However, while 59% of business leaders reported having a “zero-tolerance” policy towards racism, only 18% of employees claim their leaders have openly acknowledged existing inequities – according to new research by Henley Business School.

With more than 3 out of 4 job seekers and employees (76%) reporting that a diverse workforce is an important factor when evaluating companies and job offers, it is clear that companies need to champion diversity and inclusion because it is morally right and also because it is important for business success.

Deborah Gray outlines some key tips to help a business design a recruitment strategy that attracts a broader range of talented individuals while expressing the firm’s commitment to its values.

Make your adverts inclusive

The latest research from LinkedIn suggests that while both genders browse jobs online in a similar way, they apply for them differently. More importantly, the study found that male-orientated job descriptions, can actively dissuade women from applying to jobs, and this is particularly prevalent within the tech sector.

As a result, employers should avoid the temptation of recycling an old advert from previous years and deploy gender-neutral language in their communication. Therefore, it’s essential that the language used in job adverts is inclusive, avoiding nuanced biases and avoiding blanket terms such as ‘team player’ or ‘charismatic’ in favour of accurate descriptions of competency.

Equally, firms need to avoid using jargon that might be deemed unnecessary – phrases such as KPIs, SLAs and P&L. While potential recruits with experience may well understand these acronyms, talented young people, particularly those coming straight from university, may be less aware of these terms and corporate jargon.

Firms should only include skills that are immediately vital, while clearly expressing their commitment to improving diversity. It is also important to constantly review applicant demographics to continually monitor when adverts might be discouraging applicants.

Don’t let biases go unchecked in the interview process

Unconscious bias goes some way to explain why many cross sections of society are underrepresented in senior management teams and boardrooms. For example, a study from researchers at Nuffield College’s Centre for Social Investigation in 2019, which altered nothing but applicant names that were based on their ethnic background, found that while 24% of white British applicants received a call back from UK employers, just 15% of ethnic minority applicants did.[1]

Moreover, compared to White British applicants, people of minority heritage had to make a considerably higher number of job applications before getting a positive response, including those from Pakistan (70%); Nigeria and South Asia (80%); Middle East and North Africa (90%).[2]

It is important to also be wary of unconscious gender bias when screening candidates. Unfortunately, gender bias in hiring persists today, with a recent UN report finding that almost 90% of men and women hold some sort of bias against women and a look at the FTSE 100 showing that there are more CEOs/chairmen called John than there are women.[3] Just 10% of executive-level roles in the tech industry were held by women in 2020 – highlighting that there is still a clear need for change.[4]

Interestingly, a 2016 Harvard Study found that employers who interviewed candidates in a group setting were far more likely to eliminate any gender biases inherent in an individualised hiring process.[5] More diverse representation will help workers feel better accepted and therefore more confident in entering different sectors. Hiring more women into senior leadership roles will positively influence younger female workers, helping them to aspire to similar roles in the future.

Asking candidates about their interests and working styles during interviews may offer useful insight, but this can also foster biases. Therefore, rather than job suitability, interviews often end up testing similarity between candidates and current employees – this can be problematic in workplaces that lack diversity.

In addition, companies should have multiple decision-makers involved in the hiring process. This way, varying notes and scores can be compared and reviewed, which will often reveal a candidate’s suitability more effectively.

Target a variety of sources for diverse candidates

Instead of relying on the same tried and tested talent pools, employers should seek out new sources focussing on a variety of different institutions, universities, cities or regions. As an example, there are many groups online, such as the women in business network or the black business network, which could provide opportunities for businesses to hire a more diverse group of new recruits.

Find an external recruiter that shares your values and commitment

It is often the case that businesses look to specialist recruitment firms to find suitable candidates.  Specialist firms often have a deep understanding of how to encourage and foster diversity and inclusion through the hiring process. These firms can often point out problem areas within the hiring approach for businesses where diverse candidates might be disadvantaged or where there is potential for bias.

Totum Partners adheres to recruitment practices that find, foster and forward candidates from a diverse pool of talented individuals from a variety of backgrounds and demographics. Not only are companies with a diverse range of recruits seeing 2.3 times higher cashflows than those with less diverse teams, but they are also 70% more likely to capture new markets than their counterparts. However, much more importantly, increasing diversity and inclusion is just the right thing for businesses to do. Providing all candidates with a fair chance, free from bias or discrimination is at the top of Totum’s agenda – those who do not adapt to encourage D&I will find themselves short of the top talent that drives business success.