4 Reasons Diverse Engineering Teams Drive Innovation
I lead an engineering services team that is responsible for a large number of custom developments. In my experience, when engineers think about diversity, we tend to focus on skill sets.
4 Benefits of Hiring a Diverse Engineering Team
But I’ve seen firsthand how diversity in age, gender, physical ability, sexual orientation, ethnicity, and other perspectives contributes to better results and innovation. Here are four examples of how diversity can benefit your engineering team.
1. More creativity
A diverse team produces better ideas, period. I’m not just saying this from personal experience (although I share more about that below). Studies show that diverse teams make smarter, more accurate decisions. That’s why when I build my team, I look for people who have a variety of backgrounds, including those who came to engineering after doing something else.
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At the beginning of my career, I was often the only female developer in my company. My hiring managers often said they would like to hire more women and people of color, but they couldn’t find candidates. This is changing, in part thanks to the many professional organizations are working to diversify the technical field.
My company offers apprenticeship programs for people who may not have the necessary skills when they are hired. For us, it is worth investing in professional training so that we can benefit from more unique perspectives. It also allows us to have a wider network than if we were just looking for candidates with experience in a particular technology.
2. Less bias
Diverse teams can also help prevent embarrassing and troubling situations and outcomes. Nowadays, many companies want to equip their products and platforms with artificial intelligence. But as we’ve seen, AI can go horribly wrong if a diverse group of people don’t curate and label training data sets. A diverse team of data scientists can recognize biased data sets and take action to correct them before people are harmed.
Bias is a challenge that applies to all technologies. If a specific category of people – be it white men, Asian women, LGBTQ+ people or others – is solely responsible for the development of a technology or a solution, they will probably rely on their own experiences. But what if this technology is intended for a wider population? Of course, people who have do not historically underrepresented in technology are also important, but the intersection of perspectives is essential.
A diverse group of developers will ensure that you don’t miss any critical items. My team once developed a website for a client, for example, and we were happy and proud of our work. But when a visually impaired colleague tested it, we realized it was problematic.
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This experience made us realize that we tend to develop web and mobile sites in ideal environments – perfect lighting, large screens – and we didn’t take into account that many users interact in quite different scenarios. , such as outside in the sun, using a cell phone. When our colleague pointed out the accessibility issues he encountered, it helped us solve a challenge for all potential users.
Suppose you are responsible for developing an online order form for a restaurant chain. If your development team members are all of a certain age, they may tend to focus on a traditional web or mobile order form. But younger generations may prefer an SMS-based interface, and if the team isn’t aware of their point of view and doesn’t take it into account, they may end up developing a solution that neglects entire generations of consumers.
A diverse team, especially at the leadership level, creates an inviting experience for people looking for role models and opportunities for advancement.
3. Expanded Recruitment
Recruitment is another key benefit of a diverse team. It’s no secret that our industry is facing a labor shortage. On top of that, cryptocurrencies, NFTs, and the metaverse are the sexy new technologies that are attracting a lot of talent. A diverse team, especially at the leadership level, creates an inviting experience for people looking for role models and opportunities for advancement.
4. Better working environment
But perhaps the most compelling reason for having a diverse team is that it’s simply more fun to work with people from so many different backgrounds. This encourages more creative discussions and problem solving.
For example, while working on an app for a hotel client, our team was thinking deeply about the guest experience and expectations. A team member who had a background in hospitality challenged us to consider our solution on the other side of the equation, and the result was a better solution.
When every engineering group or company commits to building more diverse development teams, every industry – and every employee – will benefit.
[ Get exercises and approaches that make disparate teams stronger. Read the digital transformation ebook: Transformation Takes Practice. ]