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DEI must lead the recruitment of young tech talent

Article by Kate Braner, Director of Content - General Assembly

Competition for talent in today’s labour market is fierce. As noted by the Spring Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) Labour Market Outlook, half of UK employers report that they have hard-to-fill vacancies, and almost two-thirds anticipate problems filling vacancies in the next six months. 

When it comes to attracting young talent specifically, recruitment challenges are compounded by a generational imperative for purpose–in both personal and professional capacities. For companies facing staffing challenges, building diversity, equity, and inclusion into their company policies and culture is essential for successful recruitment. According to a recent report by McKinsey, it can also be beneficial to their bottom line. Key amongst the findings in McKinsey’s, Diversity Wins: How inclusion matters is the revelation that the more diverse a company–in terms of gender, ethnicity, and culture–the more likely they are to outperform less diverse peers financially. In fact, one-third of companies that improved DEI efforts over the past five years are now financially outperforming their industry peers, the report revealed.

Yet the tech sector in the UK lags behind on inclusiveness. Consider that the proportion of females in leadership roles at tech companies was less than 1%. A total of 46% of Black employees at UK firms intend to quit their current place of work in the next two years or sooner, compared to 34% of White professionals, according to a recent report by Coqual. For Black women, the figure is even higher, at 52%

Companies can take steps toward creating better inclusion by rethinking their recruitment tactics, and committing to ongoing career development, building greater diverse representation and inclusion into every step along the way. Here are four steps companies can take today to ensure they are attracting and retaining more diverse talent. 

Step 1: Simplify and streamline job descriptions
When it comes to job descriptions, be concise. Rather than relying on a long list of desired skills and attributes that may not be tailored to a specific role, take the time to craft a job description that succinctly and accurately represents what you need. Although this step can take longer than posting a generic listing, it will save HR teams time in the long run by increasing the possibility for a good match. 

Step 2: Consider the importance of soft skills
Prioritising school degrees over soft skills and non-traditional paths into the workforce can be limiting for employers. Not only can this rigid mentality cause your talent pool to be smaller than necessary, it can mean missing an opportunity to connect with an ideal candidate. Black, Latinx, and Female candidates are often among the population of workers who gain skills in untraditional ways, such as attending career enhancement programs at institutions like General Assembly. In screening processes, consider asking candidates about their skills rather than their schooling to get a true sense of their capabilities.  

Step 3: Leverage reskilling to retain talent
Maximise the potential of your workforce and minimise recruitment exhaustion for your HR team by investing in your existing employees. When open roles arise in your company, consider not only hiring from within, but reskilling or upskilling any current employees who may be interested in growing into a new role. When you cultivate talents and skills in existing employees, you signal that you are invested in helping your employees grow. This approach is particularly beneficial for under-resourced populations. For example, in their partnership with Guardian Life, General Assembly successfully reskilled employees in customer operations to become software engineers. Alongside career development initiatives, consider creating or enhancing your programs related to mentoring and networking. For employees who come from under-served communities, these measures signify that you consider them a worthwhile investment.  

Step 4: Cultivate community collaboration
Investigate opportunities for collaboration with organisations in your community where there can be mutual benefit. In the community reskilling model, favoured by partners like General Assembly, non-traditional job candidates from underserved communities are offered training and job opportunities that may have been less accessible to them under typical circumstances.

This type of collaboration not only strengthens the talent pool and relationships with the community, but creates specific opportunities for candidates who are often left behind in the traditional hiring process. General Assembly has had great success in Louisville, Buffalo, and Atlanta with reskilling initiatives in collaboration with Microsoft, ACB,  M&T Bank, and Interapt. 

If a total reskilling program is too hefty of an investment, think of other ways you can access a diverse pool of talent. For example, General Assembly partners with companies like Google, Uber, Amazon, and Facebook to provide access to graduates of their immersive programs.

New times, new measures
Although it doesn’t take much to refine job descriptions, re-evaluate educational requirements, provide opportunities for existing employees to grow their careers and professional networks, and work with the community to make sure that candidates from underserved areas have opportunities to enter the workforce, many companies are intimidated by change. In light of today’s dwindling talent pool and increasing need for tech talent, though, the companies that invest in inclusivity are investing in more workforce security and financial stability. 

    Kate Braner is the Director of Content and Events for General Assembly. She has over 10 years of experience working with enterprise businesses to help them meet digital transformation head-on. She has a deep passion for diversity, equity and inclusion in the workplace.

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