Expert’s Advice

Question

Over the years we have only hired the same type of people with the same ideas and it’s beginning to be evident that our organization lacks diversity

It’s been challenging as we don’t have valid reasons for rejecting candidates, how do we achieve diversity without subtly discriminating?

 

Dear HR Professional,

In recent times, issues around diversity have become a major focus in the workplace. While diversity mostly refers to different traits in a group of people with a major focus on inherent/legally protected characteristics such as gender, race, sexual orientation, disability, and age, it is important to know that things like skills, socio-economic levels, personality, educational and professional background also belong in this category.

An organization comprising employees of different traits not only gives equal opportunities for career success to all employees, it also benefits the organization by giving access to a wide variety of viewpoints and perspectives which in turn improves innovation, customer satisfaction, decision-making, and above all the achievement of company financial goals.

As you have rightly mentioned a major solution to improving innovation and creativity in a workplace is by ensuring diversity in the workplace. An effective recruitment and selection process allows a merit-based selection, free from all forms of bias which may lead to litigation or impact your employer brand negatively. It ensures candidates are recruited based on factors that are relevant to the candidate’s ability to do the job.

There are several approaches towards achieving diversity in your organization without subtly discriminating:

  1. Develop a diversity and inclusion strategy

When developing and implementing a diversity strategy, it is important to leverage people analytics to understand how diverse your company is presently. Assess where the gaps are and devise a long-term strategy to diversify your talent pool by attracting and retaining the right employees. You should also create a diversity and inclusion committee mostly led by the Head of HR to ensure the implementation of this strategy. The committee should be well-constituted to include the underrepresented groups. In addition, the need to hire diverse candidates should be made known to your recruitment team and treated as a top priority.

  1. Define clear job profile
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A key step to eliminating bias and attracting a diverse workforce is by stating clearly what the job is and the traits that are critical for a candidate to be able to get the job done. It is important that a thorough review be done between the human resources team and the hiring department to ensure the traits and skills required are indeed needed and not just based on bias.

Attention should be placed on the wording in the job description or profile to prevent ambiguity and to ensure it can be understood by both internal and external applicants. Make sure the criteria you set such as the years of experience, qualification and every other requirement are clear and reflect the skills and competencies needed to do the job.

  1. Increase diversity in candidate sourcing and shortlisting

Attracting a different category of people different from your current hires will require you to make changes in your sourcing and recruitment strategy. Before you begin the recruitment process, you should ensure you are able to source a pool of diverse candidates. To achieve this, ensure you review your job adverts to ensure they are well written to communicate to a large audience, encourage candidate referrals from your diverse employees, offer internships for underrepresented young people, target sources where diverse candidates congregate such as large recruitment websites, LinkedIn, newspaper, promoted social media posts, networking groups and membership societies that work with under-represented groups. Your application process should be simple, direct and with clear instructions to guide candidates while making the application.

Ensuring diversity in shortlisting becomes easier when clear criteria for evaluating candidates have been set. It’s best practice to have at least two people shortlisting in a formal meeting setting, they can then actively challenge any assumptions made by the other. However, you can also automate your shortlisting using an Applicant Tracking System (ATS). Eliminating questions that can cause bias (age, gender, state of origin, school, etc) from your application process can also be effective by ensuring assessors’ decisions only account for the skills and experience of the candidate and other factors that have a major impact on the job performance.

  1. Train hiring managers to reduce unconscious bias
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Hiring managers need to be trained on how to prevent bias during the recruitment process based on factors that are not related to the role such as age, gender or background. Anti-bias training will allow managers to identify areas where they may have their own unconscious biases and ensure recruitment processes are free from subjectivity. Alternatively, you may consider blind recruitment to mitigate bias in decision making and ensure hiring managers focus on the skills and aptitudes required for the job only. This process involves the use of automated or manual systems to remove identifying features from an application prior to reviews, such as the applicant’s age, gender, school, ethnicity or name.

  1. Create an inclusive and transparent interview process

A cross-section of interviewers with different backgrounds, perspectives and opinions will not only help to deliver more informed and balanced selection outcomes but will also ensure that the candidates are more comfortable during the process. It is also important that you make use of the structured interview approach that ensures every candidate gets asked the same questions. This ensures consistency and fairness in your process.

Adequate preparation of the interview panel for an inclusive interview involves agreeing in advance on the types of questions to be asked and the roles of your panel members. Planning will give you the time you need to concentrate on the things that really matter during the interview and selecting the right candidates based on merit.

  1. Create an enabling company culture
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All the hard work done to attract diverse talents will be futile if you do not create policies and procedures that will encourage inclusion in the workplace. Policies on communication, flexible work options, creativity and innovation are important to ensure the diversity in your team remains a competitive advantage for the organization. It is of no use hiring diverse people and restricting them with policies that will make them conform to the norm without challenging the status quo.

Research has found that one of the best workplace policies to attract diverse candidates is flexibility.

  1. Promote an inclusive employer brand

Positioning your company as a brand that supports diversity and inclusion is critical to attracting diverse candidates. Developing and communicating processes and initiatives that value the opinion of people with varying backgrounds will help entrench diversity in the company culture.

A major indicator of a good employer brand is great testimonials from its employees. A good culture that supports diversity and inclusion will not only improve employee engagement levels but also help attract diverse talents to the organization. Keep a record of your employee feedback, testimonials and experience and share this as part of your value proposition to candidates.

  1. Evaluate

Creating a diverse workplace is a continuous cycle and a one-time revamp of your policies will not be a band-aid to fix the challenges. You should set S.M.A.R.T. (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-bound) targets and measure them as you proceed. Using your people analytics information, you can measure your progress by comparing your company performance pre and post the implementation of your diversity strategy. Constant evaluation will gauge your progress and determine how well your diversity interventions are working and when to review.

 

In conclusion, creating a diverse workplace extends beyond recruiting based on merit and without bias, it also includes creating an inclusive work culture that ensures employees are engaged and are able to deliver superior company performance.

Best wishes.

YourHRlady

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