Adapting hiring strategies to increase diversity in tech

When it comes to promoting diversity in tech, the hiring process is a vital aspect of the mission. HR teams and recruiters play a crucial role in overseeing who is brought into the organisation, and there are measures they can take in order to attract and bring in talent from underrepresented groups. With this in mind, we hear from tech industry experts, on how hiring strategies can be adapted to increase diversity in tech.

A diverse hiring panel, and equitable opportunities

A highly beneficial way to ensure diversity in tech organisations through recruitment, is by having a diverse team lead the process. By having recruiters from various demographics and backgrounds, any possible unconscious bias can be mitigated.

“There are elements of the hiring process that I don’t think organisations always consider. For example, it’s not just about diversity of candidates but also of the hiring panel, so the panel reflects the candidates and communities it represents,” said Ryan Higginson, vice-president & UK/ROI country leader at Pitney Bowes.

“Businesses need to make sure all candidates are given the same opportunities. For some people with neurodiverse abilities, there are many barriers in place – even the interview process puts some people at a disadvantage, with employers looking for standard professional and social traits such as maintaining eye contact, shaking hands and candidates’ ability to sell themselves.

“If a neurodiverse candidate prefers to be interviewed by video conference, on a one-to-one basis or being given more time than others to prepare, that should be identified and enabled.”

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Review training programmes

Bev White, CEO of recruitment consultancy Harvey Nash, believes that reviewing internal training programmes in light of changes udergone during the pandemic, such as the advent of hybrid working, is key to attracting diverse talent.

White explained: “Businesses and their HR leaders can use the experiences of the last 18 months as an opportunity to skill their tech teams and increase diversity, especially in gender. There needs to be clarity around the areas in which talent solutions can be built internally, and where talent will need to be externally sourced.

“For external sourcing – and indeed for current staff – there is an opportunity to re-imagine the job. Location, and the old 9-5, are no longer key barriers, opening the door to considering new talent pools and fresh thinking.

“Training, paid internships and apprenticeships can also be hugely effective. We have experienced this ourselves in our own businesses, such as our IT solutions business Crimson which runs a highly successful apprenticeship scheme that brings a truly diverse set of talent from all backgrounds into the industry, performing at an extremely high level.

“We would like the Government to place a strong emphasis on such schemes and other upskilling/reskilling initiatives to bring people into technology-related roles.”

A skill-based approach

For Susie Lee, executive officer, diversity, inclusion and belonging at HRtech company Degreed, taking a skill-based approach and basing hiring decisions on ability, is also key to increasing workplace diversity in tech. This mindset would go a long way in minimising biases.

“Ultimately, if your hiring decisions are based solely on someone’s ability to do a job, you won’t be as impacted by biases and your workforce diversity will improve,” said Lee.

“Taking a skill-based approach is best, matching people to a role based on their skills and experience. You can take it a step further by taking away anything that can introduce biases to the hiring process like names, addresses, socioeconomic indicators, and so forth.

“It’s important to make diversity initiatives an operations responsibility instead of leaving it up to recruitment and HR. There’s little point in attracting a diverse candidate pool if everything else in the organisation isn’t set up for diverse employees. You’ll recruit them, but they’ll soon leave.

“There must be a wider systemic change across the organisation and that’s why operations must be involved.”

Nominations are now open for the 2022 Women in IT Awards – one of the largest technology diversity awards programme in the world

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View the categories and nominate yourself or a colleague/peer who deserves to be recognised and celebrated.

Hootsuite: a case study demonstrating accessibility

According to Gabriela Jordão, diversity, equity and inclusion manager at Hootsuite, “it’s hugely important to ensure that hiring practices are as accessible as possible to increase diversity in tech”. The social media management provider’s DEI lead identified the following ways in which this has been put into practice:

  • Ensuring accessibility in the hiring process: “At Hootsuite, candidates can now pre-record their correct name pronunciation, allowing them to feel acknowledged while allowing the hiring team to engage in an inclusive hiring culture. Candidates can also share their preferred pronouns as part of the hiring process if they choose to on the application.”
  • Focusing on training and education around unconscious bias: “We ensure that hiring managers are aware of their own bias and how to mitigate that through the hiring process. We provide training to combat this via ‘Hiring at Hootsuite’ and a variety of unconscious bias training sessions.”
  • Holding ourselves accountable: “For example, our corporate OKRs (Objectives and key results) progress is visible to the whole organisation.”
  • Implementing Employee Resource Groups (ERGs): “This allows us to bring our people together via employee networks in a thoughtful and progressive way.”

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Aaron Hurst

Aaron Hurst is Information Age's senior reporter, providing news and features around the hottest trends across the tech industry.