Posted on 24th July 2018 by Katrina Docherty
Workplace diversity is a huge topic in the world of recruitment, as human resource departments struggle to find a balance between inclusion and talent acquisition. While the benefits of a diverse workplace stretch far and wide, dedicated strategies are often needed to attract a varied range of candidates. Let’s take a look at some of the challenges involved with recruiting diversity and analyse some of the recruitment methods used to overcome them.
What is workplace diversity?
Workplace diversity exists when a workplace reflects the composition of wider society. Whether you’re talking about inherent factors such as the age and sex of the candidate or acquired factors such as skills and education, having an inclusive approach to hiring is the best way to ensure relevance, innovation, and diversity of thought.
The importance of diversity in the modern workplace has become a huge priority for many businesses. While only 3% of Fortune 500 companies share their full diversity data, it’s becoming increasingly clear that companies with a more diverse workforce perform better financially and are better equipped for future growth.
According to data from McKinsey Research, companies in the top quartile for gender diversity are 15% more likely to have financial returns above their peers, and companies in the top quartile for racial and ethnic diversity are 35% more likely to see improvements. Most of the companies who release their diversity data are in the tech sector, including Apple, Google, and Facebook.
One of the most striking changes in recent times has been the extent to which women have increased their share, both in the wider labour force and in CEO roles. According to The Global Diversity Report by Oxford Economics, a positive correlation exists between gender diversity on top leadership teams and financial results, including 53% on return on equity, 42% on return on sales, and 66% on return on invested capital.
More than just improving your social footprint, workforce diversity and inclusion are key drivers for creativity and business growth. When your workplace functions as a microcosm for the surrounding community, your company is better able to reflect the needs of your customer base.
Challenges of recruiting diversity
There are many reasons why companies struggle with diversity, many of which can be overcome with education and a new approach to hiring practices. Even though most companies want their workforce to reflect the broader community, unconscious bias and ingrained hiring practices often leave out certain segments of the population. While people often think of underrepresented demographic groups in this context, workplace diversity is a much broader concept that is defined by understanding and valuing all differences that exist between people.
According to a recent SHRM report, 41% of managers say they’re too busy to implement diversity initiatives. This is a false economy, however, with racial and gender diverse teams statistically more likely to achieve above-average financial returns. Along with a lack of time, managers also lack the experience and skills needed to change their hiring practices.
If you’re working in recruitment or human resources, it’s important to set expectations for your clients or boss at the same time as providing support for candidates. While a diverse workforce is a lofty goal for any organisation, it’s important that changes are based on sound business practices as well as social considerations.
The desire for diversity doesn’t necessarily go hand-in-hand with the requirements for diversity, which need to be analysed carefully before setting a diversity policy. It’s also important that authentic support is available for candidates, both during the recruitment process and within the organisation itself.
Set a diversity policy
The first step to improving workplace diversity is setting a clear and concise diversity policy. This will mean different things to different companies, who need to balance the needs of their customers with their desire to reflect wider community values.
Some countries are performing much better than others, with companies in these nations more likely to have a positive hiring culture when it comes to diversity. According to data from The Global Diversity Report by Oxford Economics, the highest proportion of female employment is in the Northern European nations of Lithuania, Estonia, Russia, Finland, and Norway.
Australia is performing reasonably well according to McKinsey data, outperforming both the US and UK in terms of the percentage of women in leadership roles. Women hold 21% of executive roles and 30% of board positions in Australian companies. There is a lack of cultural and ethnic diversity in Australia, however, with the Leading For Change report by the Human Rights Commission finding that 97% of top CEOs were of Anglo-Celtic or European background.
Create a flexible and accepting environment
In order to attract different types of candidates, you need to create an environment that is open and accepting. While the details of this plan will differ between companies and industries, the best way to attract diverse candidates is to change the culture within the hiring company. For example, women are more likely to apply for jobs with flexible working hours, and young people will respond well to companies that emphasise sustainability and work/life balance.
Even if you genuinely want to include everyone in your recruitment efforts, it often seems to make sense to tackle specific demographic groups one at a time. While you can always analyse your current recruitment pool and work out where there are gaps, this reductive way of working is unrealistic and can cause problems. Instead, focus on the needs of your wider community and see what you can do to help.
Use different sourcing methods
Lack of diversity in the workplace is often seen as a bottleneck problem, with some recruitment systems automatically filtering out certain groups. In order to break this cycle of well-meaning exclusivity, you need to engage third parties, reach out to candidates directly, and rely on referrals from people both inside and outside of your network. One of the best ways to attract diverse candidates is to create a unique, media-rich marketing campaign that highlights your inclusive culture, leadership values, and employee team.
Write effective job postings
You can’t hire a diverse workforce if they can’t find you first. Writing effective and well-placed job postings are one of the best ways to expand your recruitment funnel, with the words, format, placement, and even colour of your job ad having an influence on the type of people who apply.
For example, the language of your posting automatically eliminates certain ethnic groups, and the publication you use will have a significant effect on your reach. Word choice is also very important, with old-fashioned words not appealing to youth and masculine-type words like “competitive” unlikely to appeal to female applicants. With 75% of the global workforce made up of millennials by 2025 according to Deloitte, online job ads that target the young are especially relevant.
Build relationships with cultural groups
The best way to represent your community is to build long-term relationships with the cultural groups and organisations that define it. Networking is the secret to all good recruitment efforts, with thoughtful and expansive networking the best way to appeal to a wider group of people.
Instead of going through your regular media channels, why not reach out to associations and organisations through their own publications. While online efforts can be productive, workplace diversity requires diversity in media and effort on the ground building relationships with members of the local community.
Take advantage of technology
Using artificial intelligence to screen candidates during the early stages is a great way to increase diversity and eliminate unconscious bias. Automated screening and short-listing software are able to automate the most tedious and time-consuming part of the recruitment process, reducing subjective decisions and problems related to compliance and discrimination.
The use of blind resumes can also play an essential role during this process, with methods that remove the candidate’s name, gender, and age helping to identify high-quality candidates and remove subjective bias. With some positions, it’s even possible to remove education and address details in order to find the best candidate based on their current skills and knowledge. According to a study by Harvard and Princeton, blind auditions increased the likelihood of a female being hired by between 25% and 46%.
MAYDAY understands the importance of a diverse workforce, both in terms of improving internal company culture and appealing to a wider segment of customers. We are available to offer advice and assistance in this area and will do everything we can to help you increase the diversity of your company as it grows.