Tech Talent Tour: Driving Inclusive Change in Innovation
Careers In Technology and Innovation (CITI) is actively working to bridge the diversity gap in Calgary's rapidly growing tech industry. Following a successful four-part event series, the Tech Talent Impact Series, which resulted in over 50 hires from more than 450 jobseekers, CITI has outlined actionable recommendations based on comprehensive data and insights gathered. These focus on four key areas: Mentorship, Leadership Development, Career Growth and Professional Development, and Community Engagement.
As Calgary’s tech industry continues to gain momentum and grow at a rapid pace, we at Careers In Technology and Innovation (CITI) see a gap that needs to be filled when it comes to including diverse talent in the tech ecosystem. CITI’s mission is to build a membership community that supports diverse professionals with growing intentional and fulfilling careers in tech. The following executive summary outlines four key areas and recommendations that CITI believes can help improve diversity within Calgary’s tech ecosystem. We thank you for taking the time to reading this summer. You can also find a PDF version here.
Between November 2022 and June 2023, a four-part event series – the Tech Talent Impact Series – was hosted by CITI and partner organizations Platform Calgary, OnRamp, InceptionU, and Calgary Economic Development. Additional funding support was provided by CSCE through Calgary Innovation Coalition – Alberta Innovates, and the Labour Market Development Agreement, a partnership between the Province of Alberta and the Government of Canada to provide employment support programs and services. CITI would like to thank the partner organizations and funding partners for their support with the series.
Our intention with these events was to connect diverse talent, individuals who are members of underrepresented groups, with tech companies. Over the course of the series more than 450 jobseekers, 32 companies and 12 support organizations attended, and as a result over 50 individuals were hired into tech. In addition to fostering these successful connections, comprehensive data was collected from attendees by the CITI team before, during and after the events. The data was compiled into four reports and produced valuable findings. The topics of the reports, in order, included:
- Leveraging Transferable Skills. Our first report outlines the educational backgrounds, upskilling/training in tech, and professional backgrounds of jobseekers, target tech roles, and challenges faced when breaking into tech. To read more, click here.
- Attracting Diverse Talent. The second report provides insight about diverse talent and the barriers they face, and what improvements tech companies can make to attract and retain diverse talent. To read the full report, click here.
- Building Intentional Culture. Our third report details the importance of workplace culture for jobseekers and employers, and how to build an intentional workplace culture. The full report can be found here.
- Professional Development and Growth. The fourth report highlights the importance of professional development and what growth opportunities are most beneficial for jobseekers and employers. The full-length report can be found here.
Across the reports we have identified four consistent themes of mentorship, leadership development, career growth, and community. The summary below further explains the four themes and actionable recommendations to help incorporate more diverse talent into tech.
Mentorship: Build programs inside and outside of companies
Jobseekers and employers both identified the need for increased mentorship opportunities within the ecosystem. During our first event, jobseekers stated mentorship is the number one support needed when transitioning into tech, however, 52% of that group said they are lacking this type of support. In addition, 51% found there is a gap in the market for co-op and internship opportunities.
Among jobseekers from our second event, 62% said mentorship programs are a factor that attracts them to a company, and 60% of attending companies boast having these sought-after programs. In terms of diverse talent, 72% noted mentorship was the most important support they needed for attraction and retention to a company, however only 20% of respondent companies identified this support to be of high importance.
- Develop formal internal mentorship programs and provide external opportunities through corporate volunteerism to the ecosystem.
- Bridge the gap between education and work readiness by offering real-world experiences such as work-integrated learning, co-ops and internships to upcoming talent.
Leadership Development: Key to both company and professional success
When asked at our third event, “How can employers build a great workplace culture,” and, “How do you (employers) build a workplace culture,” transparency of leadership was the number one answer among 82% of jobseekers and 86% of employers. This workplace culture element was significantly more important than having cultural training and culture committees for both responding groups. In addition, 58% of jobseekers said employer-provided leadership training was an important factor for their professional development.
- Increase leadership transparency within companies and expand the openness and consistency of communication around company strategy and direction.
- Develop employees as leaders early on to create a leadership culture at all levels, this empowers employees to have a sense of value and growth within an organization.
- Implement Senior Leadership Communities, such as Executive or CTO roundtables.
Career Growth and Professional Development: Intentional opportunities are critical
For 91% of jobseekers, career growth was ranked as the number one priority that attracts and retains them to a company, whereas 100% of employers said workplace culture is their number one priority when attracting talent. Among jobseekers, only 77% agreed that workplace culture attracts them to a company, which shows an opportunity exists to educate talent on the importance of culture fit.
- Implement structured career advancement programs for employees that include equitable mentorship, performance reviews and goal setting to increase transparency and inclusion.
- Encourage continual learning and sharing opportunities that incorporate mentorship, for example lunch and learns or innovation projects, or external events such as conferences and workshops.
- Educate jobseekers on the importance of culture fit, especially those who may not have a full understanding of Canada’s focus towards mission and culture fit in the workplace.
Community: Sharing best practices
On a qualitative level, reports showed there is room to grow around sharing best practices for hiring and attracting diverse talent. Traditional measures of work experience and relevant education tend to still be seen by employers as the most important ways jobseekers can set themselves apart, but taking a more creative approach when assessing diverse talent is important. Diverse talent pivoting into tech are bringing varied skill sets, transferable skills, and are a strong cultural fit for employers who value diversity because of their exposure to a wide range of industries, demographic backgrounds and nationalities. In addition, over 85% of jobseeker respondents have post secondary education, and more than 85% have up-skilled in tech. Intentional and inclusive hiring practices are valued by jobseekers, and with increased employer collaboration more diverse talent can be included in the tech ecosystem.
- Share best practices, particularly Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) practices, with other organizations
- Build Employee Resource Groups that allow for employees to connect through professional development and social activities
At CITI, we plan to gain further understanding of employers’ needs to expand the work being done around incorporating diverse talent in tech. In collaboration with YW Calgary, CRIEC and the Labour Market Partnership through the government of Alberta, we are advancing our research and bringing employers together around best practices. More details and findings to come soon.