Futureheads are a proud signatory of the Tech Talent Charter, which is committed to increasing the diversity of the technology workforce in the UK. As part of this, we have committed to promoting diversity and inclusion within our own business, as well as helping clients to consider how they can attract a more diverse applicant base to their business.

The Charter was founded with the belief that tech and digital talent is going to be critical to the UK economy in the future, and that a workforce which reflects the diverse communities that are represented across the UK will give us a competitive edge. The Charter focuses primarily on gender diversity and inclusion, although many of the points are relevant if you're thinking about class, ethnic, religious or age diversity as well.

There is no quick fix for creating and maintaining a truly diverse business, but reflecting critically on how you approach recruitment is a great way to better understand what you're doing well, and where you can improve. Here are four areas that can help your business recruit and retain a more diverse team, from the advertising stage, right through to the onboarding process and beyond.

Job Descriptions and Advertising

If you are in HR or Recruitment, writing job descriptions and adverts will feel like second nature, to the point where you may be able to write a job advert of description without having to think too much about the structure, or the words you are using. It's also pretty common that job descriptions are reused – sometimes for years at a time.

Following the same basic pattern every time is likely to attract the same profile. But what about the people who could be perfect, but don't apply because of a throwaway phrase you've been using for ages?

The Tech Talent Charter has some great suggestions for making your adverts and job descriptions more inclusive of a wider range of candidates:

Skills. It can be tempting to list off a very narrow list of specific technologies, coding languages etc, but by listing broader skills you can widen the pool of relevant people who will apply. For example, if someone hasn't worked with the exact combination of javascript frameworks you've listed, they may not apply – even if they are an accomplished front-end developer that would be able to adapt to your stack really quickly and add lots of value to the engineering team. It's also useful to emphasise that quick learners are also welcomed. This will show that you candidates are not expected to have every skill in the advert of the job description and it indicates an environment that encourages learning.

Training. Make sure you tell prospective candidates what the training and development opportunities are at the business. This helps applicants to envision what career paths could be open to them at your business, while further emphasising that you are willing to meet candidates who do not meet every requirement on the specification.

Words. Choose these carefully! For example, talking about looking for an expert or someone is the best in their field can deter candidates who may recognise that although they have great skills for the role, they may not want to justify being the best on the market. You could also consider phrases which suggest collaboration and creativity as they are more likely to attract a diverse response.

Interview Process

After you have screened your candidates and have a diverse list of candidates to meet face to face, it’s important to consider the interview process and whether your process will appeal to diverse candidates.

One thing to consider is having a greater visibility of women during the interview process. Recent research from Women Who Code suggests that it is much easier for any candidate to feel like they can fit into a company if they see people like themselves already in the organisation.

Once you have opened the interview process and are including more internal employees in interviews, it is important that you take steps to cut out any inherent bias in the process. You can do this by ensuring that your selection criteria is agreed on upfront, and understood by everyone involved to ensure each candidate is assessed only on their skills and match to the role.

During the process, female candidates typically need more information before committing to an interview or job offer. Make sure you are able to provide the time to answer all their questions about the role and your business and give them the time to reach a decision without pressuring them.

Company Culture and Benefits

Culture is important to everyone– we all want to enjoy going to work on a Monday! Statistically, women are more likely to want to discuss a company culture in detail throughout the interview process, and your culture is also a big factor in retaining encouraging your staff to stay in the longer term.

To make your culture more inclusive, consider the following benefits:

  • Flexible working hours.  According to research, 15% of men compared with 85% of women need some flexibility in their work hours to cover childcare. Although this will encourage more female applicants who need to consider their childcare options, it also attracts men who need more flexibility and also makes childcare concerns less gendered. It is really important to promote the neutrality in these flexible working hours – if it is attributed to women rather than both genders in can be seen as a blocker for career progression.
  • Mentoring Programmes. Is this something you are able to offer internally, or something you could even encourage externally? This helps to accelerate development and enhances self-esteem as well as job satisfaction.
  • Training and Development. Be clear from the interview stage what you can offer to candidates to help them learn and grow, and once you have employed them. Make sure they know all the different career paths and work with them to set some clear goals to help them achieve what they want from their career. 
  • Onboarding Process. It may sound obvious, but it has a huge impact. Make sure that there is a contact who can answer questions before new starters join, and ensure that their first day, week and month are clearly set out for them, so they feel as comfortable as possible from their first hour with you.
  • Diversity Training. Make sure this is offered to the business, but particularly anyone involved in the recruitment and interview process, especially those responsible for making decisions.  

Company Branding

If you want to attract female candidates now, you need to invest in the female candidates of the future.

There are lots of promotional activities your business can do to encourage more young girls to consider a career in technology and to also show the current female market that diversity is important to your values.

For example, initially look at some events you can attend to involve yourself in the conversation – there are a lot of events on diversity, but make sure you especially attend those who talk about what the industry can do to make a difference, and focus on actions, not just pay lip service. You could also look at talking at events or on panels about these subjects, and hosting events of your own. You can also join female-focused industry groups and engage with events such as Ada Lovelace Day and International Women’s Day.

It’s also a good idea to promote your current female technology workers to the wider world, perhaps through interviews, Q&As or other content – if they want to of course! As mentioned earlier, candidates are more likely to apply or have a good experience if they see people like them in the interview process. And don't forget the basics –  make sure that any internal promotion materials such as videos or photos also include a diverse selection of people.

We are always happy to advise anyone on how you can review and improve your recruitment process to be more inclusive – if you'd like to discuss inclusive hiring, or are interesting in finding out more about the Tech Talent Charter, please say hello at emily@wearefutureheads.co.uk.

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