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How to Improve Diversity & Inclusion in Recruitment

Of course you want to be inclusive in your hiring practices. But how do you actually do it? Here’s the ZD guide.

What is inclusive hiring?

Here’s what it’s not: it’s not a numbers game. It’s not about hiring X number of workers from underrepresented backgrounds purely so you can say your organisation is diverse and inclusive.

Inclusive hiring is about ensuring that when you hire, everyone has a fair and equal chance. It’s about identifying and eradicating bias from your practices. Many businesses have made huge strides in this direction, but unconscious bias can often still exist. Inclusive hiring looks to eliminate all of it.

Why does inclusive hiring matter?

It’s usually at about this point that your average blog post will throw a few stats at you about the business case for diverse recruitment. There are certainly loads of stats to show that businesses with a more diverse workforce perform better.

Honestly, though, it’s not really about the business case, is it? You can make a business case for eradicating plastic packaging or switching to a four-day working week, but making a business case for diversity is like making a business case for breathing. So let’s skip the why – because the obvious response is ‘why wouldn’t you?’ – and jump straight to the how.

How to improve diversity and inclusion in your recruitment

Before you recruit

It’s not enough to recruit inclusively. That in itself won’t cut it if workers feel othered, excluded or marginalised once they’re in your workspace. So before you recruit, make sure the place new members of your team will join is truly inclusive.

Set your goals

What do you mean by inclusion and diversity? We all know what D&I means in a general sense, but what does it mean in your business? Is improvement about bringing more women into the workplace? About creating opportunities for older workers? Or perhaps supporting more underrepresented groups into senior positions? Understanding where the imbalance and inequity lies is a key step in fixing it.

Create a culture of diversity and inclusion

An inclusive culture is one where everyone feels welcome and respected. There are certain key building blocks in building an inclusive culture, such as articulating your stance in a D&I policy, providing training on diversity and inclusion for all employees and having a zero-tolerance policy for discrimination. Those elements in themselves don’t mean your workplace culture is inclusive, but they are the platform without which it’s hard to make progress.

Show you’re serious about diversity

You know the stock website image that shows a diverse group of people staring into the middle distance? The ones who are clearly from the casting agency? Don’t do that.

    Use real imagery that shows real people from your business. Show them in everyday life. Show them getting involved in the issues that matter to them.
    Ensure your site meets accessibility standards for those with dyslexia, and visual or auditory impairments (subtitles on videos, dyslexia-friendly fonts, sensible colour choices).
    Make your workspace welcoming to all, with, for example, well-thought-out, wheelchair-accessible areas throughout the building and quiet areas for neurodiverse employees who might want to escape the hubbub every now and again.
    Have a diverse panel of interviewers.

During recruitment

Write inclusive job descriptions

“You’re full of verve, spark and energy. You see old problems with fresh eyes. You’re always the first to arrive and the last to leave.”
“You’ll attack every day like it’s a do-or-die mission. You don’t take prisoners. Every day, you’re ready for the fight and you play to win.”

What’s wrong with the above descriptions? We mean, apart from the fact they’re a bit naff? The answer is that they are loaded with bias. ‘Verve’, ‘spark’, ‘fresh eyes’ etc quite clearly suggests the recruiter is looking for youth. ‘The first to arrive and the last to leave’ makes it clear that someone with commitments (or a preference for work-life balance) need not apply. The second example is full of macho language suggesting the recruiter has one gender in mind for the role.

It’s not only biased language that can be an issue. Jargon and ads which talk hypothetically or figuratively can alienate some neurodiverse candidates.

Simple, plain language lets everyone in and excludes no one.

Consider using AI-based software to help eliminate bias from your descriptions.

Use a diverse range of sources to find candidates

If you look where you always look, you’ll find who you’ve always found. It follows, therefore, that if you want to find different, you’ll need to look somewhere different too. There’s nothing wrong with relying on a jobs board you’ve always trusted, but don’t restrict your recruitment to that. Reach out to diverse communities and organizations to find a wider range of candidates, some of whom may not be actively looking for a job.

Make the process easy

Make your recruitment process as simple and linear as possible. Keep messages short and clear. Ensure you keep applicants updated with where they are in the process, what they need to do now, and what will happen next. Help applicants access information in a way that supports them through the process, for example, by providing large print or braille documents.

At the most basic level, this helps everyone understand your instructions, but it can also help to reduce anxiety, demonstrate your commitment to inclusion and reduce the potential for errors.

Anonymise shortlisting

Remove much of the potential for unconscious bias by ensuring selection panels only see relevant skills and experience-based information, not personal details.

Make interviews inclusive

Inclusivity flows from asking one simple question: what will help this candidate show themselves at their best? Your response will be an individual one, based on the needs of the candidate, but it may, for example, include giving a candidate help with setting up an online interview, structuring an interview to reduce overwhelm, and building breaks into the interview.

That’s not to say your interview should follow a standardized process (another important factor in eliminating bias) but there’s nothing wrong with making reasonable adjustments to the process to support individuals.

Post recruitment

How do you know your inclusive hiring processes have delivered the results you wanted to achieve? The answer lies in measuring outcomes.
We’re not talking about simple percentage increases in minority groups. As we established at the outset, these can’t be a true measure of inclusivity.
Rather, look at your retention rates within these groups, and staff surveys post-recruitment to explore the effects of your actions. If your organisation is truly inclusive, your staff will tell you.

For help in making your next hiring exercise more inclusive, Talk to us now.

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