Is diversity in the workplace just hype or hope

Is diversity in the workplace just hype or hope?

We are constantly told that there is ample evidence that diversity is good. It can apparently help a company evolve, innovate, problem solve and be more efficient. It is also supposed to foster a sense of community, increase work engagement, and create a more positive work culture.

29 March 2021

I don't doubt any of these claims about diversity. But I think this is a topic that needs to be revisited when it comes to recruitment.

It has a huge impact on the recruitment process. It could prove decisive when candidates pick the next company they will work for.

I sent out a simple poll on LinkedIn to see just how people felt. I asked the question "in terms of diversity in the workplace:“Where is the most progress needed in your company?"

The options given were "more women in senior positions", "greater ethnic diversity" and "less age discrimination".

In terms of diversity in your company, where is the most progress needed?


The results were not surprising.I chose these options because these are the concerns I frequently hear when trying to place a candidate with a client.

They are serious issues and can deter a candidate from accepting a job. Believe it or not this does happen. When a very talented candidate is searching for a job, quite often they will get multiple offers. When this happens, candidates start to really drill down and weigh up their options by assessing which company would be a better fit for them. And, in the three examples in this survey, every one of them has at one point in time been a decisive dealbreaker for me when I have been placing candidates.

In the beginning of the recruitment process, when a company promotes diversity to a candidate it can seem like hype. But further down the line when a candidate has to make a decision, it can suddenly turn into hope.

Let’s cover each one of these points more closely.

More women in senior positions

Unsurprisingly, this came out top with 44% of respondents selecting this as an issue.

Traditionally, Switzerland has been behind the curve on women in the workplace. However, the situation is slowly improving. According to the Schillingreport, in 2020 Switzerland hit the double digits for the first time for women on executive boards, when it reached 10%. In 2021, this number increased to 13%, which demonstrates that things are heading in the right direction.

But we are not there yet! In fact, we are nowhere near there. When you think about it, 13% is extremely low.

This can have an impact on recruiting talent, particularly if they are female. Women need an environment where they can work well and be fully appreciated for what they do. Having women in senior positions can help a company's employer brand because it demonstrates that it is a place is an environment where they can do well.

This is a comment I’ve often heard: “Ah, their CEO is a lady – that’s good”. It’s subtle, but it does make a difference.

Greater ethnic diversity

Switzerland is one of the most welcoming countries in the world for foreigners. It's also a country that has changed dramatically and become much more international over the years. However, ethnic diversity is something that many talented candidates think about. 20% of the respondents to my survey believed it was an issue at the company they work in.

For some candidates, working for a Swiss company where there are many people from different backgrounds and cultures feels reassuring. It means that they can fit in regardless of their background or ethnicity.

I think though this is a topic that is less about diversity and more about a sense of inclusion. It’s important because it can have an impact on the decision a candidate makes when selecting a company to work at.

Less age discrimination

A significant 36% of correspondence selected this option. Age discrimination is a very real problem. For us, it limits the candidate pool that we can select from. Older workers generally face difficulties when it comes to finding work.

From a candidate’s perspective, if you're an older worker then working in a company with a diverse range of age groups is more attractive. They won’t feel out of place in a company full of younger staff. It’s worth considering because by making older workers feel included you widen the opportunity set to attract talent.

What’s the solution?

When candidates look at a company they plan to join, being able to fit in is very important. For many candidates this is a deciding factor. But, this is not just about employer brand and trying to attract talent.

Companies also need to remove some of their own cognitive biases when considering candidates during the recruitment process. Age, gender and race are all areas of the recruitment process that if addressed properly can offer access to an even wider talent pool.

In conclusion, diversity is certainly not hype and can offer great hope to both candidates and clients during the recruitment process.