There is a glaring skills challenge facing the UK tech industry. It is the perennial concern of business leaders, with the most recent research from the Cloud Industry Forum stating that 52% of UK tech companies lack IT skills in at least one area of their business. The findings, based on interviews with senior IT business decision-makers, also predicted that the skills challenge is only going to increase in the future.
It is an obvious statement that these shortages stem from not having enough skilled people in the workforce. However, it is more complicated than this, and many in our industry compound the problem with poor awareness of diversity and inclusion.
Look at the tech industry workforce: It is overwhelmingly white and male and there is often an office culture that reinforces the prominence of this demographic in the workforce. If you have a skills shortage, it makes no sense to culturally exclude half the population. Every business needs to cast its net as wide as possible. Not only does this increase the skills gene pool, but it also has been shown that the more diverse arrangement of people there is in an organization, the more successful they will be in meeting the needs of their customers.
No hiring policy should limit a skilled employee from making a difference just because of the color of their skin, gender or belief.
Unintended biases can take hold in organizations. For example, it is often seen that tech businesses fall into the trap of reinforcing bias by appointing hiring managers from similar backgrounds and experiences, a process known as affinity bias. Most organizations, especially large ones, claim to be diverse and inclusive, but a simple glance at their board members can tell you how much of that is true. All this bias ultimately leads to the same result: hiring people for a less diverse and less effective workforce where most employees look, sound and think the same. What employees don’t realize is that a diverse workforce is ultimately more profitable and productive.
To ensure that your company is hiring a diverse workforce, HR decision-makers can opt for process changes that not only assist in screening applicants but also checks for inherent biases. Blind hiring also could be used, as it works by removing personal information (such as name, age or gender) from a resumé or CV during the assessment and selection process.
Lack of gender diversity is a problem area for tech companies across the globe. While it is a known fact that women are at par with men when it comes to skill sets, they are still less represented at managerial and boardroom positions. The situation is even worse for women of color.
Gender-diverse teams are on average more creative, innovative and, therefore, more profitable, and this should be an incentive enough for tech companies to hire and retain more women who can grow and take leadership opportunities. Another way you can address gender diversity in the workplace is by ensuring female representation on interview panels, adequate maternity schemes and an overall environment where everyone feels accepted and invited.
Another issue one may not consider is the use of certain language that can offend and even discourage women or members from LGBTQ backgrounds from applying for a role. For example, using words such as “aggressive,” “challenging” and “ambitious” in job descriptions have been shown to suggest more traditionally masculine cultures that discourage female and minority groups from applying.
Working in the IT industry myself, I understand the struggles and challenges of recruiting a skilled workforce, especially women. Having said that, I also understand that a diverse workforce is always good news, not just for the morale of the employees, but also for the overall office productivity. We must take proactive steps to close the skills gap in our industry because if this decline continues, it can have far-reaching consequences.
Understanding the gravity of the situation, it’s time we moved beyond half measures and took concrete steps in recruitment and retention in our IT workforce. Britain has long been a melting pot of cultures and to take advantage of this, IT organizations must curb implicit biases in hiring. All employees from all backgrounds should feel invited and respected for their skills and talent. Because as an industry, it’s all about embracing new ways of thinking, organizing and problem-solving.