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Whether it’s the introduction of mandatory reporting for gender pay gaps, the Black Lives Matter protests, or the wage disparity that has been aggravated by the coronavirus; the focus is well and truly on diversity in the workplace. But despite the evidence of heightened levels of innovation, increased profitability, and value creation that diverse and inclusive cultures bring, many businesses are struggling to effectively manage this aspect of their cultures, and are being left behind by their competition. Without taking a proactive approach to positively influence change, businesses risk doing what they’ve always done and subsequently getting what they’ve always got! So considering the threat that complacency brings and alternatively the advantages that getting-it-right can deliver; I thought I’d provide a guide for employers that will enable them to attract, secure and retain diverse talent in their business. And if you stick around till the end, I’ll share a link to a D&I framework we’ve developed for clients who can start developing their own portfolio of initiatives to promote diversity and inclusion in their business.
Whether it’s attracting OR retaining diverse talent, you need an Employer Value Proposition that is attractive to a wide spectrum of individuals. The beauty of getting this bit right though, is that diverse and inclusive teams are attractive to diverse and inclusive candidates, so once you start the ball rolling by redefining your proposition, you in effect start a self-perpetuating cycle which doesn’t just start reaping awards straight away, but will continue to gain momentum.
Initiatives such as flexible working, parental leave or internships for under-represented groups are all beneficial propositions, but the answer to developing an inclusive EVP doesn’t solely lie in a top-down approach. Many of the answers will come from the people already in your organisation so feedback and communication should be an integral part of developing your EVP. Ask your team members the question!
When you’ve finally decided where you want to be, you need to promote stakeholder involvement, so keep the lines of communication open. Feedback, review and adapt, and be sure to link inclusion and diversity to the growth strategy of the business because teams that recognise these benefits have a greater propensity to adapt.
It’s all very well having an EVP that attracts diverse applicants, but if you don’t communicate that effectively into the job market, you’re hindering your progression. An inclusive employer brand isn’t just for the external market though, it’s just as critical for retaining employees as it is for attracting them. If you think of candidates as customers, then consider all of the touchpoints along the candidate/customer journey, from ‘awareness’ to ‘hire’ then right the way through to if employees exit the business, and look at how you can positively reflect the diverse nature of your employer brand.
This takes collaboration between multiple stakeholders as the employer brand and product brands are intrinsically linked so things that affect one will inadvertently affect the other. Whether it’s Senior Leadership, HR, Marketing or Recruitment Partners, it’s critical you’re all singing from the same song sheet to propagate an inclusive employer brand. Everything from social media campaigns, through to job postings, employer reviews, candidate journeys, on-boarding and even exit-interviews need considering.
Remember you’re only as strong as your weakest part, so from my point of view as a recruiter, there’s no point businesses developing an incredible Employer Brand, then giving numerous cost-focused agencies carte blanche to represent them however they see fit, as you could be undoing all of your hard work! Think of your recruitment partners as another one of those touch-points, and ensure they represent you as you want to be represented.
You may not even realise you’re doing it, but much of the language used in job adverts and job descriptions can be inadvertently excluding the breadth of candidates that you want to attract for your roles. Words such as ‘ambition’, ‘autonomy’ and ‘determined’ are known to have a male bias, whereas if you use female-gendered language such as ‘inclusive’, ‘nurture’ or ‘collaborative’, you speak to a more diverse talent pool. Similarly, restricting the ‘nice-to-haves’ in a job advert and limiting them to just include the ‘must-haves’, has been proven to attract more female applicants who would have ordinarily ruled themselves out for not matching the full criteria. There’s a complex science behind the use of language in job adverts and job descriptions ranging from obvious to subtle, but it pays to give it a lot of consideration because unless you intend on introducing quotas into your recruitment process which can negate many of the advantages a diverse team brings, you need to leverage whatever you can to broaden your talent pools.
Just as importantly as what you miss out from your job descriptions is what you should include though: always emphasise your commitment to diversity & inclusion so developing and including your company policy is essential and always tie this into your Employer Value Proposition as this will deliver authenticity. Calling out the inclusive benefits you have developed when you reviewed your EVP is a good way of reinforcing that.
Your EVP, Employer Brand and inclusive job descriptions may help you to attract diverse applicants to your vacancies, but if you don’t make a conscious decision to change the way you select employees from a recruitment process and promote them internally, you may end up inadvertently reverting to type. Ultimately the key here is to remove unconscious bias, but if you’re looking for a silver-bullet to fix the problem, you’ll sadly be disappointed. Unconscious bias will never be totally removed, but to limit the risk of letting it influence your decisions, you need to introduce a portfolio of initiatives to mitigate its influence wherever possible.
Start by clearly defining what you are looking for through a thorough job analysis. Establishing the tasks, competencies, abilities and job-related behaviours that are essential for the role, enables you to effectively assess suitability rather than relying on gut feel. Evidence-based hiring and data-driven decision making inhibits unconscious bias from creeping in.
Unconscious bias can take many forms but whether it’s gender bias, racial bias or simply affinity bias, it’s critical to include both structure and anonymity wherever possible to counter them through the selection process. Removing names and universities from applications is a good starting point but including performance and competency-based assessments prior to interviews can provide further objective analysis.
Consider highly structured interviews; the same questions in the same order, and take extensive notes so that you can make decisions based on what candidates have said rather than what you thought they said. Asking secondary and tertiary questions will help you understand how candidates get to a solution rather than ruling them out on culture fit; then number your candidates and their respective notes so that you consider their actual responses against your original job analysis, rather than associating them to a person you have met.
Finally, but just as critically, consider candidates in context. Run a proper process so that you can interview candidates in succession, because interviewing individuals without comparison is a sure-fire way to introduce unconscious bias to your interview process.
Using this same structured process for considering internal promotions will ensure unconscious bias is mitigated wherever possible.
So there’s my four-step strategy for developing a diverse and inclusive culture within your business. This is just the tip of the iceberg though; there’s so much crossover between departments that there needs to be real collaboration within a business and with their external partners if you really want to bring about systemic change.
Like I mentioned at the start, we have developed a D&I framework to help clients to start developing their own portfolio of initiatives for promoting diversity and inclusion in their business. If you’d like access to that, just follow the link in the comments of the YouTube video.
Share your thoughts, follow our company page, and if you’d like more details about how we can assist you further with your D&I strategy, don’t hesitate to get in touch.
Looking for your next career move?
Searching for market leading talent?