Ian Palmer, UK Partner, gives his thoughts on diversity in the workplace and why meeting quotas may look good but could negatively influence your business.
Importance of equality and diversity in the workplace
Equality is important. There are a plethora of articles demonstrating why it is good to have a workforce that is representative of society and the benefits that can be achieved. Beneficial elements of equality and diversity in the office include making a team less likely to discriminate, increased creativity, boosting appeal to potential peers and bottom line increased productivity.
So let’s assume we all know that, understand it and agree with it.
Restricted by the drive for diversity
But what if you have a team that is overly dominant in one denomination, and you just can’t find any talent from other religions, races or genders? No matter how hard you try…
If you are an employer and you can’t find a sufficiently diverse pool of individuals, and you have asked your search team to help and they can’t find the right people either, what do you do then? Do you fill the position with someone that may unsettle the balance of equality within your organisation?
If you are a consultant and your client demands positive discrimination, and no matter how hard you search, you just can’t find that gleaming (but elusive) needle in the haystack. But the position is business critical - as an employer, you risk losing revenue and as a search consultant, you are in peril of losing a client if you don’t hire someone to fill the position.
Diversity over competency: a major mistake
It makes no sense to hire the wrong person for a job, purely to help you meet a diversity ‘goal’. The Individual hired will feel like a gap-filler, it will seem patronising and could cause resentment within teams.
So how do you find the right person who is representative? Some processes are going to have to change…
What can you do?
1. Update your diversity policy
If diversity is important within your organisation, ensure that you display that commitment on your website and in press releases. By overtly showing your beliefs, any Clients and potential candidates researching you will see your drive for diversity.
2. Incentivise diverse referrals
A common way to secure new hires is through referrals, whilst this can lead to a homogenous workforce, if you further incentivise minority referrals, your existing employees may do some of the hard work for you to find the right person for a role.
3. Review interview questions and assessments
Relatively informal interviews, where a particular focus is put on chatting with the candidate as an individual, are commonplace these days. It is especially seen in the later stages when ‘getting to know’ them. It is human nature to look for similarities, and any common ground is preferable. Whilst it is good to have teams that get on well due to similar interests, it inevitably can lead to a lack of diversity.
4. Be aware of your own biases
As much as we want to believe otherwise, we all have biases ingrained in our brains. When hiring it is important to be aware of your biases and overlook them, or at least work to overcome them. This won’t be an instant adjustment, you will have to work at it and over time, they can be adjusted.
5. Expand your network
If you are really struggling to find a diverse pool of talent, it may be that you’re fishing in the wrong pool. Emanate and expand your own network into different areas. This will require an element of research to discover where to branch out, but if you locate the right places, you’ll never look back.
Make the effort to spread your search
It is valuable to have a workforce that is representative of society, but it may mean that you have to do a bit more legwork before and during the hiring process if you want to create a truly diverse office.