Recruiting for Diversity: Beyond Women in Digital

In my experience diversity has become a dirty word. It has been marred with overzealous diversity advocates who lack clarity about what diversity really stands for. I have been floored to be mandated with providing female candidates’ resumes only, something I will always push back on believing first and foremost in merit based recruitment. In my opinion we need to be having a conversation about team diversity in regards to age, experience, ethnicity, sexuality and ability if we really want to see real diversity gains, which are only seen when we go beyond the gender conversation.

So what exactly are these diversity gains to be had? Dr Yilmaz Arguden, a Global Leader for Tomorrow at the World Economic Forum, recently said that a well-functioning Board of Directors needs diversity of experience and perspectives. If everybody thinks the same, then there is no need for a board; one individual would suffice, Dr Arguden said. Really, the same principle can be applied to recruitment in high performing teams. Diversity for its own sake, however, is not an improvement in governance; what matters is the combination of complementary skills and experiences that members bring to the table to better address the challenges the company is likely to face. (Reference: AICD website)

Diverse thoughts and perspectives not only facilitate better problem solving and idea generation as different perspectives challenge the status quo, they are also better equipped to adapt to an ever-changing global environment, reflecting the diverse world in which we operate.

One of the greatest barriers to recruiting for diversity is the discomfort around change and working with people who aren’t like us. As humans we have a tendency to surround ourselves with individuals that support and share our world view; but when you stop and reflect, the essence of diversity is that very difference that makes us uncomfortable. By embracing diversity we seek to surround ourselves with people that will challenge the way we see the world, that have strengths in our weaknesses (and vice versa) and whom we may see as a ‘risk’ to work with. At the board level we see executives consciously seek diversity, but subconsciously seek comfort and mitigation of risk by recruiting like minded and familiar colleagues.

I have spoken with several executives who complain their recruitment team are ‘lazy’ when it comes to finding a diverse range of candidates to consider. So how can you recruit for real diversity, and why does it matter?

  1. Have a transparent conversation with your team about what diversity means to you, and be honest as to whether it really matters to you. If you don’t really believe it diversity, you will only frustrate your team or company by advocating for one thing and actively pursuing something different. If it’s just a tick box exercise you’ll be wasting everyone’s time.
  2. Learn about your subconscious biases. If you had an incredibly talented candidate who didn’t fit your company’s traditional mould could you look beyond their appearance? Your subconscious biases can be managed if you have self awareness, allowing you to give the outlier a chance.
  3. Review your existing recruitment processes and consider how/what you can change to attract and secure individuals from different backgrounds. Perhaps you could advertise your vacancy on different job boards such as Diverse City Careers and across different community sectors and groups such as Women in Digital or Youth Without Bordersan organisation that is passionate about creating social change and unofficially represents individuals from a wide range of backgrounds.
  4. Assign the potential candidate with an interview buddy – an approachable team member that will give the potential candidate the chance to ask those otherwise awkward questions they might not feel comfortable to ask in a formal interview.
  5. Be conscious of employer branding and diversity brand – does your website scream homogeny? A genuine approach to recruiting for diversity is delicate. Nobody likes to feel like a token hire, so make sure your messaging and branding conveys a true commitment to including individuals from diverse backgrounds. You may even want to consider testimonials from candidates about inclusiveness at your company, and consider diversity awards you could enter to build your diversity brand awareness and recruit the top diverse talent.
  6. Get serious about work-life flexibility. If you really want to welcome mums back from maternity leave, have students offer their digitally savvy skills or bring retirees on for their wisdom and experience. Then make a commitment to flexible working arrangements, and keep that commitment even when you’re feeling postal because your project is off schedule. In my experience the very best candidates will gravitate to and stay with companies that offer them true work-life balance. It’s a trust factor, and the best employees will often give 150% back for working arrangement flexibility.
  7. Use the right metrics to monitor your diversity recruiting efforts – as we all know, what gets measured gets done. Are your diversity recruitment efforts hitting the mark? I constantly hear clients complain that their recruiters don’t put the effort into finding diverse talent. By ensuring talent diversity is tracked (e.g. % of minority candidates at each organisational level, the % of diverse candidates at each recruiting stage, employee satisfaction score for diversity and inclusion to name a few).
  8. Attend virtual career fairs to connect with minorities such as the physically disabled or veterans who might not be able to attend recruitment fairs in person.
  9. Use LinkedIn to your advantage by building a list of keywords relevant to your diversity targets, and use them in your recruiter search strings or LinkedIn groups to target minorities with vacancies.
  10. Consider how inclusive your workplace is to ensure that recruited minorities feel comfortable contributing to the organisation, and that every individual’s difference is embraced. Whilst this seems fairly intangible, inclusion comes back to the basics of respect – are you building a company where everyone’s voice is not only heard, but respected and considered?

If you need more help to access truly diverse talent don’t hesitate to get in touch with for a confidential chat.

Diversity & Inclusion, Recruitment Strategies