RTT – Effectively Tackling Diversity and Disability in Recruitment

RTT – Effectively Tackling Diversity and Disability in Recruitment

These are the thoughts and takeaways from the most recent Resourcing Think Tank (RTT) held on Friday 29th June 2012 hosted by Eversheds, titled ‘Effectively Tackling Diversity and Disability in Recruitment’.  The event was endorsed by The Clear Company and positioned Kate Headley, Development Director, as an expert speaker on inclusivity in the recruitment process. The following summary has been prepared to reflect the discussion held amongst senior HR and Resourcing professionals from leading UK and international businesses.

For more information on the group, or to discuss membership, please contact Jeremy on 0207 88 444 | Jeremy.thornton@oasishr.com

As many organisations are assigning greater ‘man-power’ to the diversity sector, ensuring a recruitment process is inclusive and a workforce representative is no easy task. However, good intentions are not in short supply, it seems to be the understanding around the types of questions and associated wording that recruiters are struggling to grapple with. People seem to be so concerned about putting a foot wrong that often diversity can end up being a neglected initiative. Confidence desperately needs to be instilled in Resourcers to assure them that it is okay to talk about diversity; they just need to get to grips with the ‘know-how’.

Internal barriers
Often fear is the biggest barrier for an organisation attempting to bring diversity onto the business agenda; a fear of something being unsafe, a fear of embarrassing themselves, a fear of not knowing what to say and even a fear of breaking the law. Identifying these barriers upfront, in addition to uncovering blockers preventing individuals from joining an organisation (an obstructive website), is key to developing an effective diversity programme. Additionally, it’s highly important to increase hiring managers’ awareness of the benefits of hiring a diverse workforce to ensure they are not unconsciously swayed against hiring a diverse candidate, as research suggests that when anonymized CVs are submitted unconscious bias still exists upon researching interview stage.

The business case
Resourcing teams are increasingly under pressure to deliver quality against cost which can adversely affect attracting and hiring diverse talent, as hiring managers often continue to reuse trusted agencies that don’t necessarily operate an inclusive recruitment process. However, increasingly companies are finding that they are losing business based on a failure to demonstrate inclusivity and as such diversity standards are often being incorporated into PSLs and the tendering process. These driving factors, coupled with workforce diversity positively impacting the bottom line, are pushing diversity further up the agenda and helping create a solid business case for the initiative.

Internal recruitment
Whilst the importance of diversity wasn’t debated, employers’ and suppliers’ responsibility to initiate operating inclusively was up for questioning.  It seems that the recruiters and suppliers are waiting for the employer to make it ‘important enough’. However, the key is to create a collaborative journey between the different stakeholders and to work together at developing a diverse recruitment process in unison. Ultimately, either party needs to take the first step and often that means only working with suppliers who have demonstrated their worth from both a quality and diversity perspective.

Our experts’ views:
a) As an employer, make it easier for your suppliers by offering tools to help attract diverse talent into your business – be it in the form of offering unconscious bias training to recruitment partners of providing online based training tools
b) Develop a candidate prospectus to share with recruitment suppliers and showcase your business as an attractive equal opportunities employer.

The supply chain
Another diversity barrier identified during the RTT was that agencies can become over familiar with the ‘type’ of individual their client is looking to attract. Predominantly, this is driven by a fear of breaking this identified ‘mould’, failing to ‘cash in’ on a deal and then losing the supplier relationship. Nevertheless, a catch-22 seems to exist, as employers often suggest that they want agencies / suppliers to thrust their diversity standards upon them and threaten to terminate a business relationship if the employer fails to comply with their inclusion standards. However, in the current economic climate agencies cannot afford to pass-up business based on a moral dilemma, which is why suppliers and employers need to be working collaboratively to truly develop an effective recruitment process.

Solutions not problems
Resourcing Think Tank members shared a series of practical solutions to help tackle this very issue:

  • Organising pipeline events around diversity

– Focus efforts of internships and set spaces aside for those who have come from a diverse background

  • Partner with a diversely-opposite organisation to help with each other’s diversity agendas

– Present together at events to increase exposure into markets which are traditionally harder to tap into to allow cross-pollination

  • When looking at attracting a workforce considered diverse to your particular business, be representative at interview stage

– When attempting to hire more woman, where possible involve a female in the interview process

  • Target hiring managers on diversity placements

– However, be prepared for this technique to bring out some undesirable behaviours in the selection process (reducing quality to tick a box)

  • Visit diversity fairs (Ethic Minority Careers Fairs or LGBT Fairs) to present your business as an equal opportunities employer and raise its profile

– Typically events vary in quality but be sure to develop a clear agenda for attending and exhibit your commitment
– Be sure to fully brief and prepare your representatives prior to the events to ensure your business is being portrayed in the most positive light

  • Develop diverse candidate pools of talent who are quality and ready to be placed into internal positions
  • Publicise internal success stories

– Highlight positive stories regarding diverse hirings
– Ensure a distinct balance is drawn between hiring a role model and a ‘token’

Creating an honest dialogue
When engaging with candidates, it’s crucial to be aware that often people will a) not feel able to express a disability for fear of weakening their application or being treated differently by an employer and b) not even be aware that they indeed have a disability, for example dyslexia or impaired hearing. Additionally, there seems to be a difference with people not considering themselves to have a disability if they had acquired it, compared to if they were born with it.   A candidate’s age was also suggested to influence the type of information offered during the recruitment process, as for younger candidates, the subject of learning difficulties was typically widely addressed during education, positively impacting on the likelihood of them discussing it.

Our experts’ view:
a) Often candidates aren’t aware of what is acceptable to ask employers for with regards to support. Employers can create case studies and publicise video clips demonstrating the difference support can make during the recruitment process.

There was a mixed response with regard to the success and credibility of the Two-tick scheme, it was noted as being ‘a good statement of intent but not ideal’. Concern was expressed that the initiative required high levels of resourcing in terms of farming advert response and interview conduction. Members commented that it was essential to remember why the scheme was being implemented (to offer more opportunities to disabled individuals) but to make sure that the entry criteria wasn’t lowered.

Our experts’ views:
a) Ensure that job adverts are highly detailed to allow individuals to deselect based on not meeting entry criteria and importantly, don’t be afraid to include competency based questions to avoid spending an unnecessary amount of time interviewing.

Data collection and monitoring
Developing and monitoring the recruitment process from a diversity perspective to help support the continued business case will ultimately aid the fulfilment of goals. However, our members have observed that both employers and suppliers are rarely good at doing this, as it’s essential to understand exactly how to analyse and respond to data. It’s often very challenging for agencies to collect this information, as a lot of the questions are highly sensitive to candidates especially when there isn’t an emotional relationship formed. The most positive way of gaining access to this data is to take a step back from the monitoring piece and focusing on supporting candidates by asking carefully worded questions at strategic points in the process.

Final thoughts
Ultimately, hiring a diverse workforce needs to be more than a ‘tick-box’ exercise, surely the optimum goal is driving resourcing forward with an inclusive and representative recruitment process, whereby diverse candidates are hired naturally, on their own merits and by accident. Often the internal culture within an organisation needs to be changed and challenged, which can be a frustrating and thankless task, however breaking down barriers and understanding why a company is lacking diversity are the best starting points.


  • Develop candidate packs to sell the business as an equal opportunities employer and demonstrate the available support in the interview process
  • Be sure to provide recruitment agencies with highly detailed information about the roles which are being recruited for to enable them to attract great talent
  • Assess how engaged colleagues are with the diversity agenda and investigate how it can be improved
  • Re-examine whether the recruitment function is simply ticking boxes or tackling diversity and disability for genuine reasons, as ultimately the right person needs to be hired for the job
  • Use an external company, like the Clear Company, to help support the employers on their journey to effectively running an inclusive recruitment process
  • Build stronger relationships with the diversity team
  • Use case studies to highlight success stories in order to create greater levels of engagement from the wider business and for attracting talent
  • Take the time to train recruiters on subjects like unconscious bias and devote time to educating the business on the importance of a diverse workforce
  • Where possible, link diversity to the wider business case and highlight the impact it has on the bottom line
  • Work in conjunction with suppliers to effectively operate from an inclusive recruitment perspective
  • Create talent pools for the future and incorporate diversity into the overall succession planning strategy
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