Owned Small Business (WOSB) certification is required for a specific federal purchasing program that has a set-aside quota for woman-owned businesses.
  3. EDWOSB certification is required for the federal purchasing program mentioned above for disadvantaged businesses.
  4. The 8(a) designation is a business development/mentoring program offered by the Small Business Administration for a company that is considered disadvantaged.
  5. Small Disadvantaged Business (SDB) certification is for businesses that are 51% owned by one or more individuals who are both socially and economically disadvantaged but not participating in the 8(a) programs.
  6. Disabled Veteran (DV) certification is for the business owner who is an U.S. Armed Forces veteran that was disabled in action.
  7. Minority Business Enterprise (MBE) certification is race-based for minority-owned businesses.
  8. LGBT-owned Business Enterprise certification. The NGLCC is the exclusive, third-party certification body that verifies that eligible businesses are majority-owned by LGBT individuals, and subsequently grants LGBT Business Enterprise® (LGBTBE®) designation to such businesses as part of its LGBT Supplier Diversity Initiative.
 

Download the full Diversity & Inclusion Plan for Technology SMBs for additional tips, Q&As with diversity and inclusion experts, resources and more.

 

Resources

The technology industry is continuously evolving, affecting virtually every aspect of our lives while the faces of the workforce remain unchanged. Forward thinking leaders are translating diversity into competitive advantage, reaping the benefits thus changing lives and improving business outcomes. We applaud the champions of diversity, equity and inclusion as they continue to raise awareness and drive subsequent change creating inclusive and culturally competent workplaces that drive innovation. Use these resources to further support your company's D&I efforts:

The State of Diversity in Tech

State of Diversity in the High-Tech Industry
There’s an Economic Case for Diversity in Tech. Do You Know What It Is?
McKinsey and Company – Delivering through Diversity
14 Reasons Why Diversity in Tech Still Matters in 2018
What Everyone Needs To Know About Diversity In Tech

Planning for Diversity

LinkedIn Talent Solutions: The Diversity Hiring Playbook
Guide to Hiring in Information Technology
5 Tips for Recruiting Tech Pros to Your Business—and Keeping Them
10 Eye-opening Best Practice Strategies to Diversity Recruiting
A 12-Step Program For Retaining Your Diverse Workforce
How to Retain Diverse Talent
Attracting Gen Z Employees: What Businesses Need to Know

The Importance of Inclusive Cultures

How Diversity and Inclusion Drive Business Value
Here are the Benefits of Inclusion and How to Create an Inclusive Culture
List of Supplier Diversity Programs
Hackett Research Proves Supplier Diversity is More Than Just About “Getting the Warm Fuzzies”
The Profit of Supplier Diversity
The Benefits of Supplier Diversity
Why Working with Minority Suppliers Still Matters

For additional tips, Q&As with experts, resources and more, download the full Diversity and Inclusion Plan for Technology SMBs now.

 

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