Over the last year I’ve worked closely with both public and private sector clients on diversity and inclusion strategies, as well as delivering inclusive hiring training to their managers, and I’ve been reflecting on what senior teams needs to consider when making a start….and what not to do.
Data: data and analysis should be driving diversity and inclusion, not what I’ve heard on some recent podcasts with certain D&I teams about them introducing initiatives because of a personal passion. This data will be specific to you as an organisation, whether you are marketing products to a customer base or a public sector employer wanting to reflect the demographics of your residents or community base. For example, one of my clients, a public sector organisation working with a diverse community in London, had a challenge with ethnic minority representation at senior leadership level and a pay gap because of this. They introduced a positive action programme and inclusive recruitment training as part of their D&I strategy, alongside initiatives to improve employee inclusion, so that their workforce and the senior team more accurately reflected their community and would therefore be able to make more effective decisions on supporting them.
Senior leadership teams: diversity and inclusion teams are effective in making the D&I strategy happen, but it should be led by the senior leadership team or executive board – it doesn’t matter if you start small, but it must come from the top. The approach to D&I should be part of the overall organisation strategy, not a separate one. As any business plan reflects the customer proposition, or needs of a community, it should be clear when reviewing employee data and analysis whether the workforce mirrors the different customer demographics or if they do not feel included or valued at work. Senior teams are also far more likely to be on board if D&I is discussed in terms of data and as part of the strategy than in more “fluffy” HR terms.
Think local: even if you work for a large multinational, and have reviewed your data, your localised D&I hiring strategy will depend on where your teams are based. For example, if you’re hiring for a country or city with very few people who identify as an ethnic minority in the customer base or workforce, then your focus should be on accurately reflecting diversity from that localised point of view. If you don’t consider those local demographics when hiring then it can feel as if you are trying to tick a box, and I’ve certainly seen organisations extremely focused on how their teams look on a video, rather than what diversity means in their local area.
Diversity and inclusion training: there’s been a lot of negative media coverage about civil service and government training on diversity and unconscious bias. If an organisation is trying to prove they are a diverse employer solely with a mandatory unconscious bias video which talks at employees rather than engaging them in a meaningful discussion, then I am actually in agreement with some of the opinions in the press. The only training that can really make a difference is where there is board level commitment to a D&I strategy and the training session itself is only one of several initiatives. Diversity and inclusion training should be designed specifically for your business so that it references these initiatives and why they are being implemented and gets delegates to talk about the blockers and how to mitigate for them. I have turned down working with potential clients who want me to provide diversity training with no other D&I initiatives, or who want to use a pre-recorded video which is not bespoke to their challenges and does not allow any discussion.
Prioritise inclusion: people with different backgrounds and experiences need to feel engaged working within your organisation, that they feel valued, and they can do their best work. You need to work out what inclusion meets to you as an employer before you start to consider hiring a more diverse range of people. If you haven’t reviewed whether different individuals feel they are treated with fairness and respect throughout their time as an employee with you, and taken action if they don’t, then you can’t start to think about how to attract and hire from more diverse groups. Again, this needs to be led from the top and if changes in how you work need to happen, they must be role modelled by senior people to show that you are serious in how differences are valued and truly supported.
Assessment tool review: if you haven’t changed your hiring process for quite a while your managers may be used to recruiting people because they feel they’d fit in well with the team or have a lot in common, or they may only use a nice chat as an interview. The science and data show that high performers are not identified in this way but by using a broader range of assessment tools as well as an interview, in particular ones which simulate the job that candidates have applied for so that blockers or biases are mitigated, and managers don’t always hire people just like them. An example of this with one client was where the senior managers were cycling fanatics and candidates not into cycling never got through the hiring process, because interviews started with a chat about interests as they thought that would break the ice. So, make sure you have the tools for the job – you can’t hire for diversity if you don’t know what good looks like, the ability to assess it and the opportunity for people from different backgrounds and experiences to be selected fairly and consistently and be valued and treated well when they work for you.