Building a Diverse Tech Talent Pipeline

line of diverse people waiting on a stairwell like a pipeline

Building a diverse pipeline takes time. With the right foundation in place, you can make sourcing and recruiting quality people easier.

Building a diverse tech talent pipeline requires a recruiting strategy that factors inclusivity and diversity into the equation across all candidate pipelines. This includes employee referrals, applicants, and submittals from staffing partners. Talent outreach and recruiting professionals that are driving diversity and producing measurable results in today’s market had to rethink their strategy entirely–beginning with sourcing.

Diversity Pipeline Building 101: Commit to a New Approach

Just like t-shirts, one size does not all when it comes to sourcing. You’ll need to adjust your sourcing techniques to make them more relevant to different audiences and engage with new communities. Changing habits that we’re comfortable with is hard, but necessary for growth. With implementing any change or launching a new initiative for yourself or for your organization, you’ll want to first build a strong sourcing foundation that overtime, you’ll refine. These foundational elements are all a necessary part of the new approach you’re developing.

Setting Up a Strong Diversity Sourcing Foundation

To build a diverse tech talent pipeline, we recommend first setting up a solid sourcing foundation. Even if you already have some of these items in-use, you should review to make sure they are inclusive. As you audit each item, look to their current performance. If it’s working, leave it and monitor. Results can always be improved. If it’s not, change it. You want quick wins and metrics.

Here is what you’ll need:

  1. Candidate Personas
  2. Community Resource Development
  3. Sourcing Criteria
  4. Job Descriptions
  5. Referral Program
  6. Staffing Partner Program

Diversity Sourcing & Candidate Personas

Marketing and usability professionals know that in order to reach an audience effectively, you’ve got to know  everything about them and be able to view the world from their perspective. This is one critical factor nearly all recruiters fail to do entirely or worse, assume they already know. As the saying goes, you cannot possible understand or know someone until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes. While it’s humanly impossible to walk in the shoes of all the talent you hope to attract, it is possible to educate yourself and seek to understand them better.

Here’s a game-changing tip you won’t likely read anyplace else:

Go speak to marketing and/or your organization’s usability department and ask for copies of their target personas if you do not currently have personas from which to refer. Chances are, they’ve written personas for many different customer/partner/employee/etc. profiles that your organization uses as part of its business strategy. This material can be used to better understand the talent and communities you’re trying to reach but shouldn’t be confused with a candidate profile, which usually only lists desired strengths, skills, and background. A persona dives deeper into the person themselves–key traits, goals, fears, objections, and much more. It should paint a picture of “who” this person is and “what” makes them tick. You will likely need to modify this information some to suit your recruiting initiatives.

Not getting what you need? Write your own. This is an excellent exercise for any talent outreach or recruiting professional. Ask for input. Talk to people inside and outside of your organization for feedback. This background intel may seem like overkill at first but by increasing your understanding of people from all backgrounds, you’ll only make your job easier.  For more information on candidate personas and how to build them, take a look at this great article by Jibe Software.

Resource Development

In order to expand your reach, you’ll need community resources in markets you serve. You may already have some of this information listed in your candidate persona. If not, list them. This will be good information to regularly revisit and update as technology and markets change. For example, let’s say you want to source more diverse developers who are passionate about open source software development. You’ll want to start by checking out open source organizations. Do the research. Reach out to your network, colleagues, and fellow employees and ask for their recommendations of local and broader communities.

Next, join a networking group, organization, or affiliation that currently serves the communities you want to work with to build connections needed for sourcing both offline and online. You can do this as an individual and also as an organization as a sponsor or supporter. Remember, nothing beats face-to-face, but video conference calls and non-video calls work well, too.

Sourcing Criteria

What indicators do you use to source candidates? One of the quickest wins is rethinking sourcing criteria. Some of the best technology talent are individuals that lack traditional degrees often required by employers, or have no degree at all who hail from the school of self-taught. Our company’s Founder (a technologist himself), wrote an insightful blog post on this subject that can be used to get buy-in from leadership who may not be ready to relax stringent education requirement. Begin rethinking sourcing by starting small. If the current criteria is to source talent from top-tier universities, expand it to include non-top tier institutions.

How many more candidates would you bring in just by changing views on education criteria alone? Over time, you can widen the criteria to include sourcing from industries you don’t normally recruit from, candidate past experience and job tenure.

Job Descriptions

There are many posts out there that detail how to write better job descriptions. (We’ve written on this subject before. You can check that post out here.) The most important factor to remember is to describe the job that is to be done. In job descriptions our team has written over the years, we have depending on the role, tied that information into what the person will be expected to do based on performance in 3, 6, and by 12 months in the position. This helps set clear expectations for both the potential applicant and the hiring manager who will ultimately have the final decision in hiring.

Don’t have performance goals mapped out? Again, make sure to have a clear description of the work that is to be done. If you’re sourcing for a Sr. Software Engineer who may be also expected to help with onboarding new junior members to a team on occasion, make sure to put that into the description. Not the one who wrote the description? Set up a brief call with the hiring manager to make sure all the bases are covered.

Referral Program

Recruiters know referred candidates that are sourced through employee networks are converted quicker and more often than those who come from other sources. The challenge is getting a diversity of candidates from this valuable sourcing program resource. In order to spread the diversity message, get executive leadership’s support and involvement early on. Make the goals and message known and clear for all key stakeholders. Holding referral sessions with a technology department leader’s team virtually or in-person and referral-a-thons where active and passive potential candidate information can be shared will help promote the message of inclusivity and diversity across the department and organization.

If there is an employee referral program, make sure that employees are aware and their efforts are recognized accordingly. At Neteffects, we ran a referral program that was met with such a success that we’ll be doing it again. You can read about it here to get some thoughts on how to structure one of your own.

Staffing Partner Program

If building a diverse tech talent pipeline is a challenge for your organization, a staffing partner may be able to help. If you do not currently have technology staffing vendors or partners in place, or their submittals aren’t meeting your goals, there’s no better time to review potential firms.

We’ve written a detailed post on what to look for in a potential partner here.  All firms can (and should) provide you with references from both clients and candidates they’ve worked with, and for those that work with MSP’s (Managed Service Providers) a performance scorecard as well. If you already have staffing partners in place, it is imperative that you review their practices for recruiting technology talent. Do they align with the program you’re building? Ask questions, and involve them in your efforts.

Diversity Recruiting

With a strong foundation in place and a new approach in sourcing, quick wins and a withstanding sourcing program that easily meets and surpasses its goals while building inclusive teams and workplaces through recruiting are possible.

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