First of all what does a diverse workforce mean and why is it important? If you’re looking to improve diversity in the workplace it’s essential to understand this! Before being involved in a diversity scheme I had a perception that ‘diversity’ programs were introduced to improve male to female and ethnic ratios. Actually, diversity goes far beyond that – it’s about ensuring that you include people from as many walks of life, at different stages in their life / career who draw on diverse experiences!
So now that we know ‘diversity’ means so much more than a set of traits how do we make sure we are attracting a wide pool of potential candidates and providing an environment which will make them want to stay? Here are some top tips:
1. Improve your adverts
Make sure you create job adverts which have less ‘fixed’ requirements. For example, research shows that women (typically) feel they need to hit (close to) 100% of the job experience requirements before applying for a job, whilst men require a much lower match to feel confident in applying.
This means that if you’re putting out a long list of ‘must haves’ you are probably immediately discounting a large pool of potential candidates. Instead, describe any areas of support and development which can be offered. Women, typically are not as self promoting and are put off by wordings such as “rockstar” or “best of the best” so make sure you steer clear of words like that. In general, describing an atmosphere which promotes values and loyalty above freebies will attract a larger candidate pool.
2. Remove subconscious bias
So once you’ve got candidates to apply how do you make sure you’re giving them the best chance to succeed? You need to understand that natural bias is a thing! We are naturally drawn to people that we think are similar to ourselves and tend to lean towards people that share the same opinion or have the same likes and dislikes.
By developing a structure to your hiring process which requires set interview questions for every interviewee you can look to limit unconscious bias towards potential employees and this is important if you want to hire a diverse range of candidates.
Try to neutralise subconscious bias my ensuring that more than one member of staff interviews any potential candidate separately and correlate scoring before commenting on things like personal fit.
3.Introduce a buddy up scheme
Great, now you’ve hired a good candidate! But what is going to make them want to stay? Buddy up new starters with a member of staff that has been with the company for a while. This is great for allowing employees to speak informally about particular areas (of concern) which they might not feel comfortable voicing (for example: if a female new starter has a male line manager there may be certain things they don’t feel comfortable speaking about).
It’s important that this scheme is completely informal and it’s made clear that conversations are completely confidential. The buddy should be there to mentor and help the employee develop and settle in their role and look to reduce potential drop outs.
4. Cater incentives
Try to create incentives which are actually incentivising all of your employees (for example a drink at the end of the day isn’t going to appeal to many individuals and actually excludes some individuals due to religious beliefs). Not sure what incentivises your staff? Ask them what they would like to see and build individual incentive programs. Some employees might not feel confident asking for incentives so make sure you come armed with suggestions to encourage them.
5. Create diversity & inclusion champions
Celebrate employees who champion diversity and inclusion – elect them to spearhead your office/team. This isn’t always easy to do, if you don’t have employees that don’t buy in to the idea, start by educating them. Run workshops, or event based days (sales days etc) which have a particular focus on diversity. Many companies now allow diversity champions’ work into promotion credits – this is great as it will allow you to put tangible targets in place which you can work together to achieve.
6. Celebrate diversity wins
Shout about diversity, your wins, your champions and how it has benefited the business! Ensure that it’s clear from your website/job description/interview material that this is something which you are really invested in and discuss with potential employees.
At the same time, be careful not to highlight members of staff based solely on matters of diversity. This is extremely important to ensure that you’re not creating a divide in the workplace, create speculation of positive discrimination and that you aren’t making employees self-conscious!
7. Educate your employees
Part of the biggest challenge in any organisation is getting your employees to understand what diversity is and why it’s important. There are many misinformed opinions about what building a diverse workforce actually means and the benefits which it has on an organisation’s workforce. Create an education program with workshops and get your employees to openly discuss questions they have about diversity!