Diversity and inclusion are at the forefront of businesses minds now more than ever, and rightly so. But at present, the technology industry is not a place in which everyone, of any gender, race, disability, religion, sexuality, socio-economic background, can thrive and succeed. For many businesses planning their D&I roadmap for the first time, it can be an overwhelming process when thinking about where to start. Attracting a diverse workforce starts with the right intentions and supporting one another in sharing best practice and driving change.
We brought together a panel of experts in the Diversity and Inclusion space, discussing successful ways to Attract a Diverse Workforce and support others in leading change to create an inclusive workplace culture.
A huge thank you to our panel for sharing their insights:
Kate Pljaskovova, Founder & CEO of Fair HQ
Jackie Kinsey, Leadership Coach and Director & Founder of Kinsey People Solutions
Sean Allen, Recruitment Manager & D&I Champion at BJSS
Chloë Davies, Head of PR & Partnerships at myGwork - LGBT+ professionals & allies
Striving for a diverse workforce: Assessing your business and planning your D&I roadmap:
Kate: I always recommend understanding where your company is right now by auditting where you stand in terms of D&I. This could be where you are in terms of policies, protocols, different behaviors within the organisation, or the level of diversity in relation to your location and industry. This well help you understand what you’re doing and what you’re lacking, and will help you determine your first steps towards a strategy.
Chloe: It starts with your intent. When thinking about what your practice and processes are towards D&I, make sure they are embedded within every part of your business and that you have a very clear D&I statement or policy.
This is how as a business you are going to attract and celebrate difference, but also encourage its success. And if you don’t know what that is, then this is where you need to start. Have consultations throughout the business with your management teams or at your all hands meeting. Think about how you can collectively do this and get your employees on board to actually drive change.
The first steps: What are the initial changes businesses can take when striving for a diverse workforce?
Chloe: Think about where you are posting your job adverts and diversify this. If you want to engage with more marginalized backgrounds, then you are going to have to go and advertise in places where those certain demographics are present.
Jackie: One of the best ways to increase diversity and inclusivity is getting people to refer people. If you don’t have a certain demographic within your organisation then connect with that community and ask them for their help through connections and referrals. But if you already have that community and it’s in the minority, ask those people within your business to refer people to build that culture within the organisation.
Sean: You have to measure where you are now and where you want to be. Break your data down as much as possible. If your business is in multiple locations, you need to look at different ways of increasing attraction from those different demographics, specific to those individual areas.
Increasing and attracting people from different avenues is also important. Too often we’re all fishing from the same pond, looking for the same types of experience. But by doing this, we are dealing with an industry that is not reflective of society today. By increasing school leavers, apprentices, grads and those re-training or returning to work, we are getting lots of different experience levels and backgrounds, and therefore diversity of thought. This creates better solutions for your clients too - so it’s a win-win.
Attracting a Diverse Pool of Candidates: Why should we diversify our candidate pool?
Jackie: If you keep doing what you’ve always done, you’re going to get the same results. And so, the onus is on us as organisations to look at alternative ways to attract and bridge the gap. Because there definitely is a gap in terms of opportunity privilege and access to education. You need to be really rigorous in your internal reflection around what you actually need from people. Does your candidate actually need a masters? Or do they need experience and genuine passion? It’s about asking those questions to make sure that you’re not automatically ruling out a great candidate due to opportunity privilege.
Sean: A lot of attention is put on whether or not a candidate has a first or a 2:1 degree from a top university. If everyone is the same, we will continue to stay the same. By diversifying your intake, you will diversify your perspectives and experiences, all of which is incredibly valuable.
Writing an inclusive job spec: How can we breakdown potential barriers?
Kate: Make sure that you really know what your hire will be doing in the short, medium and long term. By breaking down what they will need to accomplish, people applying will know what is expected of them and what they need for that role. That way they are able to identify what they can already do and what they will need to learn to be able to achieve that in 12 months’ time.
By breaking down and distinguishing the key requirements from the desired requirements, you are showing people that they don’t have to have every single one of these requirements in order to apply. Including salary bands shows that you are being inclusive to everyone. List all benefits and flexibility to make sure anyone with specific requirements can see if the role is suitable for them.
And finally, remove bias language and post ads on accessible platforms that are adapted to those with impairments to make sure that the job advert is accessible for them.
Chloe: Think about what the points of difference are that stop diverse candidates from being able to apply. For example, talk about paternity leave, as there are so many ways that you can be a parent. A lot of the language that people use in their job specs will stop at least 50% of potential candidates from more diverse backgrounds from wanting to apply.
Finding diverse candidates: How do we ensure that we are not just attracting the same profile of person?
Kate: Reach out to the communities of the types of candidates you would like to attract and ask them for advice as to how they would go about getting that candidate. Yes this is more work, but it really works. When you scale a team, you might need to reach out to specific communities and networks instead.
Chloe: There are lots of job boards out there that are targeted towards diverse or marginalised demographics. MyGWork was created as a place for LGBTQ people to find work where they didn’t have to be afraid of being discriminated against in the workplace. We make sure that anyone who is from a more diverse background and who wants to work for an inclusive employer where they won’t have this fear of discrimination, can still access many roles. Our job is to make sure that every platform are inclusive employers. We think it’s important to bring your full self and skillset to your workplace whilst being confident that all your identities are being catered for.
Manifesting an inclusive culture: How do we make our workplace safe and supportive for diverse employees?
Jackie: If you don’t have an inclusive culture, employees will not feel as though they will be able to present their whole self at work, and therefore won’t be able to contribute their best abilities. If you don’t have community, support and education, it’s just not going to work. Look at the whole employee experience and ask yourself: are we being inclusive in our recruitment practice? How is our onboarding process? Are our working times restrictive for people who have other commitments?
Chloe: We are never just one thing, for example, I’m not just a member of the LQBTQ society, I’m also black, I’m also a parent. So, it’s about asking employers: how inclusive are you as an organisation in terms of wellbeing and support. What does this look like for your staff? What are you doing for your black networks? What is your progression for women? By working on these aspects, this is how we truly have inclusive workforces that embrace diversity.
Changing our processes: Can anonymizing profiles within the initial hiring process prove effective in combating unconscious selection biases?
Chloe: I would say yes. I have an English name and an African name, which I don’t use because I know if I use it, I may not get somewhere I want to go. I am always pushing for being open in the recruitment process. Take off the name and look purely at the experience because the unconscious biases we might have around names and a name with cultural background. Or, leave the identifiers to the very last page of the application.
Kate: This really works, especially for women in STEM. If you blind the names and universities from the CV, we found that there was an increase in acceptance of women’s CV’s by 40% and it’s the same for people of colour. Once you’ve removed anything that suggests that a person is not white, such as name and location, the likelihood of them being accepted increases by up to 50%. We usually make our decisions within split seconds. And usually the first thing we see is the name.
Sean: Removing name and location is a quick fix for preventing certain unconscious biases. There are so many unconscious factors that someone hiring might think they know that the candidate is or isn't looking for. It isn't up to you to look at where someone lives and assume that the commute is too long for them. You’ve got to remember that candidates do a lot of research into the business before applying for jobs, so 99% of the time that person has already covered that and is happy with it, otherwise they wouldn’t be taking the time to enter into a lengthy application process.
Jackie: I can’t stress the importance of education surrounding unconscious biases enough. To support the whole organisation and create a very inclusive culture, education cannot be skipped over. From a leader’s point of view, it’s both your own education and also supporting other people on their journey too.
Leaders leading change: How can we encourage a shift in mindset within senior leaders to see this as their responsibility to make a change?
Chloe: Your policy has to have some form of succession planning internally. Even if you don’t have that diverse talent yet, if you don’t have the policy for it then it won’t matter what work you do. Mentor, reverse mentor and collaborate with other businesses. It’s about not doing it because we’ve been forced to do it but because it’s the right thing to do. We want to see our businesses thrive with difference. Diversity of thought brings so much more productivity, more creativity, and this is great for your business at the bottom-line. We all want to earn more money and have more fun doing it, so why wouldn’t you want to diversify your business?
Sean: We focus so much on the recruitment side, and rightly so, we do need to look at how we market ourselves and how we bring more diverse talent in. But that’s not very good if when people come in, there is nowhere for them to go and grow. You need to be following that process right through. At the same time, there is only so much you can influence. So, make sure you’ve got the people at the top and in the right positions driving change. Otherwise, you’re hiring wonderful candidates that will eventually go to your competitors.
Jackie: You go from comfort to growth. And in that space, something has got to give. You can do a wonderful job of getting diverse candidates in, but if all the candidates you are selecting for your internal advancement and promotions remain the same, then you’re not being inclusive. Look at the leaders who are nominating and the advancement programmes you're running. Even with the most diverse, inclusive and progressive organisations you are going to get challenges; people are going to ask ‘why?’. Your vision and the benefits of having a truly diverse workforce is your answer. It takes time, investment and discomfort.
Making the change: How can leaders strive for diversity and inclusion without fear of getting it wrong?
Jackie: As a leader, it’s ok to get this wrong and be vulnerable. The change starts with you. We have many diverse models of leadership and that vulnerability and being able to express that you don’t have all the answers and wanting people to work together is a very inclusive style that everyone can access.
Chloe: Be mindful about our differences. When reaching out to marginalised communities and asking for support, it can be traumatic for people to talk about their previous experiences. So, if you don’t get the response you were hoping for, be consistent. Continue to do the work but understand that you might have to do a little more research. If you don’t go and seek counsel from these communities and instead speak on their behalf, that's where it goes wrong.
Sean: Hearing how people have suffered and have had to change themselves in the workplace can be really hard and uncomfortable, but if that doesn’t inspire you to change and make a difference in your workplace, then you’re probably in the wrong line of work. Even the smallest thing you can do will make a difference.
Chloe: Don’t just ignore those uncomfortable moments, because if someone has trusted you enough to share that in the first place, they know that you’re someone who can do something about it.
A massive thank you to our fantastic panelists for taking part and sharing their valuable insights! If you have any more questions or would like more advice on diversity & inslucion in the workplace, please feel free to get in touch with any of our speakers, all of whom do incredible work in the D&I space.