Retention is key to moving the needle, but where do you begin?
Feb. 9, 2023 | By Lauren Kolodrubetz, Executive Director of Marketplace Diversity Solutions and Franklin Reed, Executive Director, Global Inclusion, Diversity and Equity
In our last article, we discussed increasing diverse representation in IT through more equitable recruiting practices. Establishing a programmatic approach to foster diversity is imperative to transforming your workforce. But it’s only the beginning. Up next? Retention.
Increasing retention is the only way we’ll move the needle in establishing long-term change in the tech industry. When we create a work environment where all individuals feel a sense of belonging, regardless of their race, gender or sexual orientation, they’ll want to stay.
The Perception Predicament: The Real Deal about Workforce Diversity and Inclusion
Our Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in IT Report found that 96% of IT employees say that DEI is a priority at their company. In fact, decision-makers in IT say they spend, on average, one-third of their week on DEI strategies and programming. But something is missing, because underrepresented individuals in IT reported a lower percentage of belonging and satisfaction compared to their white or male counterparts.
There is a disconnect between perception and reality regarding inclusivity. For example, our research shows that women in IT are much less satisfied than their male counterparts. About half of women feel like they have growth opportunities at work (compared to 89% of men), and 58% of women report having a sense of belonging versus 85% of men.
Mistaking Equality for Equity in Workforce Development
We help companies build diverse and inclusive teams—from recruiting practices to retention programs. The most common misconception we hear from customers is, “Our solution to becoming a more diverse and inclusive organization is requiring our vendors to submit x% of diverse candidates.”
In theory, asking a vendor to submit equal percentages of candidates with different backgrounds makes sense. It seems like a simple and fair way to recruit diverse candidates. Until you consider the logistics. A recruiter cannot tell, with confidence, a person’s race or gender from a resume. If they know the customer is only focused on “hitting numbers,” a recruiter may scramble to check the “race” and “gender” boxes by profiling candidates based on their LinkedIn headshots. These kinds of behaviors reinforce discriminatory practices.
The intent is genuine, but the outcome is inequitable. Qualified candidates often get overlooked in this process because they do not check the proper boxes.
In case you missed it: equitable alternatives to recruiting diverse candidates can be found here.
Focus on People, Not Numbers: Retention Reboot
We use the previous example to demonstrate where we’re finding faux pas in focus. Focusing on the numbers and tracking data is important, but if there is no internal strategy to retain your new hires, then why spend so much extra effort recruiting them? Your retention strategy should be just as strong as your recruiting strategy. If your employees value their work culture and feel empowered to do their job in an inclusive environment, you will attract more diverse recruits.
Own Change: Address Inclusive Workplace Practices from Within
There is no quick fix to attracting, recruiting and retaining diverse candidates. Change comes from deep within an organization, and it takes time. It also takes an honest evaluation of where your company currently is with its DEI practices and where the stakeholders want it to be. Here are some ways to jump-start the process:
- Evaluate internal systems: Do you know the demographic makeup of your company? Do you know what your employees think about your current DEI practices? Get a pulse check. Send a survey that allows respondents to be anonymous. Encourage them to be honest and forthcoming.
- Invest in a team dedicated to DEI: Depending on the size of your company, maybe that’s a director. Or maybe it’s a team of three to 15+ individuals who are solely dedicated to creating an equitable place for all.
- Establish employee networks and resource groups: Employees are more productive when they have a sense of community, open communication and allies.
Future candidates and current employees sense authenticity. It is not enough just to talk about DEI efforts on your website. People want to be a part of an organization that values diverse voices, especially if they themselves identify with one of the groups who haven’t felt a consistent sense of belonging in the IT industry.
Executive Director of Marketplace Diversity Solutions
Executive Director of Inclusion, Diversity and Equity
Franklin Reed is the executive director of inclusion and diversity for TEKsystems. He advises top companies, including Fortune 500 enterprises, in workplace inclusion programs and IT diversity hiring.