The war for talent is well-known, but never has this war been so fiercely contested, especially in the technology market. There are expected to be over 1 million tech vacancies by 2020, while the cost to the UK economy over the next decade could be £141 billion in GDP growth.
One of the ways firms are trying to combat this talent shortage is by diversifying the workforce. It’s an uncomfortable truth that the technology sector still isn’t utilising a wide enough talent pool. Currently only 19% of workers are women, and 15% are BAME.
Companies of all sizes are making a big push to address this balance, especially when they see the impact this can have from a financial standpoint as well as cultural. For example, companies in the top quartile for racial and ethnic diversity are 35% more likely to financially outperform industry medians.
With technology in particular, I believe that it’s industry specialists who are best equipped to help businesses diversify their workforce. I’ve spent too many years in recruitment to mention, and the days of supporting clients by solely sending CVs are long gone!
Value-add services and solutions are crucial and one of the reasons I joined Lorien recently is that they have an incredible commitment to helping the tech industry from a Diversity & Inclusion perspective.
At Lorien, we accept there’s no silver bullet solution, but every member of the Senior Leadership Team (myself included) believes that incremental improvements can be made, which can have a meaningful impact.
As an example, currently we manage all permanent tech recruitment for a Professional Services client, and I was thrilled to learn that the percentage of female hires made last year was 38% - against an industry average of 19%.
With this in mind, I thought it would be useful to highlight a few of the things Lorien does that can really help businesses with their D&I programmes.
The first interaction with your brand can often be make or break. Many businesses are aware of this from a B2B or B2C point of view, but don’t always apply this logic when marketing their vacancies. Presenting your roles in the right way, via the right channels, is a big factor in attracting a diverse candidate pipeline.
At Lorien, we place a huge emphasis on the language used in job adverts, ensuring it’s as inclusive as possible. We also have access to digital proofing tools which help with this, reducing unconscious bias affecting the process.
Our aim is to focus on the mandatory skills needed and ensure we share key outputs of a successful candidate. This practice certainly helps increase the number of women applying for our clients’ roles – as research suggests that, compared to men, we women are more likely to screen ourselves out of roles if we don’t feel 100% qualified.
It’s also important to consider using non-traditional, community specific channels to advertise your jobs. Examples include www.pink-jobs.com for LGBTQ+ candidates, www.evenbreak.co.uk for candidates with disabilities, or www.wherewomenwork.com for female candidates
The initial process of shortlisting applications has a huge impact over the shape of the talent pipeline. With AI tools now available for this, any potential unconscious bias can be eliminated, as well as the administrative burden. It’s important you don’t rely on solely on this though, as AI tools are not yet 100% guaranteed to be bias-free.
Another option which we have delivered for some of our clients is the use of ‘name blind’ CVs. Positive effects from ‘name blind’ CVs are often experienced at the short-listing stage but there continues to be a need for reducing bias at the interview stage, where there are significant benefits in a decision being taken by multiple stakeholders rather than one person. You could use two interviewers with different backgrounds and perspectives.
At many of our clients, we produce gender balanced shortlists for all senior roles, and are also responsible for ensuring a female interviewer is part of the process.
In addition, we can provide hiring managers with a comprehensive interviewing guide. This includes example questions to test for relevant capabilities. Some people still take decisions based purely on a ‘gut’ feeling, which leads to good candidates being missed. Competency based questions should be the first port of call, before deciding whether someone would be a good team fit.
People don’t just want a job; they want to thrive in an environment they feel comfortable in. Before I accepted the offer from Lorien I took time to make sure I was joining a business that encouraged me to be my best self. They have an incredibly open and supportive culture, and I found that out through the interview process where I met a number of individuals at all levels.
The sad fact is that many businesses actually have a supportive and inclusive culture, but perhaps aren’t so great at promoting it. It then takes them by surprise when they find out candidates may not accept an offer, or even worse, may decide not to apply in the first place because they are unaware of their culture.
Your careers website is your shop window, so make sure it promotes your culture properly. Test how accessible your website is for people with difficulties. It’s also good to focus on existing people that have taken a non-traditional career path, as this shows your business has room for different types of individuals. One of our most popular tools we build for specific clients to share with the talent communities are candidate insight packs. These are an effective way of communicating a business’ Employee Value Proposition.
Also remember to regularly benchmark your benefits package and showcase these on your website – people don’t just look at salaries and pension schemes anymore! Employees expect firms to be committed to their wellbeing and to offer benefits which are closely linked to helping them thrive at work. Examples include the Cycle to Work scheme, Technology/Car leasing options, Employee Assistance Programmes and financial wellbeing offerings.
Although not possible for everybody in every role, flexible working is becoming more and more the norm. Offering flexibility to candidates of all ages doesn’t just have the potential to bring more working parents into your business, but it can also improve overall retention rates at every level of your organisation, as we are now living and working very differently when compared to a few short years ago.
I’ve only been with Lorien for two weeks, but already their approach to supporting diversity and inclusivity across our internal workforce and on behalf of our MSP and RPO clients has shone through. Candidates today value this ethos more than many employers realise.
If you’re passionate about hiring the best and most diverse tech talent for your business, whether for a project, a managed service or full recruitment outsource, come and speak to me or my wonderful colleagues. We’ve also recently produced a best practice whitepaper - Diversity and Inclusion in Recruitment Strategy. How? What? Why? If you’d like to read this, you can click here or get in touch with me directly for a more in-depth conversation.