3 Ways in Which Diversity Can Solve the Skills Gap
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3 Ways in Which Diversity Can Solve the Skills Gap

P L
Philip Lima
Wednesday December 20, 2017

The talent shortage in technology and data analytics is real - the issue exists in the entire IT industry. According to a number of surveys conducted among Chief Information Officers, more companies than ever before are experiencing trouble in hiring the right individuals for the right tech jobs. In fact, 66 percent of CIOs believe that this shortage of talent is reaching crisis proportions.

Contrast that with the increasing importance of technology across industries. From data analytics to cyber security, technology is becoming an increasingly central part of building, growing, and sustaining a business regardless of size. Technology is becoming more important, but fewer technology leaders are confident they can fulfill and exceed their goals. How can they manage this skills gap?

Diversity is one potential answer. At least one major reason the right talent is not available has to do with not fishing in a big enough pond. If technology companies and departments can expand that search to attract more diverse talent, statistics indicate that their potential for success skyrockets. Let's discuss the current diversity problem in more detail, before exploring three ways in which diversity can solve the existent and looming technology skills gap.

The Current Diversity Problem in Technology

Professionals with similar backgrounds tend to think in similar ways. Both obvious and subtle diversity is vital to innovation, pulling in multiple viewpoints and perspectives that can drive a forward-thinking technology department. Unfortunately, that diversity often does not exist within the technology realm.

Survey the current landscape of CIOs, and the picture is shockingly consistent. More than 85 percent of technology leaders are male, and more than 50 percent are between the ages of 40 and 49. They've spent the majority if not all of their time in the technology realm, with little experience (academic or professional) outside of it.

Beyond leadership, the picture is similar. In fact, only 26 percent of data jobs in the United States are currently held by females. And yet, one study found that companies who embrace gender diversity are 15 percent more likely to outperform their peers, while ethnically diverse companies increase that chance to 35 percent.

Some companies use data and empathy to build inclusive teams, but these are rare. Technology companies have emerged, like Textio, that use AI in an attempt to close the gap by minimizing bias and improving inclusivity right from the point of writing good job listings. A few weeks ago, I met with the founder of Flock - a firm that is soley focused on building gender-diverse teams.

While great things are being done to improve the landscape, even more can be done and it doesn't require technology or radical approachs to team design. But it does require a different way of thinking and operating.

3 Ways in Which Diversity Can Solve the IT Skills Gap

How does that increase in productivity come about? Simple: technology companies and departments that embrace diversity solve the current skills gap that exists within the world of technology. More specifically, it can do so in one of these three ways:

1) Better Recruitment

Perhaps the biggest complaint among technology leaders looking to fill specialized tech positions has to do with a lack of qualified candidates. But what if those leaders were able to expand their recruitment scope beyond traditional qualifications?

For instance, a data analytics position may be better served by a professional with a math background than one in a specialized data analytics field. Opening up these potential alternative avenues allows access to a larger talent pool, including candidates who would not otherwise qualify.

To stay with the example, an older professional who earned their education before data analytics became an available degree or a female who was discouraged from pursuing analytics despite her passion for math may both be ideal candidates. Looking beyond obvious qualifications can play a vital part in better candidate recruitment, and closing the skills gap.

2) Better Retention

Too often, technology leaders associate the skills gap with recruitment. But what if better candidates are never needed because your existing talent pool remains at your company and is prepared for increasingly challenging and important opportunities internally?

Shifts in demographics require a shift in considering retention issues within your organization. Professional development is a key part of this effort, as is ensuring that promising employees receive the support and mentorship they need to grow, develop their skills, and thrive.

Especially as you move toward a more diverse workforce, it pays to pay special attention to your retention efforts. Consciously and subconsciously, diverse professionals may require different approaches than the largely homogeneous, stereotypical technology teams. Focusing on your retention efforts to retain your diverse workforce can lead to closing the skills gap internally over time.

3) Avoiding the Dangers of Groupthink

The single biggest problem within a non-diverse technology environment is simple: groupthink. If you get a large number of individuals with the same background and experience in the same room, the likelihood of innovative, challenging, and new thought emerging from that room decrease dramatically.

By hiring and retaining a more diverse set of professionals, you can avoid that danger of groupthink. A lack of technology skills is not always the issue; rather, a cluster of the same skills can lead to the neglect of others, more diverse expertise and points of view.

Through diversity, you can maximize the number of unique voices in the room. This diversity extends from gender to race and professional backgrounds, all working together through their unique experience to achieve overarching organizational goals.

Driving Organizational Success Through Diversity

In short, diversity can play a vital role in reducing one of the largest issues facing technology teams around the world today. Better recruitment and retention efforts bring unique voices and skill sets into the room, which in turn leads to more innovative thought and sustainable organizational success.

Ultimately, diversity is a leadership rather than a management issue. Embrace the concept, and it can drive your success in analytics, cyber security, and other technology fields. From leadership to new employees, diversity should become a core part of your organizational culture.

Of course, you still need the right data to thrive. That's where we come in. In partnering with a wide range of companies, Mashey has proven itself to help organizations across industries improve their data and information-based infrastructure. To learn more about our services, and how we can partner with you, contact us.

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