Diversity is a significant concern in the tech sector. Women make up only 25% of computer workers in the U.S., according to Pew Research Center, while Hispanics comprise just 8% of the overall U.S. science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) labor force. This is a critical economic problem for IT services companies as they compete for scarce tech resources.
It makes sense for IT services organizations to prioritize diversity as a critical part of their hiring strategy. Giving opportunities to nontraditional talent from different backgrounds breaks down racial, gender, and socioeconomic barriers to fuel business growth and competitive advantage.
This can help build a company's reputation as a socially responsible employer and attract new employees—especially younger ones—by aligning with their values and becoming a preferred place to work. Organizations that lean into this strategy can enjoy the benefits of a diverse workforce:
More positive work culture
This can in turn help you scale your business to seize new market opportunities and expand the value you deliver to existing clients.
Although layoffs at major tech companies dominated the headlines in 2022 and into 2023, tech sector employment has continued to grow. According to CompTIA’s analysis of U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data, U.S. firms added 14,400 tech workers in November 2022—the 24th consecutive monthly increase—driving IT unemployment down to 2%.
Tellingly, 8,100 jobs opened in IT services and custom software development. In other words, competition for talent remains unabated for tech services firms. As digital transformation continues to accelerate, labor markets are likely to remain tight throughout the next decade.
As the senior director of the ServiceNow NextGen Professionals Program, I'm often asked, “How can I hire nontraditional talent if they have no tech skills or experience?”
NextGen provides an alternative path to employment in the ServiceNow ecosystem for underrepresented and disadvantaged groups. More than 6,300 participants have already landed jobs through the program's training, education, and partnerships, so we've seen firsthand the possibilities and benefits of embracing diversity.
New entrants from diverse backgrounds often have highly transferable skills and are very motivated by the opportunity to grow. I'm reminded of one NextGen Program participant who spent many years as a hairdresser.
Although she didn't have a mainstream technology profile, her time in the service industry made her adept at dealing with customers—a skill often in short supply in tech. The NextGen Program gave her the additional entry-level business and technology skills she needed. Now she's building a fulfilling career in the ServiceNow ecosystem.
Of course, no new entrant—traditional or nontraditional—hits the ground running at full speed. This is obviously a concern for IT service providers, which often bill clients hourly.
However, they typically also have fixed-price work, which is ideal for new entrants. It lets them learn on the job and deliver value without any time pressure, while freeing more experienced resources to deliver additional hourly revenues.
Whereas new entrants need sympathetic and effective guidance, this is an opportunity for managers and team leaders to build active listening and coaching skills that benefit the entire business.
Let me give you an example. A ServiceNow Elite Partner with a global presence grew by more than 70% in the Asia-Pacific region in 2021. The partner considers the NextGen Program a vital part of that success.
NextGen provided access to talent that the partner is developing into key team members. It also helped fill critical workforce gaps. The partner successfully placed NextGen alumni in more than 15 projects in 12 months—and experienced zero attrition. I've observed that NextGen graduates tend to be very loyal because of the well-deserved opportunity they've earned.
It can be tempting to look exclusively for experienced IT staff. But doing that can put your business growth at risk.
I'm reminded of an organization that asked if the NextGen Program could provide people with one year of experience. I explained we don’t do that but offered to provide motivated people with entry-level skills. The organization decided to pass on the opportunity.
Six months later, it came back and asked if we could provide people with six months of experience. Again, I reiterated we don’t do that. Another six months went by, and the company returned and asked for people who had recently finished the NextGen Program. We were happy to help.
I pointed out that if the organization had hired NextGen graduates at the beginning, it would already have the experienced people it wanted from the start. The moral of the story? Don't wait.
NextGen is one of the key talent programs of RiseUp with ServiceNow, which provides opportunities for anyone interested in a tech career, regardless of their background or experience. RiseUp with ServiceNow is designed to skill 1 million people globally on the Now Platform by 2024.
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