What strategies can your organisation adopt to elevate its Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) position? In the first article in our series, we focus on how D&I can be reflected in your recruitment process.
Two decades ago, diversity and inclusion initiatives were only a priority to the top tier of businesses. The question asked by organisations trailing behind, was ‘’Why should we care about diversity and inclusion?’’ Elite businesses demonstrated that not only were they a powerful force for positive change in their organisations, but they also delivered results.
Drawing people from different backgrounds, with varying skillsets, experiences and knowledge had significant effects on these organisations. They witnessed an increase in innovation and creativity, nurtured a wider range of perspectives and developed a greater understanding of their target markets as a result. Employees were happier. Substantial research showed these companies also increased their profitability 1 .
It was a self-perpetuating ideal. As these organisations became more diverse, a more diverse and talented pool of applicants desired to join them.
Today, an effective D&I strategy is the hallmark of any ambitious organisation. It will ask questions as to how they can remove prejudice against ethnicity, religions, nationality, gender and consider emerging factors such as neurodivergence. D&I initiatives should be reflected in every aspect of a business's operations, and the path begins at recruitment. Here are 4 steps that you can take to apply a modern, effective D&I strategy in your recruitment process.
1. The Search
Where does your organisation traditionally advertise job vacancies? If you place a strong emphasis on the referral process, and don’t have a very diverse employee makeup, you’re unlikely to make great strides, "If the majority of the staff is one demographic, increasing diversity through a referral-based hiring program becomes more difficult, and culturally skewed. The reality is that neighborhoods, communities and schools remain largely homogeneous." 2
To counter this, you can ensure your vacancies are posted on specialised job boards, and digital platforms where diversity is a focus - not only on mainstream sites. Advertising on platforms such as LinkedIn are a sure way to cast your net wider in search of the best talent. It’s also a chance to be more imaginative – using social media posts and various networking groups and membership societies.
If you have strong D&I policies in place in your organisation already, be sure you proudly communicate them at this stage, so it’s visible to potential applicants. "67% of job seekers deem workplace diversity as an important factor in their decision process, and 69% of millennials and Gen Zers said they’re more likely to want to stay at a company for five years or longer as opposed to an employer that didn’t prioritise diversity and inclusion." 3 Ensure you have a comprehensive page that’s visible on your website highlighting what you are doing to nurture D&I.
2. The Job Description
A popular strategy adopted by pioneers in D&I is changing the language used in job descriptions and considering more inclusive language that doesn’t intimidate potential candidates. For example, it’s suggested that using words such as ‘superior’ and ‘confident’ could potentially put women off applying for certain roles. Software such as Textio can help you address the gender imbalance in writing. It helps companies write more inclusive job descriptions, creating a balance between masculine words such as driven and competitive, and feminine words such as dependable and collaborative.
Clarity is also key. Try to avoid using too much jargon to avoid confusion for potential candidates. Make sure the criteria for a job is clear so a diverse range of potential applicants understand exactly what you expect from the role. Job descriptions should be role output focused, not culture fit focused. All organisations cultivate their own lexicon as part of their brand image. Consider the words your organisation uses and whether it reflects your D&I ambitions, and ensure your job descriptions align with this carefully crafted tone of voice.
3. The Selection Process
The selection process is the stage where human ‘unconscious (or ‘implicit’) bias’ comes into play, putting women and minority groups at a disadvantage. These biases often come from our own backgrounds and are not obvious in our day-to-day interactions with people.
Trying to gauge someone’s credentials without looking at their name, age, place of birth or gender is a solution to factor out our unconscious biases. There are browser add-ons that can veil names and photos from LinkedIn, for example, so you view a candidate’s experience without their personal details. AI software has been developed that pre-scans CVs with machine learning algorithms to instantly discover the best candidates, a path McKinsey predict will become more commonplace in reducing bias in the near future, by automating decisions. 4
Ensure you have at least two people going through applications to make the final shortlist, actively challenging the assumptions each make. It’s also worth taking neurodiversity into account. 1 in 7 people in the UK identify as neurodivergent (e.g., dyslexia, dyspraxia, ADHD, autism). Spelling errors on a CV, for example, could be dealt more leniency if a candidate seems to have the desired experience and requirements for the position.
4. The Interview Stage
Another innate human bias emerges in the interview stage – the ‘confirmation bias’. It’s "the tendency to embrace information that confirms one’s existing beliefs while rejecting information that challenges them. This bias and others can cause hiring managers to make poor or non-diverse hiring choices based on the unconscious assumptions they make about their candidates." 5
Training your assessment panel to counter such biases and maintain a more objective standpoint in interviews is a good way not only to enhance your D&I, but also educate your own staff. Ensure the same questions are asked to all applicants, setting the right tone, and finding the best means for candidates to demonstrate their capabilities. The interview stage is also a chance for you to demonstrate your organisation’s D&I ethos.
Neurodiversity should also be taken into account here. As an interviewer, perhaps consider those neurodivergent candidates by not punishing a lack of eye contact or unconventional body language in an interview and creating an environment where they can be assessed in comfort.