Getting a diverse tech talent pool through the hiring funnel is hard for most companies, but the bigger, longer battle is over talent retention. To keep a diverse employee base engaged and thriving, companies need to make room for those who work differently.
For example, the concept of challenging their bosses may be unfamiliar to veteran workers, according to Janine Galen, program manager of strategic workforce planning at Vanguard. If they're assigned multiple tasks, "they don't realize they can say, 'What's the priority?'"
Galen, speaking last week during the Builders Conference in Philadelphia, said the financial services firm has worked to understand the nuances that help make people successful.
Small changes can go a long way to bridge cultural barriers.
"Some of that cultural stuff is not necessarily our culture, it might be all corporate cultures," Galen said.
With tech talent still scarce for critical technology positions, the onus is on executives to follow up on their diverse hiring strategies with programs that target diverse worker retention, using mentorship programs and cultural shifts to give workers reasons to stay.
Vanguard saw healthy retention rates following a concerted program to hire workers from non-traditional backgrounds and bringing them aboard on a contract basis, Galen said.
"We've had a really good, almost 80% retention of those non-traditional hires into crew members," she said.
Diversity in tech challenges
Tech leaders have long struggled to diversify their teams, a stubborn issue that has seen little progress across industries.
Despite aspirations of expanding representation within technical roles, most companies have not adjusted their hiring processes to meet diversity goals. And once tech workers make it through the hiring pipeline, they are still more likely to quit than their non-technical counterparts.
Jorge Nieves, executive director, cybersecurity, governance, risk and compliance at Comcast, said deemphasizing formal education as a requirement can lead to finding a more diverse pool of candidates.
"We even tell our talent acquisition talent folks, when they're out there looking at candidates, to talk more about what they've accomplished, how they think, what they can bring to the table," Nieves said, speaking on the same panel, part of Philly Tech Week 2023. "That's what we care about."
To provide assistance as new hires make their way through the organization, the company sets up a mentorship program designed to guide the worker through their corporate journey.
"We have, in our IT department, the ability for you to go into an app and actually meet up with someone who can also guide you," Nieves said. "You feel like you have somebody if you're new to the organization."
Culture and morale are two key indicators of attrition across technical positions. To retain workers, support is critical as the new stage of the career path unfolds.
"Every human being needs some different level of support," Galen said.