Diverse Hiring in Tech - What Next?

I was recently lucky enough to be asked to participate with a webinar with the Tech Talent Charter (TTC), the topic being ‘What next for diverse hiring?’, with a large focus being on some of the findings of the TTC’s recent Diversity in Tech report which revealed that a lot of organisations are doing great work in attracting diverse talent, but that a lot are already using the same methods as each other. The questions posed to me centred around what steps can organisations now take to make a difference to the diversity of their technology workforce, especially now that the basics have been achieved for the most part.

In case you are not aware of the Tech Talent Charter, they were conceived in 2015 to address the UK’s tech talent shortage and diversity problem through collective action. The Tech Talent Charter brings together 700+ signatory organisations annually and equips them with the networks and resources to drive their diversity and inclusion efforts.

Examining the technology candidate market

When talking about diversity in recruitment it is always important to consider the context in which we are currently operating and in the middle of 2023, we are certainly operating in an interesting backdrop of layoffs, talent shortages, cost of living challenges and the desire for hybrid working – All of which makes my role at Lorien exceptionally interesting!

From my viewpoint, we currently have 2 ‘battlegrounds’ in the technology candidate market, through which talent diversity is battling for attention. The first one is around candidate salaries.

ONS data tells us that within the UK we have 76% of the population in employment and 4% unemployment, historically strong numbers. Job vacancies sit at just over 1 million (although have been dropping for 11 straight quarters). Growth in pay sits at around 7%, however when adjusted for inflation growth in pay has fallen by around 1% year on year - We all know this – We are feeling poorer! When candidates are feeling the pinch, sometimes the natural thing to do it look for a new role with a higher salary. The data from some of Lorien’s research ‘What Tech Candidates Want’ backs this up. We found that 83% of candidates surveyed will be looking for a new role in the next 12 months, and 40% of these (the majority) were looking for a new role to improve their salary.

Why does this cause a challenge? Because organisations are uncertain of the future economy and because they spent more than expected on hiring in 2022.

In summary candidates are looking to move for increased salaries due to the cost-of-living crisis, and organisations are reluctant to break budgets for a 2nd consecutive year in order to make compelling offers due to the uncertain economy.

Clashes over work location

In 2020 and 2021, we largely had no choice about where we worked, we had to be at home. Last year in 2022, organisations were still finding their feet with hybrid working, and now in 2023 I think it would be fair to say that a lot of organisations are moving more towards employees spending more time in the office (not full-time I must stress as this is still largely unusual) but more towards mandated office days versus people picking and choosing when they want to go to an office.

Unfortunately, data shows us that this is not something that the tech workforce want. In our What Tech Candidates Want study, we found that less than 5% of all candidates want to be in the office full-time, and only 35% want to be in the office 1-2 days per week with 55% of candidates wanting to be fully remote.

The second reason candidates want to move roles behind salary is to look for increased flexible working – however organisations are moving in the opposite direction.

These two clashes are why I think the hiring market is as strange as it is currently.

Diversity within tech recruitment

When the Tech Talent Charter surveyed signatories last year, it was pleasing to see that lots of their members have adopted some good practice, for example, using gender de-bias software for job adverts and understanding the importance of diverse job boards and networks. What else could be considered ‘bread and butter’ practice from a diverse hiring perspective? This obviously differs across organisations, but across Lorien’s client base I would typically see:

  • A commitment from leadership that diversity & inclusion is a genuine priority for the organisation
  • From a legal standpoint, policies and procedures that prevent bias and discrimination in all aspects of employment are in place
  • Data really is essential as a starting point for an organisation to be able to measure its progress. As a starting point, this can be just knowing what the make-up of your workforce is today vs the same time last year
  • Most organisations at this stage also have E,D&I steering groups to help support people and also impact on organisation culture and policy

From a more tactical day to day perspective, typical practice that we see from a hiring perspective are:

  • Inclusive job descriptions, using decoders or similar tech to neutralise any non-inclusive language
  • Good recruiters challenging and consulting with hiring managers to determine the must have skills from the simply desirable skills
  • Good recruiters using a wide range of candidate sources including specialist job boards and platforms
  • Flexible working policies and the promotion of these. We found in our What Tech Candidates Want survey that women prioritised flexible working most on a job specification with 37% saying that flexible working practices on a job description are the most important thing that they look for
  • More and more organisations are working with upskilling & reskilling firms to create new tech talent from non-traditional backgrounds
  • At the interview stage, we see organisations asking for and making adjustments for candidates at interview that need them
  • We are also seeing standardised consistent questioning to enable evidence-based questioning
  • More organisations have also invested in training for hiring managers, recruiters, and stakeholders on topics such as unconscious bias

Actions to be taken

With these being broadly the well-established actions that organisations are carrying out to help aid diversity in hiring, there are a whole host of less common practices that can make a difference. Including:

  • Salary visibility in job posting can make a big difference. In our What Tech Candidates Want survey, 74% of women said that a salary being visible on a job posting made them much more likely to apply for a role, and 70% of men said the same thing. A Tech Talent Charter survey found similar results with over 50% of women more likely to apply for a role if a salary is on the job advert
  • An audit of your Employee Value Proposition (EVP) can improve the pace of change. It is crucial for an organisations, E, D&I goals, career paths, personal development and mentoring schemes to be visible on all hiring material. If you are a great place to work for talent – Shout about it
  • Anonymous CVs or application processes have been successful in reducing unconscious biases and aiming to measure candidates purely on skills, experience, and qualifications rather than by identifying information
  • The single biggest impactful action we have seen across our client base has been through ensuring diverse representation at interview stage. This doesn’t always have to be that connection in the interview process, this can be an informal connection at any time through the process

There are huge benefits and improvements that can be made beyond the initial attraction and selection process and into offer management & onboarding. There are some really simple steps to make a difference including:

  • Ensuring offer information and paperwork is easily accessible by removing jargon and using simple language
  • Taking the time to talk through benefits packages with candidates. In particular medical benefits (your approach to pre-existing conditions may be key information)
  • Sharing pre-start materials such as organisation charts and welcome packs to candidates pre-start to encourage belonging and transparency
  • Ensuring specific requirements and adjustments are catered for in equipment, seating arrangements etc
  • Every organisation has its own acronyms, share these with new starters in advance

One thing that is really important throughout the whole of recruitment is making sure that you gather feedback. Feedback from candidates, feedback from hiring managers. Continually gathering feedback and attempting to make improvements to what you do is the most consistent way to keep up the pace and make the biggest difference to your organisation from a diversity perspective.

Of course, none of this is easy, and roadblocks are commonplace when attempting to drive meaningful change. The first way to mitigate any roadblocks is to ensure that your organisations senior leadership is fully committed to ED&I. This support helps establish a clear direction and provides a foundation for addressing pushback to any process changes.

It’s important to enrol hiring managers and teams into the process rather than having them feel as though this is something that is being enforced on them. A good way to do this is through collaborating with hiring managers to develop inclusive recruitment strategies and processes. Seek their input and address any concerns or misconceptions they may have. Engage them in diversity and inclusion initiatives, such as participating in diversity recruitment events or serving as mentors.

What you can do

Education has got a huge part to play in setting up for success, conducting awareness-building sessions, training, and workshops to help hiring managers understand processes and requirements related to diversity and inclusion. Equip hiring managers with the necessary tools, resources, and training to overcome biases and make objective and inclusive hiring decisions.

Something I’ve not seen a lot of but that is very helpful in pre-emptively removing roadblocks is in showcasing success stories. Share success stories and examples of how diversity and inclusion efforts have positively impacted the organization. Highlight specific instances where diverse teams have achieved exceptional results or innovative solutions and the kudos team members have received for this.

Of course, appearing in the webinar and writing this blog for Lorien means that it would be inappropriate for me to not talk about how to ensure that your recruitment teams (internal & external) are engaging in best practice. Some way in which I recommend organisations do this is through:

  • Clearly communicating your organisation’s commitment to diversity and inclusion to recruiters. Provide recruiters with a clear understanding of the inclusive practices you expect them to follow throughout the recruitment process and what your expectations of what a diverse candidate pipeline looks like
  • Before engaging with external recruiters, conduct a thorough approval process. Evaluate their track record and reputation regarding diversity and inclusion. Look for evidence of their commitment to diverse placements and inclusive practices
  • Request regular progress updates from recruiters regarding the diversity and inclusion efforts in their candidate searches. Ask for data on the representation of underrepresented groups in the candidate pool and the steps taken to engage diverse talent
  • Set up reporting mechanisms that require recruiters to provide data on their diversity and inclusion efforts and outcomes
  • Regularly review and evaluate the performance of recruiters based on their adherence to diversity and inclusion best practices

A classic request of the Tech Talent Charter is to recommend actionable change that can be done in 3 days, 3 weeks and 3 months. I didn’t escape this question either and here are my thoughts and recommendations:

3 days

Check your offer and onboarding paperwork. Where possible remove jargon, include simple language. Make sure benefits packages are clearly understood, include welcome packs giving as much detail as possible to your organisation.

3 weeks

Make sure your current external recruitment partners are operating best practice in line with your expectations.

3 months:

Implement diverse interview panels, avoiding tokenism, and remember that this doesn’t need to be a formal interview, just the offer of a touchpoint throughout the process. Depending on what the individual candidate wants.

 

I know that this has been closer to a dissertation than a blog, but I hope that it is helpful to some of you out there. Once again, a huge thank you to Karen Blake & the Tech Talent Charter for inviting me to take part in the webinar discussion.

Should you want to discuss diverse hiring in more detail or simply want to continue the conversation further, please contact me at solutions@lorienglobal.com.

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