How to attract & recruit diverse talent

Isobelle Panton, Director of Student Recruitment & International at University Academy 92, founded by the Class of 92’ in partnership with Lancaster University, shares 10 tips to drive diversity within your talent acquisition strategy and how to engage & retain diverse talent.

Diversity, Equality, Inclusion and Belonging (DEIB) in your company culture is a continuous commitment that crosses all departments and every member of your team. To approach diversity in isolation is to already undermine the purpose of instilling DEIB in your culture. Therefore, it must be addressed collaboratively and reviewed constantly to ensure real, authentic progress can be made.

Employers can do a number of things to help foster and harness the business benefits of DEIB whilst ensuring their talent is engaged, listened to, and understood.

1. Show up on socials

Research shows that GenZ talent are likely to qualify an organisations commitment to DEIB before they even apply, via their social media platforms. This means that more needs to be done to highlight a diverse employer brand, in an authentic way, to encourage maximum applications from a diverse talent pool. In other words, if your company exists online in a way that doesn’t demonstrate diversity digitally, this will inevitably impact on interest from applicants.

2. Where you advertise matters

Where you advertise vacancies within your organisations also matters. Thinking about LinkedIn and ‘age’ as a demographic alone, almost 60% of LinkedIn users are between 25 and 34 years old. If an organisation only advertises on LinkedIn, immediately diversity is impacted in the attraction phase. Consider a diverse range of ways to promote roles that can reach all audiences, include social media and online communities/forums too for best access.

3. Hide applicant names to minimise bias

Removing opportunities for unconscious biases to have influence in the recruitment process is critical to hiring without prejudice. Implementing a ‘name blind’ application policy to minimise race-based bias has seen significant advocacy following a string of statistics that demonstrate the difference this makes to a diverse workforce. Likewise, neutralising language in job descriptions to remove gender biases whilst centring assessments on skills first, allows the hiring of staff to be as objective as possible.

4. Appointment audits to rationalise recruitment

Try adding ‘appointment audits’ for hiring managers following the interview process. An organisation can ensure the right candidate was hired for the role and no external factors and biases prevented other more eligible candidates from getting the role. Additionally, if a hiring manager shows a repeat pattern of behaviour that could be deemed as discriminatory or confirmation and similarity bias, training and action can be taken immediately.

5. Recruit with representation

To recruit a more diverse population of staff, have better representation at every stage of your process. If your lack of existing diversity prevents that, seek outside involvement. Ask someone in your community whose values align with your organisation and invite them to join you throughout the recruitment cycle. Representation matters for effective recruitment.

6. Flexibility x diversity

Consider how flexible working options can facilitate better diversity. For some people, the ability to work flexibly is the main driver of their interest in certain employment opportunities over others. For example, single parents, more mature workers, and people with physical disabilities can often only work if they can find a role that allows flexibility. As a result, the talent pool becomes limited to those with less of these constraints and concerns and large groups of people remain underrepresented in the work force and also under-employed.

7. It’s in the invitation

Interview invitations that include clarity around dress code and specificity around natural hair, religious dress and traditional dress will foster confidence amongst candidates and create a talent pool who feel like they can show up unapologetically, as their authentic self. Invitations with ambiguity can make candidates feel uneasy and uncertain about attending an interview.

8. Feedback to move forward

Feedback is two-fold when it comes to informing the recruitment process and your diversity attraction activity. Organisations, irrespective of size, should give feedback to successful and unsuccessful candidates on their performance in interview. This benefits the individual and the organisation by creating an ‘open door’ approach to recruitment where talent can come back in the future. Therefore, you create a pool and pipeline of talent that can be tapped back into if and when the time is right. This also drives a positive reputation when it comes to sites like glassdoor, with less risk of candidates citing a negative experience through your hiring processes. Secondly, getting real-time feedback from candidates is the fastest way to find and foster improvements in your internal processes.

9. Put the pay!

Not listing pay in an advert is the fastest barrier and deterrent organisations can add to their recruitment process. Candidates are far more aware of their worth in the current employment market and not stipulating pay and the wider employment package gives the impression of secretive, sub-standard pay. People have bills, commitments and dependents and a whole host of things that mean income is incredibly important. Companies need to recognise that by purporting pay from the get-go.

10. Pledge progress

If your organisation lacks diversity, own it. Being open and transparent about your current position in terms of demographic percentages in the workplace is better than trying to cover it up. Instead, pledge your plans to improve this on your website. Demonstrate your commitment to the future of your organisation and be clear with the steps you’re taking to make positive change.

Once your hiring practices have been developed to reflect the diverse audience your organisation needs, you have to focus on induction, engagement, and retention. Outlining measures of success and initiatives from the point of induction fosters a culture of transparency and organisational accountability from the start. Many of the measures that can be implemented to engage and retain minorities within your workforce will also benefit your majority groups. Win win.

1. Value-centric inductions and onboarding

Value-centric inductions focus on what an individual person adds to the team, therefore framing their value and contribution to the company culture from the start. This minimises opportunities for assumption bias and reiterates your recruitment rationale to the individual and wider team too. An inclusive induction schedule which amplifies all of the great work you’re doing in the DEIB space sets a clear tone of your zero-tolerance stance on discrimination. Immediately, people feel like they can be authentically themselves from day one.

2. Progression pathways

Diverse talent needs progression pathways that are clearly outlined from the start. They should be transparent, fair, and based on merit with milestones that are deemed achievable by the wider team. Insufficient progression pathways and lack of awareness around development opportunities, training and coaching all lead to diverse talent attrition and high employee turnover. A company which can celebrate and then clearly evidence a diversity of talent in their appointment and promotion announcements, and their leadership teams too, are often given the seal of approval when it comes to moving positively forward in the DEIB space.

3. Mentoring programmes

Investing in internal and external mentoring programmes is an effective way to engage diverse talent and ensure their progression and well-being is being focused on continuously. Work-based mentors, in a cross-matrix of teams, create opportunities for providing support on personal and professional issues. An external mentoring programme allows an objective view on mentorship that can help navigate promotion and upskilling opportunities in a way that is unbiased but still aligned with the needs of the mentee and their organisations goals. Better still, senior mentors who share the same or similar demographics with mentees are able to give experience-based advice informed by their own career to date. This is representation that matters most in building a pipeline of future diverse talent.

4. A culture of psychological safety

A culture of psychological safety is a workplace environment where employees feel they can voice ideas, issues, and questions in a way that they feel safe, protected, and empowered. This is critical in retaining a diverse talent pool within an organisation because a culture of psychological safety is critical to minority employees feeling encouraged to share issues around adversity and discrimination in the workplace. It makes inclusion a reality and creates a sense of belonging and protection for individual colleagues. An environment where colleagues feel like they 1) can’t raise issues of discrimination or 2), won’t be taken seriously if they do will only lead the departure of diverse talent.

5. Review your rewards

A rewards and benefits package that appeals to a diverse demographic is critical in creating a culture of inclusivity and retaining employees. Rewards that are centred around one group of individuals and don’t, for instance, consider the needs of you colleagues with children, create imbalances in inclusivity and sense of belonging within a company. Rewards are best awarded based on the actual wants and needs of your workforce. Whilst there isn’t a one size fits all and pleasing everybody is simply not possible, it is possible to survey colleagues to ascertain what is important to them individually and make collective changes as a result.

6. EDI groups and committees

EDI groups and committees that demonstrate a continuous commitment to DEIB initiatives are of growing importance within organisations. The critical factors are assigning budget, resource, time, and leadership team representation. This ensures change is implemented from the ground up and from the top down and the perception of tokenistic EDI groups is diminished. These groups need clear goals, benchmarks, objectives, and outcomes that are shared with wider teams and to encourage feedback and improvement. Frequently, EDI groups become ‘side of desk’ responsibilities and teams are not given the time and resource they need to create real change. This coupled with a lack of budget makes most EDI groups seem empty or performative, a big NO NO if you’re wanting to approach DEIB with authenticity.

7. Socialising for everyone

For so long, post-work drinks have been an acceptable norm despite leaving whole groups of people out of the mix! Workplaces need to do more to facilitate get-togethers that aren’t solely centred around alcohol or night-time hospitality. Examples such as walks, virtual quiz nights, cinema screenings and gym sessions are a lot more inclusive and can create a sense of belonging that the bar scene doesn’t always represent. Likewise, social events that include family members (where appropriate) allows colleagues to feel a sense of belonging and inclusivity that can connect on a really emotional level.

8. Inclusive cultural calendars

Recognising the beliefs of your entire workforce in your cultural calendar is a small but easy win when it comes to harnessing diversity. Employees will feel seen, valued, and represented without feeling isolated or underrepresented. Calendars that remain secular don’t necessarily represent today’s workforce and key social calendar dates should be included and celebrated where possible for educational purposes if nothing else! Small change, huge impact.

9. Regular recognition

Celebrating ALL people in your organisation on a regular basis creates a positive place that is filled with celebration and engagement. It allows a diverse talent pool to feel rewarded intrinsically and drives team retention, motivation, and morale. Recognition, when done correctly, should be easy, accessible, authentic, and encouraging.

10. EDI training for the whole organisation

Build in EDI training for the whole organisation with additional, more focused sessions, for those in leadership and hiring positions. If the team don’t feel knowledgeable and confident in their ability to introduce and intervene on matters relating to diversity, then efforts will always fall short. EDI training when done correctly can be costly, but the cost benefits your immediate company, the community around you and your future talent too! A worthwhile investment that will reap rewards for many years.

That’s a total of 20 steps to increase the recruitment and retention of diverse talent in the workplace. Before you roll out the list in its entirety, be sure your organisation as a whole understands the ‘WHY’ when it comes to a diverse workforce. Understanding the business benefits as well as the benefits investment in DEIB has to global citizenship, is what will ultimately drive the adoption of your actions by all individuals across your organisation.

This article originally appeared in the Sept/Oct issue of Startups Magazine. Click here to subscribe.