What is diversity hiring and why is it important at work?

Updated 28 August 2023

Diversity and inclusion are increasingly becoming a priority for many organisations. One way organisations can increase the diversity of their workforce is to have hiring policies that promote a difference in backgrounds, abilities, genders, ethnicity and cultures. It can often be useful to understand more about this type of recruitment and the benefits that diversity can bring to a workplace. In this article, we discuss diversity hiring in greater detail, including what it is, why it's important and how to increase diversity in the workplace.

What is diversity hiring?

Diversity hiring is a recruitment policy that aims to disregard unconscious bias. It aims to recruit new employees based purely on their ability to do the job. This means candidates have equal access to job opportunities regardless of factors such as age, nationality, race, sexual orientation, gender, physical ability and religion. A diversity-led recruitment strategy also considers how to make employees from a range of backgrounds all feel equally welcome at the organisation. It relates to planning for a diverse workforce and ensures diverse groups of people can work together effectively.

Related: Learning about diversity and inclusion: 10 free virtual courses

Why is diversity important at work?

Diversity is important at work for a variety of reasons. A more diverse workforce has a broader range of skills, experience, ideas and perspectives. This can support innovation and new ideas. A wider range of perspectives can also help an organisation to effectively serve a more diverse range of clients.

A commitment to diversity can contribute towards a psychologically safe workplace and can improve the employer's reputation. Being open and accepting towards people with a range of backgrounds helps more people to feel comfortable working at the organisation. This can improve staff retention and morale. When employees feel comfortable and positive about their employer they're also more likely to act as advocates for the organisation.

Related: What are the different diversity in the workplace benefits?

What are diversity quotas?

Diversity quotas are a strategy that some organisations use as part of their approach to recruitment. The goal of these quotas is to increase the number of people from under-represented groups in the workforce. The intention is to make recruitment fairer for all, regardless of personal circumstances. If an organisation puts a diversity quota in place, this means committing to hiring under-represented groups to fill a certain percentage of vacancies. These quotas might relate to under-represented groups like women, people without a university education or BAME individuals.

Companies use diversity quotas to actively counter the under-representation of certain groups. Using these quotas is legal in the UK and in many other countries. Despite this, some people are critical of this approach and believe it leads to discrimination against other groups that traditionally have more representation.

Related: Diversity examples: types, definitions and implementation

Are there specific laws about diversity in the workplace?

There is no law governing how diverse a workplace has to be. It's not possible to force an organisation to use diversity recruitment strategies. Regardless of the level of diversity within an organisation, companies are required to adhere to the Equality Act 2010. This law protects employees against discrimination in the workplace, and in society. It makes it illegal to discriminate against an existing employee or job applicant because of a number of protected characteristics. These characteristics are age, gender, gender reassignment, disability, race, sexual orientation, religious beliefs, marital status and pregnancy or being a parent.

How to improve diversity when hiring

For organisations that want to prioritise diversity, it can be useful to develop a recruitment strategy. There are several steps to doing this. Understanding what these steps are can help you to better understand recruiting for diversity and make it more straightforward to develop a policy around this. These are the essential steps when developing a new hiring strategy that focuses on diversity:

1. Prepare to develop a new recruitment strategy

For organisations that want a more diverse workforce, it might be necessary to develop a completely new recruitment strategy. Simply making small adjustments to an existing strategy might be insufficient. It's worth considering which aspects of the existing policy require change and investing time into developing a new suitable strategy.

2. Get feedback internally and externally

Internal and external feedback can help employers to understand what already works with their approach to recruitment and what they can change. Anonymous employee feedback can give organisations an insight into the experiences of existing employees and this can inform a new strategy. An external consultant can also assess the organisation's approach and advise on how to change it.

3. Get support from senior leaders

Getting support from senior leaders is important for the strategy to be a success. Senior leaders set an example for the rest of the workforce, so if they support the new recruitment strategy it means others are more likely to do the same. Changing the hiring strategy might require additional resources or money, so the support of senior leaders is essential for securing this.

4. Decide how to measure outcomes

It's beneficial to decide how to measure the outcomes of the new policy so you can assess how well it's working. The new strategy requires clear goals. It's useful to decide on key performance indicators relating to recruitment and to keep track of them continually. This allows the organisation to adjust their strategy as necessary.

5. Adapt promotional materials

Promotional materials the company uses in its HR and associated employer branding give candidates their first impression of the organisation, so sometimes it's necessary to change this. Organisations might update their branding to reflect the diversity of the workforce or to convey values of equality and collaboration. Areas to consider include the company website, job adverts and the places where the organisation advertises vacancies. Signing up to accredited diversity standards may also mean using their logo as a badge of authority on any promotional materials.

6. Address existing bias

Addressing existing bias is essential to ensure that the new recruitment policy is fair and works as intended. Training is a good way to do this in the workplace. Whilst this can be vital for everyone in the organisation, it's particularly important to work on this with the employees who work in HR, such as heads of department and recruiters.

Related: How to develop an inclusion and diversity training programme

How to increase diversity in the workplace

There are many ways employers can increase diversity in the workplace. These suggestions can be useful alongside a set policy for diversity recruitment. As the organisation becomes more diverse and inclusive, it can become easier to continually develop diversity. These are some valuable ways to increase diversity in an organisation:

1. Use a more varied range of recruitment sources

Using a more varied range of recruitment sources gives an organisation access to a wider pool of more diverse candidates. If an organisation always recruits from the same sources, it means they're likely to keep attracting the same types of candidates. Trying different sources helps the organisation find talented individuals in different ways. It's sometimes a good idea to find another organisation that has more diversity and seek advice about how it advertises job vacancies to attract a more diverse pool of applicants.

Related: The difference between diversity and inclusion

2. Review job requirements

It's sensible to review job requirements and the language in job adverts to ensure it's as fair as possible. It's essential to remove any wording that might imply that diversity is unwelcome or that the job is aimed at a certain type of candidate. An external consultant can help to do this.

3. Reflect existing diversity in the recruitment process

Throughout the recruitment process, it's helpful to reflect the existing diversity at the organisation. If candidates only encounter one type of person throughout the process they're likely to think this is reflective of the organisation as a whole. For some candidates, this might deter them from accepting a job offer if they feel they're different from the rest of the workforce.

It's necessary for candidates to interact with employees from a broad range of backgrounds. This also has to be an accurate representation of what the company is like as a whole. Considering the demographics of the organisation as a whole can help employers to make appropriate decisions about this.

Related: 6 different types of diversity that exist in the workplace

4. Use standardised interview questions

Standardised interview questions can be a useful way to limit bias in the recruitment process. This means asking every candidate the same set of questions. It can allow recruiters to assess and compare the candidates in a more equal way. When choosing standardised questions it's essential to review them carefully to ensure they contain no unconscious bias.

Related: What is recruitment bias and how can you remove it?

5. Create an inclusive organisational culture

Developing an inclusive organisational culture is vital for increasing diversity. This shows both current and prospective employees that they're welcome, regardless of their background or other characteristics. Creating an open and welcoming culture encourages employees to be themselves at work and encourages team members to respect and value each other's differences and unique qualities. As this type of culture becomes more ingrained, it can make it easier to hire more diverse new employees and maintain diversity.

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