Mike Wessinger: The Simplest Case for Diversity–It’s Just Good Business

For a lot of companies, the discussion of diversity in business is considered a soft topic—something HR handles and not something the CEO thinks too much about.

For me, diversity has always been top of mind as something to prioritize, even when we were just starting out.

Maybe it’s because I grew up and founded PointClickCare in Canada, which has the highest foreign-born population among the G8 countries. Maybe it’s because our offices sit on the border of Toronto, which is considered one the most multicultural cities in the world. Or maybe it’s because I’ve always found that bringing in a mix of talent with different backgrounds, cultures, and experiences has elevated our company’s quality and ability to connect with customers.

In my experience, diversity is a key ingredient to our success.  It enhances our culture and it’s good for business.

Boosting our business

When it comes to the tech industry, adapting a diverse workforce seems like a no-brainer. Yet the tech industry, which is ahead of the curve in so many ways, still lags behind when it comes to gender diversity.

The National Center for Women & Information Technology states that 25 per cent of the computing workforce were women in 2015. The numbers aren’t much different in Canada. A recent report by Interactive Ontario revealed that women only represent an average of 25 per cent of the interactive digital media industry’s workforce, and that 20 per cent of the companies surveyed employ no women at all. This data reflects findings from Deloitte, which last year predicted that fewer than 25 per cent of IT jobs in developed countries would be held by women by the end of 2016.

These stats are disappointing, especially since it’s been proven that from a business perspective diversity does matter. A few years back McKinsey released a report stating that gender-diverse companies are 15 per cent more likely to outperform those companies that are not gender-diverse. Ethnically diverse companies experience an even greater advantage, with 35 per cent more likely to outperform those that are not.

It makes sense. Bringing together different outlooks, perspectives, and experiences can only enhance your business offerings.

So, while things may not look too great based on the data, the good news is we’re seeing a positive change within our company. We’ve recently hit a very exciting and, in the tech industry, unique statistic in our gender balance—we now employ exactly 50 per cent men and 50 per cent women. Who wouldn’t be proud of that? This even gender split allows us to relate better to all of our customers, promotes balanced internal discussion, and challenges thinking, which often results in driving innovation. A range of perspectives can only make what we do, how we work, what we produce, and how we connect with customers even better.

If you’re building your business, think about how and who you hire. You’ve got to ask yourself, are you creating an environment filled with one type of personality, or are you hiring the best people for the job? Be careful of the tech stereotype of creating a “bro culture”; it’s bad for your reputation, your business, and your culture.

Enhancing our culture

I’m a huge believer that culture is a company’s differentiator. Place two companies side by side with similar salaries, similar locations and similar perks, and the one that invests in culture will win the talent battle. The company that invests in culture and celebrates diversity? That one will win the talent war.

At PointClickCare, employees are encouraged to bring their whole selves to work. They don’t need to hide their traditions or experiences because we don’t ignore diversity, we celebrate it. It’s who we are as a company.

There are so many ways to integrate diversity into your culture.  Something we do is celebrate the events that are important to our employees. As an example, we have a number of staff who celebrate Diwali or Chinese New Year, so every year team members bring in food that’s popular to eat during these festivals and everyone across the team can enjoy some of the cultural traditions. It’s an easy way to promote inclusion within the company.

Helping us succeed

It’s predicted that by 2036 one-third of the working-age population will belong to a visible minority group—it’s currently almost one-fifth—and that a quarter of the Canadian population will have a first language other than English or French.

With a skills gap looming for Canadian businesses—it’s estimated that by 2019 there will be 182,000 unfilled positions requiring digital talent—companies need to prioritize diversity and inclusion now in order to attract the right people for these roles.

Creating a culture and an environment that welcomes and champions a diverse workforce now will give companies the upper hand down the road. This is something that is critical to PointClickCare’s success and is something that I take very seriously.

If you think about it, in a lot of ways companies in the earliest stages of their growth are very lucky. Leadership gets to decide what kind of culture the company will have and what values are most important to them as the company matures and grows. Older, established companies that didn’t think about these things until now are often finding themselves playing catch up in order to reflect other organizations around them.

Prioritizing diversity results in some distinct and tangible benefits. It’s good for our business. It’s good for our culture. It’s good for our future.

I can’t imagine leading my company any other way.

Mike Wessinger is the founder and CEO of PointClickCare Technologies.