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Intel Invests $300 Million in its D&I Program – Is it Working?

Tobias Hardy

Intel.jpgOne of the largest tech companies in the world is making a major investment in its recruitment efforts. What can the rest of the world take away from Intel’s new D&I program?

With a bombshell announcement at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in January 2015, Intel CEO Brian Krzanich set forth a new initiative that could make the company an industry leader in more than just computer chips, according to USA Today. Krzanich declared that Intel is making a coordinated effort to improve Diversity & Inclusion at Intel.

The effort has two key jump-off points: first, a stated goal to make the demographics of Intel’s staff mirror those of the U.S. population demographics by 2020; and second, a $300 million pledge to support the hiring and retention of female and minority employees.

This is by far the largest such initiative in the tech industry, where employment statistics are famously skewed toward white and Asian males in America’s Silicon Valley market. African Americans and Hispanics comprise only 5% of the workforce, compared to 14% of the national population. Women, meanwhile, only make up about 30% of the tech workforce, according to CNET – but that’s a stark drop-off from the overall US workforce, where women make up 59% of all workers, as well as the overall population, where women outnumber men at 51% to 49%.

While the UK’s tech industry is more diverse than that of the United States, as Business Insider explains, similar problems persist: of the 1.1 million IT specialists in the UK, only 16% are women, according to Huffington Post. Clearly, greater efforts are needed for diversity in the tech industry across the board – which is why Intel’s plan is so important.

The Program and Progress

In order to kickstart the program, Wired reports that Intel planned strategic partnerships with organizations within the tech industry. The firm reached out to the International Game Developers Association, the E-Sports League, the National Center for Women in Technology and others, and also placed an emphasis on supporting minority-serving STEM programs at educational institutions.

In August 2015, Intel released a status report to update investors on the progress of its D&I initiative, according to Fast Company. To the company’s credit, it exceeded its most basic goals: 43.3% of new hires came from underrepresented groups, exceeding the 40% target for the period.

A double bonus referral for diverse hires and other programs likely drove that progress, as described in another Fast Company article. After a year, the bonus program doubled the number of referrals from 2014, and the company expanded its recruiting efforts into more diverse schools than ever before. It also met the goal to retain diverse employees at the same rate as the rest of the company.

The program was most effective in regard to women. Representation was up 5.4% for an overall ratio of 24.8% of the employee base, and, importantly, efforts to utilise compensation analysis brought the company to 100% pay parity along gender lines in 2015 – the tech industry and overall US average pay gap between men and women stands at 23% and 20%, respectively.

The Program and Problems

Progress aside, there are still issues with Intel’s D&I. After six months, hiring of Hispanic and Native American employees was lower than targeted, and those workers weren’t retained at the same rate as other demographic groups.

After a year, the problems persisted: there was only a 0.1% uptick in underrepresented employees on staff, and black workers had the highest exit rate of any demographic group. Meanwhile the 11 Native American hires didn’t quite cover the absence of the 19 that left the company in the year.

While the “diversity” component of D&I is being addressed, the “inclusion” aspect is falling behind, as minority employees are, in some cases, pulled out of their day-to-day duties so often for minority-focused internal events that they struggle to really settle into their roles.

Meanwhile, the strongest pushback against the program is actually coming from Intel employees themselves. This backlash, which has culminated in threats to Intel’s leadership, according to Yahoo!, seems to be fueled by a desire to maintain the homogeneous status quo against efforts to diversify. According to CEO Brian Krzanish, “People worry that as a white man, you’re kind of under siege to a certain extent…[so we] just remind everybody it’s not an exclusive process.”

In order to find solutions to the issues with Intel’s D&I initiative, it takes more than just referral bonuses and the pressure to accomplish widely published goals – it takes a whole new way of thinking. Importantly, eliminating unconscious bias should be central to the effort.

One way companies are looking to solve this is by implementing name- and university-blind applications. However, this actually this demonstrates that organisations are trying to use a “quick fix” to address discrimination, when actually they should be trying to achieve a lasting cultural change – which can be achieved by building processes underpinned by data that are fair, consistent, objective and don't leave subjectivity to make judgement. It's all about facts!

Taking a stand for diversity was a great way for Intel to start its program. To keep it on track, it needs to take the next step and use data to remove the chance for any negativity to enter the process.

(Main image credit: Jiahui Huang/flickr)

Tobias Hardy

Tobias is a HR professional passionate about performance through engagement. He advises organisations on all aspects of recruitment process design with a particular focus on using technology to measure and overcome unconscious bias.