Diversity in the Workplace: A Principle-Driven Approach to Broadening the Talent Pool
The business case for diversity, equity, and inclusivity in any organization, in any industry, is compelling; it’s backed by the personal stories we hear in our everyday lives and on the news—and it’s backed by data:
- More innovation, creativity, and knowledge sharing.
- Increased sales revenue and greater market share.
- Increased productivity and quality.
- Higher return on equity.
- Lower turnover.
Credible organizations (e.g., Gallup, Scientific American, and MIT) consistently publish studies that show how diversity in the workplace improves financial outcomes, strengthens team member commitment, and increases creativity. Yet, despite the strong business case for inclusive workplaces, a lack of diversity continues to be a problem in almost every industry, and healthcare is no exception.
Consider, for example, the lack of gender diversity in technology—one of the fastest growing sectors in the U.S.; the facts are discouraging:
- Women hold less than 26 percent of U.S. technology jobs and earn, on average, just 85 percent of what men in those positions earn.
- By 2020, there will be 1.4 million computing-related jobs in the U.S. and women will likely only fill 3 percent of those jobs.
- The number of female STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) graduates (in the U.S.) has declined from 37 percent in 1984 to 18 percent in 2016.
- Women are two times more likely than men to quit a high-tech position (41 percent to 17 percent).
The list of reasons for this lack of gender diversity in technology is long and includes challenges on both ends of the pipeline, from limited early exposure to computing skills, to unsupportive work environments. And this women-in-technology segment is just one of many underrepresented groups in healthcare that needs our attention and our commitment to change the status quo.
Healthcare’s workplace diversity challenges, gender-related or otherwise, are significant and complex, but we can start to turn the tide with inclusivity initiatives that are grounded in the same principles that work together to create a healthy culture: respect, humility, transparency, and advocacy.
Health Catalyst’s leadership team defines and values diversity in its broadest terms, recognizing all differences as representations of diversity. This includes more traditional definitions of diversity, as measured based on differences like gender, race, ethnicity, or sexual orientation, but also recognizes a near-limitless set of additional differences in life experiences and perspectives that should also be respected and valued.
This broader definition challenges us to ensure that all our differences are appreciated, respected, and learned from, and requires us to think systemically about how we create an enabling infrastructure to tap into the power of these differences.
A Principle-Driven Approach to Harnessing the Power of our Diversity
As we considered how to systemically harness the power of all our team members’ differences, we recognized that it’s a monumental effort requiring a principle-driven mindset, and that the anchor of our ability to tap into this power is embedded in our company’s culture. We fundamentally believe that our differences are what give us the broad perspective we need to accomplish our company’s mission. We believe the most effective diversity initiatives are grounded in the same principles that shape an organization’s culture, and that initiatives with a principle-driven foundation are more likely to be adopted and embraced by team members.
Health Catalyst’s culture centers on core principles, including respect, humility, transparency, and advocacy, that motivate everything we do; every team member must embody these principles, so we can deliver on our promise to our team members and our customers. We take this principle-based approach because we want a talented, diverse group of people to feel empowered to join our team, stay on our team, and thrive on our team—to do the best work of their careers here.
As we examine the work we are doing to enable our company to be strengthened by diversity, we can tie our initiatives back to four guiding principles:
Respect is a timeless principle, and perhaps the most important one because it underlies every other principle. Respect communicates that we appreciate, value, and believe we can learn from each of our colleagues. Respect means we value one another’s unique characteristics and experiences, and assumes that we will be made stronger as we benefit from these diverse characteristics and experiences.
Humility helps us be great listeners as we interact with one another. The humility that makes us not just open but eager to learn from each team member and each interaction, including opportunities for improvement, lays the groundwork for an inclusive culture that values diversity. Everyone in an organization, from entry level data analysts to seasoned executives, must embrace the continual giving and receiving of honest, constructive feedback: what’s working and what can be improved.
Health Catalyst is motivated by and benefits from data and analytics-driven improvement. Humility allows us to actively pursue the facts—positive or negative—so we can alter our trajectory when we need to. For example, every six months, we ask our team members to take a Gallup survey—we actively solicit feedback about what’s working for our people and what could be improved. Each member of the leadership team reads every response and comes together to discuss how to reinforce what’s working and change what needs improvement. We share the results of these surveys with every team member in our all-team-member meetings.
Regarding the concrete example we discuss in this article—women in technology—we know our industry isn’t fully tapping into the female talent pool, and we’re mindful of this meaningful segment in our ongoing team member engagement surveys. We want the results, we pay attention to the results, and we transparently share the results so we can engage everyone to continuously improve.
Transparency is effortless when there’s good news to share. Although not as easy to put into practice when there are major problems to address, this is when being transparent matters most. Transparency is inclusivity in practice; it invites every team member to be a part of the solution and, ultimately, holds leadership accountable for solving problems. Transparency is the mechanism through which we exercise humility, admit that we don’t always get it right, and, most importantly, commit to making it right.
When Health Catalyst learned that certain male team members weren’t willing to be alone with female team members while on business-related travel (e.g., traveling to and from business meetings by car, etc.), we relied on transparency and humility to understand and correct this troubling behavior. We openly discussed the problem in a meeting with all team members, clearly stating that all team members must be treated as equals and as respected colleagues. We made it clear that this behavior—and the lack of respect that allowed it to happen—was inconsistent with our core principles. And we invited every team member to talk about the problem, anonymously or openly. Transparency coupled with humility made it possible for us to get back on our intended trajectory of creating an inclusive culture driven by respect.
In another example of how Health Catalyst relies on transparency to boost inclusivity, all team members have a standing invitation to attend manager meetings; we want every team member, manager or not, to have the same opportunity to learn and develop their careers.
A fundamental part of Health Catalyst’s goal to be a best place to work is the hope that when team members look back on their multi-decade careers they identify their time at Health Catalyst as the time in their career when they did their best, most meaningful work. A fundamental part of enabling this engagement and productivity in our team members involves a deep level of trust between team members and management. This trust is strengthened each time a team member senses that their manager is also their advocate committed to enabling their long-term growth and development.
Health Catalyst advocates for and empowers its team members through a variety of initiatives, including financial assistance to pursue professional development opportunities; flexible work schedules, including generous work-from-home allowances; unlimited vacation time; affinity groups that are open to everyone, can be started by any team member for any underrepresented group (women, LGBTQ, etc.), and provide a platform for collaboration, knowledge sharing, and innovation; and a mentorship program that hopes to address one of the three reasons women in technology are dissatisfied with their career prospects: the lack of inspiring role models.
We have an incredible opportunity to attract and retain a diverse group of talented people. We know our principles-driven culture is the way we enable our current team members to thrive at Health Catalyst. But we don’t wish to stop there—we also desire to contribute to broadening the talent pool of individuals who consider healthcare and/or technology careers as their first choice.
Broadening the Talent Pool for Technology Careers
As organizations increasingly acknowledge the compelling benefits of broadening the talent pool, and start building and empowering their diverse workforces, there are several powerful initiatives that can help:
Connect Team Members with Mentors
Mentorship ties back to one of our diversity aims: empowering women in technology. Understanding that 93 percent of women executives attribute much of their success to having an informal career advisory team, we see mentorship as one of many tools for attracting and retaining a diverse team.
Health Catalyst’s mentorship program, open to all team members, is an empowerment tool that connects people interested in sharing their knowledge and experiences (mentors) with people interested in learning from others (mentees). As with any goal-oriented program, ground rules are helpful. Our mentees are responsible for the following:
- Assuming ownership of the relationship.
- Committing to expanding their level of growth opportunities.
- Being open and receptive to new ways of learning.
- Being open and accepting of feedback; being reflective; making meaningful change as opportunities arise.
- Maintaining confidentiality.
- Practicing active listening.
Mentorship programs create meaningful opportunities for team members to connect with each other and grow their careers.
Implement Equitable Practices (Hiring, Compensation, etc.)
“Many women cite their company’s outdated maternity leave policies, lack of flexible work arrangements or salaries that are inadequate to cover the costs of childcare as their main reasons for exiting the tech industry,” according to a Forbes article.
Fairness and respect are synonymous. HR-related practices driven by fairness, from ethical hiring practices to flexible hours that encourage work-life integration, add up to create a supportive work environment that minimizes the personal sacrifices team members make when they come to work. Health Catalyst’s policies demonstrate our commitment to equity and being a best place to work:
- Family leave, including generous and flexible maternity and paternity leave policies.
- Unlimited paid time off.
- Flexible work hours and the ability to work remotely.
- Wellness program (onsite gym and allowance to spend on anything wellness related).
- Pay equity and above-average compensation.
Underrepresented groups struggle to get hired; to tackle this issue, Health Catalyst is implementing an unconscious bias training to help hiring managers (and any interested team member) understand the role subconscious bias plays in the hiring process—a training that exposes people’s weaknesses and taps into every team member’s humility and willingness to improve. Health Catalyst is also launching a Diversity and Inclusion training for all team members, and working to implement interview and selection equal pay initiatives, which include practices like not asking candidates about their pay histories.
Partner with Organizations Committed to Improving Diversity
The best cities for women in technology also have conventions and coalitions that support women in technology. Organizations can partner with and learn from these groups that are equally committed to diversity and have the experience to share pragmatic lessons learned. Health Catalyst partners with and sponsors several organizations as part of its initiative to empower and advance women in technology:
- Women Tech Council (WTC), a national organization focused on the “economic impact of women in driving high growth for the technology sector through developing programs that propel the economic pipeline from K-12 to the C-suite.” The WTC offers mentoring, visibility, and networking to more than 10,000 women and men working in technology.
- Kids Code program based on the curriculum from Code.org, a “non-profit dedicated to expanding access to computer science and increasing participation by women and underrepresented minorities.”
- College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME) and its Women of CHIME, a “group of CHIME women leaders who share networking and leadership skills with other women CIOs and senior healthcare IT executives.”
Health Catalyst’s involvement with these local and national organizations extends beyond financial sponsorships to serving on their boards and inviting every team member to professional development and networking events.
Create a Supportive Work Environment
Regarding the litany of things organizations can do to eliminate disparities for diverse segments of the talent pool, some are easier to influence than others. To help address the early pipeline challenges diverse groups endure to get where they are in their careers, Health Catalyst team members volunteer with kids through a program called Kids Code to help achieve Code.org’s vision that “every student in every school should have the opportunity to learn computer science.”
Many Health Catalyst team members donate their time to underrepresented groups within their own communities, on their own time. One team member spends several weeks every summer mentoring young, underprivileged women; women up against the early pipeline challenges that contribute to the gender gap we see in so many industries today.
Health Catalyst’s advocacy-oriented culture led to the development of several affinity groups designed to support underrepresented team members (women, LGBTQ, etc.) by giving them time to connect, share challenges and strategies, and offer educational opportunities.
No single initiative solves the diversity problem; every HR policy, every training, every networking event adds up to have a cumulative impact on inclusivity. And the work is never done; we have a long way to go before we start shrinking the diversity divide.
Shrinking the Diversity Divide: Healthcare’s Imperative
Healthcare organizations committed to building diverse, engaged teams should start by taking a close look at their cultures: the foundation for any inclusivity initiative. Equipped with a principles-driven culture that motivates everything they do, internally and externally, and strategic initiatives that reflect an awareness of what diverse groups, such as women in technology, are up against every day, any organization in any industry can start doing its part to start closing the diversity gap.
Increasing diversity and inclusivity in healthcare is more than just the right thing to do: it’s an intelligent business decision that improves business outcomes (ROI, innovation, productivity, engagement, team member retention, etc.). As an outcomes improvement company, Health Catalyst will continue to relentlessly commit to its mission to make all team members—regardless of gender, race, experience, or perspective—feel respected, supported, and treated as equals across the entirety of their careers at Health Catalyst.
Would you like to learn more about this topic? Here are some articles we suggest:
- Build a Mission-Driven Culture in Healthcare
- Communication in Healthcare Culture: Eight Steps to Uphold Outcomes Improvement
- Three Must-Haves for Generating Innovation in Healthcare IT
- Understanding the Culture and Core of Health Catalyst: One Man’s Perspective
Would you like to use or share these concepts? Download this presentation highlighting the key main points.