How industry leaders can improve D&I in a sustainable way

In recent years, a global digital skills shortage has become the single largest challenge for talent acquisition teams throughout the technology industry. The sector currently has the second-highest number of job vacancies in the UK, with more than 100,000 openings going unfilled each month. As such, hiring managers are being forced to move quickly to recruit talent wherever they can find it. But what does this mean for diversity in the recruitment process? In a world where talent is in such short supply, diversity and inclusion can risk becoming a ‘nice to have’ rather than baked in from the very beginning of the hiring process.

While in principle, most businesses have good intentions when it comes to diversifying their talent pipeline, the reality is that there is currently an industry-wide shortage of candidates with the right skills in tech. Within the past two years, 46% of businesses have reported struggling to recruit and onboard new employees with the necessary hard data skills required for the job. Hiring managers are fishing from a miniscule pool of fully skilled candidates that already lacks diversity due to a plethora of socio-economic factors. As such, they often have had no choice but to deprioritise D&I considerations in order to address their staff shortages. Simply ‘hiring more’ diverse talent is not an option, and this solution fails to address the true route of the problem causing diversity issues in tech.

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Democratising access to technology skills

Ultimately, recruiting more people into technology from diverse backgrounds requires a different approach to hiring. Certain hiring managers often have ready made assumptions about candidates. Unconscious biases are often based on the false justification that candidates with less formal education are less deserving of a highly skilled role. Talent is not exclusively defined by formal education, and talent acquisition teams need to shift their approach to the hiring process in order to properly diversify the tech sector’s workforce.

To diversify tech in a meaningful way, we must equip those in minority groups with the right skills. Fortunately, an increasing number of organisations have started to take strides to improve diversity within their workplace, largely through the use of non-traditional means of education. Through democratising access to technical courses covering the practical skills that are in high demand, companies are nurturing the talents of underrepresented communities.

For instance, organisation OneTen, which is aiming to close the opportunity gap for Black talent in America recently pledged more than 3,000 tech education scholarships over the next ten years to increase Black representation in the tech sector. Meanwhile, in Europe, telecoms giant Nokia took a step in the right direction by funding more than 300 scholarships for Udacity’s Nanodegree programs, fully online courses that can be completed alongside further study.

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Adapting the hiring strategies

While many companies have taken strides to improve their diversity and inclusion initiatives in recent years, some can lack the integrated, long-term vision needed to transform the workforce sustainably. Some businesses seem more comfortable with a short-term demonstration of support to improve reputation.

Leading tech companies must share responsibility with educational institutions for creating diverse workforces to catalyse long-term accessibility and change. Those who have a holistic view of their business should recognise this responsibility and think strategically about how best to use resources from both HR and CSR departments to achieve an integrated talent pipeline that is aligned with D&I objectives.

If an HR team is working to recruit from a more diverse pool of candidates, while a CSR team is simultaneously working to differing initiatives that promote positive corporate, social and governance-related issues, then the business isn’t well-integrated and diversity discrepancies will continue to exist. Firms must adapt their hiring strategies across the entire business to ensure they can make a notable increase to the diversity of the tech sector.
Addressing biases and facilitating career development

To widen the pool, talent acquisition teams must eliminate unconscious bias from the hiring process – as this is by far one of the biggest stumbling blocks that qualified candidates suffer from. This might include removing gendered wording, introducing blind applications, or alternatively, using purely data-driven insights to make hiring decisions. In addition, firms should advertise roles through new, unconventional channels to target more diverse candidates, such as using focused campaigns in known geographical areas with higher diversity.

Ultimately, not all candidates enter the workplace fully rounded either, and it is the role of corporations to nurture fresh talent from within. Hiring a diverse pool of entry-level workers and leaving them to fester in the lowest ranks of a company isn’t helpful to developing a diverse generation of technology leaders. Organisations must support entry-level workers with this growth and help them climb up through the ranks and into leadership positions.

Written by James Hendrickson, Enterprise Director, Societal Impact & Corporate Responsibility at Udacity

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