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Understanding diversity when it comes to bridging the skills gap

By Andy Fury

A bridge over water

If the skills gap in technology is an openly talked-about problem, it’s really put under a microscope in the ServiceNow community.

The ecosystem is already under great stress, as the battle for talent intensifies due to ServiceNow’s growth being faster than the number of individuals joining the stack. Talented professionals have the luxury of being able to choose the perfect next role for them, and finding suitable replacements is becoming increasingly difficult.

Of course there are many ways to tackle the problem; the remuneration you offer, changing your benefits, but looking closely at diversity statistics may provide another avenue for finding the next generation of professionals who can step up and prevent the gap turning into a crisis.

Diversity statistics in ServiceNow

Each year, we interview a cross-section of the ServiceNow community to find out their views on a wide range of subjects, from certifications to salaries. It gives a great insight to how people working with the technology feel, both in terms of its future as well as the wider culture.

So, what does the average respondent look like? Going by the most popular answers in our most recent salary survey, they’re a white (55%) male (79%), aged between 25-34 (41%). Look around your tech teams, and that probably doesn’t come as a huge surprise, but it also offers some very easy pointers as to how to avoid fighting it out for the same professionals as your peers.

If you make a genuine effort to appeal towards the lesser-represented talent pools, you’re going to face less competition, for an equally talented group of workers. It goes without saying that many tech teams are male-heavy, and while there’s no doubt this is not a deliberate hiring tactic or policy, there’s much that can be done to address the issue. Hoping to hire more women and actively encouraging them to apply are two very different things.

The ways that tech is turning it around

Amazon, Google and Facebook have all created policies where they’ll interview a certain number of applicants who’ve applied from minority groups, similar to the NFL’s Rooney Rule to attract coaches from more diverse backgrounds. However, to stay ahead of your rivals you need to be encouraging a large number of applicants, thus increasing the quality, or it turns into little more than a box-checking exercise.

There are several quick wins you can aim for. Firstly, look at the wording of your job ads to make sure you’re not using masculine language. Research shows that women are less inclined to apply for positions that use words that suggest male applicants. It’s never a deliberate action, but having action-heavy job ads demanding ninjas, warriors and builders simply alienates some of your audience.

And let’s be honest—the reality is that what you actually need is highly talented, problem solvers who can work well under pressure. Nobody’s smashing anything! Use words that actually describe the job, and the individual you’re looking for, as well as selling your company and what you can offer an individual. This is where you can really encourage applications from those talent pools. Research shows that the range of applicants reflects, and can be directly changed by, the language used when you’re first appealing to job seekers.

Benefits are an under-rated success story

The easiest way to sell yourself to potential female recruits is to look at the benefits on offer. Cheaper gym access or free fruit bowls aren’t going to cut the mustard for someone whose primary concern away from the workplace is potentially childcare. Instead, flexible working or being able to work from home is likely to be far more attractive and influence their decision when choosing a next employer.

Selling your benefits at the very beginning of the hiring stage is also likely to draw a more diverse range of candidates, which in turn will provide you with a bigger choice. This will naturally have an improved effect on your D&I: you don’t have to target a recruit from any particular background, but it’s natural that drawing from underrepresented groups from the very outset increases the chances of your new hire reflecting that.

It’s still about the long-term fix

Getting a more diverse group of people applying for jobs and even into the workplace is fine, but you also need to make sure there’s a support network to ensure it isn’t simply a short-term win. Women have a far higher quit rate in tech than men, for example, so it’s something that requires serious effort rather than a quick fire fight.

Having mentorship schemes in place, and an environment where people feel supported, is essential. There also needs to be a visible route to progression: without leaders from their own backgrounds, workers will struggle to visualize their own career successes within your organization. If those people don’t exist, you have to have a clear structure so that individuals can see their own pathway mapped out.

Ultimately, making inroads to improving your company’s D&I is about doing the right thing, rather than it being a specific hiring strategy. It’s only right that the workplace should reflect the population of the world we live in. And when tech ecosystems such as ServiceNow’s are in desperate need of a talent injection, it also seems an incredible opportunity to help plug that gap.

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