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Diversity, inclusion essential to fill IT industry skills gap

By Shannon Williams
Wed 27 Jul 2022

Some 45% of IT businesses say they are struggling to fill positions, according to a new survey from job board and recruitment firm Monster.
 
This follows findings in the first part of Monster's multipart Future of Work survey released in April into the growing challenge of finding the right candidates. That survey found that hiring plans are up while skill shortages are greater. 87% ofsurveyed companies say they're finding it hard to fill positions, with a third feeling the skills gap is widening. 

According to the survey, companies say that recruiters have to search harder and wider for talent, unlocking untapped potential to fill the skills gap.

Almost two-thirds of employees (62%) would turn down a job offer if it came from an organisation with a culture that didn't support diversity. 

For the second part of its Future of Work survey, undertaken in conjunction with independent research firm Dynata, Monster asked over 3,000 recruitment, talent acquisition, and HR professionals about their views on the importance of embracing difference in order to attract talent. 

Effective DEI

"The world of recruitment, like the rest of society, has faced a reckoning in recent years with diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) pushed to the fore," says Claire Barnes, Monster's chief human capital officer, commented. 

"Our survey found that nearly a quarter of organisations already include diversity, equity and inclusion in recruitment practices. In addition, 30% are seeking to encourage greater diversity in leadership positions," she says.

"But diversity isn't what you say; it's about what you do so it's encouraging to see that 40% of businesses are building DEI into recruitment processes and strategies. 

"It isn't just the right thing to do ethically it benefits the company, the workforce, and the communities we operate in. Its an ongoing task, and companies recognise they have more to do," says Barnes.

"However, it's concerning that just 19% of employers have strategies to engage the neurodiverse. It's an area that needs focus and action for employers, or they risk missing out on those with unique talents."

Monster defines effective diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) policies as taking active steps to ensure that people with different ethnicities, genders, abilities, cultures and personalities have representation, opportunity and support in the face of historical and structural bias.

"Diversity, equity and inclusion isn't about box-ticking," says Barnes. 

"Rather, it is about delivering transparent and meaningful change that embraces all workers to make them feel an essential part of an organisation."

The survey finds that many organisations are ensuring they communicate HR policies on inclusiveness, so that applicants can understand the culture of a potential new workplace even before they consider applying for a role. According to the research, globally, 86% of employees consider diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) critically important.  Employers are taking the hint, with 45% believing that building a diverse workforce is a priority to retain existing talent and attract new employees.

Some 63% of recruiters say they sometimes fail to fill roles because of skills shortages and 24% say it happens often. The skills gap is most acute in IT, healthcare finance and banking, retail, construction, leisure and hospitality, and automotive.

The hard skills most in demand are IT, operations, strategic planning and computer skills, while the soft skills most in demand are communication, teamwork, problem-solving and flexibility.

DEI a source of competitive advantage

DEI isn't an optional extra but a crucial part of being a modern business, the survey claims. Some 40% of organisations surveyed said that candidates expect more than ever to learn about a company's plans to become more diverse, while 70% expect companies to be open about the diversity of their workforce. Recruiters are increasingly recognising that DEI is a factor in attracting the right talent and that the talent wants to know about a company's DEI efforts.

The survey found that organisations that prioritise DEI use this as a mechanism to attract talent and fill the skills gap. However, only 8% of employers say DEI initiatives are in the top three changes they are making to attract new employees, although this may also reflect that they feel they already have robust processes in place.

Survey findings include:

Making inclusivity a priority
For Gen Z, Millennials, and even Gen X, an organisations approach to DEI is critical to attracting new hires and retaining existing talent, the survey found.  To them, equality and diversity are as important as reward and recognition. In a post-COVID world, communicating authentic company culture is critical.

Some 47% of Gen Z recruiters told Monster that more candidates than ever expect to learn about a company's DEI efforts while 32% of younger candidates (18-24) ranked gender DEI initiatives, gender pay equity and proactive response to social issues as becoming increasingly important to them.  

Organisations are beginning to understand that differences are not necessarily negatives and are starting to value a diverse range of views and voices, from people with disabilities of whom only half are in work, including neurodiverse people (for example autism only 22% of autistic adults in the UK are in any kind of employment), says the report. However, currently only 19% of businesses in the UK say they have a DEI programme that includes neurodiversity.

Is industry doing enough?
Monster asked businesses whether they already have diversity and inclusion programmes specifically for neurodivergent staff. 
 
Medium sized businesses were the best prepared, with 25% already having a programme in place, followed by large businesses on 23%.  This may reflect that large businesses are aware of it as an issue but are less agile in their response. Small businesses have a long way to go to catch up; around half as many small businesses (12%) have neurodivergent inclusive programmes.

"Overall, we're encouraged to see that employers are making changes to create a positive working environment that recognises and rewards differences, because, in the end, we all benefit," says Barnes.

"Our survey shows that an open and accepting culture, and the policies to back it up, are critical to attracting the best talent."

Monster recommends that to create an open and welcoming workplace for neurodivergent workers organisations should:

  • Take time to understand any specific needs. During your recruit's induction week, take time to sit down and find out what their needs and difficulties are. Treat these as a benefit, not a burden.
  • Apply to the "Access to Work" scheme. Employers can access grant funding to support disabled people starting or staying at work.
  • Be flexible and ready to adapt. Employers who are flexible and prepared to adapt are more likely to experience the benefits of a neurodiverse workforce.

Monsters Top Tips for making DEI a priority in recruitment are:- 

  • Start by looking inward: Listen to your staff and learn from their experiences. Use data to spot trends, but don't stop there. Use the lived experience of colleagues to help you shape DEI policies and set priorities. 
  • Create more inclusive job descriptions: Writing job adverts that focus on skills, attitude, and approach is critical to engaging talent. Don't revert to cliche, but create job descriptions that engage and inspire applications from those with the skills to succeed.
  • Highlight commitment to DEI: If you're doing great things, let people know. Your stance on DEI is a source of competitive advantage, so use it. Publicise benefits, policies and processes that show what you're doing.
  • Be transparent: Employees want to know you're making progress, so be transparent with successes and highlight challenges. Every organisation can and should do more.
  •  Audit the hiring process: Diversity isn't what you say but what you do so ensure inclusive hiring processes are embedded at every level. From the application to the interview, your staff should recognise and respect differences.
  • Revitalise the talent pipeline:  Engage with new groups, advertise in new places, or work with experts to find candidates with the skills you need.
  • Don't stop at inclusive hiring: Companies serious about DEI ensure there's support at every step for new hires and existing staff. Leadership and development programmes support underrepresented talent from early career entrants to the boardroom. Staff should be free to share their views, and employers must listen to their voices.
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