5 tips for hiring and onboarding diverse tech talent

Feb 16, 2021 | Diversity

By Ben Triggs, Marketing Director at Bright Network

The technology sector is one of the least diverse in the UK. With only one in five of tech professionals in the UK being women and 3% of tech workers in London being black, we’re not benefiting from diversity of thought within the industry.

More generally, there’s a shortage of talent which, if not solved, will have a material cost on the UK economy – recent analysis from Accenture showed that a lack of digital skills could cost £141 billion over this decade.

There’s a unique opportunity to be a leading force for change in graduate recruitment.

There are two primary goals. Firstly, to support the effort to upskill students to become digitally enabled. A recent survey by Bright Network Talent Tracker found that 72% of current students don’t feel they have adequate digital skills to enter the world of work. The second is to make sure we’re all taking steps to make technology roles more accessible and the teams feel more inclusive.

Based on our latest research, here are five things to think about when thinking about your wider strategies for hiring junior technology talent.


1. Build an inclusive culture around exciting work

From our latest research focused on 1,315 STEM students and recent graduates, almost two-thirds said they valued tech roles at companies which gave them exciting projects (46% said this was most important) and an inclusive culture (20%). When thinking about marketing graduate roles in the tech space, graduates want to know about innovative projects and how they will be involved with them.

Showing how teams work collaboratively, but also encouraging ideas from all, will support your diversity strategy.

Some technology businesses worry about a current lack of diversity and are shying away from having conversations about it. This approach is less likely to drive change – accepting that the current situation isn’t right, looking at how you want to shift your culture and being open to graduates about encouraging more diversity of thought is much more likely to serve you well. You want incoming graduates to feel like they will be part of the change, enabling faster progress.


2. Do graduates need formal previous experience?

When asked about the key challenges they face in getting into the technology sector, 40% of students said a major issue is lack of previous experience. This statistic is even higher when looking at women and those educated at a non-selective state school.

The impression amongst future tech talent is that lack of formal work experience will seriously hinder them from getting into the industry. From my experience, that’s just not the case – of course, being proactive at university is highly important but many employers are focused more on potential, rather than experience. However, this message isn’t getting through and students are being put off from applying to these roles.

To shift the dial, we need to make an extra effort to ensure we’re communicating what is required of recent graduates and implementing that into the hiring processes.


3. Upskilling is key

Supporting students through university is becoming increasingly key to attraction and diversity strategies; whilst also providing businesses with more engaged and prepared graduates from day one.

The majority of our members believe that upskilling should be carried out by employers and the need for this is higher than ever. Not only does upskilling broaden the pool of talent going into technology, but it also inspires confidence amongst graduates – something which is currently at an all-time low.

We’re not developing our young people well enough to be able to fill the jobs of the future. The pandemic has sped up digital transformation, but that means there’s more onus on universities, employers and the new Bright Network Technology Academy to move with the times and enhance their upskilling offerings.

It may feel like a burden for employers, but it comes with a huge upside; most notably having wider pools of talent to select from and gaining positive brand recognition, which will further enhance your attraction efforts.


4. Role models are important

Across all sectors, our research has shown that a lack of role models in an industry or organisation is likely to put people off applying. Students want to learn from and be inspired by people who are like them.

Being part of career events, offering mentorship and upskilling are good ways to show off that culture and inspire the younger generation, but it’s also important to get employees from all levels bought into the mission around diversity and junior talent.

The narrative around inclusion needs to be wide reaching across the business and role models play such an important part in increasing confidence amongst female graduates especially. They are much more likely to believe that the technology sector isn’t for them and there are proactive steps everyone needs to take to ensure this isn’t the case.


5. Business-minded technology graduates

Graduates coming out of university are starting to view their careers in technology slightly differently than before. The research highlighted a significant increase in graduates who want to be customer or client facing (56% of all STEM graduates interested in tech roles).

This may not be realistic in all roles – software developer roles for instance will largely remain an internal function of the business – but this does emphasise a wider point about the next generation.

Many want to understand the business, the commercial landscape of the company and how they develop skills around entrepreneurship. Positioning your roles in a way that can facilitate this thinking will have a two-sided positive effect. Firstly, you’ll have more graduates interested in your roles and likely to stay in the company longer because they are getting the entrepreneurial opportunities they want. Secondly, they will feel empowered to be problem solvers, spending time on key challenges the company will face in the rapidly changing digital space.

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