Diversity in the Workplace

Ensuring diversity in recruitment has become a bit of a cliché, but what does it really mean? And how can you ensure you are embracing diversity in order to get the candidates you want?

It has long been recognised that diverse management teams bring different skills, experience and knowledge to the workplace. It has also been shown that in health service management diverse teams outperform teams in which people are more homogenous, in terms of both productivity and creativity. But here lies the rub: research shows we are more likely to appoint people to positions that are similar to ourselves – and senior health service management is still dominated by white, middle-aged men.

So, despite diversity being on the radar of recruitment panels, we are in danger of being hoist on the petard of implicit, or unconscious bias. Implicit bias means that in spite of our best intentions, we are programmed to feel most comfortable with people most like us, and will therefore end up selecting and employing people most like us.

While many managers strive to achieve diversity by making sure the ethnicity, gender balance and sexuality of their staff reflect that of the general population, implicit bias in recruitment may mean that initiatives to promote diversity are failing. To ensure success, it is essential to pay attention to this unconscious bias, as well as to staff training for staff and experimenting with new approaches.

So how do we tackle this hidden bias to ensure we get the best candidates for the job?

  1. Measure and monitor, but don’t play the numbers game.
    The only way to ensure your recruitment strategy is reaching the people you want is to monitor applications, but this can easily become simply an exercise in setting and attaining targets – and perhaps missing the point. Diversity is not just about race, gender or sexuality; management style and personality are also factors. You should think about the sort of leadership skills that would improve your team’s or your organisation’s performance and recruit accordingly.
  2. Recruit outside the box.
    If you recruit from the same places, advertise in the same publications and use the same selection methods, how can you expect to attract and retain different – and perhaps more suitable – candidates?
    Using the same job and person specification and the same interview/selection criteria means you will interview and appoint the same people. Embracing diversity is not just the absence of discrimination, it is actively reaching out to candidates with a different background, work history and experiences. To shake up your recruitment try the following suggestions.
    – Change the wording and design of your advertisements.
    – Look at the publications in which you advertise: what is the readership? Are there any other places you could advertise to get the candidates you need?
    – How accessible is your online recruitment?  Can people with disabilities easily complete the form? (80% of forms in one survey had accessibility issues.) How long does it take to fill out and submit the application?
  1. Interview style – are you alienating certain groups by asking particular questions or through your interview style? Ask for feedback from colleagues, or perhaps from someone who has a different management style, background and interests to yourself.
  1. Eliminate interviewer and selection bias – one way to do this is by removing personal details from written applications, so selectors are blinded to the usual cues for gender and ethnicity. If applications are to be reviewed by several people, prevent them seeing one another’s comments to avoid selectors following the herd rather than evaluating the candidate for themselves.


Adamine wish you all the best in encouraging and embracing diversity in your next recruitment campaign!


Further reading

A useful article about promoting diversity through recruitment can be found here: http://www.personneltoday.com/hr/promoting-diversity-through-recruitment/

Kline, Roger (2014) The snowy white peaks of the NHS: a survey of discrimination in governance and leadership and the potential impact on patient care in London and England. Project Report. Middlesex University, London. (In Press).

A research report from Middlesex University, available freely at http://eprints.mdx.ac.uk





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