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Why Training Matters for Diversity

I’ve had a few thoughts rattling around in my head about training recently, and have wanted to write a much longer post about them, while also struggling with how to organize those thoughts into a coherent blog post. This post is part one of giving up on that idea and doing a series of shorter posts on the topic. First up, how training is an important part of having a diverse workforce.

I believe it’s very difficult to have diversity in hiring when you don’t do a good job with ongoing training in your organization. Let me use an example from my own industry that I am acutely familiar with to show you what I mean by this.

In the eDiscovery industry, it’s not uncommon for job postings to list out a bunch of required experiences. Often they take the form of “x” number of years with a variety of technologies that the organization is currently using. This, from one perspective, makes sense. If I have an opening for someone to process data with Nuix or assist with document review in Relativity, new hires should have had some exposure to that. Again, I’m not saying that’s a bad thing, but let’s talk a bit more about what that job posting might say. I see a whole lot of them requiring 5+ years of experience with, again, a whole bunch of different tools. So that means that in order to even meet the minimum requirements, you have needed to have started working with these technologies in 2017 at the latest.

This is where I can provide some insight because it was about this time in 2017 when I left my job doing customer training at Nuix. I had the opportunity to meet and work with a pretty wide swath of the eDiscovery industry who was using Nuix. I won’t claim that it didn’t have some diversity, but it wasn’t a whole lot either. I met some brilliant women and BIPOC in classes and at user conferences, etc. but overall the classes were pretty white and male. I assume that isn’t really the case in 2022, but again our job posting above is only going to be able to select from the 2017 Nuix user base.

It’s not just my industry though. Think about the number of companies who talk a good game about the need to be more diverse in an industry that has traditionally not been, who still require 5, 7, or 10 years of experience in that industry in their job postings. The one they just said was not diverse enough.

If your organization has made diverse hiring a goal, right away we see one requirement that is going to limit the talent pool you are selecting from. That’s just one of the requirements, add in a bunch more required experiences, and some other requirements around travel or availability, and suddenly you end up with a not very diverse group to choose from. Then you’ll wonder why you can’t seem to find any diverse candidates. (There must not be any!)

Wouldn’t it be a better choice to locate candidates with some of the skills you’re going to need in a position and know that you have an environment that will help them grow and learn to become exactly what you need them to be? Wouldn’t that practice become a way to attract really smart people who want to grow and learn by coming to work for you? Doesn’t that sound like a better option than simply leaving your open jobs unfilled and lamenting the fact that no one wants to work anymore? Unfortunately, there are too many organizations that simply won’t consider this. They aren’t interested in growing the people who work for them, they only want to hire people who can come in with no effort on the organization’s part and do the work starting on day one.

I think they are short-sighted. They are hiring mercenaries to come to do the work for the paycheck and will forever be replacing them as they leave for a place offering a higher paycheck because we all know there aren’t really enough of those folks to go around. People they invest in and train become more and more valuable as they grow beyond the one thing you hired them to do, developing skills and knowledge that we don’t even know we need yet. Sure, eventually they might leave as they grow beyond anything we can offer them, but so be it. You’ll have been part of that, making not only your own company more diverse by investing in folks who maybe don’t fit the typical employee in any number of ways, but also making the industry more diverse in the same way as you raise the next generation of industry leaders.

Leaders who will know what you did for them and talk about it with the next group coming into the industry. They’ll be a walking, talking, promotion for coming to work for your company. That’s what being an industry-leading company looks like.

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