Innovative use of technology is needed not only to improve climate resilience and disaster recovery, but to reduce manufacturing waste and emissions, deliver renewable energy, build and maintain efficient infrastructure, and protect and support humans and their environment across the globe.
Tech leaders are aware of multiple actions that can be introduced to improve enterprise sustainability: transforming legacy technology, rolling out regular updates, piloting with users before internal purchases and slowing the pace of hardware system refreshes to name just a few.
Ultimately, the success of these activities – let alone whether they are actually fully implemented at all – relies on an engaged, skilled workforce that is truly invested in sustainability and the organisation’s environment, social and governance (ESG) goals.
And when trying to future-proof for the next few years’ sustainability requirements, tech teams with a wide range of expertise, knowledge and skills are best placed to implement the systems and processes from the very beginning – and proactively anticipate and design for new challenges along the way.
ESG needs are rocketing in urgency at the same time as rapid technological advancements in every area of life. Most companies in every industry have a shortage of tech skills needed to fill their current and future vacancies, and at the rate of predicted digital evolution, one million people will need to upskill or reskill before 2030 to meet demand for IT capabilities. A gap in IT skills will create a gap of sustainability skills. However, through diverse hiring and investment, this problem can be solved.
Although tech teams do not necessarily need a passion relevant to their goals to deliver on them, real innovation and fast success are created by those with a true understanding of and connection with a greater purpose than profit.
Only 19% of the UK’s tech workforce are female, far fewer IT specialists of ethnic minority reach manager level than their white colleagues (despite being more qualified on paper) and professionals from all diverse groups are much more likely to leave the tech industry prematurely than their peers due to discrimination, lack of support and unwelcoming work environments.
Individuals from diverse backgrounds are both chronically underrepresented in tech teams, and when job-seeking place much more importance on organisational purpose and alignment to their own beliefs, positioning them as prime talent pools to recruit and train for key sustainability-related roles.
Templeton’s Hiring Diversity Report found that despite 68% of business leaders struggling to recruit diverse skills, one in four companies were not investing in any diversity and inclusion (D&I) recruitment initiatives, and for those who were, the majority saw little to no return on investment.
Many employers have implemented hybrid working in a bid to attract working mothers, and although remote options do help those with caring responsibilities, employers must display real inclusiveness and open-mindedness throughout their organisations to attract the most diverse, creative and innovative talent.
We all know that we work better when we feel safe, supported and happy in our roles – whatever this looks like for each individual. True corporate inclusivity means investing the time and resources to get feedback from existing employees across departments, experience levels and backgrounds, really listening to their challenges and needs, and using this feedback to implement and continually adapt policies.
Mentoring will upskill existing diverse employees, and nurturing an engaged diverse workforce will generate referrals for diverse talent in the near and distant future. Going beyond a simple D&I policy to actually interact with the audiences you need to hire, in their own spaces and in a way that engages them, will drive your employer brand in the places where diverse audiences already exist.
Gen Z is more racially and ethnically diverse than previous generations, and are much more likely to be aware of and open about their LGBTQ+, disability and neurodiversity status. The youngest demographic to enter the workforce are increasingly connecting their day jobs to their own identities, wanting organisational values and missions to match their own.
Growing up as digital natives with the ability to access world issues and instant news from their pockets means Gen Z are also fluent in sustainability. Investment in hiring diverse tech talent, particularly those who belong to Gen Z, will deliver a fresh pool of candidates with the first-hand understanding and enthusiasm to hit the ground running on ESG challenges, and start from a position where their skills can be quickly developed in the first months and years in their role.
Whilst inclusive hiring strategies will provide greater innovation from diverse groups, any set of skills must be continually harnessed and developed to keep pace with change, and this is especially true for the urgent demands of tech advancements and sustainability issues.
Once recruited, organisations that continually support, train and upskill their diverse tech teams will keep their employees connected to what originally attracted them to their role, and in doing so, continually harness that passion, enthusiasm and creativity for sustainability innovation.
Design a bespoke training programme directly aligned to organisational sustainability goals to match team efforts to company ESG priorities, and directly involve tech teams in the creation of their own sustainability-related training programmes to maximise buy-in and relevance to their everyday and future challenges.
Embed skills into all functions and levels by creating communities where colleagues can teach others and share their knowledge regularly, have time for discussion and freedom to create and experiment, to implement best practice across the whole company, and continually improve processes for the most efficient and effective approach to sustainability.