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Employee retention key to tackling tech’s diversity problem

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Businesses’ failure to create inclusive work environments is contributing to poor employee-retention rates amongst young tech workers and hindering efforts to address the lack of diversity in tech, new research suggests.

The research, published in talent and reskill training company Wiley Edge’s new ‘Diversity in Tech 2022’ report, reveals that nearly two-thirds (64 per cent) of UK businesses admit to struggling to retain employees from underrepresented backgrounds.

Although 65 per cent state that they work hard to foster an inclusive company culture, 18 per cent say that they have received complaints related to diversity and inclusion from current and former employees. The research also highlights a number of effective DE&I tactics that are being widely overlooked.

Positively, more than half (55 per cent) of businesses have a mentorship programme for younger employees to support their professional and personal development. However, fewer (47 per cent) have a system in place to identify whether additional support may be needed for graduates and other entry-level employees from different backgrounds, while only around a quarter (26 per cent) of businesses offer access to employee resource groups.

Just 25 per cent of businesses have an onboarding process that takes into account exit interviews and historical feedback from employees.

Unconscious bias also prevails, with 61 per cent of businesses saying they do not use deliberately neutral job descriptions, while only 40 per cent invest in anti-bias training for managers.

The research indicates that failing to create a truly inclusive, welcoming environment contributes directly to poor retention rates on tech teams. When asked why they had ever left or wanted to leave a tech role, most commonly cited reasons amongst those aged 18-24 were a lack of sense of belonging (27 per cent), biased treatment from managers (22 per cent), lack of support for additional needs (21 per cent) and a company culture that made them feel unwelcome or uncomfortable (16 per cent).

The report suggests that recruitment and retention problems go deeper and start earlier, with common misconceptions prevalent amongst 18-24-year-olds. Just 26 per cent of those not currently working in technology consider the sector to offer excellent career opportunities, while 14 per cent say they know nothing at all about the careers available in technology.

Meanwhile, 21 per cent of businesses say they exclusively hire graduates from 'top' universities, discounting graduates from other institutions who may have potential.

Becs Roycroft, senior director of global emerging talent at Wiley Edge, commented: “It’s not enough to attract and hire candidates from a broader talent pool. If we are to make any meaningful, long-term change when it comes to diversity in tech, businesses must also have effective strategies in place to retain employees from all backgrounds.

“Until these issues around company culture are adequately addressed, employees are more likely to continue feeling out of place and unhappy, which will ultimately lead to continued poor retention rates and limited progress when it comes to improving diversity.

“If businesses do find themselves struggling to retain employees from underrepresented backgrounds, they should ensure they are providing them with regular opportunities to offer feedback and constructive criticism. Without input from employees themselves, businesses will find they are continuing to make the same mistakes, and potentially missing some easily actionable improvements.”

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