An inclusive workplace is the future of tech.
“If you don’t reflect your customer in your workplace in terms of demographics, you can’t understand your customer, says Jim Gordon, Intel’s GM Security Ecosystem Strategy & Development.
Tech industry giant Intel took “doing the right thing” and made it a business imperative to show how impactful true inclusion can be. Their results were impressive and surprising.
If Intel is anything, it is a leader in the industry. So when Intel had the opportunity to combine “doing the right thing” for its workforce with improving the company’s competitiveness and bottom line results, it became the impetus for the perfect big hairy audacious goal that fit its culture: match the company’s workforce to the demographics of Intel’s customer-base.
In 2015 Intel announced plans to achieve full representation of under-represented minorities and women in its US workforce by 2020. Intel met its goal two years early. Not surprising for a company that has revived Moore’s Law after repeated industry pronouncements that it had finally met its demise.
We visited with Intel’s Jim Gordon to learn more about what it was like to be part of that initiative and some of the key success factors, as well as any surprises they experienced along the way. We’ve taken the liberty to sum things up this way: Be all-in, be your customer, and be an ally.
“When the workforce doesn’t match the population in terms of the outside world, you know there is something systematically wrong. Doing the right thing to change this was always the ‘higher order’ bit,” said Gordon.
Doing the right thing isn’t always easy when it comes to corporate life, where the pull of status quo’s inertia is strong. Being all-in at Intel meant living the company culture by envisioning success and then leading the charge. Jim describes it as “if Intel is going to do it, they want to be first.” Intel has a history of doing this, whether it is resuscitating Moore’s Law against all predictions, building a supply chain of conflict-free minerals, or pushing the envelope of physics.
It started with setting the tone at the top. Then-CEO of Intel, Brian Krzanich, declared the goal of making Intel’s workforce represent its customers, and it spanned the gamut from technical to non-technical, entry-level to executive. Jim explained, “The rallying cry was clear: we will transform the entire company and do it together.” This was not going to be a slow-roll of DEI change by attrition and hiring. Every element of the company was going to be involved in change starting: now.
The massive investment came in multiple ways. Intel used its diversity, equity, and inclusion initiative to determine whom it chose as suppliers and where it invested. Teams were set up to monitor the details of implementation, establish infrastructure and processes needed to support change, and manage change. And since anything worth doing is worth measuring and worth rewarding people who succeed, it was integrated into performance metrics and bonuses. This was an initiative that was intended to survive the people who put it in motion, including Krzanich, who departed earlier this year. Part of being all-in means building in sustainability in every detail, from the big things, like the compensation system, to the little things, like slogans on company badges.
All this is not to say that the project was without doubters. “When the diversity goals were announced, there was some doubt that they could be achieved within the timeframe announced,” admitted Gordon. As major initiatives across tech have shown, nothing is as convincing to doubters as success.
Be Your Customer
The initiative paid Intel indisputable dividends. While it’s challenging to tie specific profitability impact to any single move within a sea of changes or even to just the DEI effort, Intel’s 2018 Operating Profit Margin was up more than 3 percent over 2015 levels and it says it is just getting started. In 2018, after meeting the DEI program goals two years early, Intel hase established a foundation for the future. Between 2015-2018 Intel nailed its target growth figures in its US workforce:
+17.7% under-represented minorities
+31.4% African American
+40.0% Native American
In addition, Intel is committed to increasing female representation, with programs specifically designed to support and retain women. Out of all women at Intel, 19.4 percent are in leadership roles, and technical female representation has increased to nearly 24 percent, significantly above the large tech company industry norm.
“The benefit of all this,” Gordon noted, “is that Intel workforce is more reflective of its customers, which improves communication, trust and ultimately profitability.” As one of the largest global companies in the world the firm’s customers run the gamut of cultures and ethnicities, age, gender, sexual orientation, and all other human characteristics. Customers want to work with people like them, who understand them, who can solve their problems. Intel recognized that to best work with their customers they needed to look like them at all levels.