Because most job seekers want diversity and inclusion in the workplace, states must prioritize those factors, according to a new report from the National Association of State Chief Information Officers.
For state government CIOs, increasing diversity and inclusion in the workplace may help solve the tech talent gap, a new study finds, as job seekers increasingly consider D&I to be an important factor in their employment decisions.
Though 93% of state CIOs surveyed said they felt they had an inclusive workspace, an April 2022 report from the National Association of State Chief Information Officers named D&I as a critical priority for recruiting and retaining a qualified IT workforce.
Some agencies found success in attracting diverse candidates by partnering with community colleges and recruiting through social media; however, many implied that there are other barriers. One CIO told NASCIO that the “market of tech candidates is extremely limited — diverse and non-diverse,” resulting from governments’ low 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 initiatives and establishing a formal program with measurable goals. Employee-led D&I councils are another effective way to promote inclusivity, the report said.
For long-term success with D&I, NASCIO said states must embrace remote and flexible work options, as traditionally underrepresented groups often view this more positively. Agencies should continuously measure employee engagement on diversity to identify what areas are working and those that need improvement.
By scrutinizing their hiring processes -- noting if diverse candidates are dropping out at a certain point -- agencies can create an improvement plan. Blind hiring practices will help reduce unconscious biases, and hiring managers should review job listings and descriptions to make sure the language used does not discourage diverse candidates from applying. Citing Maryland as an example, NASCIO advised officials to write skills-based job descriptions rather than focusing on required degrees or certifications.
The report also suggested an office’s workforce demographics should mirror those of the local community. States should create outreach programs at K-12 schools with a specific emphasis on underrepresented groups, such as girls of color, to encourage the next generation of tech professionals.
By partnering with private sector organizations who have successfully implemented D&I programs, CIOs can learn how to incorporate similar initiatives. Richard Leadbeater, Global Manager, Industry Solutions for State Government with Esri, suggested: “Start with asking, ‘Does my agency look like the population I serve?’ And, if not, how do I move my agency in that direction.”
“The bottom line is that state IT has a workforce gap problem and the vast majority of job seekers today view diversity and inclusion as important factors when looking for employment,” the report said. “Therefore, if state IT is going to recruit and retain the necessary workforce in the future, diversity and inclusion must be a priority.”