As engineering leaders build the teams that will create the next generation of solutions, it can be tempting to focus on the technical skills to get the job done – proficiency in specific coding languages, for example. But new research is showing that while those skills are a good baseline for engineering hires, there are other factors that will take your team from getting the job done to leap-frogging the competition. One of these emerging factors is diversity.
A recent Forbes Insights report sheds light on the subject of companies fostering innovation through a diverse workforce. 300 executives at large companies were interviewed by Forbes Insights to understand better how companies are putting diversity to work for them. “Senior executives are recognizing that a diverse set of experiences, perspectives, and backgrounds is crucial to innovation and the development of new ideas. When asked about the relationship between diversity and innovation, a majority of respondents agreed that diversity is crucial to encouraging different perspectives and ideas that foster innovation.”
As a side benefit, the diversity and inclusion strategies and programs the participating companies had in place were also considered “crucial” for recruiting and retaining top talent.
In Intel’s “Rotation Engineers Program” (REP), recent college graduates hired as engineers at Intel move through three and six-month-long rotations that allow them to gain in-depth technical knowledge from multiple areas within the company. The program also allows engineers to map out their career paths and build networks across a variety of groups and teams.
REP has helped Intel’s efforts in recruiting top, diverse talent while also strengthening their leadership pipeline.
“The ability to have a program that builds upon the core of diversity – diverse talent, experiences, connections, and training – is a unique opportunity for us not only to attract diverse talent but to bring diversity of experience to those that participate and experience the program.” – Laurie Tortorella, Intel’s college manager.
Marjorie Derven, the founder of HUDSON Research & Consulting, wrote an article that was published in the Association for Talent Development that also explains the importance of diversity and inclusion to spark innovation.
As Derven states, “Bringing unique viewpoints together often is the spark for breakthrough thinking, and this is where diversity and inclusion are needed. However, it is not enough to simply have diversity—changing demographics and globalization arguably make this inevitable. Intentional inclusion is what enables the mix of gender, ethnicity, background, history, approach, and other factors to present ideas that can then be selectively executed.”
To spark creativity and drive innovation, acquiring the best talent and ensuring they have access to an environment in which ideas can be considered is required. Making sure employees who are members of the team have equal “air time” to share ideas is also key.
According to a Harvard Business Review article entitled, How Diversity Can Drive Innovation:
“Leaders who give diverse voices equal airtime are nearly twice as likely as others to unleash value-driving insights, and employees in a ‘speak-up’ culture are 3.5 times as likely to contribute their full innovative potential.”
Using collaboration tools, such as video conferencing and content sharing, allows engineers to work from anywhere, which increases opportunities for diversity. Video conferencing is also a critical tool to bring parties together face-to-face to spark creativity and innovation when parties cannot meet in person.
As Cameron Craig, Chief Communicator at Polycom explains:
“Video lets you bring introverts into the conversation. With video conferencing, I can observe the quieter folks whose body language tells me they have studied the situation and probably have something interesting to say. I’ll wait for a pause then invite their opinion pro-actively.”
Technical skills can’t be the only consideration when adding talent to your engineering team. A diverse and inclusive group of engineers is critical for enterprises to drive innovation. It is also crucial for enterprises that want to attract and retain top engineering talent who have a voice to share. And using video conferencing to collaborate not only increases the opportunities for diversity, but also creates an inclusive culture without requiring engineers to work from one central location. As an added benefit, engineers in a diverse and inclusive work environment are more likely to stay and bring a long roadmap of product innovations to your organization.