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When it comes to creating a recruitment strategy that is truly inclusive, there is unfortunately no ‘one-size fits all’ solution; what works for one organisation may not be appropriate for another. There are, however, several strategies that all organisations can follow which have seen positive results across a wide variety of industries. These strategies can help assist in creating a more inclusive workforce overall by ensuring that your recruitment processes are as fair to all parties as they possibly can be.  Here Teresa Boughey MA FCIPD shares her thoughts on how to build an inclusive recruitment strategy.  June 2019

Firstly, I would recommend that you develop a recruitment strategy for your Organisation that clearly outlines the methods and channels you currently use for candidate attraction, selection and assessment.   This will enable you to explore if these are still relevant and where you need to make changes in order to ensure that you are attracting talent from the widest possible pool.

Job role descriptions should be reviewed regularly to ensure that it reflects the requirements of the position. The focus should be on the competencies of a job, as opposed to specific tasks that an individual would be required to undertake.

Words and Images

When advertising vacancies carefully consider the wording used.  If you work with a recruitment partner to support your hiring process, ensure you also consider the copy proposed by agencies when preparing recruitment adverts. Words such as ‘high-energy’ and ‘driven’ could imply that candidates would need to be able-bodied and young, while ‘driven’ can also have masculine connotations. It’s equally important to consider the imagery that is used when advertising job vacancies; images which portray the diversity of your team can help to encourage candidates from a range of backgrounds to apply for your advertised positions, while images that show a very narrow range of diversity can have the opposite effect.

Make Assessments Relevant

When it comes to the selection process it’s not unusual for organisations to host assessments centres or selection days, and these can often include an element of physical activity. On the surface this may seem fun and engaging, but if you decide to use this method as part of your selection process then you should consider the relevance of such activities in relation to the job for which they are applying. Will the candidate be undertaking similar tasks as part of their day-to-day job role if they are successful? Is the task or activity inclusive or would it require reasonable adjustments to be made?  If you cannot objectively justify the activity you have in mind, then think of another way in which you can assess the candidates’ suitability.

Avoiding Bad Practices in Interviews

In terms of the interview itself, then a HR professional may be part of an interview panel, however more often than not it’s far more typical for job interviews to be conducted by line managers.  Many line managers have limited or narrow interview training and often find themselves reliant upon the ‘years of recruitment experience’ they’ve accumulated which also includes bad habits, biases and shortcuts they are likely to have picked up along the way. I would advocate that anyone involved in making selection decisions must be fully trained in effective recruitment practice; they should understand the part that they play within the recruitment process, be aware of how they are brand ambassadors for the Organisation, and be fully up-skilled in terms of recognising the biases that they may hold, which may affect their decision-making abilities.

Interview panels should also be balanced; this can include having representation from across minority groups to ensure a mixture of viewpoints and voices are available. If you have no female and/or minority representation at senior level, consider involving others within the organisation to enable broad and balanced decisions to be made.

Some organisations prefer to conduct ‘informal’ interviews – this approach can make candidates feel more comfortable and at ease quickly and encourage free flowing conversation, but it’s important to recognise that this provides more opportunities to allow unfair bias to creep in and to influence your final decisions. Structured interviews, particularly when they’re linked to a competency-based framework, provide a level playing field for candidates’ assessments, ensuring that they are all asked the same questions using a predetermined format and framework. A clear scoring and grading system throughout the selection criteria enables the candidate assessments to be comparable, reducing any potential for and/or impact of unconscious bias.

Does your Organisation Measure Up?

Finally, don’t forget that candidates will carry out their research on your company too!   They are likely to look at your website, marketing materials and literature and consider how you show up to clients/customers.  From a Diversity and Inclusion perspective candidates looking to work for organisations that have 250 employees or more may now also take a look at the gender pay information which is easily accessible, both on the government portal https://gender-pay-gap.service.gov.uk/ and should also be displayed on the company website.   Those organisations that have created a narrative around their gap together with an action plan setting out the steps they intend to take to close that gap are far more likely to attract candidates from underrepresented groups than those that remain silent.

Having inclusive talent and resources available within your Organisation is critical. Creating a strategy is important, so make sure you get it right; if you get it wrong, you’ll have an unhappy workforce, your brand reputation could become damaged as a result, and in the worst case scenario you could face employment tribunals. When you do it right, you’ll build your brand and your reputation. You’ll have employees within your Organisation who bring a richness of skill, talent and expertise through their unique differences. Employee engagement will increase, productivity within your Organisation will improve and business performance will grow.