More than 60% of firms have lost diverse tech talent

A large number of firms are struggling to keep diverse talent, with more than half saying it isn’t easy to retain diverse tech employees, according to Wiley Edge.

The training provider’s Diversity in tech 2023 report found that 64% of firms in the UK have lost tech talent from diverse backgrounds, with only 13% of businesses claiming to have no issues with diversity at all.

Many firms even said their diversity and inclusion initiatives are going well, according to the opinion of three-quarters of businesses asked, but retention is often overlooked as part of diversity and inclusion plans.

Becs Roycroft, vice-president of global emerging talent and client operations at Wiley Edge, said: “While it is encouraging to see that the majority of businesses are taking steps to minimise their diversity shortcomings, it’s clear that greater education is needed to reduce misconceptions around what diverse employees expect from their working environment.

“A significant number of businesses think their current initiatives are successful, yet many employees report feeling uncomfortable while carrying out their roles. The fundamental purpose of DEI strategies is to ensure that every employee feels valued.

“Therefore, it is essential that companies adopt anti-bias hiring strategies, diversity and inclusion training for all members of staff, and source employees from underrepresented groups to increase workplace inclusivity.”

As Roycroft stated, there are many ways employers can work towards making organisations more inclusive so those who are from diverse backgrounds are happy at work and stay in their roles, but it’s common for firms to focus more on attraction than retention, resulting in them losing tech talent.

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Younger tech professionals are especially uncomfortable in the sector, something Wiley Edge has noted before.

Its recent report found that 60% of Gen Z tech workers, those born between 1996 and 2010, have felt uncomfortable in a job because of their diverse background, whether that be their gender, ethnicity, a disability, socio-economic background, neurodivergence or a combination of these.

Around a quarter of these young people said this discomfort was caused by biased managers, while 31% said they just never developed a sense of belonging in their roles.

The battle for a diverse tech workforce has been ongoing for some time, and because of a lack of talent leaving firms all searching in the same small pool for those with the skills for particular roles, many have speculated that hiring diverse talent outside of the usual hiring pool would actually help to tackle the UK’s tech skills shortage.

Firms are aware it’s something they need to work on, but it isn’t easy – 13% admitted to having a lack of diversity in their firms but didn’t know how to fix it, while 11% claimed to have “resolved” their lack of diversity, and 10% said they have never had issues.

When it comes to the representation of diverse groups in the sector, 40% of firms said they lack gender diversity in their tech teams, 41% said the same of ethnic diversity, 31% of neurodiversity and 34% lack people from different socio-economic backgrounds. However, 21% have no plans to fix these issues, despite being fully aware of where they are lacking.

There are some making an effort to address the problem, with 42% saying they are working towards achieving better diversity.

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While D&I initiatives used to be seen as the right thing to do, firms are now starting to see the commercial benefits of having a diverse workforce – almost half of firms are hoping opening up to D&I will expand their pool of available talent.

Many are also hoping increased diversity and inclusion will in turn increase productivity and customer service, and to attract diverse talent firms are implementing initiatives such as offering more benefits including flexible working, as well as trying to find different places to advertise their open roles.

But much like technology innovation itself, diversity and inclusion initiatives are threatened by the current economic climate, as more than half of firms admitted costs and uncertainty are slowing D&I initiatives, causing a pause on tech recruitment, and putting remote working roles at risk of redundancies.

Without an ongoing plan to tackle internal issues preventing the hiring and retention of diverse talent, it’s unlikely firms will see their tech teams gain equity any time soon.

Roycroft said: “Upscaling DEI strategies should never be viewed as a box-ticking exercise. Effective policies have a direct link with employee retention, and failing to implement policies that align with employees’ values risks losing the innovation, creativity and efficiency that a diverse workforce encourages. Equally, it can be difficult to find tech talent of the same calibre once employees depart.”

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