Race, gender, ability, appearance and age … none of these should matter in the world of employment, and yet, so often invisible barriers are thrown in the way of the employment path, for so many.
Consider how your team demographic might look if you modelled your recruitment approach on the TV show “The Voice”, in which musicians perform in blind auditions to a celebrity judging panel. Judges make selections for their teams based singularly on the only thing that should matter in the context of this competition: musical talent. Only once they have committed to their decision to either reject or accept each artist, do they have any visual or verbal contact with them. Fat or thin, old or young, male, female or trans-gender; the show does not discriminate on these, or any other grounds, because, quite simply, there is no opportunity for the judges to bring any of these factors to bear in their decision.
Suspend reality for a moment, and imagine you could conduct every job interview, return to work meeting, or performance review discussion in a similar manner, without the background noise of people’s appearance, gender, age, race or indeed any other such influencing factors. Because, even for the most fair minded among us, no-one can help forming judgements or making assumptions. In the absence of the ‘blind audition’ approach to recruitment and employee relations, employers carry the responsibility of banishing and challenging these assumptions, throwing out stereotyping and prejudice, and putting diversity and inclusion at the top of their agenda.
Diversity and inclusion are not new concepts, but they are gathering momentum. Employers are acutely aware that a few basic steps are just not enough. Equal opportunities policies and diversity monitoring procedures are purely box ticking exercises, if they do not form the foundations of a culture that sinks deep into the organisation’s people strategy and impacts every stage of the employment journey. Employers have work to do in order to fully embrace the concept of diversity across gender, age, culture, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, disability, through to personality type or socio-economic background. Below, we identify some key steps towards fostering a culture of inclusiveness.
•Employer branding is key. Does your corporate material (on-line and off-line) convey a message of diversity? If your corporate imagery and copy speaks largely to a stereotyped gender or age group, then you will be unlikely to attract interest beyond it.
•Reach out to minority groups more directly through your recruitment advertising channels; for example, target websites and online groups specifically directed towards flexible workers, mature workers, those with disabilities, or people able to offer cultural diversity by applying linguistic skills.
•Analyse your training and development offer, and how your investment decisions align with the demographic profile of your company. Do part-time workers benefit from the same training opportunities as full-timers, for example?
•Consider diversity in your succession planning. Use the ‘rule of two’, adopted by George Halvorson (former CEO of Kaiser Permanente); for every senior position, you should have at least three people in development for succession, of whom no more than two should have the same attributes, thereby looking ‘beyond the box’ and considering candidates who may otherwise be overlooked.
•Involve your leadership team in mentoring under-represented individuals. Help them to expand their network, raise their profiles, and become involved in key projects, in return for their insight into how the workplace does or does not support their needs, and how best to improve attraction and retention across a more diverse talent pool.
•Create a consistent message throughout the employee’s journey within your organisation. Life is fluid; people’s circumstances change, and organisational structures evolve constantly, so you should regularly review how the business is truly responding to employee needs, such as flexible working.
•Engage with your employees in a fully inclusive way. Review your benefits package, social activities, team building events and away days; are you inadvertently excluding a particular age-group, gender, or cultural group? If corporate events / management team building activities largely involve one week residential outward bound programmes in the Lake District, there may be sub-sections of your core team who, despite their commitment and talent, simply cannot take part due to age, ability or circumstance.
A commitment to diversity and inclusion will pay dividends financially, as well as in the form of greater productivity, employee retention, creativity, and team communication. Engage your people and you will retain their talent, commitment and loyalty, and the chances are they will repay you generously in all three areas.
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