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Seven Ways to Attract & Retain a Diverse IT Workforce
It’s a typical workday morning between the hours of 6 a.m. and 8 a.m. and a myriad of IT professionals are pouring into public- and private-sector organizations across the country. Some of these employees have been working throughout the weekend on bug fixes, software upgrades, mission-critical project deliverables, or beginning to formulate a plan to mitigate the help desk ticket that just arrived in their inbox.
Aside from the challenging work, most IT professionals are also dealing with a complex work environment: a boss that changes every couple of years, varying levels of stakeholder engagement, limited familiarity with the business environment, budgets that are constantly in flux, and - most obvious - colleagues that are mainly Caucasian or Asian, and overwhelmingly male.
In 2014 TechRepublic reported the diversity statistics of 10 major technology companies. Unfortunately, the commonality of these IT environments was that, on average, the IT workforce was made up of 70.9 percent male, and 84 percent of the employees were either Caucasian (56 percent) or Asian (28 percent).
However, while efforts since then are being made to evolve those demographics and increase diversity in the IT and STEM workforce, there’s also a shortage of STEM professionals. In fact, the STEM Initiative finds the U.S. ranked 27th in math and 20th in science in the ranking of 34 countries by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.
These lagging indicators would suggest the above-mentioned organizational statistics could not show as much improvement as needed, as African-American, Hispanic and female student populations are flat or in decline within STEM educational fields according to the National Math + Science Initiative, nms.org.
However, to compete now and in the future in the STEM fields, it’s imperative this changes, and that the attitude toward STEM changes among young students. As President Barack Obama said in March 2015, “Science is more than a school subject, or the periodic table, or the properties of waves. It is an approach to the world, a critical way to understand and explore and engage with the world, and then have the capacity to change that world.”
So, while the president and future administrations work on bolstering the K-12 STEM programs for our nation (as seen here on innovation.ed.gov/what-we-do/stem), what can individual IT leaders do today to attract a more diverse IT community?
Here are 7 quick, but powerful winning strategies:
1. Survey current IT employees about why they’re passionate about their profession. Celebrate these stories and successes throughout the company and your community.
2. Assess the top talent and identify their unique technical, business and leadership competencies, and ensure these competencies are highlighted within the existing and future IT job roles.
3. Create an incentive/recruiting plan for the female and minority IT leaders to help attract, recruit and retain a wide range of professionals.
4. Develop a formal mentor protégé program within your organization, utilizing female and minority IT leaders, as well as those in the majority demographic.
5. Provide employees with unique learning paths to reflect the needs of each IT professional and each IT profession.
6. Engage your local K-12 schools and colleges specializing in STEM with formal job fairs and internship programs.
7. Communicate and celebrate often the successes within the organization that demonstrate how diverse teams are generating winning results.
Most organizations today are closely analyzing the diversity of their internal and external customer base, and recognizing this diversity should be reflected within their IT employee base. Ekaterina Walter, Forbes contributor, cited that Forbes, McKinsey and Harvard have published reports citing how workforce diversity is:
• Becoming a key driver of internal innovation and business growth.
• Yielding higher earnings and returns on equity.
• Increasing and promoting creativity.
As organizations continue to embark on these more strategic Workforce Optimization efforts - aligning the specific needs of the business with workforce development strategies - HR, IT, L&D and business leaders will more frequently be able to attract and retain the right professionals, with the right skills and cultural attributes, to serve their diverse customer base with technical, emotional and cultural intelligence.
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