Recruiting for Diversity

The phrase ‘creating a diverse & inclusive workplace’ is a critical HR movement, and talent acquisition managers globally have been tasked to increase workplace diversity.

‘A diverse and inclusive workplace’ is more than just a buzzword to weave into a company’s recruitment marketing materials – it’s a top-line business strategy, and only when the entire c-suite is engaged will a company’s D&I practices thrive.

To truly achieve a diverse workplace, companies must plan what cultural and policy changes they need to make to attract diverse candidates, what tactics to employ to reach a broader range of candidates, and have a structured recruitment process free from biases.

Furthermore, the organisation’s culture must accept diversity by promoting a culture of tolerance and creating conflict management strategies to address issues.

So, what is a diverse & inclusive workplace?

Diversity in the workplace is about recognising, respecting, and valuing differences based on gender, age, ethnicity, race, religion, disability, culture, and sexual orientation, as well as individual characteristics and experiences, such as marital and parental status, life experience, educational background, and geographic location.

An inclusive workplace occurs when people feel valued and respected, regardless of these diverse characteristics. Companies have both moral and business reasons to achieve greater diversity in the workplace.

D&I leads to higher productivity

Morally, most agree it’s well past the time that we appreciate diversity. In addition, studies have shown that diverse teams are more effective and productive:

  • When Deloitte Australia modelled the relationship between diversity and inclusion and business performance, they identified an ‘uplift’ of 80% when both conditions were high.
  • McKinsey Institute research findings revealed that gender-diverse companies are 15% more likely to outperform their peers, and ethnically-diverse companies are 35% more likely to do the same.
  • Forbes surveyed and interviewed more than 450 global companies over two years and found diverse companies are 1.7 times more likely to be innovation leaders and 1.8 times more likely to be change-ready.

Achieving D&I

While the argument for building a diverse workforce is stronger than ever, building one remains a challenge for business leaders. Many companies are divided internally on what brand and cultural elements appeal to diverse teams. Hence, it often takes work to get ‘buy-in’ for a comprehensive approach.

Furthermore, creating an inclusive culture requires another level of effort that might not be getting the investment it deserves. For example, diverse groups tend to engage in more rigorous decision-making by considering differing perspectives, leading to more objective decisions and fewer mistakes.

However, it can be a more complex and slower social process—something many companies aren’t prepared to incorporate.Companies also tend to focus on activities such as hiring quotas and mentoring programs to demonstrate a commitment to change, instead of focusing on performance as they would with any other business strategy.

Recruiting for diversity

Diversity recruiting still aims to find the best possible candidate based on merit. The difference is it’s structured to give all applicants, regardless of background, an equal opportunity.

Six ways to attract diverse candidates

Choose your words carefully

Think about how your organisation writes job descriptions. Ensure the language does not imply that you are looking for a candidate from a particular background. Gender-coded language can signal that a role or workplace is better suited to one gender, putting people off applying for a position. For example, a male-dominated company may advertise in its search for someone to ‘analyse markets to determine appropriate price points.’

In contrast, a less male-dominated company advertisement might read ‘understand markets to establish appropriate price points. The job responsibilities are the same, but the way an advert is phrased may impact the type of candidates attracted to the role.

Review your employee benefits & policies

Inclusivity also involves ensuring all your employees can participate in your benefits package, events, activities and other opportunities. Your benefits offering should recognise the uniqueness of individuals and provide them with options to participate according to their specific needs. For example, research indicates that one of the best workplace policies to attract diverse candidates is flexibility. Flexible scheduling can take many forms, but essentially it allows employees to get their work done outside of a traditional 9 to 5 workday, 5-day workweek. Flexibility to one person will ultimately mean a different thing to another employee, therefore a flexible work policy should be exactly that – flexible.

Cast a wider net

When you explore new candidate sources, you reach people with suitable skills yet still need to make it into your standard recruitment pipeline. For example, if a company wants to attract more females. They could advertise roles with professional membership groups that cater to women in their industry.

Address unconscious bias

Whether we like to admit it or not, there’s unconscious activity going on inside our brains that affects our decisions. Even in the early search stage, a candidate’s resume picture, name, or where they studied may influence opinions more than you think. Given the significant impact of bias on the hiring process, counteracting them should be considered a priority. To address unconscious bias, companies should review systems and processes to discover where unconscious biases may exist and provide training for managers responsible for recruiting to get beyond them.

Standardise the interview

Unconscious bias can manifest itself in non-standardised interviews. To counteract this, use a consistent approach for all candidates. For example, in standardised interviews, candidates are asked the same questions aligned with defined success in this role, in the same order. When assessing candidates, hiring managers should have an unbiased list of specific skills and competencies that a candidate should possess to be suitable for the role, and a diverse interview panel to evaluate a candidate’s success.

Systemise hiring for ‘cultural fit

Many hiring managers believe they are hiring for ‘culture fit’ when in fact, they are just hiring people they identify with. When a candidate shares a particular background, trait, or life experience with the hiring manager, the alignment can be mistaken as an excellent ‘cultural fit. However, this can lead to a homogenous culture – people with similar backgrounds who think and act similarly.

Instead, companies should evaluate what attributes and qualities make their culture and company successful. Then put a system around the hiring process—for example, screen candidates on their values with behaviour and personality assessments and use standardised scorecards to evaluate candidates.

Creating an inclusive culture

Of course, all the work that has gone into creating a diverse recruitment process will only be meaningful if your company has an inclusive work environment. Creating an inclusive workplace will always be work-in-progress, evolving over time. A good starting point is to focus on three key principles – respect your employees, celebrate their differences, and make inclusion feel real to all employees.