Earlier this month, the Tech Talent Charter (TTC) held their annual Inclusion in Tech Festival. This year’s programme featured a series of ‘This Works’ panel sessions where leaders from TTC signatory businesses of all sizes came together to discuss actionable ways to make a difference to D&I within your business.

Claudia Cohen, Associate Director at La Fosse, joined four fellow panellists for a discussion around retention and promotion within underrepresented groups.

Full panel:

  • Claudia Cohen, 2021 TechWomen100 Winner | Associate Director at La Fosse
  • David Henderson, Chief Technology & Product Officer at Global
  • Debbie Irish, Head of HR at HP UK & Ireland
  • Lopa Ghosh, UKI Cybersecurity Competency Leader at EY
  • Shilpa Shah, Programme Director for Deloitte Delivery, Large Scale Implementations, Women in Technology Leader

In this blog, we’ve rounded up 10 key tips from our expert panellists to help you improve minority retention and promotion opportunities within your business.

1. Know your data

Being a data-driven business is vital to understanding where problems lie and measuring your success in solving them. In order to have better conversations around equality in your organisation, you first need to understand your demographics and metrics per role, level and team.

2. Practice active listening

Active listening is something that should take place at all levels of your business. Listening to employees should never be a tick-box exercise, it’s an opportunity to really find out what your employees are thinking. Two key ways of putting this into practice are:

  • Survey-based research – this is easy to anonymise and is a great way to find out what would make people stay at or leave your organisation
  • Employee networks – this provides a safe space for open discussion among all employees, whether members of underrepresented groups or allies

3. Provide mentorship opportunities

Mentorship or sponsorship can take many forms; it’s up to you to find out what works best for your business and current capability. Even a little will go a long way to help underrepresented employees who wouldn’t have otherwise had the opportunity to get face time with someone higher up in the business. A few successful examples from the panellists include:

  • Mutual mentorship – both parties support and learn from each other
  • ‘15 minutes with’ executive mentor meetings – a quick elevator-style intro
  • Mentor circles – ‘one-to-many’ confidential mentorship groups (great for smaller companies)

4. Build out a career roadmap

Whether general or personal (if capacity allows), your business needs to be fully transparent around growth and development opportunities. Here at La Fosse, we encourage employees to pivot to different roles around the business, but it doesn’t have to be permanent move – some companies like Global are offering temporary project roles in other teams to help give underrepresented groups the chance to try something new and still have a secure job to come back to.

5. Promote role models

Every worker needs someone to look up to within their organisation; someone who not only aligns with their skillset and ambitions, but someone who looks and sounds like them. Senior role models are crucial for retention – especially among early-career employees – and every business has a responsibility to project diverse voices at all levels in order to give their employees something to aspire to, as well as being a friendly face to approach if they ever need support on their journey.

“For someone to feel included and comfortable, you need at least 30% representation within the room.” – Debbie Forster, TTC

6. Make everyone accountable

Ensuring diversity targets are met and inclusivity is promoted is a collective responsibility, but the buck has to stop somewhere. Business targets should be transparently shared both internally and externally, and data collection and analysis should be consistent, with a clear path of escalation and intervention. Most importantly, everyone should be able to hold a mirror up to themselves and consider why people leave the business and what can be done to prevent this in future.

7. Set long-term plans

A roadmap is all well and good, but how will an employee reach the next rung on the ladder? What happens if life gets in the way? As well as holding regular development meetings and setting actionable goals to achieve a promotion or pay rise, employers need to consider each individual’s needs. A couple of ways the panellists’ organisations have implemented this is through emerging leaders development programmes for diverse employees, and holding regular career chats with women in the business to create career plans around their own personal life plans, such as having children.

8. Educate everyone

Creating an inclusive and welcoming environment shouldn’t just be down to HR – it’s the responsibility of everyone in the business. A few examples from the panellists include:

Mandatory training – educating everyone on respect and inclusion is a must to ensure that everyone can act as allies to underrepresented groups and understand how to approach diversity in the right way.

Manager training – technical skills don’t always translate into people skills, so your business should support this growth with added training, especially for those managing teams for the first time. At La Fosse, we understand this challenges and offer management training as part of our support service.

Training for underrepresented groups – in order to help people progress and feel supported by the business, organisations should listen to individual needs and facilitate training to help them grow and develop.

“1 in 4 women would consider switching to a tech career if skills training was provided” – TTC

9. Boost board representation

​Diversity at board level has been shown to directly impact business success, with a recent report finding that companies with higher-than-average diversity had 19% higher innovation revenues. While many businesses are working to diversify their board, this is often not an overnight process. One great way of improving representation is to put a shadow board in place. Not only does this allow diverse voices across the business to discuss the same issues as the board and understand their challenges, it also helps to provide answers that draw from a wider range of backgrounds and experiences.

10. Be flexible

Understanding that people’s needs differ and accommodating them is important for retention; organisations should be mindful that what works for many does not necessarily work for all. In addition to listening to individuals’ needs, consider little things you can do as a business to be inclusive of other people’s cultures – have internal champions to celebrate and educate on different holidays, or as one of the panellists has done in their business, open up bank holidays to be taken freely at a time that suits the individual.

The most important takeaway from this event was that addressing diversity, equality and inclusion is never just a ‘one and done’. Although ongoing discussion is useful, it’s only through listening to underrepresented groups, educating staff at all levels, and delivering enduring change within your organisation to help underrepresented groups that we can begin to fix the diversity gap together.


Where to next?

Catch up on all the session recordings from this year’s Inclusion in Tech Festival.

If you liked this blog, you might also like…

​Why it’s time to change the way you hire

Getting ahead… as a woman in tech

Closing the D&I Gap: A Cross-Industry Movement

If you need advice on how to improve diversity and retention within your organisation, we can help! Speak to your dedicated consultant today or contact our team.