We can do more to attract diverse talent into digital and tech roles

Written by Sarah Kaiser on 18 October 2018 in Opinion
Opinion

New emerging technologies are fundamentally changing the way we work and engage with businesses, says Sarah Kaiser.

The UK’s new industrial strategy, perhaps unsurprisingly, puts technology and particularly AI at the heart of its success and we are already seeing a number of new and exciting innovations stem from its use.

British companies are at the head of the pack for driving innovation in this space, with AI having the potential to be truly transformative, empowering businesses and enabling people to thrive in a digital world.

However, a shortage of people working in digital and tech jobs has the potential to derail future efforts. Indeed, failing to address the lack of skills in the UK workforce could cost the country a staggering £90bn a year.

And businesses are feeling to effects of this too.

With technology and digital skills an essential ingredient to the UK’s future growth, both within technology firms and across virtually all other sectors, businesses are rightly concerned about a lack of the right skills and talent coming into the workplace.

So much so, research found that over a fifth of UK businesses saying the factor preventing them from responding to digital disruptors like Amazon or Uber is a lack of talent.

Creativity and innovation can be as important a technical skill in fast-moving digital jobs that present new challenges every day.

But it doesn’t stop there.

The same study also predicted that 44% of UK organisations will not exist in their current form by 2021, which means we need to be thinking now about how we can equip the workforce adequately with the next set of digital skills that will be expected by employers.

So why are we facing such a shortage?

A disconnect in the opportunities that STEM can bring

A shortage of candidates is partly due to a lack of awareness of the opportunities that exist, and the erroneous perception that some groups, such as women or LGBT+ individuals, do not belong in the tech sector. We also need to recognise that old-fashioned biases are still built into too many organisations and jobs.

As such, more needs to be done by policymakers, public and private organisations, and especially parents to tackle these prejudices and showcase how exciting digital jobs can be, both within tech and other sectors.

At a younger age, it is about communicating how, for instance, studying computer science can lead to a career in design – or even technology marketing or management of a business division. What’s more, creativity and innovation can be as important a technical skill in fast-moving digital jobs that present new challenges every day.

In short – as we fast progress towards a ‘digital first’ nation, we need to ensure we are investing in all potential talent at the very beginning of the digital journey and developing the right skills to support the future digital economy.

Building a more inclusive organisation

Then, in the workplace, a major factor preventing diversity of talent is a pipeline problem. But how can businesses address the low number of minority groups in more senior-level positions? In terms of strategy, the first step is to increase the pipeline of talent by driving recruitment of these groups at a graduate and apprentice level.

But it doesn’t stop there.

Facilitating a diverse and inclusive organisation should be no box-ticking exercise. Underrepresented groups need to be properly retained within the business after recruitment, and this can only come from a building a culture of inclusion.



One way to deliver on this is through the introduction of of inclusion networks – for example, for women or those with disabilities – focused on enhancing the capacity of their employees so they can achieve their full potential and deliver what matters most.

As it gives all employees a platform to feel included, networks are a vital way to ensure that specific people throughout the business receive the proper support and advice they need. But to realise this, it is the responsibility of the senior team to take the lead by championing people within their organisation, as well as encouraging other senior people within these networks to act as mentors and role models.

Strengthen the UK economy for a prosperous future

It is only by engaging a diverse array of people in tech that we can hope to protect the future competitiveness of the UK economy. That is because working with different people is the only way to glean unique ideas and embrace the challenges that every single day brings forth.

From enhancing agility to innovation and customer relationships, diversity and inclusion (D&I) programmes are crucial for improving business performance, continued growth and success. Which is why it was incredibly promising to hear that the government has pledged a new fund to boost the diversity of people working in digital and tech jobs.

After all, when we get D&I right, everyone – from individuals and teams to the broader business – benefits. And in a progressively diverse and digital world, if we fail to foster a whole group of talent properly it will prevent the UK from seeing a prosperous economy.

 

About the author

Sarah Kaiser is employee experience, diversity and inclusion lead at Fujitsu EMEIA

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