Attracting diverse candidates can be the one of the biggest barriers to improving workplace diversity. In this blog I explore how the idea of diversity in the workplace is changing and look at practical steps employers and hiring managers can take to attract and retain candidates which support a diverse workforce.
With UK unemployment levels at their lowest for 40 years and the pending impact of no free movement for EU workers, recruiting and retaining good candidates is an increasing challenge for most employers. Often the focus of candidate assessments is on a good ‘fit’ with the team, hiring managers taking the view that once the employee is in post it’s easier to develop skills than foster shared values. So how does diversity fit into candidate attraction?
Whilst there are many factors that contribute to the relationship between diversity in workplaces and organisational outcomes, such as financial performance, innovation and team performance, there is increasing evidence that organisations with the most diverse workforces are more successful.
Source: Delivering through Diversity, 2018, McKinsey & Company
‘Organisation with the most ethnically diverse executive teams—not only with respect to absolute representation but also of variety or mix of ethnicities —are 33% more likely to outperform their peers on profitability’ found McKinsey’s latest study of diversity in the workplace.’
Changing views around diversity at work
Our understanding of what is meant by diversity in the workplace is increasing. In the UK, diversity goes beyond the protected characteristics of age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion and belief, sex and sexual orientation, covered by discrimination law. We are starting to give much wider consideration to social background, class, educational achievements, regional accents and diversity of thinking.
The fast-emerging area of workplace diversity and inclusion that focuses on including people who are neurodivergent is commonly described as ‘Neurodiversity’. Neurodiversity recognises and values the importance of ‘diversity of thought’.
Source: A guide to Neurodiversity at Work 2018, CIPD
‘Put people with different perspectives, backgrounds and experiences in a room, and your team will be more innovative and creative. Autism, dyslexia, dyspraxia, ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) and more – for so long viewed as medical conditions to be mitigated, are now seen as natural forms of human neurocognitive variation.’
It is estimated that around one in seven people in the UK have a form of ‘neurodivergence’, equating to more than 15% of the population. ACAS’s new guide, Neurodiversity in the Workplace, encourages employers to allow enough flexibility in job roles to allow individuals to play to their strengths, rather than a rigid approach which takes no account of comparative advantage. Placing excessive emphasis on ‘all-round’ generic competences can disadvantage neurodivergent staff who may have highly specialised skills that could be harnessed differently. This flexibility needs to start at recruitment to ensure that assessment and selection activities allow for diversity of thought.
Ed Thompson, CEO, Uptimize, which delivers training on how to sensitively recruit and manage neurodiverse staff
“Starting with the understanding that every individual thinks differently – and has their own preferences around things like social interaction and communication channels – is a platform for much more effective management, hiring processes and customer interactions.”
Workplaces which lack diversity in thinking and approaches to work risk developing a cloned organisation culture, with like choosing like and everyone taking the same approach. Innovation and creativity occur most when people feel safe to challenge the established view. When managers and leaders welcome alternative views and perspectives, seeking out and valuing the contributions individuals can make.
Recruiters and hiring managers can avoid a single world view by being aware of the risks of positive bias towards recruiting people with shared values. Hiring managers who try to avoid future conflict by hiring ‘people who think like us’ risk a lack of balance in team roles and are storing up future problems. For example, a low appetite for risk and challenge can be the antidote to innovation and disruptive thinking.
Hiring managers should aim to recruit the best candidate for the role so its important to be clear what that means for each organisation. Weighting not just the core skills but complementary, varied skill sets that help make more diverse and stronger teams. Recruitment skills training can help raise awareness of unconscious bias and potential discrimination however employers need to look at their overall strategy to candidate attraction.
Are your job adverts failing to attract the right candidates?
Be honest or prepare for an expensive mistake. New roles failing to match expectations set at interview is one of the most common reasons for new employees to quit in the first 12 months.
Don’t exaggerate or underplay the responsibilities of the role. Sometimes job descriptions oversell the opportunity in order to attract people. This approach will backfire in the long run. For example, if your organisation operates in one country, don’t describe it as ‘global’. Review your job content to check there is no disconnect between the position you’re trying to fill and the type of candidate you’re looking for.
5 Tips to boost candidate attraction
1. Use a title that’s appealing and people understand. Use job titles and descriptions that accurately reflect the role.
2. Use multiple channels to advertise. Where are your potential candidates searching? The internet is now the default channel for many recruiters but 1 in 10 households are without internet access in Great Britain (ONS) so how else can people find out about your roles and apply.
3. Be clear what skills, qualifications or attributes are essential and what would be an advantage. Job seekers take literal notice of this area and may rule themselves out. Women are more likely than men to rule themselves out on this basis.
4. Partner with local charities actively supporting individuals looking for work
5. Flexibility – in location, hours and interview timings, reasonable adjustments – be clear about options available
Recruiting new people is expensive in time and money so it’s important to know that what you, and any recruitment partners are doing is working well and contributes to building a diverse workforce which meets your organisation’s needs going forward.
Whatever size organisation, undertaking a regular review or audit on your current recruitment activities can help ensure that your approach going forward is fit for purpose for both the organisation and potential job candidates.
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