Just the other day, I was sat around a table at a senior leadership forum and we got on to discussing the pay gap(s). It became clear to me that people are now happy to explore and talk about the gender pay gap, which is wonderful and we should all be proud of the progress we’ve made. However, as the conversation moved to race and ethnicity, people became a lot less comfortable and their responses to my questions were less informed by experience in tackling the issues. It makes me wonder, as we become all the more comfortable talking about the gender pay gap openly, how many companies have started to improve workplaces for other groups with protected characteristics. If we’re looking to diversify our workplaces, it’s time to take the response to pay gap regulations as a motivator for building fairer workplaces for all.
In my work in recruiting diverse talent, as I approach potential employers, I tend towards believing that all people are good people and that we generally do things with our best intentions. With the issue of unconscious bias, for example, we call it unconscious bias for a reason, it’s often the case that a CEO or Manager hasn’t realised that their recruitment process or workplace culture is letting down potential or current talent. However, as the saying goes, when you know better, do better. If you’re reading this article, this could be the beginning of your journey to broadening your horizons and it could be time to do better. After running a talent company specialising in supporting employers to recruit from a diverse talent pool, there are a few things I would recommend you start doing today to help you lead on building better workplaces.
Know the USP of your diverse team
Why do we talk about the Unique Selling Point of our business, but not of our employees? When it comes to convincing employers that there is a need to understand diverse viewpoints and hire diverse teams, I sometimes ask them to look at a person they have hired who is a little bit outside of the mould of their traditional staff members, and reflect on the value that person has brought. This might not necessarily be money, it might be that your retention rates have improved because they are a great team player, that your working culture is better, that there is a greater range of ideas coming from the team. If you look, you’ll realise that there are any number of changes which have come with a person with a ‘USP’. If you have a team of people who are ‘different’ from one another, this can enrich content, thoughts, innovation and people’s experience at work. The evidence is there for the positive impact of more inclusive workplaces, it’s often under your nose, it’s just a matter of taking the time to look for it
Don’t underestimate the Journey
When recognising someone as talented, perhaps during the recruitment stage, most of us identify with people who look and think like us – we can evaluate ‘merit’ where it is recognisable to us. What we’re missing when we do this, is not only the importance of diversity of thought but the likelihood that the person who is sitting in front of you in an interview – perhaps they are a woman, someone from an ethnic minority, or a person with a physical disability – has had to fight very hard to be where they are.
To give an example, what you might not know when you meet me, is that to get where I am today I had to work extraordinarily hard – I held work experience placements every single day I wasn’t in college and every day that I wasn’t in class at university – I never let the ball drop. In the end, I was able to do the same things as my exceptional peers, but was my journey the same? Let’s say I had gone to a private school, there’s a chance the connections I made at school might have equipped me to move into roles, or gotten me involved with people who could help me drive forward my career . I could have been a little more laid back about my career and still progressed well. It’s the same for the person who you are interviewing, or whose application you’re looking at, who isn’t entirely like you. It is quite possible that one person’s achievement came with a lot more grit and hard work than another’s – ask yourself what journey this person had to take, and how hard they had to fight, to get where they are.