If you’re in a corporate office in the UK, the majority of your colleagues are probably fairly similar. Similar backgrounds, similar interests, similar ethnicity – a homogeneous group of people.
This is the case in many offices in the UK. And the companies that these offices belong to are getting worried. Diversity is low in the average UK workplace, in fact “diversity stat” and important stakeholders are starting to take notice, and competitors are starting to use diversity as a factor to get a 1-up on competitors
The dreaded diversity statistic is putting a lot of pressure on companies to diversify their workforce. And many companies are beginning to take steps to try and improve their diversity stats. For instance, research from Highfliers shows that the number one priority for graduate employers in 2018 was to increase the diversity of their graduate intake.
On the surface it’s great that these huge companies are taking such an active role in increasing the diversity of their employees. However, there is a danger that a lot of these companies see diversity as a tick box to which they have to employ a certain amount of individuals from minorities to please stakeholders.
The pressure that this has put on large corporations in particular, risks a knee-jerk reaction to diversity which will result in a situation which is not ideal for the corporations, or the employees they are taking on.
As a lack of diversity has now become something that has the potential to damage the profits of a company. There is now a risk of improper practice when it comes to recruiting diversely. For instance, I have come across tools that companies can use to specifically find BAME applicants.
I’m worried that because of this profit focus, companies are going to miss the whole point of diversity.
Diversity is not just a statistic, nor is diversity is not about employing one race or gender over another. Diversity is about making sure the best applicants get employed, regardless of their background.
Positive discrimination is not a positive thing. It results in tokenism, and is a negative for the business, and especially the employee. Pressure for diversity should not result in perfect applicants missing out in place of an applicant who is less skilled but raises the diversity profile of the company.
I’m Carribean-White mixed race, and I don’t want to ever be given a job based on the colour of my skin, I want to get a job because I was the right person for the role. Recruitment should always be a meritocracy. I know that I am not alone in thinking like this. However, the current pressure for diversity is increasing the chances of individuals being hired to increase the company’s diversity statistic.
The current issues that have caused this lack of diversity that many companies are suffering from, have resulted in-part due to poor recruitment processes that favour certain groups of people. At the early stage of an application process for a junior or graduate role, most companies consider two things: what universities the applicant attended and whether they have been able to get work experience in a big company,
Of course, these factors play a part in assessing how suitable a applicant is, but they are certainly not the be-all and end-all for recruitment. By focusing on this criteria, it is much more likely that a company will be employing a similar group of young people from a similar background.
It is important that employers expand their approach to recruiting young people. In order to improve the diversity of graduate and junior intakes, companies need to approach the recruitment process in the right way. The playing field needs to be leveled for those who were not fortunate enough to attend a Russell Group university, or complete unpaid work experience at a large company. There are plenty of highly skilled individuals who do not fill this criteria, and these individuals tend to come from much more diverse backgrounds.
By focusing on the skills that an applicant brings to the role, it is much more likely that companies will increase their diversity, without having to positively discriminate. Focusing on skills ensures that the best applicants are selected regardless of their background, therefore leveling the playing field for all applicants.
Occumi is a tool that helps companies to hire based on skills. We use our unique algorithm to identify an applicant’s skill-set, meaning applicants that have the skills required for the role are highlighted at an early stage. Get in touch to learn more.