Today, more and more businesses are waking up to the importance of having a diverse and inclusive workforce.
There are obviously a vast number of advantages that come with welcoming diversity and fostering inclusion; fresh ideas and perspectives, faster problem-solving, and increased profits, to name just a few. But in an age when many sectors are facing burgeoning skills gaps, organizations must recognize the symbiotic relationship between diversity and inclusion and talent acquisition.
If your business can boast a truly inclusive culture, then you’re already ahead of the game in the battle for the best professionals. As the generational makeup of the talent pool continues to shift, businesses that prioritize socially responsible initiatives like eliminating gender pay disparity are better positioned to attract millennial workers. Almost half of this new demographic are actively seeking employers that champion diversity and inclusion, with a massive 80% going so far as to say that they’d avoid applying for a job if they believed the company had a gender pay gap.
While many organizations are looking at ways they can actively encourage diversity within their workforce, and reap all the benefits that brings with it, there’s one diversity-boosting initiative that might not be so obvious — upskilling.
Many businesses might be looking at it as a solution to the growing skills gaps in many fields, without even realizing that upskilling is also a fantastic way to improve diversity and attract a broader range of talent.
The tech space, for example, is facing a particularly dire skill shortage. With the digital skills gap widening faster than the talent pool can grow, businesses need to be looking at how they can get more people into tech roles. Given that only around one-quarter of digital positions today are held by women, helping more female professionals develop careers in the sector seems like an obvious solution. With fewer women than ever taking computer science and related subjects in school and college, we need alternative routes into the sector to enable us to land the talent we need and satisfy the demand for highly skilled candidates.
Without access to those professionals, businesses risk falling behind and facing stifled innovation. Smart, proactive leaders are looking at ways to create the skilled workers they need rather than fighting to attract the same limited resource as everyone else. That’s where upskilling initiatives can make a real difference to the face of your workforce, no matter what kind of challenging roles you’re looking to fill.
Tech is a traditionally homogenous, and often exclusionary, sector. Outdated attitudes and a culture of gatekeeping can drive many talented women away from building a rewarding career in the tech space. Offering access to upskilling initiatives, whether you’re delivering them internally or connecting employees with third-party programs, can remove at least some of these barriers that can prevent women from taking the first steps toward a tech role.
Women and minorities with the aptitude and enthusiasm for in-demand jobs may not always have the confidence to put themselves forward or take a leap into the unknown. But if their employers encourage them and give them access to the resources they need to learn new skills in a familiar environment, one where they’re already employed and have the security they need to tackle new challenges, they might feel more comfortable making that change.
Offering cross-training or upskilling on the job also supports people who might not have the resources — or the time, given that they likely have extracurricular commitments — to learn outside of work.
Investing in your employees’ skillsets also makes your company more appealing to external candidates from a range of different backgrounds. After all, diversity begets diversity; if you have women in your business taking on tech roles and rising through the ranks, other women will see your organization as one where they can thrive and develop their skills.
Visibility is crucial to fostering diversity, and the more talented females you have on your team, the more you’ll attract in the long-run. Providing these pathways and encouraging women in your workforce to aim for roles that they may previously have felt were unattainable democratizes opportunity, especially for those who may not have come from a traditional academic background.
As well as offering courses, career development goals, and training programs, initiatives like returnships are also a fantastic option. Programs like these allow professionals who have taken breaks in their careers to re-enter the workforce through a structured, paid retraining plan. These programs are particularly appealing to women who are known to leave the workforce more often then men in order to care for children or family members.
Helping your employees develop the skills you need to succeed, particularly when so many sectors are facing talent shortages, is already a great way to future-proof your business. But when you consider how upskilling your workforce can simultaneously promote diversity and inclusion and give you access to the broadest pool of talent possible, it truly is a no-brainer.
About the Author
Nabila Salem is President at world-leading cloud talent creation firm Revolent Group. Nabila has 15 years of leadership experience in professional services, marketing, and technology recruitment. She plays an active role in encouraging, supporting, and promoting diversity in the workplace and was recognized in Management Today’s 35 Women Under 35 List 2019.