Diversity and inclusion (D&I) has been at the forefront of organisations’ agendas for some time now. And whilst positive steps have been made, it’s a challenge that businesses continue to grapple with. There’s no one-size-fits-all solution. It’s a complex, thorny issue that varies from region to region, sector to sector, business to business.
There is a misconception that D&I belongs solely with HR. It’s the responsibility of the whole organisation starting at the top with the CEO and trickling down through management. Companies must decide what their goals are when it comes to D&I policies, procedures, working practices and culture. This will vary depending on the size of the business, which markets they operate in and which countries they are present in. They must dig into the data regarding gender, ethnicity, age, disability, sexual orientation and make a robust and actionable plan to address the main challenges associated with each.
D&I permeates a company at the systemic level and is embedded in a company’s culture for as long as the company has been operating. Whether that is a tech start-up or a large multinational blue-chip organisation, it’s not an easy thing to change. In some organisations, it can mean steering the ship in a new direction which takes time, strategy and will inevitably be met by challenges.
Whilst creating new policies and procedures is certainly a great start, this is the first part of the puzzle. To help combat some of the issues that come after this, here are three simple actions to help attract and hire more diverse talent:
Provide unconscious bias training to all who are involved in building teams within organisations.
Unconscious bias training is not the magic bullet that will solve a company’s problems like it’s sometimes touted to be. However, what it does do very effectively is raise awareness. Raising awareness is a cornerstone of creating a more inclusive culture and can create a marginal gain step in the right direction. Most people’s biases are unconscious. So, highlighting the different types of biases that we all have can make all the difference when it comes to search and selection.
The main forms of biases that commonly crop up in the interview process are:
- Similarity bias – We gravitate towards people who are like us. It’s human nature to do this. So when hiring make sure there is a diverse selection of people on the hiring committee to lower the likelihood of the similarity bias.
- Confirmation bias – If you like a particular candidate you will seek out information that backs why you like them. Likewise, if you dislike a candidate, you will seek out information that proves your dislike. Once we make a decision or opinion about something, we tend to look for information that confirms our beliefs and overlook information that goes against them. It’s important to have an objective system and criteria for assessing candidates. An effective way to overcome this bias would be to undertake structured interviews where each candidate is asked the same set of questions and a scoring matrix is used so you can score the answer against the specific question which is based on skills for the position rather than “gut feeling”.
- Gender bias – At the office, an assertive woman might be perceived as “aggressive” while a man with the same attributes might be described as “confident”. When women are deemed as confident or ambitious the terms typically used can be bossy or aggressive, but if male counterparts are deemed as confident or ambitious that is seen as a positive trait
- The halo effect – This is where a positive first impression can lead us to treat someone more favourably and overlook any negative traits. For example, if a candidate has worked at a big-name firm, the hirer may then look upon them more favourably and have a distorted view of them. On the flip side, we have the horn effect where a negative first impression can lead us to treat someone less favourably. For example, if someone made a mistake in their past, they may be perceived as being untrustworthy and will tarnish the interviewer’s opinion of them even if they have overcome and learned from that one mistake.
Just by bringing unconscious bias to attention, managers typically will be more open-minded, more inclusive and more receptive to considering someone who doesn’t necessarily ‘fit the mould’.
Offer more flexibility to widen the talent pool.
We all know by now that having a diverse and inclusive team creates innovation, creativity and ultimately profitability for the company. So why are so many companies so slow in considering diverse candidates?
Throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, companies have been forced to implement flexible and remote working. However, there is still an ingrained mindset that in order for someone to be successful in a role they have to be physically present in a specific location.
This is a huge challenge, and a major stumbling block when it comes to recruiting talent.
More now than ever people are looking to spend more time with their families and in their communities. Exacerbated by the pandemic people’s priorities have shifted and we’ve seen huge numbers of people moving back to their home roots in pursuit of community, family and a sense of belonging,
The companies that will win the war for talent will be the ones who embrace true flexible and remote working. Granted, when joining a new company, visibility and face-to-face interactions can help a candidate settle in more quickly. For positions at a certain level of seniority, this tactic works extremely well, whereby trust and engagement are gained right from the outset which are the vital building blocks for retention.
Scrap the limiting CV requirements.
Many companies are still adamant that they need a person who has X amount of experience in X sector. However this will limit the search to a finite talent pool and organisations may be missing out on capable candidates beyond this – particularly if there are additional factors such as challenges around being restricted to regions, languages and niche skill sets. This might mean looking outside your sector to find the right candidate who yes, might need to spend some time acquainting themselves but have an abundance of transferable skills and can often bring a fresh perspective and ideas which, in turn, adds diversity into the organisation.
Companies looking to be ahead of the curve when it comes to sourcing, attracting and retaining talent must start to think about taking different innovative approaches to their talent attraction strategies or leave themselves in serious danger of not only not being able to attract the right talent, but of also losing key staff to the competition. Take a holistic approach and work with D&I specialists who are at the sharp end of the market with a high-level understanding of what companies must do to get ahead.
Katie Howard is the Director for the energy sector in our executive search team. She is also the D&I lead for the group, advising clients on their D&I recruitment strategies. To find out more, please get in touch.