Ten ways companies can build a diverse and inclusive workforce

Creating a diverse and inclusive workforce needs to be more than a tick- box exercise and is crucial to attracting the best talent in competitive fields such as data and technology.

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These in-demand employees are looking for purpose in their work and to work in places that are a hive of activity inspired by a kaleidoscope of different backgrounds and viewpoints.

We spoke to business leaders from Aggreko, Scottish Women in Tech and MBN Solutions about the key factors people within senior hiring positions should consider when driving forward a recruitment strategy focused around diversity and inclusion.

Joined by The Data Lab, these directors and executives came together for a recent panel to discuss diversity and inclusion in the Scottish workforce.

On the panel, Samantha Bedford, chair of Scotland Women in Technology and a transformation leader in tech and digital, said:

“I’m not convinced, for example, that people really get the benefits of diversity and inclusion. While it’s good they know it’s important, I think a number of businesses still see it as a box ticking exercise. It’s often passive in that the response is often things like ‘I need training’ but I would say ‘no, you need to go out and seek this’. There are a number of great consultants who can help.”

CEO of MBN Solutions, Michael Young, said: “Many things have changed in the world since 2020 and, for data and technology talent, these changes mean that their skills are in higher demand than ever and they have greater flexibility, opportunity and negotiating positions than they’ve seen before.

“The other side of this, and the bad news for employers, is that more than 70% of data scientists and analysts say they are open to new positions if they come their way. It’s simple supply and demand and the supply is in huge demand.”

“I encourage you to take this challenge seriously. If you are a business leader, consider the risks of not changing.

“As your customers, employees and future talent prospects all filter organisations based on their values, it’s time to think deeply about your purpose and how it’s communicated to all of your stakeholders.”

THINK DIFFERENTLY ABOUT THE PEOPLE YOU’RE HIRING

Talent pools are increasingly diverse, but this isn’t necessarily reflected in boardrooms, at C-Suite level and on the front lines.

This is because of a lack of active, purposeful, inclusion. For hiring managers and executives, that means two things: the first is to stop hiring people that look like you, think like you and have the same socialisation and experience as you.

The second is building a place where those people are included, welcomed and safe

Diversity and inclusion walk hand in hand. People should be encouraged, and able, to bring their full and authentic selves to their work and be safe in the knowledge that that won’t lead to hostility and, if it does, that they’ll be supported and believed.

YOUR WORKFORCE IS NOW GLOBAL

Talent is more global than ever. Work from home has been on everyone’s mind but people accessing the world’s best talent are looking further afield to places like Europe and North America.

They are thinking about how to bring the benefits of a global talent base into their businesses.

Organisations can no longer afford to ignore this if they want to be competitive at home and abroad. It’s a crucial part of the future workforce planning.

Chairman of MBN Solutions, Paul Forrest, said: “Pre-pandemic, people were thinking about how they were going to get talented people from Europe and the thought was that we would go down the visa scheme route.

“But the pandemic has shown there is so much more trust, allowing people to work anywhere, while technology has made remote working much easier.

“We have now opened the door not just to Europe but around the world, and that applies to people in the UK as well.”

GET HELP TO IMPLEMENT YOUR STRATEGY

Many organisations still approach diversity and inclusion as a company policy task that has to be completed and fail to carry out root-and-branch changes to their organisation.

The result is a short period of change followed by a return to old practises as the focus shifts to elsewhere in the organisation.

CEO of The Data Lab, Gillian Docherty, said: “We are denying ourselves access to the talent that is out there and the great value they can bring to organisations,” said Gillian. “What we have to ask ourselves is are we doing the most we can, such as through staff retention, values, images in brochures and who features in events we run.”

MBN Solutions’ director of client services, Rob Huggins, added: “Scotland has become such an amazing place of talent but the challenge is keeping up with the global workforce and ensuring we continue to attract talent. While many innovative and enlightened employers are actively addressing this, the scarcity of skills, resources and talent may force change among other leaders. The hunter has become the hunted as talented individuals have a huge amount of choice when it comes to where they want to work.”

LOOK BEYOND SKILLS

The traditional approach to recruiting whereby candidates are faced with a competency-based interview means that many companies could be missing out on candidates who do not respond well to this method of recruitment.

Companies should instead look at the whole picture and take in the person’s other attributes and interests according to Elizabeth Hollinger, director of insight at Aggreko.

She said: “When it comes to recruitment, I think leaders need to be open minded and not necessarily match a long list of skills with people, but look beyond that considering attitude and interest. The data industry moves so quickly and everyone who works in it has to continually learn and adapt. As part of our process when looking for a candidate, we also like to look at people’s interests and passions.”

EMPLOYERS NEED TO MAKE THEMSELVES ATTRACTIVE

People with in demand skills can now work anywhere in the world and employers face a challenge when it comes to attracting and retaining staff.

Companies must consistently appraise their appeal and if they are positioning themselves as attractive places to work.

Rob Huggins, said: “Scotland has become such an amazing place of talent but the challenge is keeping up with the global workforce and ensuring we continue to attract talent.

“While many innovative and enlightened employers are actively addressing this, the scarcity of skills, resource and talent may force change among other leaders. The hunter has become the hunted as talented individuals have a huge amount of choice when it comes to where they want to work.”

BUILDING A DIVERSE AND INCLUSIVE TEAM TAKES TIME

Keep in mind that successful cultural change takes time and requires a careful balance of retaining what’s important from your team’s past and embracing the process of adapting to a purpose driven future.

What’s most interesting, and where we should all be focussing, is that when people get the purpose they want from their work, they report a range of better outcomes at work and at home. People that have purpose in their

work are happier overall. Happier employees make for better businesses.

LEAD WITH PURPOSE

It’s more important than ever for businesses to be led with purpose.

Purpose in business can come in a variety of expressions. From charitable support to sustainable business, to showing your team how their work adds value to the business and its people, to giving them a voice in how the business directs and thinks about its external purpose driven activities.

Some businesses will have it ingrained already and others will be looking to pivot - to add purpose to their work - through supporting their communities.

For those pivoting, taking the time to find what’s important and thinking about how you can invite your team along for the journey will help you navigate and succeed at the pivot.

Among the themes discussed were purpose-driven leadership. Samantha said: “It has to begin with real authenticity. Purpose has become the new strapline for organisations and it’s fundamental that they are living and breathing it with consistency sitting throughout their organisation.

COMMUNICATION IS KEY ON THE JOURNEY

Companies embarking on a purpose-driven leadership journey need to clearly communicate their organisation’s purpose, how it’s applied and what it means for their teams.

The value of clear and frequent communication can’t be overlooked. Just as this has proven so critical during adapting to remote working, purpose driven leadership requires leaders at all levels of the businesses to clearly communicate their organisation’s purpose, how it’s applied and what it means for their teams.

This communication needs to be two-way if your teams are going to fully buy-in to the company’s purpose.

They will want to know why something is happening and what that means for them and the community and it’s important that executives can answer those questions openly and honestly.

REMOTE WORK IS HERE TO STAY

Remote work of all kinds is much broader than our current familiarity with home working.

While some may be working from their sofa or spare room, others are setting up in cafes, shared spaces or are working from across Europe.

As much as it is about anything, remote work is about trusting your teams to get their work done and empowering them to make decisions. An empowered remote team is as productive – if not more productive – than an office-based team.

TAP INTO NEURODIVERSE TALENT

The technology and data industries attract higher levels of neurodiverse people than other industries.

With 10% of the UK population being neurodiverse (77%of unemployed people with autism want to work) and an increase in companies including HP, Vodafone and Microsoft running recruitment drives specifically targeted at neurodiverse people, it’s time to start thinking about how you can empower these talented, focussed and high-value people in your business.

For tech and data companies, there’s a veritable goldmine of talent, so long as you know how to tap into it.

Consider changing your interview approach to accommodate neurodiverse people and also offering contracts that are flexible with people’s needs.

MBN is an established tech and data science recruitment and resourcing specialist which recently published a white paper examining The Future of Talent. The white paper can be downloaded free from here >>