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November 12, 2015updated 28 Mar 2017 4:23pm

Hiring the best puts IT front and centre

By John Oates

Moving the IT department to the centre of the modern business means making it look like the rest of the business as well as thinking like the rest of the business.

It remains a truism of most, if not all, technology departments that they’re much less diverse than the rest of the company. The clichéd view of white, male technology staff remains unfortunately true.

Figures from employers’ organisation the Tech Partnership show just 17 percent of technology jobs in the UK are held by women. This compares to 25 per cent in the US, Canada and Ireland.

There are wide differences in different types of technology jobs – some 27 per cent of IT project and programme managers are women, but only 10 per cent of IT directors.

There have been improvements of course and the remaining problem is usually a legacy of past practise and unconscious problems.

There are good business reasons why this must change too. There is a danger in sticking to one view of any business issue – just like there is in relying on one technology provider.

The good news is there are also lots of practical ways to solve the problem without getting in the consultants and joss sticks.

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Get some data

First of all collect some numbers.

Look at applications and who they’re from. Then follow those applications through the recruitment process.

Do you have enough women and ethnic minorities applying for advertised jobs in the first place?

If not you’ll need to look at how and where you’re advertising. Think about the wording of adverts rather than just cutting and pasting the ad which was used last time.

Relying on only bullet points in an advert for instance alienates women.

If you’re relying on recommendations from your staff and network of contacts are they tending to provide people like them?

Assuming you do have a decent variety of candidates at the first stage you need to see what happens next.

Look at each step of the process to see where the numbers start to change.

Find out what the numbers look like after you, or HR, have sifted through the CVs.

Are telephone interviews inadvertently removing certain types of candidates from the short list?

Are you looking for a ‘cultural fit’ which tends to favour candidates who look a bit too like your existing staff?

Even technical tests can end up accidentally alienating some kinds of candidates.

You could even consider taking the process a step back by setting up an apprentice or mentoring scheme. Some firms qualify for government funding for apprentice schemes.

Larger companies like Network Rail are sponsoring students through university to get better, and different, technology staff.

Google is offering three months free training to women and minorities already in technology jobs and HP offers a $10,000 scholarship and mentoring programme for women around the world pursuing technology careers.

Keep what you’ve got as well as changing who you hire

To keep a well balanced workforce you also need to look at staff retention. Too many firms spend far more time, and money, on staff recruitment and not enough on keeping what they’ve got.

Are you doing enough to keep all types of staff or do you disproportionately lose some at certain points of their careers? Think about training, flexible working and career development.

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