This is a guest blog authored by Simon Abrahams, Industry Analyst – Cloud and Infrastructure Services at Teknowlogy Group.
Although the coronavirus pandemic is currently present in the here and now, organisations are already planning how they will build their businesses back to pre-COVID levels.
A crucial battleground will be how to hire the best talent – especially when many are expecting headcount requests to be scrutinised more closely than ever. For many organizations, the key will lie in reimagining which candidates could have most impact – and that all starts with a fundamental cultural shift.
The monoculture problem
There’s plenty of fish in the sea, but we’ll only find them if we expand the talent pools we choose to fish in.
It’s well documented that many managers gravitate towards what they know. And if a hiring manager works in a small team where integration is essential, people may be blindsided into hiring people who look and sound just like themselves and are therefore ‘easier’ to integrate.
I don’t want to blame people, since often these biases are entirely unconscious. But they are biases all the same. And not only is that not fair, it’s also not in the businesses’ best interests.
Why? Well the reason is twofold. Firstly, there is no single source of the ‘best’ talent, and consequently the best candidates come from a multitude of different backgrounds – thankfully, this is now well understood.
The second problem of a monoculture is, simply, it doesn’t reflect the lifeblood of a business –customers.
Society is incredibly varied. It includes different genders, ethnicities, and people with mental and physical disabilities. Whatever a company offers – whether it be a product or a service – it needs to be built to serve a diverse market.
An inclusive workforce is able to project the views, opinions, and ideas of wider society. This makes businesses much more sensitive to the needs of their customers, enabling them to build much stronger customer relationships.
Fixing the problem
So what practical changes can businesses make today?
For one thing, recruiters can change where they usually look for talent. Try different job boards, different university campuses, different recruitment centres. We should even be rethinking how we write job specs. Today’s dry, jargon-full job descriptions might appeal to one type of candidate, but completely alienate others.
Furthermore, I’d love to see bigger, more ambitious projects aimed at tackling the problem. Projects like Fujitsu’s BuddyConnect. This is an app that connects those with autism to specially trained ‘buddies’ from across the organisation. The app enables employees to track their mood, helping buddies know when to lend support.
This app was so successful, it started being used for a number of neurodiverse individuals – not just those with autism. It just goes to show what’s possible when you make your work environment more inclusive.
Of course, it’s not just neurodiverse people who may require help settling into the workforce. The recent pandemic has had the most disruptive impact on our working lives in living memory.
People across the world are feeling stressed, confused, scared, and (quite literally) isolated. And whether it be ways-of-working pragmatics or managing mental health, businesses need to overcome the challenge of an atomised workforce.
This isn’t something many businesses are used to contending with. And I think it will have a lasting impact. If not with dealing with mental health, then at least in working from home initiatives going forward.
The flexibility of working anywhere can make a huge impact on employee wellbeing – from parents struggling to balance their family life to individuals with physical disabilities who struggle to commute.
Covid-19 has forced businesses to move remote working to their number one priority. And now it’s there, hopefully it will make the workplace more inclusive for those with disabilities, those with family commitments, or generally anyone who finds it hard to work in an office five days a week.
Coming out of today’s uncertain times, I do see D&I as being more important than ever. Businesses have seen the value of taking care of their workforces – and I think they’ll want that to continue.
Furthermore, as the skills gap widens, and the need for innovation increases, I see more businesses realising diversity is the only way to ensure they secure first-class talent. And when they do, I think we can all look forward to a much fairer, more inclusive society.
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