It’s certainly not groundbreaking news that having a more diverse workforce is beneficial to your business.
The majority of business success comes from understanding people – be it your customers, investors or stakeholders. So having a diverse range of people in our offices and meeting rooms gives us a far deeper understanding, which leads to more relevant work and therefore better business.
We’re seeing more amazing businesses that are run by diverse teams of people, but how do we make this the norm. What steps can the rest of us take to get there too? We know that it can be frustratingly slow to change the makeup of our organizations, particularly at the senior levels… but it can be done! Last week Ola (the Uber-alternative based in India) announced they were opening ‘Futurefactory’, which will employ only women in the 10,000 manufacturing roles for their new e-scooters. Described as a huge step forward in equal opportunities, the move is a response to the lack of job opportunities for women in India. However, it is hard to ignore the fact that the Ola executive board is dominated by male faces and that factory work has often been the only option for women to find work throughout history. All too often these decisions only address diversity in the lower ranks of a company, which doesn’t lead to true inclusion and equality.
It’s fair to say that transitioning a business to a more diverse and equitable workforce isn’t easy. Even in smaller businesses, we’re often looking to plug an urgent need with quick hires and applicants that seem to fit a similar profile as existing employees. People who fit straight may make for a lovely work environment, but an echo chamber of talent will rarely push your business to the next level.
With that in mind, we’ve put together a few tips to help you diversify your workforce and help your business progress.
- Know the limits of CVs
Love em’ or hate em’, you can’t deny that CV’s are painful to write and time-consuming to read.. and in reality, they tell us so little about the person behind them. Yet these are still one of the most common points of contact between potential employers and employees.
CVs can mean that you are immediately focusing on a person’s education and work experience. It’s one of the key things that leads to bias in hiring due to the fact you’re more likely to exclude those who’ve not had access to educational privileges. Many of the world’s most successful business people dropped out of school and experienced numerous failed employments. If you received the CV of a young Oprah Winfrey, Bill Gates or Henry Ford, you might have missed a few things about what they could offer in the real world. Similarly, people who have been overlooked for promotion due to unconscious bias or lack of access to training and support could be amazing in a more senior role, but you won’t see that coming through on their CV.
Remember, you’re trying to find someone who’ll be an asset to your organisation, not someone who has proven they were an asset for someone else’s. So why not consider encouraging different forms of applications that give people an opportunity to demonstrate more than just certified education and previous work experience. For example, think about setting them a task that relates directly to the role.
Thinking more about the early information you’re prioritising will help you find exciting new talent that, with a bit of support and nurturing, will flourish in your business.
- Embrace non-traditional applications and interviews
It’s not just about the categories of the information you’re getting, it’s also about the medium. Sometimes the simplest thing can mean you miss out on the best talent. For example, many of the most exceptional creative minds can come with an element of neurodiversity. Perhaps a brilliant animator is severely dyslexic. A genius programmer is on the autism spectrum. Or an exceptional presenter has limited writing skills. All too often we put the focus on people’s ability to write a great application, followed by an intense process of asking them to answer questions under pressure.
Why not allow candidates to submit their applications through the medium they excel at? If a role requires exceptional written skills, ask for written submissions. But if a role requires different skills, be open to candidates responding to a job description using approaches they are more comfortable with. We’re talking about a spoken recording, a video, a series of images, the output of some incredible coding. In the marketing world, we forever talk about the importance of stories. Let your candidates tell theirs in a way that works for them.
Perhaps most importantly in the application process, it is always important to have clearly defined criteria that can be applied to all applicants. Create these before you open for applications to make sure you’re not biased by a particularly shiny submission you’ve seen.
Remember, there are many aspects of an interview that can bring out the best in some and be completely inaccessible to others. Don’t assume a candidate can afford to travel to you or find a decent internet connection for an online interview. Be aware that candidates with neurodiverse attributes may find face-to-face conversations difficult, while a wheelchair user might have a far more stressful journey than others to get to you. And if you can’t make up a diverse interview panel from your in-house team, consider hiring a consultant or advisor who can offer an alternative perspective on your interviewees. Just remember to always be fully transparent with your candidates about who is in the room – real or virtual.
- Plan for inclusion
Before you can attract a wider range of people, you need to be catering to their needs. Many businesses trying to improve diversity begin with the lower levels of a business, which can result in employees feeling isolated or, worse still, like the burden of pushing for better diversity and inclusion lies with them. It’s important to make sure you’re not making people feel ‘different’. At the very least, getting some policies in place and training your existing team can make an enormous difference to how attractive you are to a wider pool of talent. Here are a few things to consider:
– Make sure your office is accessible. There is a big difference between having adjustments made for you and feeling like you already belong.
– Provide diversity, equity and inclusion training for all employees. We all have unconscious biases and with the best intentions, we can be unaware of the impact our words and behaviours have on others.
– Have publicly available diversity, equity and inclusion policies. It shows your intent and means you are holding yourself accountable to your employees and the wider public.
– Encourage attendance of events that break employees out of their own echo chambers. Exposure to different people and conversations will help to create awareness and educate your team about how they can contribute to a more inclusive environment.
– Dedicate time to company-wide open discussions about issues related to equality and inclusion. It can feel uncomfortable for people to talk about these things, normalising it in your workplace will make it easier for people to flag any excluding behaviour.
- Tackle digital inequity
When advertising a new position, most of us will post it to a few job websites, push it out on social media and maybe get a recruitment agency involved who can email it out to their database. But this purely online approach could be reducing your chances of attracting the talent that will help to balance your company’s diversity. The recent pandemic highlighted the digital inequalities that still create social divides. People living on lower incomes – the very people who often need access to better paid jobs – are more likely to have limited access to the internet. So when the whole world moves its business online, the chances of you keeping your job decrease dramatically if you’re not connected.
It’s also the case that the majority of jobs in the UK now require some digital skills. Since an estimated 20% of UK adults have limited or no digital skills and women, people with disabilities and over 65s make up a higher proportion of this group, it’s yet another barrier to those already marginalised in our society. Job descriptions are rife with technical jargon and demands for digital skills that could actually be learnt within the role.
So, here is a huge opportunity for businesses to really walk the sustainability walk. Creating up-skilling schemes in your business to boost people’s digital capabilities not only gives you access to a pool of talent yet to be discovered, but also means you’re directly addressing some of the long-standing inequities in our societies. Start seeking those interested in learning these skills, rather than the narrow pool of people already adept at them.