Why is it so hard to retain diverse employees? We went on the hunt for answers

Why is it so hard to retain diverse employees? We went on the hunt for answers



Finding and holding onto amazing employees is a struggle at the best of times.

What makes it even more of a struggle? When those people are in short supply, such as skilled entry-level tech workers from a broad range of backgrounds.

Many of us know this to be true on a gut level, from personal experience or from scanning headlines in the news.

We wanted to explore the relationship between diversity and employee retention in detail, so we surveyed more than 2,000 early career workers and 270 business leaders. You can access the findings in full here: Diversity in Tech: 2021 US report.

We’ve already shared a snapshot of the top 4 candidate attraction issues that are blocking organizations from embracing diversity. Today we’re looking at what’s blocking organizations from holding onto those people after they do manage to get them on board.


Not meeting the bar for “welcoming”

Lots of organizations believe they’re inclusive, and it would be wrong to claim that there hasn’t been any progress in recent years. But is it enough?

We explored the perspective of the 18-28-year olds in our research.

Nearly 7 in 10 (68%) said they’ve felt uncomfortable in a tech-related role because of their gender, ethnicity, socio-economic background or neurodevelopmental condition.

This number rose to 75% of all female respondents (77% when looking at only women of color), 69% of Hispanic and Latino respondents, and 81% of Black and African American respondents.

Five in 10 said they’ve left or have wanted to leave a tech job because the company culture made them feel uncomfortable.

Once again, this figure was higher for many minority groups: 53% of female respondents, 53% of Asian respondents, 56% of Black and African American respondents, and 58% of Hispanic or Latino respondents.

We also asked a selection of 18-28-year-old technology workers about their overall experiences in the industry so far. It’s not all doom and gloom, but our research showed differences across demographics:

  • 77% of white respondents said that their experience so far has been mostly or entirely positive.
  • For non-white identifying respondents, that number is quite a bit lower (only 66% of Asian respondents, 63% of Black or African American respondents, and 64% of Hispanic or Latino respondents).


And how does gender come into it? Again, there are differences:

  • Women were slightly less likely than men to have a mostly or entirely negative experience (3% vs 5%).
  • However, men were significantly more likely to have mostly or entirely positive experiences (74% vs 66%).
  • About a third (31%) of women reported a mixture of positive and negative experiences, compared with only 22% of men.

Is this definitely due to the environment, or could it be the nature of the work itself that’s the root of the negative experiences for young tech employees? The evidence suggests the former.

Among our respondents, 16% actively found the work uninteresting, while 23% said they found it too difficult. At the same time, only 1 in 5 of those surveyed said they like their company culture, and only 1 in 4 (24%) felt welcomed by their colleagues.

Interestingly, most people we surveyed (64%) said they believe people from minority backgrounds are discriminated against in the recruitment process for technology jobs. This was relatively consistent across the demographics, implying that the problem is perceived by many of those in the industry, not just those who are discriminated against.


“A place to work” vs. “a place to learn”

There are lots of factors that make for an inclusive environment where employees want to stay for the long term. As we all know, it’s complicated.

But one effective intervention to ensure that all employees feel welcome and engaged is to actively invest in their professional development. This is especially important for people in minority groups who lack the confidence to ask for it themselves, then realize they’re not progressing and leave. It also widens your pool of diverse candidates initially, tackling education bias by focusing on potential rather than the prestige.

This could mean you deliver training in-house, or give every employee an annual training budget that’s theirs to use as they wish, or partner up with external experts – such as mthree.

In our mthree Alumni solution, we find great graduates, we custom-train them in the skills you need via intensive immersive classes at the mthree Academy, and we place them with you for 12-24 months. We also give them a formalized schedule of ongoing training throughout their placement. To give you an idea, the on-the-job learning for our production support pathway includes online courses in Python Scripting and Programming, Assertive and Confident Communication, Robotic Process Automation, Conflict Resolution, Problem Solving Approaches and many others.

It helps to have a support network in place too. That’s why mthree Alumni has a buddy system that pairs up graduates with other Alumni who are going through the same learning curve. We also put on events, such as our mthree Speaker series. August 2021’s was ‘Women in tech with Charity Jennings (mthree’s Dean of the Academy), a conversation and Q&A on Charity’s journey as a woman in tech’.

In our Reskill solution, we deliver targeted training for an organizations’ existing employees, whether to help them develop further in their roles or transition into new roles.

Is employee retention a hot topic for you right now? Download the Diversity in Tech: 2021 US report.