Improving inclusion in the workplace should be seen as more than just a moral and legal obligation, but an integral part of your organisation’s continued success – and it begins with the hiring process. In summary, inclusive hiring is the process of attracting, selecting, and retaining candidates from diverse backgrounds, identities, and experiences.

The societal benefits of levelling the playing field can’t be ignored, but the business case alone is a compelling consideration. Firstly, in a tight hiring market, broadening your recruitment effort is an effective way of overcoming skills shortages and increasing time to hire.

There’s also various research suggesting diverse teams outperform those less widely represented, bringing different perspectives and ideas to the table, and understanding equally diverse customers and stakeholders.

Thirdly, inclusive hiring practices are an important way of improving your candidate experience and elevating your employee value proposition (EVP).

By following certain best practices, employers can create a more inclusive hiring culture that benefits their organisation’s performance, candidate experience, and employee retention. However, an inclusive hiring culture is not a one-off initiative; it’s an ongoing journey that requires careful planning, and implementation of the right tools.

So how can organisations go about improving their hiring process to be more inclusive?

Assess the language you use in your job ads

Unconscious bias can be prevalent in modern recruiting. This becomes all too apparent when you examine the narrow language used in many job advertisements, or the unaccommodating nature of certain tests and interview processes. It’s important to evaluate your job adverts to mitigate bias and create a fairer decision-making process.

CIPD research revealed that fewer than a fifth of employers make efforts to remove bias by testing the words of job adverts (18%) or checking tests are valid, reliable and objective (17%). Avoid joining these statistics by drafting job descriptions that use more inclusive language and less industry jargon (gender decoding tools can be a quick and effective way of identifying discouraging wording).

Leverage recruitment tech – but beware of algorithm bias

Employers could also consider using digital tools to improve the candidate experience. The proliferation of artificial intelligence (AI) tools has granted organisations even greater power when screening candidates at scale, but can potentially embed bias if left to their own devices. It’s therefore vital to validate any AI-led decision-making, ensuring the right level of human input and testing.

When used responsibly though, emerging technology can potentially offer key insights into your organisation’s diversity hiring efforts. There are various tools that grant greater visibility over your selection process, while identifying potential barriers for certain groups.

For example, we use a system called Applied to support our Hays Skills Academy application stages, allowing us to remove over 160 biases, increase transparency, and evaluate the diversity of our candidate cohorts. But as already mentioned, any and all AI used must be ethical and closely monitored to help remove bias – not embed it.

Employee passports could be the way forward

People with disabilities comprise over a fifth (21%) of working-age adults, yet are a too-often overlooked element of an organisation’s diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) strategy. And with a disability employment gap of 29%, it’s clear that there is a requirement for organisations to create more accessible entry points while also providing greater long-term support.

Many application processes offer reasonable adjustments for differently abled candidates, but these policies may not be fit for purpose when supporting people throughout their careers. Considering that anybody at any stage of their lives could be differently abled, it’s imperative that inclusive practices are able to evolve with the changing needs of your workforce – and an employee passport could be the supporting tool you need.

The language we use is constantly evolving and shapes the perception of our world. Whilst I use the term ‘differently abled’ when discussing persons with disabilities, not everybody will agree with certain terms. However, by avoiding collective labels and negative language, we can better promote individualism in the workplace and beyond.

Also known as a ‘workplace adjustment passport’, an employee passport is a document that allows applicants and new starters (or simply all staff) to outline their individual requirements. This can be seen as an evolving framework, helping managers support individual needs and facilitate meaningful conversations – quite possibly revealing new considerations in the process.

Consider your advertised job requirements

Placing a greater emphasis on core skills and potential, rather than just education and tenure, is another way to attract a more diverse and inclusive talent pool. Consider removing degree requirements unless absolutely essential. In today’s world of work, there’s a strong argument that core skills and potential should be emphasised over qualifications and technical expertise.

For example, if neurodivergent people are allowed to focus on their talents rather than struggling with tasks they find more challenging, they can often far exceed the output and achievements of their neurotypical colleagues.

Steve Jobs and Richard Branson are dyslexic, while Albert Einstein and Isaac Newton are thought to have been autistic. There are countless other examples of neurodivergent individuals who have made incredible discoveries and inventions; unsurprising since there have been several studies showing a correlation between autism and a high, even genius, level of intelligence.

Unfortunately, archaic hiring processes and workplace ideologies mean that neurodivergent people may face challenges when it comes to securing and maintaining employment. Two-thirds (65%) of neurodivergent employees are concerned they’ll face discrimination from management, while the same percentage (65%) of employers believe they don’t have enough educated staff to support neurodivergent workers.

Factors like these are why unemployment rate is disproportionately elevated for this demographic; almost four-fifths (78%) of autistic people in the UK are unemployed, compared to 4.2% for the general population. 

To counteract this unemployment disparity and to reap the benefits of a diverse workforce, employers should be adaptable and accommodating to the requirements of neurodivergent jobseekers and employees. A diverse team made up of specialist and generalist thinkers can be the recipe for an innovative and thriving workforce.

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