Diversity and inclusion shaping tech employment choices

Out-Law News | 12 Sep 2019 | 9:11 am | 2 min. read

Technology companies need to be able to demonstrate that they are committed to an open an inclusive workplace culture to attract and retain employees, an employment law expert has said.

Amy Hextell of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law, said business' commitment to diversity, equality and ethical practices are coming in for increasing scrutiny by would-be employees.

"Aside from the impact that Brexit may have on tech companies’ ability to recruit talented individuals, it is becoming apparent that workplace culture is increasingly important to graduates, with recent surveys suggesting that those leaving education want to work in businesses that reflect their personal values," Hextell said. "Tech companies need to be aware of this trend and, if they aren’t doing so already, start to examine their culture with a view to ensuring it is more inclusive."

"Tech companies have often been lauded for their innovative and creative work spaces for example and for equipping staff with technology enabling them to work from anywhere in the world, but what we’re seeing now is those attractive incentives losing their appeal when there is no wider commitment to an open and inclusive workplace culture," she said.

"Central to changing the culture is getting people talking about inclusion in the first place, so placing it firmly on team meeting agendas or building it into performance review processes are ways in which businesses can get the conversation started. Other steps might include adopting an approach to address the gender pay gap through flexible working initiatives and reciprocal mentoring for example, or understanding how unconscious bias in the organisation may be influencing recruitment decisions and practices and then engaging the entire workforce in training to allow them to recognise this," Hextell said.

"Getting the board to find the time and recognise the importance of creating an inclusive culture remains a challenge but there is an overwhelming body of evidence supporting the notion that inclusive businesses do better financially," she said.

Consultancy business Great Place to Work identified diversity and inclusion as an area of increasing focus for technology companies in a report it published on the UK's best workplaces in tech 2019.

In a separate report, Great Place to Work said millennials expect workplaces "to provide meaning, balance and career development" and it further highlighted the growing strength of the voices of women and employees from different racial and ethnic groups in challenging injustices and inequality.

"Employers can and must plan how to address issues like the so-called ‘glass ceiling’, ‘sticky floor’ and ‘glass walls’," it said.

Another consultancy business, Protiviti, said that there is a link between corporate culture and "the ability to attract and retain talent".

"Building a healthy company culture and becoming a responsible firm that demonstrates strong corporate governance, social responsibility and ethical business practices deliver far-reaching benefits that promote attracting and retaining top talent," Protiviti said. "Having a strong culture can be the difference between keeping and losing your best people."

The Financial Times also recently explored how issues of diversity, equality and ethics are becoming increasingly relevant to the way roles in the technology sector are viewed.

On ethics, the article flagged research carried out by technology think tank Doteveryone published earlier this year. Its survey found that 28% of people working in the UK's technology sector "have seen decisions made about a technology that they felt could have negative consequences for people or society", and that 18% of those people moved on from their employer as a consequence.

Almost two-thirds of those surveyed said they wanted more time and resources to "think about the impacts of their products".

"The cost of not addressing workers’ concerns is bad for business – especially when the market for skilled workers is so competitive," the Doteveryone report said. "Our research shows that tech workers believe in the power of their products to drive positive change – but they cannot achieve this without ways to raise their concerns, draw on expertise, and understand the possible outcomes of their work."

Doteveryone said its research shows that further regulation and guidance in the sector are "now essential ingredients for talent management, retention and motivation".

"It is time for the tech industry to move beyond gestures towards ethical behaviour … [and] double down on responsible practice," it said.