Like all great cities, Manchester has been built on its diversity, from its rich blend of cultures and nationalities, to the new wave of talent that arrives in the city each year, with a fresh intake of students.
In today’s complex, interconnected world, diversity forms the fabric of modern society from gender, race and ethnicity, to issues, around disability, political and religious beliefs and sexual orientation. And it’s a diversity that needs to be reflected in the workplace, too.
A diverse workforce is no longer just something that’s ‘nice to have,’ a box-ticking exercise that keeps various stakeholders happy; it’s a crucial part of a successful, profitable business that can give a huge competitive advantage, and encourage new ideas and ways of thinking.
Diversity is at the core of a business’s ability to be creative and innovative; put simply, there would be no trailblazing tech without it.
The two age groups hit hardest by the pandemic have been 16-24-year-olds, and those over 50. Within the latter group, a lot of people are pivoting their careers, some through choice, many through necessity. And with so many companies now moving into the digital space, from online meetings to online shopping, more people are looking towards the tech sector for a new career, which gives us a unique opportunity to develop in a much more inclusive way.
We have seen a lot of success first-hand of businesses who have managed to attract diverse tech talent throughout the pandemic. Rosie Anderson from Honeypot Digital, our sector specific recruitment partner, echoes our findings.
“Looking at different talent pools such as career changers, tech returners and candidates who are making the change to digital from other industries, they can quickly take on those middle tier positions, while also bringing diversity of thought to a business. This talent pool can draw on their alternative working experiences, to typically upskill and embed into the lower management of a business faster than a graduate.”Rosie Anderson, Head of Client Services & Sales, Honeypot Digital
Greater Manchester has many organisations such as Tech Returners and Northern Coders who are helping to bring people from completely different backgrounds into the industry and give them the confidence and the foundations to start new careers.
And then there are Millennials and Generation Z, who are set to push diversity even higher up the agenda. When these young people are searching for a job, inclusion is a priority. They want to work for an organisation where diversity is a well-established part of company culture not something covered by an A4 sheet in their welcome pack.
By 2025, Millennials will make up 75% of the global workforce; they will be the people calling the shots and making the decisions. And they will bring with them a take on diversity that is far different from the traditional view that sees it through the lenses of race and equality.
Their views have been shaped by changing 21st century societies, with their diverse mix of different experiences and perspectives. They expect the workplace to be an environment that supports and welcomes these different views.
So, as we move forward into a post-pandemic landscape, what can businesses do to embrace these changes? Firstly, it’s important for companies to realise that they aren't alone. There is a huge amount of expertise, guidance and support to tap into, so they can avoid making common mistakes and take advantage of a real opportunity to build something better.
Digital tech companies can access specialist advice and guidance through the Hub’s Digital, Creative and Tech (DCT) team, where two key initiatives stand out. Greater Connected Exceed is a fully-funded programme aimed at the digital and creative sector that focusses on leadership, inclusivity and firing up growth again as we emerge from COVID-19. Alongside this, our Global Scale-Up programme - which is currently taking on the last in-take for the year - covers five key components, including the culture and structure of the business.
Businesses can make other changes, too. At a recent session on diversity and inclusion which I chaired as part of the Creative Leaders Festival, several simple yet effective ideas were put forward.
Recruitment is a key area where diversity can be improved, from ‘spreading the net’ when it comes to where and how you look for people, to making sure that job adverts are worded in such a way that they don’t automatically put off a large proportion of potential interviewees. Assigning budget to diversity and inclusion is another important factor, as it gives senior leaders buy in.
Take a look around your workplace, suggested one speaker, and see who is missing. Ethnic minorities make up 25% of Greater Manchester’s population but how many workforces actually reflect this figure and can honestly say they represent the community where they operate?
But what really came out of the discussion is that diversity shouldn’t be seen as a problem to be solved, but rather as the solution to the problem.
Join us at Trailblazing Tech on Friday 2 July, either virtually or in person.
Applications for Greater Connected Exceed close on 21 June.
Sarah Novotny, Head of Digital, Creative and Tech Sector Business Support
Sarah is passionate about bringing effective business growth strategies to the community behind Greater Manchester’s digital, creative and tech sector.
With almost a decade of experience in growing teams and businesses, Sarah strives to bring improvement by connecting creative minds and establishing environments which accelerate growth
Sarah brings an international perspective and is well known for her straight to the point way of approaching business support. She has worked with teams in blue chips, Scaleups, SMEs and Startups, and prides herself in bringing learnings around strategy, sales, innovation, pricing and productization from all these adventures into an ambition to interlink and align industry needs with the GM sector support offering.
Sarah leads several programmes for the GC Business Growth Hub including Greater Connected, Exceed and the Creative Scale-Up Programme which are delivered to the Greater Manchester digital, creative and tech sector network.