Hiring for Diversity: 3 Common Mistakes to Avoid

Hiring for Diversity: 3 Common Mistakes to Avoid

Workplace diversity” is a key issue driving some of the most challenging conversations about hiring, retaining and promoting employees in the 21st century. 

For starters, younger workers view diversity as critical to workplace loyalty. According to Deloitte’s 2018 Millennial Survey Report, 69% of millennials and generation Z said they are more likely to stay with an employer for five or more years if they have a diverse workforce. 

But UK employers still have a way to go before they can claim to be diverse and inclusive. A Kantar index of 18,000 employees across 14 countries shows that 56% of UK employees feel their employers are trying to be more diverse — lagging behind Canada, the United States, Germany, Spain, Brazil and the Netherlands.

At a time when job seekers and employees look for diversity and inclusion when weighing roles and job offers, employers with homogenous teams are putting themselves at risk of losing top talent. Diversity in the workplace is clearly the way of the future. But the question is: are your hiring practices setting you up for success? 

Ponder this question as you go through this list of common mistakes when hiring for diversity.

You Haven’t Assessed Your Hiring Protocols

The Equality Act 2010 offers legal provisions that protect people from being discriminated against in the workplace and in general society. More specifically, the law forbids companies from basing their hiring decisions on protected characteristics, which include:

  • Age;
  • Disability;
  • Gender reassignment;
  • Marriage and civil partnership;
  • Pregnancy and maternity;
  • Race;
  • Religion or belief;
  • Sex;
  • Sexual orientation.

Even if your organisation commits to having diverse employees, it’s common for biases to lead to hiring discrimination without you even knowing it. It can even begin before you even hire someone. 

The key is to assess your hiring practices and look for red flags in your:

  • Job adverts: Phrases like “fresh graduates only” or “highly experienced” can be ageist and discriminate against workers who have yet to seek qualifications. Unless these can be proven as critical requirements, it’s best to avoid using these terms in your adverts.
  • Interview structure: Unstructured and spontaneous interviews can seem like a great way to know candidates more, but they can lead to bias creeping in and candidates being evaluated differently. 

Only Considering Diversity for Entry-level Roles

When many organisations think of diversity hiring, they often only focus on entry-level roles. But this defeats the purpose of having true diversity. 

Efforts to improve diversity and inclusion in the workplace must span the entire organisation — from the C-Suite down to its interns. A diverse leadership bears even more weight in a company, as diverse leaders truly understand the importance of creating safe spaces for people of all ethnicities, cultures, genders, ages and socioeconomic backgrounds. They can also ensure that the company’s top brass is held accountable for its diversity goals. 

Hiring for Culture Fit

On the surface, hiring for culture fit makes sense. After all, there’s value in hiring people who can mesh with existing employees and buy into your values, vision and mission. 

However, what often happens when hiring for culture fit is that you’re evaluating candidates based on how closely they resemble the existing people in your team. This can lead to unconscious bias driving hiring decisions based on appearance, class, education and race. 

While the intention behind hiring for culture fit is well-meaning, it ultimately defeats the point of diversity hiring. A better way of hiring people who can succeed in your organisation and improve your diversity is to define the qualities and “soft skills” vital to a role. 

For example, if you’re looking for someone who’s a “team player,” you can ask them to solve a hypothetical problem that demands collaboration and conflict resolution. This way, you’re testing a candidate’s ability to work in a team without letting bias about their protected characteristics affect your objectivity. 

Alex Minett

Alex Minett is the Head of Product & Markets at CHAS, the UK’s leading health and safety assessment scheme and provider of risk mitigation, compliance, and supply chain management services. With a working history in the audit and management consulting industry, Alex is experienced in implementing visions and strategies. Skilled in negotiation, management, and business development, he is passionate about driving CHAS in its mission to safeguard organizations from risk in the UK.

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