How do we create a diverse and inclusive workforce?
For me, it needs to start at the top. We need a diverse corporate organisation; if we don’t have one, we’re just claiming we’re interested in diversity.
We may achieve this in a number of ways: we can look to recruit new people from outside the core demographic groupings within Corporate, or we can cycle people in from the regions who will bring diversity with them, or we can promote diverse candidates within.
In my opinion, we need to leverage all options.
By utilising regional resources we bring an understanding of how the regions run into Corporate which will help Corporate, and there is probably a shorter learning curve, which will help increase the probability of success of the move.
With internal promotions we need to make sure that we always focus on promoting the best candidate rather than just diverse candidates, a high-quality organisation is our primary goal. We can always explain that we didn’t meet the diversity goals because we promoted the best candidates and people will understand that, but they will not understand the best candidate being overlooked because of diversity. That does not create a meritocracy.
If we just take people from the regions or internal promotions, then we are not getting any external diversity, i.e. ideas from other companies, and we are limiting our gene pool which then limits our evolution.
Also, by externally recruiting, we are actually increasing the percentage of diverse candidates within the organisation rather than just altering the percentages in different locations, but keeping the overall percentages the same.
In one company I worked for, we looked to create a diverse organisation and we recruited over 20 different nationalities into the organisation.
Although, this increased our diversity percentages it did create some imbalances as the majority of diversity candidates were in senior leadership positions. But as you went down the various management levels the percentages of diversity candidates pretty quickly dropped and the majority of staff, over 95%, came from just one group.
This pretty quickly created a “them and us” situation, where it was clear that unless you were from a diverse group, you were not going to make it into senior management.
Whilst I believe that the intention was correct, the situation that was created, was not the one that was desired.
So we need to make sure that we consider all these risks, as our goal is actually to create a high performing organisation, and if we alienate the largest percentage of the team that will not help us with our goal.
For example, if you’re company is based in England then it’s clear that the majority of the staff will probably be English, or at least reflect the demographics of England. If we look to recruit outside the normal demographics or rotate staff from the regions, then we need to ensure that our largest demographic group do not feel discriminated against, that they feel they have the same chances as everyone else, and that we run a meritocracy.
This is not impossible but it does need to be considered and planned for.
Whilst I am not a supporter of fixed quotas, we do need to ensure that we are interviewing enough diverse candidates, making sure that our adverts are placed in the best locations and are attractive to diverse candidates. If we find that we are not getting enough diverse candidates to apply then we need to examine our advertising policy.
We also need to monitor the interview process and the results, to ensure that the best candidates are recruited/promoted.
It is easier for us to feel more comfortable with people from our own demographic groups, we create a better connection with them, and consequently, we may overlook some issues rather than go with a better-qualified candidate from a diversity group, where we didn’t create as good a connection.
The diversity candidate can often mean changes for us, changes in the way we work; changes in the way we communicate – we may have to use a second language; changes in the way we lead; and all of this may lead to more work for us in the short term, which can then make us subconsciously reject diversity candidates.
But we need to be open, not just to diverse candidates, but also open to the changes that diversity may bring with it.
We need to embrace diversity fully; welcome it; encourage it, and accept it.
The more diversity we can introduce into our organisations the more evolution we will generate and in this ever-changing world, without evolution we risk extinction.
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