Article by Joanne Caine, Managing Director, Cathedral Appointments
In 2021, it’s common knowledge that diversity matters – to employees, forward-thinking employers and a business’ bottom line.
Or so we thought.
It turns out that there’s still a lot of education needed within workforces to raise awareness of the benefits of a diverse workforce.
When we polled over 2,000 employees, over half (58 per cent) stated that a diverse workplace is not important to them when looking for a role. So, this begs the question, why are there so many people that don’t value diversity?
Well, firstly we must remember that many people are genuinely unaware of their privilege, often as they haven’t witnessed the silent struggles and invisible barriers faced by diverse talent first-hand.
Secondly, the word ‘diversity’ itself can be misinterpreted. When we talk about diversity, we’re not just talking about gender or racial bias – we’re also referring to a myriad of different sexualities, personalities, age, neurodiversity, disability, the list goes on.
Neither should be excused.
In an additional poll, we asked 1,500 employers and employees if they thought it was a recruiter’s job to find diverse talent. The majority, 57 per cent, said yes. But this couldn’t be further from the truth, as it’s crucial that employers attract diverse talent and actively work towards levelling the playing field for all candidates, rather than shift the responsibility elsewhere.
Clearly, employers aren’t taking enough responsibility when it comes to improving Diversity and Inclusion (D&I). Recruiters do, of course, widen an employer’s talent pool, and have the contacts and know-how to cherry-pick otherwise invisible candidates from their books. They’re also more likely to have diverse candidate slates. However, we must ensure we are providing everyone with an equal chance of success.
Numerous respondents made comments such as:
“An employer shouldn’t have to think about diversity. They should just pick the most qualified person for the job regardless.”
“Tick box recruitment is a recipe for mediocrity and antagonism. Just find the best person for the job, irrespective of sex, colour or creed.”
This is where the problem lies. A diverse recruitment process is not about ticking boxes, and if we always chose the most ‘qualified’ person for the job, our workplaces would be incredibly stale environments. What about personality, willingness to learn, a different perspective?
The data is unequivocal. Diverse businesses perform better financially, benefit greatly from diversity of thought, and better understand their client bases. But what tangible steps can employers take towards becoming a more diverse, inclusive organisation?
Throw your diversity checklist out the window
Attracting diverse talent does not mean ticking boxes to fulfil quotas; it means actively working towards a culture that levels the playing field for everyone, as well as understanding and battling invisible barriers that wreak havoc to those in minority positions.
A recruiter will likely have access to an incredibly diverse pool of talent, but they cannot be the driving force of your D&I efforts. Without an inclusive culture, you will fail to engage, support and retain the diverse talent you bring through the door.
Discard outdated, rigid working models
The 9-5, Monday to Friday working model has been around since the 1800s, but formally brought in by Henry Ford in the 1920s. It’s fair to say that things have changed a little bit since then. So, up until the pandemic hit, why haven’t our mainstream ways of working?
Not only does flexible working relieve the pressures of having to juggle work and life, but it also underpins a much more diverse work culture. It helps parents return to work without needing to fall back a few rungs on the career ladder, reduces the gender pay gap and enables those with invisible or chronic illnesses stay in work.
Move beyond a few token training sessions
D&I training can be a brilliant base to help teams learn about the benefits of a diverse workforce, tackle unconscious bias and the legal ramifications of not being an inclusive company. But that alone is not enough to label yourself a company that prides itself on a diverse culture.
Culture is something that is ingrained in every single employee. It’s a zero-tolerance policy towards racial or misogynistic abuse, it’s the creation of a Diversity and Inclusion team or leader, it’s introducing metrics to quantify your progress and it’s ensuring inclusive language is used throughout the business.
Open yourself up to criticism – and act on it
While we may feel like we’re successfully creating and nurturing a diverse workforce, there are usually a handful of things we haven’t taken into consideration – and that’s ok. It may be hard to sit back and listen to constructive criticism, but that’s where the most meaningful change happens.
Provide regular opportunities for employees and candidates to given open and honest feedback, perhaps through one-to-ones, anonymous feedback forms or group discussions. Your D&I journey won’t be an easy one, and it shouldn’t be. However, as long as you continue to put inclusivity at the forefront of every decision you make, the trajectory can only be a positive one.
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It may seem daunting to embark on integrating diversity and inclusion (D&I) into your business, but there are simple pragmatic steps that you can take to successfully integrate D&I into everything that you do in the workplace.
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