Diversity can help bridge IT workforce gap, says NASCIO

For CIOs in state governments, increasing diversity and inclusion in the workplace can help solve the tech talent gap, new research finds, as job seekers increasingly consider D&I as an important factor in their employment decisions.

Although 93% of state CIOs surveyed said they felt they had an inclusive workspace, an April 2022 report from the National Association of State CIOs identified D&I as a top priority for the CIO. recruitment and retention of a skilled IT workforce.

Some agencies have had success attracting diverse candidates by partnering with community colleges and recruiting through social media. however, many have suggested that there are other barriers. A CIO told NASCIO that “the market for tech candidates is extremely limited – diverse and undiversified,” with low government salaries and lack of remote work options as possible reasons.

Based on interviews and research, NASCIO’s top recommendations for improving D&I include ensuring the existing diverse workforce feels comfortable, designating a senior executive sponsor for D&I and establish a formal program with measurable goals. Employee-led D&I councils are another effective way to promote inclusivity, according to the report.

For long-term success with D&I, NASCIO said states need to embrace remote and flexible work options, as traditionally underrepresented groups often view it more positively. Agencies should continuously measure employee engagement with diversity to identify areas that are working and areas that need improvement.

By reviewing their hiring processes — noting whether various candidates drop out at a certain point — agencies can create a plan for improvement. Blind hiring practices will help reduce unconscious bias, and hiring managers should review job listings and descriptions to ensure that the language used does not discourage diverse applicants from applying. Citing Maryland as an example, NASCIO advised managers to write competency-based job descriptions rather than focusing on required degrees or certifications.

The report also suggests that the demographics of an office‘s workforce should reflect that of the local community. States should create outreach programs in K-12 schools with a particular focus on underrepresented groups, such as girls of color, to encourage the next generation of tech professionals.

By partnering with private sector organizations that have successfully implemented D&I programs, CIOs can learn to integrate similar initiatives. Richard Leadbeater, Global Manager, Industry Solutions for State Government at Esri, suggested, “Start by asking yourself, ‘Does my agency look like the population I serve? And, if not, how can I move my agency in that direction. »

“The bottom line is that State IT has a labor shortage problem and the vast majority of job seekers today view diversity and inclusion as important factors when looking of a job,” the report said. “Therefore, if state IT is to recruit and retain the necessary workforce in the future, diversity and inclusion must be a priority.”

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