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a diverse group of IT workers chats

A practical approach to hiring diverse talent in tech

July 20, 2017

By Franklin Reed

Google struggles to recruit diverse IT talent. So does Facebook. That doesn’t mean you’re off the hook.

While a slew of tech titans have made public commitments to improving the diversity of their hiring and leadership teams, they’ve struggled to make any meaningful movement.  

Google and Facebook struggle to attract diverse tech talent

This isn’t an easy problem to solve, in large part because of the pace of tech. When busy IT managers need to hire, they typically need a skilled worker to plug a hole immediately. They’re also too time-crunched to learn diversity hiring best practices, never mind act on them. But whether you’re building a diverse workforce for the well-documented financial rewards, innovation boost or just because it’s the right thing to do, know that it’s possible to make progress. The pipeline exists if you know how to tap it.     

4 tips for hiring diverse IT talent

1. Forget your existing network and your job descriptions

Your current employees and hiring places are only going to bring you people like them, and you’ll overlook lots of extraordinary—and diverse—talent. Ask your managers to rethink what kind of person can succeed in their role, and widen the job description to reflect that. Does a person really need a degree from Stanford and five years of experience in a specific tool to nail your job?

Post your positions more broadly, too. Consider HBCUs, women’s associations, veterans and military spouses organizations, disability boards and other diverse professional groups.

2. Get realistic about your actual pipeline

If you’re focusing on hiring programmers in a market with a small pipeline, you’re going to have a hard time. Trying to hire female network engineers in a city where there are very few is just going to lead to disappointment. Dig in a little to find out what candidates are available in your market. Not sure how to do this? We can help.

Post jobs on HBCUs, women's associations, veterans and military spouses groups and other diverse professional organizations

The local presence of user groups, boot camps or professional associations that support diverse IT  professionals is a good clue. For instance, if your region has a chapter of the Black Data Processing Associates or Women in Technology International, you might consider focusing on hiring black or female data scientists.

3. Give your managers time

One thing we’ve learned while helping many companies address their diversity goals: It takes a bit of extra time. A recruiter drawing from the usual well of candidates is going to get you a faster hire, but is unlikely to find you diverse candidates. It takes time for a recruiter to reach out to professional associations and ask around for referrals.

We’ve had the most success in helping companies address diversity goals when they seek our guidance about the availability of diverse candidates in their markets, focus on the right role and then give exclusive requisitions that allow our recruiters the time to cast a wider net.

Broaden your existing network

4. Manage expectations

We’ve seen that high-performing organizations—the ones that have diversity hiring figured out—are able to improve their numbers about 2 percent every year. Those low numbers can discourage leaders, making them think their investments aren’t paying off.

Building a diverse organization will take time and serious investment. The first years will be slow going, but expect to pick up steam if you build an inclusive environment that diverse talent wants to be a part of. Make sure to celebrate your wins along the way.

Need help meeting your organization’s diversity goals? We’re happy to share our expertise and data for your market. Email me at freed@teksystems.com.

Franklin Reed is the director of diversity and inclusion for TEKsystems. He advises top companies, including Fortune 50 enterprises, in workplace inclusion programs and IT diversity hiring.  

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