If you’re a tech leader, you’re likely under pressure to demonstrate ROI for every dollar spent. With an uncertain economic outlook and tightening budgets, leaders are looking for efficiencies wherever possible. Anything that doesn’t prove immediate value could be cut.
Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) programs are frequently targeted. Already, tech layoffs are having an outsized impact on DEI departments. Having worked to enable the private sector to build diverse teams for over a decade, this concerns me but, unfortunately, doesn’t surprise me. Despite pouring billions into diversity and inclusion efforts, the tech industry has not made commensurate progress. This reality is largely due to companies investing in initiatives like one-off trainings or standalone conferences that typically don’t lead to measurable outcomes or meaningful change.
As a CEO myself, I understand that ROI is paramount. You can’t have an inclusive workforce without a thriving business. But the good news is there’s a way to invest in DEI that results in measurable and fast ROI: hiring excellent candidates from a wide range of backgrounds and experiences.
I founded BreakLine for this reason—to find and cultivate underselected talent and match them with companies looking to build exceptional teams. My advice to CEOs: spend your DEI budget on building a high-performing, diverse team that can transform your business.
The problem: DEI’s lack of measurement leads to a lack of progress.
How did we wind up considering DEI expendable? Most CEOs and leaders say they want to advance DEI (some 2,400 have signed a pledge to make diversity and inclusion a top strategic priority, for example), yet many don’t believe it’s vital to the success of their business.
That’s because leaders, who track results for nearly every business-critical function, haven’t yet held themselves, their teams, and their partners accountable for the outcomes of DEI investments.
Even if some form of measurement is in place, DEI initiatives are often tracked in years rather than weeks or months. For instance, it is common to pledge to achieve gender parity within the next decade. But if the primary focus is meeting your next quarter’s revenue targets, you don’t have the luxury of prioritizing goals that are years away.
What’s needed, especially at this moment, is achieving business success and DEI goals in the near term.
The solution: Hire diverse talent to make real progress today.
During a downturn, every hire is critically important. Becoming hyper-focused on building high-performing, diverse teams is a crucial strategy when companies need to think outside of the box to grow. Research from McKinsey demonstrates that balanced representation is correlated with faster growth, higher profits, and more engaged employees.
Investing in inclusivity directly impacts business success in several ways:
How to find and hire the right candidates—quickly.
Hiring the right candidates efficiently requires an intentional approach, and it starts with making an effort to source beyond your typical channels. At BreakLine, it has taken years to build our networks of mid-career veterans, women, people of color, and people with disabilities. But the investment has paid off: today, we have a proven track record of successfully (and expediently) placing women, people of color, and veterans into tech roles. On average, a company will hire a BreakLiner in four weeks—four times faster than the industry standard. Nearly 90% of our alumni received a “high-performer” rating on their 2022 performance reviews, and their average tenure is about 3.5 years and growing.
Once you’ve built a strong pipeline of diverse applicants, it’s equally as important to provide a transparent interview process. A recent survey of candidates from our network showed they value proactive communication about next steps. They also looked for hiring managers to convey that their non-traditional experience would be valued. Red flags included interviewers who missed appointments, who were evasive about workplace culture, and/or who conducted the interview as an interrogation rather than a conversation.
Keeping these strategies in mind will give you the best shot of attracting exceptional candidates from varying backgrounds poised to hit the ground running and help your company grow. In doing so, you’ll be set up to achieve immediate ROI priorities as well as DEI objectives.