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Corporate Strategies

Lower The Barrier To Entry: 4 Ways To Attract More Diverse Junior Tech Talent

General Assembly
May 25, 2022

If we’ve learned anything from the “Great Resignation,” it’s that today’s workforce is fed up with the status quo. Beyond the ongoing flexibility debate over work-from-anywhere or work-from-the-office, today’s talent is laser-focused on diversity. Motivated by purpose alongside (and perhaps even more so than) money, today’s tech talent is tired of companies who say that diversity and inclusion, work-life balance, and empowering team cultures are important to them. They want to see the specific and tangible benchmarks in place to measure a company’s DEI progress.

If businesses want to attract more diverse junior tech talent, they need to move beyond talking the diversity talk, to walking the inclusion walk. The good news? Building a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive workforce isn’t only good for a company’s reputation, it’s good for a company’s bottom line. In a recent McKinsey study, one-third of companies that improved DEI efforts over the past five years are now financially outperforming their industry peers. 

Considering that the US Labor Department reported in March that there were 2 positions open for every employee, diversifying the workforce isn’t only vital at the recruitment level of talent management, but crucial for employee retention overall. One of the top reasons employees have cited for leaving their jobs is a company’s failure to fulfill promises to improve DEI efforts. There’s a veritable chasm between employer perception and employee reality when it comes to cultivating workplace culture. Just look at the Accenture study which found that while 68% of leaders felt they created an empowering team culture, only 36% of employees agreed with them.

So how do companies demonstrate that they are truly committed to building a more diverse, equitable and inclusive workforce? They need to start at the beginning, by rethinking the ways they acquire talent, then considering how they nurture talent along the career journey. That means taking a step back from the business as usual approach they’ve been using for far too long, and taking a close look at the ways they can build diversity and inclusion into every step–from the way they source and screen talent to the methods they use to train, onboard, and nurture the continuing development of employees during their career.

Four Simple Steps You Can Take Today to Attract and Retain More Diverse Talent

Although it may seem daunting to utilize new strategies in hiring, it’s easier than companies might think. Here are four simple steps companies can take right now to reimagine their hiring practices and reinvigorate their ability to attract–and retain–a more diverse set of candidates.

Give your job descriptions a makeover
Less is More

HR teams know all too well the pressures of getting an imperative request to fill a position. While a hiring manager is clear on the need to fill a role as soon as possible, they’re often decidedly less clear when it comes to articulating the pain points their team is currently experiencing, as well as the unique skill sets that a candidate best-suited to the open role would possess. Faced with the urgency to fill the empty role, HR teams often resort to using a previous job description as a template, adding a long list of skills to update the posting. The end result is a posting that casts a wide–and frenzied–net. Instead, HR teams should curate a concise job posting that specifically lists the skills an ideal candidate would possess. In short: less is more when it comes to the job description, and more is more when it comes to taking a bit more time to define the details that are tailored to that specific role. By investing the energy on the frontend, though, HR teams can save themselves hours evaluating candidates who are a clear mismatch.

Get with the Times
Let go of Antiquated Measures of Success

We’ve all heard of the successful billionaires who skipped college and launched a business from their garage or basement. The reality is, there are myriad talented people in the world–and workforce–who did not attend college or earn a higher education degree. Truthfully, a traditional college degree is the least important indicator of a candidate’s ability to be a great employee. Companies that refuse to let go of antiquated measures of success–insisting on college degree requirements in their job descriptions–ultimately let highly skilled candidates slip through their fingers. Among the 70+ million workers without college degrees who are skilled through alternative routes (often referred to as STARs), many are female, Black, or Latinx workers. Instead of using college degree requirements as a shorthand to validate potentially desirable candidates and weed out perceived less desirable candidates, consider–instead–measuring for more important candidate attributes such as motivation, experience, aptitude, and skills. At General Assembly, we have equipped thousands of our graduates to thrive in competitive industries and companies, despite not having a formal education.  

Reskill to Retain High-Potential, Diverse, Talent
Offer high-impact reskilling opportunities grow a company from within

Institutional knowledge is one of the greatest assets current employees have–they understand the business, know the culture, and have already proven their value in another role. Considering the exorbitant costs to onboard and train an employee, it makes literal sense to invest in your existing workforce. With that in mind, as new roles open up, considering an inside out approach to hiring is often the smartest and most economical place to start. By investing in developing existing employees’ skills (whether through upskilling or reskilling) to reallocate talent where it is most needed, companies not only create career mobility for diverse audiences, but improve positive sentiment around workplace culture and reduce turnover. Investing in career growth and personal development signals to prospective employees that this is a place that not only values employees for who they are today, but who they have the ability to become.  

Reskilling is an especially effective way for businesses to create career mobility for under-resourced groups. General Assembly has done this successfully for businesses such as Humana and Disney. In partnering with Guardian Life, they helped to reskill members of the customer operations team into high-performing software engineers. 

It’s not always as dramatic as empowering an employee to develop an entirely new skillset, though. Offering regular opportunities for personal development and career growth–through upskilling, mentoring, and peer-to-peer networking initiatives to help employees grow their networks, learn about new roles, and expand their skills–is an incredibly powerful way to show  employees who come from under-resourced communities that you are invested in them today, and tomorrow. 

Collaborate with the Community for Greater Diversity
Public-private partnerships can help pave the way 

When it comes to DEI, there’s no doubt that we’re stronger together. Some of the most successful leaders who have cultivated strong diverse workforces are those who have forged collaborations with like minded partners. 

One form of this collaborative approach is community reskilling. In this type of partnership, companies form public-private partnerships to source, train, and hire non-traditional candidates from underserved communities (often with the assistance of a reskilling partner, such as General Assembly.) These partnerships are a strategically driven investment in strengthening talent pipelines and community relationships by elevating job candidates who may have been overlooked in a traditional hiring scenario. The result is a stronger community, stronger company, and stronger local economy. Just look at communities such as Atlanta, Louisville, and–most recently–Buffalo, New York where General Assembly has successfully modeled community reskilling with partners such as M&T Bank, ACV, Interapt, and Microsoft. 

For companies who are not ready to invest in a full-scale community reskilling program, community collaborations are still an invaluable resource when it comes to gaining access to a diverse talent pool. For instance, companies like Uber, Facebook, Amazon and Google partner with General Assembly to hire graduates from immersive programs, who they may not have gained access to through traditional hiring channels. Companies can also partner with organizations such as Breaking Barriers (which helps refugees gain crucial technical skills), to gain access to refugees looking to build a stable life and career in their new home country. 

A New Approach is Essential and Effective

Trying new approaches to diversifying the talent pipeline can seem terrifying for companies, but it’s essential and effective. Making progress toward a more diverse workforce is as simple as creating more tailored, concise and strategic job descriptions; investing in upskilling, reskilling, peer mentoring, and career and personal growth among your existing talent;  placing greater value on skills and attributes rather than higher education degrees; and cultivating relationships with community organizations who can help you tap into a pool of diverse local talent. 

Whether you test out one approach or a combination, you’re much closer than you think to redefining your talent pool with a diverse workforce.And your company will be better for it. If you’re interested in learning more, get in touch.

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