How to build a diverse and inclusive workforce

Alexander Mann Solutions, leading talent acquisition and management experts, explain how businesses can attract and retain a diverse workforce through careful recruitment and building a company culture that is authentically inclusive.


Building diversity and inclusion into your business

Diversity and inclusion (D&I) is a topic that has increasingly crept up the corporate agenda as more businesses continue to recognise the value that it can have on productivity and, ultimately, a firm’s bottom line. But being diverse isn’t as simple as broadening your talent pools. It is multifaceted and complex. However, for organisations of all sizes, it is quite simply critical. 

It’s important to clarify from the beginning that there are differences between diversity and inclusion. Quite often the two are used under one definition, but they are completely separate. Diversity is all about bringing in different types of people, while inclusion enables these individuals to be embraced and ultimately succeed. 

Clearly there are multiple benefits to embedding diversity and inclusion within your business and recruitment processes, but achieving it is no easy task. While there is no one size fits all solution that we can provide, there are a number of steps that can be implemented to help guide your company’s approach to D&I.

Take a step back

Before you even get to the job advertisement stage, it’s important to allow time to ‘take stock’ and track diversity in your recruitment processes. Analysing the data from your applicant tracking system (ATS), for example, can shed light on any diverse groups that perhaps aren’t applying to work for your company. This will provide a much clearer indication of where there may be a need to improve inclusion and will guide the next steps in terms of messaging around your employer branding.

Consider your current workforce

It’s also crucial that organisations review the existing workforce in order to identify an accurate picture of the current diversity of the business and where there may be gaps. In some instances, this can in fact reveal that the firm is much more inclusive than first thought – but without this knowledge it will be difficult to showcase your existing inclusive culture, or take action that addresses the true barriers to inclusion in your company. It’s important to add that diversity is incredibly broad and while there may be trends in targeting particular demographics (gender, for example, has been a hot topic for a while, though ethnicity is a real focus for many employers at the moment), you need to consider all elements to be truly inclusive. Currently the UK Government recognises six 'equality strands’ (age, disability, religion, race, sexual orientation, and gender) where people are protected by law from discrimination (direct or indirect), harassment and victimisation. But diversity is much more complex than just these particular segments.

Build D&I into the entire recruitment process

Once you have an accurate picture of where there may be diversity gaps in your recruitment or under-representation of certain groups in the business, the steps that are taken next will be highly informed and therefore much more impactful. But there needs to be consistency across all touch points in the talent attraction process. Before you even begin to work on the copy in job adverts (which we have a handy guide for here), you need to take a look at the messaging on the company website, careers pages and social media channels to ensure the organisation’s approach to inclusion is apparent in every potential source of candidate information. Does the website have videos from staff talking about life in the company, for example? Do these videos represent diverse groups? Is a culture of inclusion clear for those who don’t know the business well? 

Focus on your company culture

Where we have seen employers struggle with D&I in the past, there has been a common theme: Companies often try (with the best of intentions) to set to work on increasing the diversity of their workforce before ensuring the culture itself if truly inclusive. An inauthentic attempt to display diversity can be counter-productive. If there is this disconnect, businesses will likely find that the hiring process attracts more diverse groups, but attrition rates increase as new hires soon leave after discovering that the culture isn’t in line with their expectations. By involving existing employees in promoting D&I, businesses will be better placed to nurture more authentic diversity that in turn creates an inclusive workplace that delivers against the expectations of new hires. 

Building a diverse workforce

If you have created an environment that not only attracts diverse groups through the recruitment process, but perhaps more importantly, allows your people to be true to their beliefs in a supported environment where they feel they belong, then you are a truly diverse and inclusive business.

Article written by Alexander Mann Solutions, leading provider of talent acquisition and management services.