Drive business performance through diversity

Want to know how to use diversity to drive business performance?

Women@Work has created a 5 step plan to support organisations who put diversity and inclusion high on their agenda.

Gone are the days where diversity and inclusion are purely ticked box exercises to fulfil CSR objectives. Merit-based recruitment and D&I strategy should go hand in hand. Here’s why.

Companies globally have recognised that to be regarded as forwarding thinkers in their industry, enable business growth and become clear market leaders; diversity and inclusion have to be a priority. Nothing about moral obligation or legal technicalities, more addressing the most relevant business challenges and responding to clear commercial reasons why today’s workplaces should reflect the diversity of the population.

What clear commercial reasons? In addition to ensuring a diverse talent pool with a full suite of skills developed from a wide spectrum of life experiences, you’re putting yourself in a much stronger position to understand the needs and demands of your diverse customers. Agility to meet your customers’ ever-evolving requirements instantly puts you one step ahead of the competition! Sounds too wishy-washy? Multiple studies also show that organisations with diverse management teams perform better, as well as enhancing brand perception.

So where do the struggles come from? It’s human nature to like people who are similar to us, same background, similar qualifications; unfortunately, a dangerous influence in hiring people. Whilst the concept of working with likeminded people may seem attractive, it certainly won’t help in fostering a workplace that encourages challenge, new ideas and innovation.

Employers should be continually reviewing their selection process to ensure a diverse mix of candidates is successfully progressing through each stage. The aim as an employer; to recruit a broad range of talented people with the necessary skills for the job, regardless of their ethnicity, class, sexual orientation, age or religion.

We’ve put together 5 steps to help employers eliminate bias associated to recruiting as well as ensuring a diverse team through merit-based recruitment.

1) Set diversity targets

Unsurprisingly, recognising the importance of diversity by measuring it and setting realistic targets throughout the organisation is encouraged. Be transparent with the company and the wider community; communicate clearly how D&I targets are directly correlated to recruiting required skill and experience sets; educate internal and external stakeholders on the benefits of D&I over and above CSR objectives. Regarding your numbers- no one expects perfection straight away, but one expects honesty.

2) Be clear about what you’re looking for?  

How does your organisation define ‘talent’? The first step to merit-based hiring is understanding what you’re really looking for in people. For each role think about objective profiling this will hence help with the risk of bringing unconscious bias into the process. Identify and specify the skills, behaviours and knowledge that are actually required for the role.

3) Widen your reach

Your attraction strategy should encourage applicants with different educational/socio-economic backgrounds so don’t restrict yourself to the same schools, universities or qualifications – reach out to different groups, go against the norm and look for a balance to your hiring pool.

4) Introduce ‘name-blind’ recruitment practices

Join the likes of Deloitte, KPMG, HSBC who have pledged to remove names on CV’s to reduce the possibility of ‘elitist hiring’ and possible discrimination. Hiring managers should also be trained to understand and avoid unconscious bias – spot ‘potential’ rather than ‘actual’ skills.  Ask questions that look for attitudes and behaviours instead.

5) Use psychometric assessments

Assessments are all about finding you exactly what you’re looking for, so firstly make sure you’re looking for the right things! They usually consider a broad range of assessments such as ability, creativity, values, personality, motivation. Through situational judgements, questionnaires and simulations can also be used to identify how candidates will respond in real workplace scenarios – genius!


The article was written by Elizabeth Stevenson, Business Development Manager of Women@Work