How You Can Be Pro-Active in Recruiting a Diverse Workforce

Diversity is now headline news.

There’s no doubt that the Black Lives Matter movement, as well as the recent events surrounding the Euro 2020 has raised the profile of diversity and inclusion at a global level.

Businesses need to show they take diversity seriously at each and every stage of their systems and processes. That includes with recruitment.

Securing the best candidate for the role should have nothing to do with gender, race, disability or age.  All too often, it does.

Here, we’ll consider practical ways to ensure recruitment steers clear of unconscious bias and, in doing so, reaps the many benefits that come from a diverse workforce.


Recruitment Diversity Makes Business Sense

Diversity matters.  Diversity is good for business.  Research shows that companies in the top quartile for gender, racial and ethnic diversity are more likely to have financial returns above their national industry medians.

A diverse workforce has been linked to increased sales, revenues and profits and increased customer numbers.  If BME talent was fully utilised, the economy could receive a £24 billion boost.

A diverse workforce benefits your company because it means diversity in terms of viewpoints and perspectives that help your business appeal to a broad customer base.


Unconscious Bias and the Halo Effect in Recruitment

Unconscious bias can be defined as the automatic assumptions we make based on factors which are not such as age, gender or background.  It relies on our intuitive mind making rapid decisions outside of our conscious awareness based on prejudice.  Unconscious bias seeks familiarity in similarity.  Unconscious bias is damaging to inclusion and diversity.

First impressions matter. 

First impressions certainly play a role in unconscious bias, with research showing people considered as overweight or obese are more likely to be negatively assessed at interview as a suitable candidate for the job.

And with telephone interviews, unconscious bias plays a role as recruiters negatively evaluated candidates who display certain dialects or accents.  A poor outcome for inclusion and diversity.

First impressions can lead to the “halo effect”:  the phenomenon whereby we assume – because we like one specific behaviour or characteristic about a candidate, then they must be “all good”.

For example, on learning early on in an interview that a candidate went to a given university, the halo effect can lead us to unconsciously judge anything this candidate says as favourable.

The halo effect can lead to individuals who look or sound a certain way being judged as a better fit for the role than someone who is actually more skilled and accomplished.


Tackling the Barriers to Diversity in Recruitment

Diversity makes excellent business sense.  So, what are the barriers that can hamper diversity within the recruitment process?

Most of us have heard about the concept of unconscious bias.  We don’t always, however, have a good handle on what to do to prevent it.

We know that unconscious bias in recruitment is a “thing”:  81% of employers recognise the potential that unconscious bias has to impact decisions, potentially leading them to miss out on top calibre professionals.  Despite that fact, 42% of employers do not use any strategies to reduce unconscious bias when recruiting.  Such strategies are easy to implement and include interventions such as:

  • Offering quality anti-bias training for managers
  • Ensuing there is a diverse range of stakeholders assessing CVs
  • Removing personal information from CVs
  • Making use of impartial assessment tools to screen for talent tailored to the role.

These strategies to reduce unconscious bias have been shown to be effective when it comes to diverse recruiting.  These strategies represent an ethical and responsible approach by businesses to reduce the need for frustrated candidates resorting to “whitening” their CV by deleting any reference to race in order to secure interviews.

Such strategies help towards the “critical examination of every stage of the employment process” identified by the 2020 McGregor-Smith review into the issues affecting black and minority ethnic (BME) groups in the workplace.


Finding Ways to Assess Transparently and Fairly

Quality screening tools that assess aptitude, psychological robustness and suitability and role related skills have a critical role to play in reducing unconscious bias – and, indeed, expensive lawsuits and reputational damage that can follow examples of unconscious bias within the recruitment process.

Of course, any tool needs to be fit for purpose to ensure it doesn’t favour or privilege any one demographic group over another.   It’s clear that avoiding unconscious bias in recruitment needs to be well thought out and critically evaluated.

Today, take time to ask yourself the question – what strategies are you implementing within your organisations recruitment process to tackle unconscious bias and to promote inclusion and diversity within the workplace?