3 months ago by Leanne Scaletta

Why Equity, Diversity and Inclusion is an essential element of talent attraction

Pexels Anna Shvets 4672720

“We don’t see *insert minority group here*” is NOT an acceptable talent attraction policy.

Recently, we teamed up with Nick Dean from ADLIB and Ellie Hale from The Agency Collective to share our thoughts on finding and selecting the right candidate for your business. You can find the key takeaways here. But one topic was so important that it needed a dedicated blog.

During the webinar, Ellie asked us how to overcome the age-old excuse of “we don’t see race/gender”. This is a problematic statement for many reasons, not least in an industry that is dominated by middle aged white males. If we’ve learned anything from 2020 it is that we should see our differences. It’s the only way to reverse years of inequality.

Let’s dig a little deeper into why Equity, Diversity and Inclusion must be an essential part of your talent attraction strategy.

Why has Equality been replaced by Equity?

Before we get into the how, it’s important to understand the why. For us to explain properly, it’s best to look at the changes we’ve seen to D&I over the last few years. The key one being that the word equality has been replaced by equity.

If you look at a dictionary definition of the two words, they appear very similar, however there is one subtle but vital difference. Equality means the same for everyone. But what about those who already have less? Equity means sharing the support where it is needed, giving more to those who have less to begin with.

Look at the image below. One side shows equality. Everyone is given a box to stand on, but for the wheelchair user, a box is useless. The other half of the image shows equity. The wheelchair user is given a ramp, so they can achieve the same result as the able-bodied people in the illustration.

 version of the equality vs. equity  picture that highlights the importance of inclusion of people with disabilities

(Image courtesy of Maryam Abdul-Kareem.)

How can I weave E,D&I into my business culture?

Let’s start by saying that this is a HUGE topic, and if you are serious about it, bringing in a culture expert may be the best option. But times are tough, purse strings are tight, and we understand the need for a little DIY.

The first step is awareness, and if you’re reading this blog it’s likely you already there. There’s a lot of work to be done, but you’ve jumped the highest hurdle. Just remember though, this is a marathon, not a sprint.

The focus of your efforts should be on inclusion. It’s ultimately about how people feel in the work environment. Are they safe to be their authentic selves? Are they offered a genuinely equal opportunity? Do they have access to the support and resources that suit their individual needs?

Embedding change into the very fabric of your business needs to be the responsibility of everyone, but it must be voluntary to be inclusive. Sounds quite counter-intuitive doesn’t it? Take a cross-section of employees, from grads to c-suite, and ask for volunteers to be involved in the programme. Don’t place all the responsibility on your minority employees. Chances are they’re already working harder to get the same opportunities as their peers and may not have the energy or inclination to get involved in extra-curriculars.

Keep in mind that this doesn’t have to be a huge transformation across your organisation. The smallest changes often have the biggest impact. Encourage activities that foster a sense of trust for your employees; you could have safe zones or open mic sessions to facilitate new ideas, set up an employee council to plan a diverse social calendar, or even ban terms like ‘blacklist’ or ‘whitelist’ from your company vocabulary.

Social events are one area where businesses often fall down, no matter how well intentioned they are. Looking to celebrate a big client win with a night out? Employees who don’t drink = excluded. Taking the team for a weekend away? Single parents = excluded. Monthly book club? Dyslexic employees = excluded. It’s important that your rewards, benefits and activities are as varied as your workforce to allow everyone to feel a part of the company culture.

Unconscious bias is natural, and hard to fight against without awareness. As human beings we seek out a community of likeness, but you won’t learn much from people who are just like you. If you put a group of people from all walks of life together and ask them to compare experiences, everyone in the room will learn something. By hiring for culture add instead of culture fit, you are opening your business up to endless opportunities for change and innovation.

How can I shape my messaging to demonstrate we are an inclusive, open business?

When equity, diversity and inclusion are truly part of the DNA of your business, you can look to weave this story into your talent attraction process. We all know there’s something very cringe about explicitly shouting it from the rooftops though. There’s a connotation that those who shout loudest, usually have the least to say. Subtle inclusivity stories are often more authentic.

If E,D&I is part of the fabric of your business, demonstrating it should be easy. Use photos of real team members on your website and social platforms. Publish employee case studies as a regular feature on your blog. Do employee takeovers on social media to give a behind-the-scenes glimpse into your organisation. Celebrate holidays of all cultures, not just Western/Christian ones.

How can I adapt my recruitment processes?

When it comes to talent attraction, there’s a lot you can do. If you don’t have an internal HR function, businesses like ours can add real value here. Start by using gender and age neutral language in your job adverts. Did you realise that asking for X years’ experience can be construed as ageist? Or that words like ‘ambitious’, ‘assertive’ and ‘self-reliant’ are considered male-biased terms? Interestingly, female-biased words are considered ‘softer’, such as ‘committed’, ‘interpersonal’ and ‘responsible’.

Technology makes our lives easier, and we’re all grateful that a robot can do monotonous tasks that add little value. But robots are programmed by humans, and humans are partial to unconscious bias. It stands to reason that many AI solutions designed to make recruitment processes smoother suffer from the bias of whoever coded them. Using AI to shortlist CVs is something that We Are Adam will never adopt. Computers can misunderstand information and will only look for what they have been taught. We’ve had countless CVs from highly qualified candidates that would be rejected by an AI system because of their language and formatting choices. The CVs we receive will always be screened by one of our consultants, giving every applicant a fair chance.

An important lesson we’ve all learned thanks to the pandemic is the idea of ‘work from anywhere’. Removing geographical restrictions gives you greater access to the best talent and opens up opportunities to people who may not have been eligible before. We’ve also proven that the 9-5 simply isn’t needed, and that with greater flexibility comes greater productivity. Flexible working is favoured by single parents, closely followed by the BAME community. Can you afford to alienate such a large part of the workforce just to keep presenteeism alive and well? We didn’t think so. Why not replace job descriptions with Impact Statements? We wrote a blog on them, but having an impact statement gives individuals autonomy over how they fulfil the requirements of the role, rather than forcing them into the mould that you think is best.

2020 was a year of reflection. 2021 is a year of change. The question is, will you adapt and reap the benefits, or are you continually changing just to stay the same?

If you would like bespoke support to improve your Equity, Diversity and Inclusion policy, or how to weave this into your recruitment strategy, contact our experts on 0161 359 3789 or email hello@weareadam.com to start a conversation. We’re passionate about creating equity in the workplace and would love to support you in your journey.