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young business woman passed on a job interview shaking hands with boss SBI 300981318 1 - Business Express
Young business woman passed on a job interview shaking hands with boss

Prioritising D&I in recruitment is just putting the cart before the horse, says Tomas Coulter, Co-founder, Talos360.

Tomas Coulter is the co-founder of Talos360 and was one of the hosts at this year’s CIPD Conference’s ‘Big Questions Live Session’ session talking about D&I in the recruitment process so we decided to get his opinion on the matter.

Organisations don’t just prioritise diversity and inclusion out of the goodness of their hearts, or because it is the right thing to do. Having a more diverse workforce is a proven strategy for a more productive and innovative business that can thrive and prosper, even in the most challenging economic times.

Human beings respond to challenge and new points of view with creativity. Having a more diverse workforce with people from different cultural, religious, political, social, gender and disability backgrounds ensures that everyone is exposed to new ideas. These can be challenging, as that’s where true innovation comes from. The flipside, where an organisation employs people with the same backgrounds, experiences and opinions, creates a situation where everyone is validating each other’s point of view and invariably, this just gets narrower. No one is asking, ‘Why do we still do this in that way?’ or ‘Why don’t we try this instead?’

Businesses that are getting D&I right are actually not talking about D&I at all. They are implementing effective recruitment and employee engagement strategies that naturally increase D&I as they attract more and more of the best talent into their business.

One of the first things to consider is the nature of the available roles as people often have prescribed preconceptions about necessary qualifications and experience. For example, they may say they need a graduate, but in fact what they really need is a person with the right attitude, interests and ability to do the role well. Similarly, does the candidate really need ten years’ experience in this role? Or would it be better to find someone with a different set of skills and experience that can bring new ideas and fresh methods into the business?

We all have some unconscious bias in the way we view other people. Recruiters need to be well trained in understanding and identifying unconscious bias, in order to effectively identify the best person for the job. Increasingly organisations seek to do this by removing CVs from the hiring process, making qualifications, schools attended and even names invisible to recruiters. However, unless the hiring managers are properly trained, they may still apply unconscious bias during the interview itself.

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It is inherent within application forms too. Candidates who have been to university, or had good quality coaching in filling out applications, will have an advantage over those who have not. They may have a great LinkedIn profile and the use of the latest laptop at home. This does not necessarily reflect their suitability for the role. Others, such as those on a low-income, may only be able to use their mobile phone to complete the application, having had no professional guidance in how to answer certain sorts of questions in the ‘right’ way. Doing away with CVs can be a great idea, as long as the competency and aptitude tests that are used instead, are relevant to the roles. Every application process should be carefully designed to reveal the competency and skills of the candidates.

Unconscious bias in hiring starts with job advertising, where the vocabulary used can have a tremendous effect on the types of people it attracts. In 2020, Thames Water increased the number of female applicants for roles from 8% to 46% by changing the language in it’s recruitment advertising. By replacing ‘masculine-coded’ words such as “competitive”, “confident” and “champion” with phrases like “we welcome people who want to learn and be team players” diversity was transformed within the organisation.

Tips for effective recruitment (with D&I built-in):

  • Invest in training for the staff who do your hiring and interviewing. They need a good understanding about unconscious bias and how to counter it, to identify the most suitable candidates that will help your business grow.
  • Invest in robust, well thought-through recruitment and engagement strategies that will, as a by-product, naturally attract more diverse groups to want to be part of the organisation.
  • Consider vocabulary in recruitment advertising, removing gender-bias and other language that might put some people off.
  • Revisit the application process and consider using tests to filter the best talent for the roles you want to fill. Be cautious about application forms that may be easier for some people to fill out, due to previous application coaching and the technology they have access to.
  • The language used in your organisation’s social media is also key to communicating what your company culture stands for.
  • Avoid using ‘token’ images on the website and social media as these can come across as inauthentic and will have the reverse effect on the groups you are trying to attract.

When organisations get hung up on measuring D&I, and quantifying how well they are achieving set benchmarks, they are missing the point of increased diversity. For businesses that are already implementing best practice, seeking to attract, engage and retain the very best talent for every role within their organisation, increased diversity is a natural result and therefore prosperity will follow.

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