A Frank And Honest Look At Diversity

Insight & Opinion | Talent Attraction

It’s no great secret that topics slide in and out of vogue very frequently in business. Diversity however has been on the status quo for a good few years. Andrea Bowman explains…

From what I can see a lot of fluff has built up around what is essentially a very straightforward theme – Having a diverse range of people within your organisation which improves employer brand, attracts talent, demonstrates inclusion etc. and all those other benefits that we know like the back of our hand. So why the fluff? Is the fluff achieving anything?

Much of the fluff as I see it is media discussing representation targets. For example, the Lord Davies review that set out the target of 25% female representation on the FTSE 100 by 2015. This has been achieved, and of course it is a move in the right direction with undoubtedly positive intentions but realistically, how was this goal achieved? As an organisation, knowing you have a target to meet (albeit voluntary, but still you know you will be scrutinised for not meeting it), will you choose the candidate that helps you to achieve that particular target, or the one that doesn’t? Could this mean that positive discrimination is now at play? Now, the previously existing issue that women were not on a level playing field, arguably could now be the case for men. If that’s true, then the problem is not solved, the shoe is just on the other foot.

Name-Blind recruitment (what is this?)

In today’s society, I do struggle to see how there is any excuse to let people’s unconscious bias actually affect their hiring decisions. If you have a robust test of candidate’s skills/ability/competence then you will be able to demonstrate how this was measured and therefore who gets the role based on merit. If all employers did this, diversity could theoretically occur naturally without any need for initiatives, targets or swapping disadvantaged groups for others. If however, as an organisation there is still that chance of unconscious bias… or in extreme cases, downright prejudice if we’re honest (let’s not be naïve, it does still exist…) then blind recruitment is arguably a fair, reasonable and fool-proof way to avoid falling prey to this.

David Cameron has announced that many big employers will be adopting a name-blind approach to recruitment within the next 1-2 years including the civil service, BBC, NHS, local government, KPMG, HSBC, Deloitte, Virgin Money and Ucas. Many more are likely to follow pending the success of the scheme. Although this initiative itself is well-intended, it is depressing that an initiative has had to be developed at all. If your hiring managers or recruiters cannot see past their ethnic preconceptions, at least now there is a way to safeguard against it and allow your organisation to reap the rewards of a diverse and inclusive workforce.

Andrea graduated from Lancaster University Management School in 2008 and has since worked in Recruitment & HR. She is currently studying for the CIPD Advanced Diploma in Human Resource Management and lives in Kent. LinkedIn: https://uk.linkedin.com/in/andreabowman