3 Ways to Win at Diversity

In my current role, I’m fortunate to work with a truly diverse range of colleagues and global clients. Every person I interact with gives me a different perspective on challenges, a fresh insight on solutions and a new way to think about the world. Working with such a wonderful mix of people undoubtedly makes me better at my job.

As a psychologist, I’m not one to draw conclusions from my personal experiences alone, so it’s good to know that the research backs me up. Diverse teams have been found to be more innovative [1], better at decision-making [2], solve problems faster [3] and even have increased profit [4] , [5].

It’s fantastic to see that diversity is a top priority for so many companies, with 69% of executives in a recent study rating workplace diversity and inclusion as important [6]. And it’s not just demographic diversity, this extends out to different cultures, beliefs and diversity of thought, as well as demographic background and neurodiversity.

This trend is especially prevalent in recruitment, with one study reporting that 78% of hiring managers recognise diversity as the top trend impacting how they hire [7]. Although it’s not exactly a new topic, the use of quotas to drive diversity continues to prompt debate [8]. The intent behind them is undoubtedly positive, but recruiters are often pressured to meet these targets. This inevitably risks introducing biases, whether conscious or not.

Giving a significant advantage to a minority group in the recruitment process – based on anything other than their ability to do the job – is likely to do them a disservice in the long run by perpetuating (mis)conceptions. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for providing advice and support for individuals from any background to overcome disadvantages. But this may be more sustainable if it focuses on long-term outcomes (such as employability advice to help their career) rather than help passing an assessment or making them a higher priority at the shortlisting stage.

The obvious exception to this is where two candidates are considered of ‘equal merit’, and it may be the right (and legal) option to prioritise the candidate from the under-represented group if having to choose which to progress. However, recent high-profile cases have also highlighted the legal and reputational risks of disadvantaging majority groups [9]. It’s clearly a complex moral and ethical dilemma, and sadly there’s no quick fix or a simple solution.

Having said that, I can offer 3 useful suggestions to help thread diversity throughout your recruitment process, and beyond:

1) Look at your recruitment process holistically. Different people bring different strengths, and certain demographic groups are likely to perform better in certain areas. Rather than expecting candidates to perform equally at all stages of the recruitment process, review your end to end process to make sure it is inclusive and accurately reflects the demands of the job. Taking this one step further, review how your recruitment process relates to other candidate touchpoints, including attraction and onboarding. The diversity strategy needs to be joined-up for it to feel consistent and deliver results.

2) Check this recruitment process really is neutral to all candidate groups. We all know to select fair assessments, adhere to the UK Equality Act (or equivalent in other countries) and to be aware of our own cognitive biases. But we need to extend this to consider any unintended impact of screening criteria or prerequisites. We also need to ensure our recruitment processes don’t become a tool to ‘fix’ disproportionate candidate numbers. Instead, focus on making your recruitment processes feel inclusive to all candidates and use this process to showcase the diversity of your organisation.

3) Track your results, for me this is the most important point, share your successes and acknowledge what hasn’t worked. Use evidence-based and data-led insights to understand how you can improve. The best thing we can do to solve complex problems is to discuss them openly.

On this final note, we can all benefit from considering, “What do we value about diversity” “What are we doing to promote diversity in the recruitment process and equally importantly to celebrate diversity in the workplace?”

[1] https://images.forbes.com/forbesinsights/StudyPDFs/Innovation_Through_Diversity.pdf

[2] https://www.cloverpop.com/hacking-diversity-with-inclusive-decision-making-white-paper?utm_campaign=Forbes&utm_source=Forbes&utm_medium=Forbes%20Hacking%20Diversity%20White%20Paper

[3] https://hbr.org/2017/03/teams-solve-problems-faster-when-theyre-more-cognitively-diverse

[4] https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/03/090331091252.htm

[4] https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/organization/our-insights/delivering-through-diversity

[5] It is worth pointing out that studies have also found risks, such as increased conflict and miscommunication.

[6] https://www2.deloitte.com/insights/us/en/focus/human-capital-trends/2017/diversity-and-inclusion-at-the-workplace.html

[7] https://www.careersinternational.eu/global-recruiting-trends-2018/

[8] https://www.cipd.co.uk/Images/quotas-and-targets_june-2015-how-affect-diversity-progress_tcm18-10824.pdf

[9] https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/white-heterosexual-male-police-recruit-matthew-furlong-discrimination-employment-tribunal-a8794521.html