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How to increase diversity in the workplace

Diversity in the workplace matters. Although organisations have different drivers and methods for improving inclusion, it makes sense that diversity should not simply be a measure of different characteristics such as race, gender, and disability, but also a drive to truly include all.

Research by the consultancy firm McKinsey & Company shows that there is a strong link between diversity and an organisation’s performance. Diverse companies have higher profits and attract top talent.[1]

In our experience, increasing diversity in the workplace starts with the way you recruit. If you can reduce bias in the hiring process, you will attract a greater range of candidates and employees. One way to do this is by using inclusive language in job descriptions. At Cielo, we use augmented writing technology to help achieve this.  The software analyses the content and tone of job adverts and other communications to identify any unconscious bias. We are then able to modify our language and ensure we are as inclusive as possible. For example, we remove masculine words (e.g., “ninja,” “strong,” “build”) that data shows may be off-putting to some women and deter them from applying for roles.

Another strategy for improving workplace diversity and inclusion is to involve a range of existing employees in the recruitment process. Doing so will give you a wider view of what candidates could bring to the role you are looking to fill. At Cielo, we try to ensure that interview panels are diverse in terms of gender, age, ethnicity, nationality, and socio-economic background. This leads to better decisions and better management of unconscious bias. It also enables you to show your employees how much you value them and their opinions. It helps foster a sense of belonging amongst colleagues and fuels individual and organisational performance.

Be Flexible
Millennials make up a large proportion of the workforce. As research has shown, they have a different approach to work and quality of life, which includes a desire for flexible working. Employers, however, should also consider other generations and what arrangements may best suit them. For example, older millennials and Generation Xers could find family-friendly working hours, job shares, “returnships” and paternity leave options highly attractive. Showcasing such things promotes the organisation as one that understands the value and importance of inclusion. Companies who promote diverse role models and a culture that values differences attract a wider range of applicants from all background and experiences – leading to greater success.

Employers should also embrace the needs of older workers or those with disabilities to reap the benefits of their invaluable expertise and contributions. Offering an opportunity to job-share, work reduced hours, or work from home would be an attractive proposition to this group of talent and will encourage a truly diverse and inclusive workforce.

Apprenticeship opportunities
Apprenticeships can increase diversity across the workforce by opening employment and training opportunities to a range of people with varying levels of experience and socio-economic backgrounds. These programmes enable employers to attract a range of new talent, including high-calibre school-leavers who are keen to earn a degree but are unwilling or unable to take on student debt. It can be widely seen in the media the effect that these apprenticeships can have, with this type of programme being praised for offering individuals the opportunity to both upskill themselves and be remunerated at the same time. Degree apprenticeships also provide a cost-effective avenue for employers to recruit and retain top prospective graduates, plugging essential skills gaps whilst also providing opportunities to those from less privileged backgrounds. Graduates of an employer apprenticeship programme are also likely to develop an attachment to the company and are therefore more likely to remain after graduation.

Enable authenticity
It’s been proven[2] that diverse work groups result in better decision making. But to truly reap the benefits of an all-inclusive workplace, it’s important to understand that diversity should not just be a measure of characteristics like race, gender, and ability. There should be a drive to include the diverse experiences in a person’s background, such as education and opportunity, as well as previous careers in sectors and cultures different from that of the company’s. This will bring about diversity of thought, not just appearance. It stands to reason that the more freely an employee feels they can be their true self, the better they will contribute, collaborate, and perform.

Companies that recruit from a diverse range of backgrounds have the potential to introduce valuable insights and perspectives. Through a combination of agile thinking, flexible processes, and a determination to find, attract, and hire diverse talent, organisations will reap the productivity and success that forward thinking and inclusive companies are proven to achieve.

Alison Hallett, Cielo Client Services Director


[2] Cloverpop, White Paper: Hacking Diversity with Inclusive Decision-Making (2018)

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