HR professionals regularly espouse the virtues of having a diverse workforce for a whole host of reasons, including the fact that hiring from a range of backgrounds means you get a greater range of ideas for everything from problem-solving to innovation. It also provides more role models; however, this knowledge does not mean it always happens.
By virtue of trying to ensure that we do not introduce bias into recruitment processes, we tend to be quite formulaic in what we do. We use rigid pre-set criteria laid down in job descriptions and person specifications that may have been written years ago and not really thought about since. Every time we recruit, surely we should review the job requirements and whether they are still relevant?
This can cause other problems, of course. The salary may not match the new job description and, if it needs to be higher, this could cause dissent amongst existing workers; however, there are ways to deal with these issues. We also tend to use rigid sets of questions that do not enable candidates to express their true character and individuality, so how do we ensure that we bring in talent with new ideas and fresh perspectives?
One argument that has been put forward to enable businesses to find new talent is to take on more work experience students from schools in the local area. The advantage of this is that the employer gets a chance to meet and get to know the student and the student gets to see whether they like the company. The flipside is that the place in which a student does work experience is not necessarily where they want to start their work career.
Employers can attend careers fairs, but it is probable that only the most engaged students will attend and you might still not get what you want. Perhaps a better way is to set up partnership and mentoring arrangements with universities and/or colleges. By engaging early, employers can get a feel for what potential employees will be like.
Companies may even offer internships to the most promising candidates to really get an idea of what they are like, but how do companies ensure they are being fair and assessing interns in an objective way? Doesn’t this take us back to our job descriptions and person specifications?
Perhaps the answer is to be more flexible in what we want from particular roles and to rewrite the job descriptions and person specifications to reflect this; for example, you want accountants and financial controllers to be numerate but including some softer skills into the person spec would help to bring in a different type of person. It might take a while to get it right, but it is worth taking the time to do so to ensure we do not fall foul of the law and potential discrimination claims whilst still diversifying our talent pool.
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