Diversity

In 2019, there is perhaps no more important issue for companies’ recruiting strategies than diversity and inclusion. The conversation about the necessity of having a diverse workforce has most definitely entered the mainstream.

What do businesses need to know to make sure they are doing all they can to improve their diversity-related hiring practises? And, more importantly, how does supporting diversity lead to improvements in your organisations’ collective intelligence, employee engagement and happiness and, ultimately, boosting the bottom line?

Diversity and inclusion are not only “feel-good” things, and they are not exclusively about gender and ethnicity, although those are perhaps the most visible markers of diversity. It is also about age, language, nationality, lifestyle, sexuality, disability, class, culture, perspectives and a whole host of other factors.

The technology sector, in particular, is currently making a lot of noise about diversity hiring, although progress is still slow. For example, LinkedIn’s data analysis recently revealed that women make up less than 29 per cent of tech industry professionals and only fill 20 per cent of tech leadership roles. While some reports also claim that Silicon Valley is still going backwards when it comes to BAME recruitment.

Use diversity to boost collective intelligence

“Having a diverse team is one of the strongest factors working in favour of business success, productivity and it also helps to boost collective intelligence,” says Johnny Warström, CEO and co-founder at the online interactive presentation platform, Mentimeter

“In today’s globalized world, diversity is increasingly a vital aspect of a company’s workforce – employees with diverse language skills, ages, cultures and backgrounds are beneficial for not only productivity but also for wider company growth.”

Warström and his team set out from the start to build a strong, transparent and diverse culture, made up of 18 different nationalities and a 50/50 gender balance. An approach that the tech CEO thinks has been a key factor in facilitating growth and attracting new talent.

“To attract a representative workforce, companies need to review what they are offering employees in terms of benefits as well as type of work culture they have. For example, the idea behind one of Mentimeter’s most popular features on the platform was developed while the entire office was on a relocation programme abroad – an annual one-month trip that we do in order to further improve cross-team collaborations and create a synergistic work environment, which in turn inspired everyone to come up with successful and valuable ideas for the company.

Go beyond traditional hiring methods

The Mentimeter CEO is also adamant that, in order to genuinely support diversity within your business, you need to make the recruiting process itself more transparent across the organisation.

“By making the recruiting process more transparent, in terms of what the company is looking for, employees will feel more included and may be more likely to spread the word. It is also beneficial to perform regular check-ins on how the company is doing in terms of diversity and inclusions.

This can be done by face-to-face meetings with employees, but also through digital tools, for example Mentimeter’s EQmeter-tool. The key is to make everyone at the company, whatever level, understand the benefits of a diverse workplace.” 

Diversity in the workplace is not just a matter of “doing the right thing” but it demonstrably increases innovation, employee morale and engagement. All of which means a more profitable and productive business.

Remember: talent does not exist in a vacuum

It is always important to remember that talent does not exist in a vacuum, as Kate Keaney, CEO at Connor.co.uk, the People and Organisational Change experts comments:

“All employees’ careers are set in the context of their unique personal lives and the significant events, which affect their needs. With a far greater knowledge and awareness of mental health and well-being challenges that play out for people over their working lives, organisations are getting their act together in understanding that the way to support their people today is very different to previous decades.

“It is very much within the interests of organisations to have more gender diverse senior teams. FTSE350 companies with more diverse executive teams have on average 50{a990e605127f06bac58d8f530ec8d3ddc1721ced564bd12be3752b381e1e9f7f} higher profitability. Actively supporting your people through their life transitions is of key importance in achieving a diverse workforce.”

Supporting employees through major life changes is particularly important when it comes to women and maternity. Ernst & Young recently reported that ten per cent of women don’t return after maternity and a further drop of an additional 20 per cent leave in the following two years.

“Specifically designing and running women returners initiatives is often a priority that we are engaged about as strand of reducing unwanted turnover, and equally there are more and more organisations talking to us about supporting men and women alike,” adds Keaney.

“There can be significant talent retention payback for organisations that support and coach all employees through their life transitions so working and home lives can blend more harmoniously together.”

Eliminating unconscious bias in the workplace

“Within the area of candidate selection, we need to remember that companies do not recruit people – people recruit people,” says James Larter, managing director of RoleplayUK, who are specialists in drama-based learning and coaching.

Larter says that unconscious bias is an area that businesses should be increasingly aware of.

“Through application forms, interviews or assessment centres people are making their own judgements as well as looking at the facts of an applicant’s performance. These judgements are not necessarily bad, but we need to understand where these judgements are coming from. 

“Are they objective? Or are they subjective – are they being made from a purely personal perspective? This can result in a candidate being selected based on ethnicity, gender, sexuality, disability or even what they are wearing.  Do they have tattoos or piercings – do I?

“None of the above should be standing in the way of the most suitable candidate progressing towards employment but they do. Let us also remember that this is not always done consciously, and it is this that must be addressed.”

The bottom line is this. The more that employers and recruiters are able to start to consciously think about the consequences of their decisions, their choice of language and their actions; the faster the shift from unconscious exclusion towards conscious inclusion.

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