Diversity and Inclusion: 9 ideas that can transform your hiring strategy

October 13th, 2019

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The time of Diversity and Inclusion is upon us. High-flying boardroom jobs and elite careers are no longer the sole preserve of wealthy, middle-aged white men. Having an exotic-sounding name will no longer consign your unread CV to the bin. For you, Mr United Kingdom, the era of privilege is over.

At least that’s the dominant narrative we’ve become used to.

And yet, underemployment is still higher for the BME population (15.3%) than it is for white workers (11.5%). Only 29% of British MPs are women. And only 9.7% of executive positions in FTSE 100 companies are held by women. (This is not, as is often claimed, due to a lack of ambition from women. Hays’ 2016 Gender Diversity Report found that the same percentage of women are aiming for leadership positions as men.)

Clearly, we have a long way to go. The reality is that, while society has pushed the overton window on this subject in a much more progressive direction, it’s a lot harder to cultivate real diversity than it is to agree with its principles.

It’s a slow, complex, difficult process, with no easy answers.

For instance, gender and ethnic minorities are only the tip of the iceberg. There are multiple groups under the diversity umbrella, from neurodiversity and disability to LGBTQIA+ and spirituality. Every UK business may be conscious of diversity and inclusion when hiring, but there’s no shortcut to setting an inclusive environment for every kind of person.

So, what steps can companies actually take to develop an approach to workplace inclusion that values each and every individual in their recruitment process and beyond?

This 9-step guide compiles some of the best ideas from leading D&I advocates and industry heavyweights. From getting more curious about your employees to challenging your partners and suppliers, it should help you lay the foundations for a hiring strategy that puts diversity and inclusion at its heart.


Ask more questions

It can be difficult to understand where your inclusion strategy lacks until it’s too late and you lose out on top talent. But by asking questions, it opens up the conversation internally so you can engage your organisation with diversity. The chances are that once you start asking questions within your teams, more questions will follow. And it’s a great start to developing your organisation and creating a new and improved inclusion strategy. Try asking yourself and your teams these ten questions to begin highlighting your own areas for improvement.

Appeal to who you want to hire

Are you looking to hire different religions? Different genders? Do you want to help mothers returning from maternity leave? Tell them. You don’t need to explicitly say you want to hire from diverse backgrounds (as it should be a given at this point) – but you can mention you have a multi-faith room, or a women’s network, or a returning mothers programme. These are the kind of policies that boost your value to prospective hires and beat the competition for the best talent. They can increase employee retention too – just take Yorkshire Building Society’s example: after introducing and advertising their Finding the Balance policy in May 2017, the building society has increased the number of women staying for more than a year after maternity to 83%.

Implement choice

Interviews are a stressful situation as standard. Then add a neurodiverse individual to the experience and the situation can easily become too overwhelming to attend. Many people cancel or don’t show up to interviews because of anxiety or sensory-related worries, and that’s if they have the courage to apply to start with. As this autism and neurodiversity toolkit shows, inclusion and self-selective choices within the hiring process and beyond can help people of any and every kind to feel comfortable within workplace situations, including at interview stage.

Headhunt inclusive groups at every level

It’s not just C-Suite level females and minorities who can be assets that bring a unique power and inspiration to your team. These individuals exist at every level and are currently not being pursued as much as higher seniorities: only six million of the forty million employed in the UK in 2017 were from “all other ethnic groups” excluding white. It’s not a matter of check-boxing to have a minority group within your management – different people should be embraced and headhunted at every career level.

Challenge your own clients

While some might consider it an upfront action to open up to clients and vendors about inclusion strategies, it’s an important discussion to have if you are serious about diversity. Demonstrating a positive influence to the companies you interact with helps them to reconsider their own strategies, so challenge those around you to move forward with change. Farrah Qureshi, chief executive of Global Diversity Practice, stresses that a company’s approach “must be a holistic strategy that considers customers, employees and suppliers.”

Incorporate inclusive spaces

These are great for giving individuals space and can even be incorporated into the recruitment process as well as everyday working environments. Ask candidates where they want to be interviewed. Ask colleagues where they would prefer to work. Show them the different rooms available. Check out this guide on neurodivergent design in the workplace from Work in Mind – they suggest quiet areas with low lighting and limited sensory challenges to enable workers to operate from a domain that suits their needs and encourages their best work.

Open up a dialogue on taboo subjects

Speaking openly and honestly about differences in ethnicity, gender, spiritual or neurologically-related topics helps to boost inclusion in the workplace. By opening up taboo subjects that are typically reserved for individuals within the same group, you can encourage workers to be inquisitive and drive a higher level of education and acceptance within your team. So, ditch the barriers and start talking periods, bipolar, dyspraxia and other perceived-peculiarities that are the norm for so many in the workplace.

Uphold your values

It’s vital that whatever you do when speaking on behalf of your organisation, you uphold your established company values from every angle. That means you encourage workers and job candidates to be authentic to themselves, promote free speech, join in the celebration of difference, place action on excluding behaviours and reward the inclusive behaviours you see on your teams. Be known for practicing what you preach.

Be inclusive – to everyone

To reap the benefits of a diverse workforce, companies must develop an inclusive environment and hiring strategy that welcomes every kind of person and allows them to work at their full potential.

Inclusion trumps diversity because it’s the difference between individuals that level the playing field, not just at work, but everywhere: we’re all different, therefore we’re all individuals that require a complete level of inclusion.

Our world is slowly but surely moving away from the old and stale norms of our grandparents, towards a more diverse, accepting and inclusive society; and employers are following suit. But if they want to stay relevant, they have to pick up the pace.

What efforts are you making to improve your inclusion strategy? Let us know!