Diversity & Inclusion, Recruiting, Talent

Why and How to Develop Diverse Tech Talent in a Post-COVID World

Although racial and gender disparities exist in a variety of industries, the tech world has shown persistent gaps within its ranks. According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), white men make up a larger majority of the tech industry than they do in the rest of the private sector, making it harder for people of color and women to gain a real foothold.

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Due to unprecedented job losses caused by COVID-19, there will be tens of thousands of workers looking for new opportunities. HR managers should take this time to reassess who and how they hire to look for opportunities to fix the diversity gap within their companies.

It’s high time for the tech community to step up and tackle its diversity problem head-on. As the Black Lives Matter movement remains important in the hearts and minds of many people around the globe, corporations in every industry are committing to building more diverse workforces.

Embrace the Current Opportunity for Increased Inclusion Efforts

The lack of a diverse workforce isn’t just a problem for individuals—it’s harmful to companies, too. According to a recent McKinsey & Company report, companies with more diverse leadership teams often have stronger financial returns than their competitors. More racially homogeneous companies, meanwhile, are more likely to make mistakes that could be avoided through diverse input.

Diversity has been shown to boost innovation, help remove unconscious bias, and give companies wider market awareness—all of which leads to better products and higher returns.

Another diversity and inclusion issue that’s important to hiring managers is international hiring practices. With H1-B visas currently suspended, there will be limited opportunities to find talented people who live in or are from other counties. Companies must start building healthy workforces that are made up of diverse American perspectives and backgrounds; these factors will produce better solutions for a better future.

How to Diversify Your Tech Talent Pool

It takes time, effort, and resources to expand and diversify your tech talent pipeline. The current cultural moment—from societal movements to COVID-driven employment disruptions—is a pivotal opportunity to put in the work. Follow the below steps to strengthen your inclusive hiring initiatives:

1. Partner with alternative training programs.

White males still dominate the college track for computer science. If that’s the only avenue you’re hiring from, you’re going to have trouble finding diverse talent in your candidate pool. Keep in mind that university educations are not always financially feasible, and college programs are not always accessible to women and people of color. When it comes to tech skills, many talented people can be self-taught or learn through alternative training programs.

Alternative training programs help people with different backgrounds and life experiences learn computer science skills. LaunchCode’s CoderGirl program, for instance, is a specialized free course that trains women in technical knowledge and job-readiness skills to ensure they’re ready to hit the ground running in the workforce. In addition, nontraditional students often have transferrable work experiences and soft skills that can help your company develop an innovative, agile mind-set, which will be necessary to compete in today’s business landscape.

2. Invest in employees without tech backgrounds.

Fostering a diverse workplace isn’t just about finding new talent; it’s also about developing the talent already within your ranks. People in different roles and with different experiences can provide unique perspectives when it comes to creative problem-solving.

Plug existing holes in your company by offering employees continuing education and upskilling opportunities. If someone shows an interest in learning tech skills, invest in his or her learning. There are a variety of software engineering programs specifically designed to help nontech employees become job-ready engineers in a matter of months.

3. Create professional development pathways to identify and retain top talent.

Your company may be holding employees back from advancement through issues with culture or training. However, you will never know what these barriers are until you investigate.

Interview skilled employees, and ask them how your company can provide more or better support for furthering their careers. Once you have that information, you can create an apprenticeship program that includes training for hard and soft skills and sets clear expectations and achievable goals for your employees. Make sure to coordinate frequent check-ins, offer encouragement, and provide regular feedback to keep employees engaged and satisfied on their career path.

4. Offer referral incentives.

Employee referral programs can help you connect with candidates you might otherwise never know. To maximize this talent pipeline, offer a larger incentive for referrals of people who are currently underrepresented in your workforce.

Not only will this help you create a more diverse employee base, but it will also ensure you’re following the law. Employment policies that are thought of as neutral can actually be harmful to protected classes; in those cases, they’re prohibited by the EEOC.

When a company has an inclusive environment that makes employees feel valued and respected, the benefits extend beyond employee satisfaction and retention. By making diversity a priority, you’re helping build a company that’s stronger and healthier and can truly compete post-COVID.

Crystal Crump is a positive influencer and change-maker who enjoys creating meaningful connections while driving business solutions. With a background in nonprofit fundraising, program, and relationship management, Crump understands the power of consensus to effect positive change. As the Managing Director of Company Relations at LaunchCode, she is dedicated to helping individuals gain access to technology careers and upward mobility by partnering with business leaders to achieve recruitment and workforce development initiatives.