AGR Blog

Tackling diversity in recruitment

10.05.17

Dan Hawes

Dan Hawes, Co-Founder of the Graduate Recruitment Bureau (GRB) shares advice from the BBC’s Diversity and Inclusion Lead on tackling diversity in recruitment.

 

For more than 20 years GRB has had the privilege of working with a diverse range of recruiters and graduates transforming businesses with extraordinary talent. We all think we know talent when we see it, but sometimes we become creatures of habit and fail to see the wood for the trees, excluding some students and graduates over others.

As part of the Graduate Recruiters Network breakfast event programme, I had the opportunity to hear an inspiring speech on diversity by Toby Mildon. As Diversity and Inclusion Lead for the BBC’s design and engineering, and corporate services divisions, he is responsible for ensuring that its workforce is as diverse as the UK nation that the BBC serves. Having been born with Spinal Muscular Atrophy, a rare neuromuscular condition, Toby himself is a shining example of how a physical disability doesn’t impair a fantastic career and how it can provide an even stronger purpose.

The BBC’s philosophy is to hardwire diversity and inclusion into the way it does business, which is a good approach to follow.

You don’t need to go through expensive cultural change programmes: just try to embed inclusivity practices into the way you conduct business every day. This means examining all of the components of the business around hiring, retaining and developing people as well as work with suppliers and the supply chain to ensure diversity is embedded into the fabric of your organisation.

Toby suggested three things that recruiters should consider:

  1. Start with the terminology

    What is diversity? It means all the ways we differ and it includes everyone. It includes our visible differences such as gender, race, ethnicity and visible disabilities. It also includes our non-visible differences such as sexual orientation, social class, heritage, religion, unseen disabilities, different perspectives and thought processes, education, family status and age.

The term “Inclusion” is perhaps a more positive term and a more holistic approach to reach every member of an organisation. This can be unifying and by its very nature remove barriers, perceived or not, between staff.

Also review the language used in your attraction and recruitment strategy. For example, the English language contains masculine and feminine loaded words thereby attracting or detracting women from applying. Textio is a handy service that can help ‘fix’ the language used to advertise open positions.

  1. Challenge your perceptions

Managers often lean on biases – after all, it’s human nature – because they just want to get the job done (and are usually under pressure to do so), so they end up going to the same people or take tried and tested shortcuts in decision making.

Awareness raising is a way to tackle this. A lot of companies are now running unconscious bias training, but it’s important that this is reinforced and that businesses find ways of being able to tackle systemic bias as well.

For example, the BBC has trialled blind skills auditioning – similar to The Voice talent show, but for recruitment! CVs were replaced by a challenge, candidates had to prove they had the ‘deal breaker’ skills for a particular job. The manager then examined the quality of work without knowing anything else about the candidate. A candidate’s identity was only revealed once they felt their work was worthy of an interview. Since piloting this system, there has been a dramatic increase in the diversity of candidates shortlisted for interview.

  1. Start now

Organisations must work harder to enshrine diversity and inclusivity into daily practice, and it needs to start now. Many support Toby in this notion. For example, Ann Pickering, HR director at Telefónica O2 UK, reinforced the value of diversity at the CIPD’s annual conference:

"The business case for diversity is a compelling argument…it really makes a difference to the bottom line, and it isn't difficult. Firms with good gender diversity are around 15% more profitable than those that don't have good gender diversity."

To reap the benefits, businesses need to invest in taking practical, tangible action on the whole diversity and inclusion agenda. For any diversity initiative to be successful it means valuing and celebrating differences and encouraging a workplace and culture where all can thrive. This means individuals are supported, respected, engaged, have a voice, and are able to develop skills and talents. Which company wouldn’t want that?

The forthcoming issue of the AGR’s Graduate Recruiter magazine has a special focus on diversity.

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