Diversity and inclusion are known by many difference acronyms across the business world. But, whether you know it as D&I, DEI, DEIB or something else, scaling your EdTech teams with diversity at its heart has many proven benefits, from improving internal decision-making to creating better products for your end users.
What do we mean by diversity in EdTech?
Diversity and inclusion is a big topic with some big questions – many of us are well aware of issues like the gender pay gap or increasing BIPOC candidates within the recruitment process, but D&I covers a whole host of backgrounds and protected characteristics, such as neurodivergence, economic inequality and disabilities.
Diversity is often used as a ‘box-ticking’ exercise by larger companies, often playing catchup to address historical inequalities. These steps have often resulted in some of the more controversial measures (all-x shortlists, for example) that newspaper headlines seem so fond of (yes, I’m looking at you, The Daily Mail).
In reality, D&I in the modern workplace is more around improving access, removing biases and roadblocks and creating equality within the recruitment process, which enables diversity within a workforce. And, as a scaling EdTech business, you have a clear opportunity to bake diversity into your recruitment processes right from the earliest stage.
Growth, disruption and AI – an opportunity to improve diversity
The changing EdTech landscape means more learners than ever are using technology as part of their daily learning needs. EdTech has developed exponentially over the past few years, gaining an especially large boost during the pandemic as education providers worldwide rushed to find educational software, online learning platforms and mobile apps to meet the shift towards online learning.
This growth shows no sign of slowing (as this study from 2020 suggests), with the industry expected to grow by 20% between 2021-2028. With an increased user base comes increased access amongst those in minority groups, and this certainly seems to have had some real-world effects on closing the attainment gap among students. Increased access comes with an increased responsibility to ensure you are serving those audiences and their needs adequately.
Also, as the sector continues to grow, with many EdTech companies looking into enhancing education through AI, the industry isn’t isolated from the wider concerns around biases built into AI algorithms, and companies will need to examine concerns on how this will affect their products and can cater for the wide range of students.
So, EdTech shouldn’t only help in modernising learning in general; it is a big driver in creating better outcomes for diverse users. It has the chance to make education more accessible for learners of all ages and backgrounds.
Why can a diverse team help?
So we can see that tech can be a great enabler for helping close attainment gaps and increase accessibility amongst minority and disadvantaged groups, but what other benefits, both to the company and to the end user, can be gained by increasing the diversity within your teams?
Increased understanding of the users
Having a diverse EdTech team means insight into cultural differences around education, careers, and adulthood. It gives a deeper sense of understanding to developers creating learning software and platforms. Simply put, a better understanding leads to better user outcomes and a more valuable tech product for the company.
Can you do this by reasoned UX, increasing your customer personas and user stories? Possibly, but it will never replace having people with those lived experiences in your organisation. The best way to provide better outcomes for users is to have those users represented in the teams creating the technology.
Different people mean different backgrounds – culturally, financially, generationally, etc. This means that there is a greater understanding of students’ needs and wants, which again leads to more inclusivity and helps companies reach more people. This isn’t only good from an educational point of view but from a company’s economic side as well – having a product that meets more users’ needs means more people buying it, after all!
A more accessible product
Similarly, diversity in EdTech is very important in ensuring that any kind of technology developed is not only representing the people but is easily accessible and inclusive to all students.
Taking neurodiversity as an example – it covers such a wide umbrella of things from Autism to ADHD and Tourettes – the needs of each are all very unique. Having representation from at least some of these will give your engineering teams a fresh insight into issues of accessibility they may never have considered before.
Improved problem-solving and better decision-making:
A Cloverpop article states that diverse teams “make better business decisions 87 percent of the time” and “drive decision-making 2X faster with half the meetings”.
The old adage of ‘time means money’ isn’t still in common usage for nothing! The faster companies can identify problems and find solutions to these specific issues, the better.
For example, if your Edtech product is a SaaS model, it’s important to keep new features and improvements coming via Continuous Development / Continuous Integration. Diversity amongst your development, operations and DevOps teams can help identify and solve problems quicker by offering a new perspective on the issue, helping push new features quickly and reducing the reworking of new features. This prevents wastage on multiple feature iterations to make it fit for purpose, saving time and money. In fact, diverse workforces are likely to be 36% more profitable than their non-diverse peers.
Innovation and creativity through fresh perspectives
I don’t think it’s controversial to say that if you only hire white graduates in their 20s, you will have one outlook that will prevail when examining everything from your product, its features or how your company operates.
This isn’t an attack on the white male graduates – the same would be said if your company was hiring exclusively black women in their 50s! However empathetic and aware someone is, is it ever going to make up for the lived experience?
A diverse team can provide a flow of new ideas and outlooks that give opportunities to innovate that a homogenous team won’t have. Going back to my example of neurodiversity, someone with autism views and interprets the world differently from someone who is neurotypical – research suggests that companies with more neurodivergence are 20% more innovative.
Having a wide range of backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives leads to a greater set of aims and approaches. This contributes to swift issue-solving. We are all wired differently. Having a mixed group of people working on the same problem promotes thinking outside the box.
Increased engagement and employee happiness
A diverse team is a happy team, and a happy team means less staff attrition! Attracting and maintaining top talent is always at the top of a director’s mind when the annual surveys are rolled out each year, and for good reason. Losing staff costs you time and money; losing good staff can cost you much more – particularly if you need to scale and hit funding rounds for your EdTech business.
Increased diversity brings with it an increased sense of belonging, shared empathy and cultural cohesion, which can account for 50% less attrition and increased productivity through a culture of mutual trust.
A company filled with employees of all backgrounds will be a great deal more competitive. A range of viewpoints will create a program, software, app for education that considers the needs of many people living in numerous differing circumstances. Reaching more customers in the process. You end up with a more valuable product that is easier to sell and has a higher potential user base.
How can I make my Edtech company more diverse and inclusive?
We’ll examine this in a future blog in more detail, but here’s some ways you can get started.
Look at the current makeup of your EdTech company. Where are the big gaps in background and experience? These will likely give you a good idea of where to concentrate your initial efforts. Look at your end-to-end hiring processes; what are the potential blockers in place that are stopping diverse candidates from coming through? Even evaluate your working methods – are they a blocker in themselves? Could you be more flexible? Does your workplace need accommodations made to make it accessible?
Make sure you let your staff know why you are doing this. Talk to them about the benefits and get existing staff onboard – changes to processes or ways of working will impact everyone, and communicating the reasons why is key to any change management.
Engage your existing staff to get ideas and improvements. They’ve had hands-on experience with your recruitment process, after all. Find an expert who can help you start to implement some of these initiatives and improvements.
If you have an internal recruitment person or team, engage them from the outset, they will have a great perspective to give on this. If you don’t have an internal recruitment function, find a recruitment partner who understands how to implement a diversity-friendly recruitment process, like The Small Consultancy.
Start by making small changes. Take the information you’ve been given on your biggest roadblocks to recruiting more diverse talent and tackle those first. Getting D&I right isn’t a one-shot and it’s fixed. It involves refining processes and reacting to feedback on the new processes (your recruiters can help you with this too). So don’t start out seeking a perfect solution – take steps, implement them, reflect on the outcomes and refine.
It is clear then that there are very real benefits to both your company and your end users for increasing diversity in your workforce by improving your recruitment and talent attraction processes. If you would like to discuss practical ways of improving diversity in your EdTech business or need a recruiter to manage the process, contact us today and talk to our in-house recruitment experts.