5 Reasons You’re Struggling with Diversity Hiring Initiatives

Published by:
Shirwac Dirir
May 31, 2019
min read

How to Debias Your Hiring

Scratching your head over why you can’t attract a diverse pool of candidates? Here are 5 reasons why it might be happening, and some ways you can improve diversity.

Diversity is on the agenda for many companies, and for good reason. Companies must remain innovative to be successful. A diverse workforce is one that actively encourages new ideas. Social issues are also becoming a bigger factor in consumer choices. As a business owner, you want to show your audience that you share their values. So why are companies still struggling when it comes to hiring for diversity? This article provides five reasons so company owners can examine their workplace and hiring efforts.

1. You’re ignoring the real problem

How many times have bosses been cross-examined about diversity, only to offer responses like ‘we don’t hire to fulfil quotas' or 'we don’t judge based on age/race/gender/sexuality.’ This sounds well-intentioned, but ultimately it’s a cop-out.

This statement sweeps diversity under the carpet, rather than addressing it head-on. Like many struggles, the first step is actually admitting there is a problem.

The fact remains that diversity matters. It’s not just about the importance of offering equal opportunity. Studies continue to show that diverse companies attract talented staff and, on average, are more profitable. So if a company wants to create a strong and diverse workforce, first they should pull their heads out of the sand.

2. There’s no diversity at the top

Any CEO worth their salt knows that to make a change stick, it needs to come from the top. Senior members of an organisation act as standard-bearers. When new rules and standards don’t rise above C-Level, it can make the wrong kind of waves. The same applies to diversity in the workplace.

A 2017 review examined ethnic diversity in FTSE100 firms. Over half did not have a single director who came from an ethnic minority background. Furthermore, out of 1087 surveyed company directors, only 8% were of non-white origin.

What kind of example is this setting? Directors are supposed to represent a company’s values and best interests. If there's a lack of diversity amongst directors, this will trickle down to your recruitment efforts.

3. Your job descriptions are implicitly biased

More often than not, managers are seeking a certain ‘type’ of person. This is specified in job descriptions. It’s important to have criteria for a new employee. However, your word choices could be hampering your diversity efforts.

For example, certain adjectives in job advertisements can implicitly read ‘male’ or ‘female’. Are you looking to hire someone ‘competitive’ or ‘assertive’? These terms are commonly associated with men. Therefore, a woman reading your job description could feel discouraged.

The same is true for age, a subject we tackled in a previous post about ageism in recruitment. With age comes wisdom, and someone of a certain age knows what is meant when a company asks for someone ‘enthusiastic’ or ‘eager to learn.’ These word choices may seem innocuous, but companies must start to consider whether they signify unconscious bias. Therefore managers must be careful about how certain terms can be construed.

4. You’re filtering out diversity when selecting for interviews

For their flaws, job descriptions exist for a reason. They help set standards for employers to separate the wheat from the chaff. This does not mean, however, that there’s an equal playing field with shortlisted candidates. Any personal information someone provides will give a rough indication of their background. For example:

· A person’s name - A person’s name is a common indicator of ethnic origin. It’s been established that white people tend to fare better when applying for jobs. One of the most thought-provoking studies of this is the BBC’s Adam vs. Mohamed experiment (no prizes for guessing which one got more interviews).

· Their education - A university education is arguably less of a marker of class now, thanks to student finance. That being said, certain connotations have endured. We’re much more likely to consider someone as middle or upper class if they attended Oxbridge. It may be less of a talking point, but it’s undeniable that certain hiring processes are affected by class bias.

It’s imperative we learn about someone's background and avoid making assumptions. Of course, this is easier said than done. Companies should consider ‘blind hiring’, where certain pieces of personal information are excluded. To learn more, take a look at our article ‘What is blind hiring?’

5. Your workforce is diverse, but not inclusive

So you’ve managed to recruit a diverse team. But almost as soon as you’ve breathed a sigh of relief, you start to see staff turnover. The reason you can’t catch a break? You’ve put the work in to increase diversity, you haven’t thought about inclusivity. The two seem one and the same right? In fact, there’s a marked difference between the two. Diversity represents your efforts to hire people from a range of backgrounds. Inclusivity is how you go about making them feel like an active and valued member of the team.

Ask yourself a few questions. You may have hired a woman for your team - could she be made to feel left out of a male-dominated team chock-full of ‘banter’? Your new employee might be gay – would they feel comfortable bringing a same-sex partner to a company function? These scenarios help you realise that the work doesn’t stop when you’ve made your hiring decision. You must continue to ensure all employees feel comfortable, regardless of their background.

We hope you’ve learnt by reading this article that you may be intent on diversifying your team, but intent needs action to have any valuable meaning. Overcoming problems with workplace diversity is tough to pull off alone - that’s where we come in.

At Applied, we have an arsenal of tools to help you in your efforts to recruit a talented and diverse team. Get started by visiting our resource centre, requesting a demo of our fair hiring platform, or reviewing our ranking of the top diversity job boards.