The tech sector is known for being at the forefront of advancement, expanding almost 3 times faster than the rest of the UK economy and contributing £184 billion. However, one area it’s falling behind in is diversity: only 15% of the tech workforce are from BAME backgrounds, and just 3% of Chief Technology Officers (CTOs) or Technical Director roles in the UK are held by women.
Unsurprisingly, more and more businesses are recognising the need to diversify their hiring strategies, particularly in tech, in order to create a more inclusive working environment.
But how do we ensure that these measures aren’t performative
and that they become embedded practices in our hiring? Conversely, how do we
balance the need for specific skills with the goal of inclusivity?
What is a diverse recruitment strategy?
A diverse recruitment strategy is a series of policies and processes put in place by a business to ensure its workforce represents a wide range of backgrounds - this includes race, gender, class, nationality, age, sexual orientation, disability, and more.
Diverse hiring practices are important for deconstructing barriers and making it easier and fairer for marginalised groups to enter the workforce. It doesn’t mean rejecting merit-based hiring - it just gives candidates from all backgrounds an equal opportunity.
Valuing a diverse and inclusive environment can contribute
to a more innovative, creative, and productive workplace; decision-making can
be based on a broader variety of experiences and backgrounds, leading to better
discussions and a more rounded approach.
In fact, a study found that in organizations with diverse workforces, employee performance improves by 12%, and employee retention increases by 20%. Plus, more and more candidates are looking for companies that actively diversify their recruitment. 76% of job seekers say that diversity is essential when they’re considering an organization.
What should a diverse and inclusive hiring strategy look like?
So we know why it’s important, but how can a business
implement a successfully diverse and inclusive hiring strategy?
Using multiple channels
A great way to broaden your talent pool is to use multiple hiring channels, as you’re likely to find a wider variety of candidates by looking in a wider variety of places. Switching up your sourcing methods will not only give you access to a more diverse talent pool, but also a greater range of skill sets.
You’ll find recruiters, job fairs, and online platforms specifically for underrepresented candidate groups, but utilising any channel that you don’t typically use is a great way to start diversifying your hiring channels.
Sourcing young talent
Like many industries, a lot of tech diversity lies in its younger candidates. Code schools and boot camps are a great way to find grassroots talent that’s still developing.
Partnering with a scheme, particularly one that specialises in an area you’re interested in expanding long-term, can lead to some great hiring opportunities and give you access to a diverse and highly-skilled emerging workforce that you wouldn’t find elsewhere.
Reviewing your job requirements
The way you talk about your roles is important too. Specific skills, qualities, and attributes - and even the words you use to describe them - can exclude whole groups of candidates.
First, look at the way you write your job adverts. Check for wording that might make someone feel unwelcome to apply, even subconsciously, or anything that only targets a specific demographic.
Then read over your job requirements. How much is essential, and what’s just preference? These ‘nice to haves’ might be excluding whole groups of candidates, even if they don’t meet just one.
Making the application process inclusive and accessible
Creating a process that’s accessible to all potential
candidates is essential for building a diverse workforce. There are several factors
- Are your online channels compatible with assistive technologies?
- Are they easy to navigate, with simple language?
- Are your interview questions designed to assess a candidate’s technical skill, instead of their personal characteristics or demographic?
- Do you make your diversity and inclusion policy clear?
- Do you accommodate reasonable adjustments?
Simple changes like this are a quick and easy way to standardize your hiring practices and reduce the risk of unconscious bias.
We can draw a lot of assumptions from a name, including age,
race, and gender, so eliminating the opportunity for unconscious bias can help
to keep processes fairer.
What are the challenges of a diverse hiring strategy?
There are several common barriers to improving diversity and inclusion in recruitment.
A lack of data
Many modern recruitment agencies use a data-led approach, so altering your hiring practices without knowing what will work can be daunting. Set goals and targets to keep track of what’s improving and what isn’t, then apply these findings to fine-tune your approach.
Not prioritising diversity beyond the hiring process
Seeing a diverse hiring strategy as a tick box exercise or a fast way to up your recruitment, and not as an ongoing commitment to increasing the wealth of your workforce, can cause you to haemorrhage new starters. Unfair treatment in the workplace is the largest driver of turnover in the tech industry, costing companies up to £4 billion per year.
Every one of us has unconscious biases, but preventing these from impacting our hiring can be a challenge. Making processes as objective as possible will help to limit the impact of unconscious bias.
A lack of diverse candidates
The issue here isn’t that there aren’t any diverse candidates, it’s that they aren’t applying to your roles. Making your company values and your position on D&I clear will help to encourage a wider range of candidates to apply for your positions. 57% of employees believe that organizations should work harder to improve their diversity, so committing long-term will help to attract a range of candidates.