Steps to Inclusive Hiring and Maintaining an Inclusive Workplace Culture

Perhaps the most-asked question when considering Diversity and Inclusion in the workplace is “How do I start?” On January 28, the DINT was joined by an incredible panel of recruitment and D&I experts as we explored this question and others like it. The panellists included Annie Boneta, Mo Kanjilal, and Richard Ng (bios below).

This talk was a part of a monthly event series run by DINT, a free online community created to enable connections and increase conversations about diversity and inclusion in tech. It took place inside the virtual reality Teooh application. If you’re interested in joining the DINT community, click here.

With some of the highest attendance in DINT event history, this event was filled with people from companies with very advanced D&I initiatives to those just starting out.

What’s the first step that a company should take when looking to increase diversity at the hiring stage?

For those in the beginning phases of increasing diversity at the hiring stage, the most common advice from the panellists was to acknowledge the problem. Mo suggested that companies do an internal audit of sorts to determine where the organisation lacks diversity, then take the necessary steps to address that. This advice was echoed by Richard, who pushed the importance of doing research into hiring inclusivity and immersing oneself in the existing writing. Annie addressed a question that we all, admittedly, sometimes have: ‘Well, don’t you just hire more diverse people?’ She suggested that, while that is part of it, it’s important to make sure that company leadership understand that diversity is a complex concept that includes diversity of thought and diversity of background, rather than just gender and race diversity.

While it’s easy to suggest internal audits and share resources, many companies still struggle with the jump from wanting to do better to actually doing better. This begs the question…

What are the blockers to inclusive recruitment?

The panellists helped us acknowledge two very clear blockers: a lack of knowledge and training and a fear of doing the wrong thing. Luckily, the first blocker has an easy, if time-consuming, solution: committing to sharing accepting training. While it’s easy to implement training programs and require people to attend, it’s encouraging a culture of acceptance within those training meetings and ensuring that they aren’t simply taken as box-ticking exercises.

The second blocker — the fear of doing the wrong thing — is one that plagues all diversity and inclusion discussions, both inside and outside of the workplace. Because this blocker is both inherent and individual, it is, admittedly, much more difficult to face at a company-wide level. To this, Richard answers that acknowledgement is the first step to breaking down this blocker. ‘First, acknowledge that you do have a limited perspective. Then, go and do something about it.’

It’s much easier to lose the fear of saying the right thing when you are taking the time to educate yourself and engage with groups that are already interacting positively in the D&I area. And there’s a flip side to this: allowing people to make mistakes. While there are some actions that are unforgivable, it is important that people know that if they are making an effort to learn and act more inclusively in their own lives, their voice should be heard. The fear of doing or saying the wrong thing is only exacerbated by making others feel as though they’re doing the wrong thing. It’s right there in the name — diversity and inclusion requires inclusion, and this means including everyone who is willing to learn and engage in the conversation.

Once a company has determined its first steps and overcome those initial blockers, its time to start attracting talent.

How does a company begin attracting diverse talent?

As someone who works with organisations to get underrepresented individuals into tech, Richard had some wonderful insight into this question. ‘It’s not that you have to reinvent the wheel….if you support organisations [with networks in diverse communities], you can begin to understand how they interact with these communities.’ Then, it’s simply a matter of applying their practices to your own company. Mo furthered this suggestion by amplifying the fact that attracting diverse talent is not a quick fix. ‘There isn’t a checkbox that you tick and then you’re done, you’ve fixed the problem. It’s a long term strategy…you need to understand where the issues are, start looking at the comms you are putting out, look into the networks that you have, and reaching out to different organisations.’

Perhaps the most insightful summation of this concept came from Annie, who suggested that companies don’t use the word ‘’ when looking for referrals, but instead consider a ‘’. This entails understanding what backgrounds and types of people will add to your company and culture rather than just recruiting more of the same.

If your company is able to get involved with communities that are supporting diverse talents, it’s time to begin the recruitment flow.

Now that recruitment has begun, how does a company minimise bias in the CV-searching and application stage?

Research has shown that the recruitment process stage is one in which bias is common. Mo discussed a few ways to combat this bias, from removing names from CVs to standardising application forms. She also recommended a skills-based application process that focuses on real-world application of skills rather than a chronological list of education and work experience. This means ensuring that those in hiring roles are aware of certain implicit biases they may have and are working to ensure that those aren’t reflected in the hiring process. Annie furthered this, encouraging that companies ensure that people at executive levels are also aware of such biases. If diversity and inclusion only exist in the recruitment stage, the culture of the company will not facilitate inclusion.

Richard introduced an interesting bias that came not from the company, but from the diverse and underrepresented applicants. Because of the inherent diversity and inclusion problem in many organisations, it is easy for underrepresented individuals to have a sense of imposter syndrome, believing that perhaps they will not thrive in the non-diverse organisation because of their background. In order to combat this, it’s important to make mentoring available in the application process. By giving them someone to chat to about what the position actually involves, they can dispose of the fear that accompanies imposter syndrome and determine if the position is really right for them.

So, your company has dispelled these biases and hired candidates from a wide range of backgrounds. Well done! Job done! …not!

What should our companies be doing to cement the good practices they’ve established during the hiring process?

Annie introduced the perfect metaphor for this situation: ‘I always equate it to when you read a review on a restaurant and you’re so excited to go, and then you get there and you experience nothing like what you read.’ It’s important to ensure that this is not the case with your company. Annie suggests introducing ERGs (Employer Resource Groups) into the company to retain people and improve company culture. Richard backed this, mentioning the importance of investing time and remaining patient. ‘It’s about understanding that people aren’t going to know everything, but if they’re working hard at learning things, they deserve to be afforded that space’ to improve.

In addition to introducing a mentor in the application process, Mo recommends a similar buddy system once hired. ‘Having a buddy is a great way to make sure people feel comfortable about what’s going on and can ask questions that they may not want to ask their manager.’ Buddy systems are a great way to introduce people into a culture, and they make new hires feel welcome and comfortable.

By encouraging D&I initiatives in both the hiring process and in company culture as a whole, your company can ensure that the metaphorical Yelp review matches the real experience. In order to ensure inclusive recruitment, you must support your recruitment process with an inclusive company culture. The DINT team so enjoyed our first-ever panel discussion, and we loved the insights that Annie, Mo, and Richard shared.

If you’re keen to join future DINT events, check out https://www.joinit.org/o/dint. We look forward to seeing you at our next event!

About the Panellists:

Annie Boneta is an in-house recruiter for Zwift, and is very active in the LGBTQ space. She is passionate about helping underrepresented groups get more visibility, and she loves building cultures and creating teams that last.

In addition to running Watch this Space, Mo Kanjilal is an award-winning Sales Director, coach, writer, and NLP Master Practitioner. She focuses on ensuring that teams are inclusive environments where everyone can thrive.

Richard works across software engineering, education and D&I in tech. As Programme Lead at Academy, he’s building a launchpad for fast-growth careers in tech for those from non-traditional tech backgrounds. In the non-profit space, he volunteers as a trainer and mentor for different organisations — Code Your Future, Black Valley, Black Codher and Coders of Colour — working with underrepresented groups varying from refugees to Black women.

DINT is a free online community set up to make connections between people who care about diversity and inclusion in tech. Join us! https://www.joinit.org/o/dint

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