Building a diverse workforce: Why diversity matters
The business and ethical case for building a diverse workforce has been well documented, encouraged and enforced in recent years, however, following Google’s disheartening recent annual diversity report, which shows that there has been a decline in females hired at an organisational leadership level, it is clear that more must be done to achieve a fair system for all. From tech giants to small businesses, every company can benefit from reflecting their diverse clientele within their own teams.
Why diversity matters? It goes beyond abiding by the law
There is, of course, the legal case for why managers must make building a diverse workforce a priority. The Equality Act 2010, which replaced the previous Race Relations Act 1976 and the Disability Discrimination Act 1995, places a duty on all organisations to eliminate discrimination, advance equality of opportunity between people from different groups and foster good relations between individuals of diverse backgrounds. A number of leading businesses that have failed to adhere to the Equality Act, or have simply not done enough, have been criticised by the media and journalists, until change was made.
However, followings laws and regulations because of a fear of being “named and shamed” is of course not the healthiest way to achieve diversity. A better approach would be to have managers aware of how diversity positively impacts a business’ bottom-line and is crucial going forward.
According to McKinsey’s “Why diversity matters report,” companies in the top quartile for ethnic diversity at the executive level are 33 percent more likely to have above-average profitability than companies in the bottom quartile. The same goes for gender diversity, with companies in the top quartile for gender diversity being 21 percent more likely to have above-average profitability than companies in the bottom quartile.
The study shows an undeniable correlation between diversity and financial performance and can perhaps be explained by the range of skills, experience and outlook that a mixed team brings to the table. Diversifying the workforce will allow problems to be approached from different perspectives and allow for new solutions to be reached, which perhaps would not be possible from a team that were educated in the same way. A uniform approach in thinking and behaving runs a risk of creating an echo chamber where problems are tackled with the same attitude that may have caused it in the first place.
How to boost inclusion?
Moving towards an inclusive workforce begins with the recruitment process. Placing diversity and inclusion at the forefront of your talent sourcing strategy will allow for an authentic, natural and diverse team to flourish, with diversity present at all levels of the hierarchy.
To build a diverse workforce companies must seek talent through a range of channels. For example, employing all new staff through social media may exclude those who do not have access to such technology. No matter how effective an individual initiative is, such as employee referral schemes, it cannot be relied on exclusively. By utilising a range of sources, you can reach individuals who work, live and seek employment in different ways.
Companies must adapt the way that they engage with different groups to ensure that their sourcing techniques are as effective as can be. For example, flexible or part-time work may be highly attractive to mothers, however, opportunities to travel or staff day outs may lure in graduates. The language used in job listings plays an important role in attracting talent, and research shows that certain words, such as ‘competitive’ or ‘determined’ can discourage female applicants, where as vocabulary such as ‘collaborative’ and ‘cooperative’ attract more women. This shows how important it is to consider or even tailor job listings and all forms of interaction when engaging with potential candidates.
Reassess candidate criteria
Many businesses tend to have fixed candidate criteria when seeking new hires. Whether that is a certain level of education, work experience or consistency in work, this requirement can, in fact, unintentionally cause discrimination. For example, a disabled person may have struggled to find employment previously due to bias, causing a lack of work experience, however this does not reflect a lack of skill, passion or ability and hiring only based on experience would isolate this person.
To address the unconscious bias which is rampant and proven in recruitment, a number of companies have turned to the removal of personal data on CVs to create a ‘blind’ and objective process. For example, EY’s decision to remove all academic and education details and ban CVs from its trainee application process has shown to be very successful, with the number of recruits from state schools jumping by 10 percentage points to 49 percent for graduates and to 59 percent for school leavers. Following this model can help create a level playing field from the beginning.
Building a diverse workforce in-house
Internal talent acquisition teams are best positioned to manage a transparent and consistent recruitment process. By having a bird’s eye view of how the business operates and because they are plugged into the corporate culture, internal teams hold the power to promote authentic messages and have an honest approach to what needs to be done. Unfortunately, a number of recruitment agencies interpret diversity goals as mere quotas, and neglect factors such as company and cultural fit. By bringing all talent sourcing in-house, companies can gain full control of hiring and ensure that their most valuable resource is in safe hands.
If you’re looking for support building an internal talent acquisition function to improve diversity and inclusion, get in touch today.