The value of diverse tech talent for your organisation cannot be overstated. Making efforts to recruit and retain diverse tech talent will lead to a team with a variety of perspectives, ideas, and experiences. Consequently, a diverse team will lead to innovation, better problem-solving, and ultimately, more widely usable products and services.
Without diversity, you’re at risk of strategising, developing, and engineering in an echo chamber. You also risk driving away diverse talent you may already have or deterring potential candidates. Embracing diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) in general isn’t just a nice-to-have; it’s imperative.
Where are we now?
DE&I is a topic that has become somewhat divisive, and talked about to death. The recent tech industry landscape has seen numerous DE&I professionals made redundant. Company initiatives are being scrapped, and a general sense of overwhelm and apathy is creeping in.
Don’t let this landscape be your company’s excuse to make a French exit and give up on building a truly diverse team. Instead, see it as an opportunity to lead the way and become a pioneering figure in the journey towards a fairer and more equitable tech industry.
With that in mind, let’s delve into six powerful strategies to recruit and retain diverse tech talent.
1. Rethink your approach to DE&I
Before you jump into implementing ideas, there needs to be a mindset shift. Viewing DE&I as one-off training sessions every now and then won’t cut it.
Instead, consider DE&I as a continuous process of change management. True change management requires commitment from every level of the organisation, from directors to apprentices, from your graphic designers to your facilities team. It’s about fostering an environment where every team member feels heard, respected, and empowered to contribute their unique perspectives.
Too many leaders invest in one flashy workshop, post about it online, and then call it a day. Whilst unconscious bias training sessions are hugely informative, what happens after is more important. In the aftermath, make sure you create a plan that specific people can carry out. For example, come up with methods to identify and fix how your organisation currently relies on biases or stereotypes when hiring new talent.
In short: framing DE&I as change management will ensure that your efforts are sustained, relevant, and impactful.
2. Audit how you currently recruit and retain diverse tech talent
Tech talent shouldn’t be confined to one particular background or avenue. To diversify your team, you must broaden your recruitment horizons.
Ask yourself questions, like:
- Are you requiring every applicant to have a computer science degree? Research shows an incredible lack of diversity amongst people who graduate in this field.
- Why not focus on skills, aptitude, experience and potential? This is especially true for roles like software engineering where relevant experience and self-learning often outweigh formal education.
- Have you run your job descriptions through a gender decoder?
- Are you providing interview questions to candidates beforehand? Neurodiverse individuals, for example, often have unique processing styles and tend to perform better in job interviews when they don’t feel like they’re being caught off guard.
- Are you highlighting flexible working practices, and displaying a clear salary, even if it’s just in the form of banding? Points like these may seem trivial, but when you consider that 84% of women have avoided applying for relevant tech jobs due to exclusionary hiring practices, every effort should be made to be as inclusive and transparent as possible.
In short: By actively seeking out underrepresented talent through unconventional hiring methods, you open the door to a more diverse range of applicants.
3. Give your team a voice and, importantly, act on their feedback
Your existing team is a valuable source of insights on how to recruit and retain diverse tech talent. Conduct anonymous surveys to gauge their authentic experiences and perceptions.
Have they ever felt excluded or discriminated against? What was off-putting about the recruitment process? Have they ever considered leaving, and why? Do they consider the workplace flexible? What improvements do they suggest?
Gathering this information is just the first step; the real impact comes from acting on the results. Collecting data without acting on it is worse than not collecting data at all. Put yourself in the shoes of someone expressing their vulnerabilities and experiences of discrimination, only to be ignored. It shows that their employer does not value their voice, and any future engagement opportunities will be promptly moved to their trash.
Address the issues, communicate the realistic steps you’re taking, and invite your employees to input in every step of the change process.
In short: Conducting research with staff reveals invaluable insights, but acting on the results demonstrates your commitment to change and empowers your team.
4. Make sure your leadership team is diverse
Diversity shouldn’t be confined to junior roles and it’s essential to break the cycle of homogeneity in decision-making positions. Unfortunately, research shows that ethnic and gender diversity drastically decreases the further up the tech ladder you look.
Leaders and interview panels should be as diverse as possible. When candidates see a leadership team that represents various backgrounds, it signals that your commitment to diversity is genuine, and that progression in your company is a reality.
In short: Representation and role models across all levels of your organisation is crucial to show that you’re walking the walk in your attempts to recruit and develop diverse tech talent.
5. Collaborate with expert organisations who know how to recruit and retain diverse tech talent
You don’t have to navigate the path to diversity alone. Fortunately, many organisations specialise in helping companies build diverse tech teams.
Our very own programmes, for example, help individuals from underrepresented groups to return to the tech industry after career breaks. Our returners are 53% female and 62% people of colour, and often skew older than your average engineer in age. Our team are experts in helping people prepare for a return to tech and can help you with strategies to help your new engineers settle in and excel.
Consider becoming a hiring partner for coding bootcamps like Northcoders, a company that supports people switching careers into tech. This naturally increases diversity by allowing people from all walks of life to access the same opportunities, without the barriers of traditional education.
What about apprenticeships? If you still want your team members to hold a degree, consider partnering with a university for degree apprenticeships. Manchester Metropolitan University, for example, reports that its STEM apprenticeship courses skew 34% female. While not anywhere near equal, that figure is much better than the 17% of women which make up the STEM workforce in Europe.
In short: You don’t have to know everything straight away. By leveraging partnerships with expert companies, you tap into a pool of diverse tech talent eager to contribute their skills and perspectives to your team.
6. Increase retention by investing in development and progression
So, you’ve started to see real change happen and you’re successfully bringing diverse tech talent on board. That’s great!
It’s also just the first step. What’s just as important is consequently investing in their continuous development. In our latest research report in partnership with Sage, we found that 78% of women in tech believe organisations should provide more coaching and support.
- Are you going beyond the technical upskilling and including leadership training, and offering growth opportunities and shadowing?
- Have you got a mentorship programme in place for new or junior employees?
- Is there a clear progression plan for each department and regular meetings to take stock of progress?
The research is stark: neglect the training, upskilling, and progression of your employees, and they will leave you for another company that does.
In short: Training and progression programmes enhances individual skills, ensures diversity in your more senior roles, and will help with retention of your new diverse tech talent.
Are you ready to lead the way?
Becoming successful in your attempts to recruit and retain diverse tech talent isn’t just the right thing to do, it’s a strategic advantage:
Rethink your approach, broaden your recruitment strategies, listen to your team, diversify your leadership, collaborate with experts, and invest in continuous growth. The result? Happier employees, a better brand reputation, and importantly, more successful and profitable tech!
Want to learn how we can work together to help you recruit and retain diverse tech talent?