How to recruit with diversity at front of mind

Last week, we launched the 2021 Edition of the WiHTL Annual Report, which found that although progress has been made on diversity in the hospitality, travel and leisure sector, there is still much, more that needs to be done. As part of the journey towards a more diverse and inclusive organisation, businesses across the consumer-facing sector must think carefully about their hiring and recruitment processes. Against this backdrop, we are pleased to present ‘Recruiting for diversity: a toolkit from The MBS Group and WiHTL’.

Borne out of a request from the WiHTL Collaboration Community to identify best practices, this toolkit lays out a series of practical steps that companies can take to ensure their hiring processes, at both workforce and leadership team level, are encouraging D&I. It is not designed as a checklist, nor as a one-size-fits-all solution – but while actions to increase representation and promote inclusion will be determined by individual priorities and budget, every organisation can benefit from reconsidering established norms around assessment, job descriptions and the use of technology in hiring.

Perhaps most critically, hiring and recruitment activities should be reimagined to give weight to future potential rather than past experience. At an executive search level, existing imbalances mean that asking for proven experience can often result in a candidate pool that is predominantly white and male. Leaders should instead look for leadership qualities, soft skills and long-term potential.

Recruiting for diversity toolkit - cover page and inside pages sample

Here are the ten key recommendations from the toolkit, which can be read in full here.

1. Rethink what good looks like for executive hires

Avoid specifically requesting proven experience when recruiting the most senior leaders, which can lead to a limited and undiverse pool of potential candidates. Similarly, asking for a certain number of years in a role can limit the number of candidates presented. Instead, look for innate leadership qualities; psychometric tests can assess resilience, emotional intelligence and decision-making. Crucially, make sure your search partner takes D&I seriously.

2. Focus on future potential over past experience

Too much weight on past experience and long lists of ‘nice-to-haves’ on job advertisements can discourage women, applicants from ethnic minorities or those with less access to opportunities from applying for roles. Moreover, because of existing imbalances, a candidate’s past experience may not reflect their true ability. If skills can be learnt in the role, don’t list them as necessary requirements.

3. Leverage young talent

Targeting young people can unlock many different areas of diversity. Partner with local schools, colleges, universities or youth organisations to bring in and upskill diverse talent. Social media, specialist recruiters and diversity-focused job sites are all good sourcing mechanisms for this.

4. Review assessment practices

It is crucial to review any interview and assessment processes. Current practices may be affected by unconscious bias, or actively exclude certain groups, such as those with disabilities. Establish standardised, objective tests that mimic real-life tasks to capture how well candidates are suited to the job requirements and avoid human bias in interview processes.

5. Advertise your D&I policies

Increasingly, candidates are making decisions on where to work based on a company’s values and stance on D&I. According research from PwC, 86% of millennial women and 74% of millennial men factor D&I policies into their employment decisions. Be upfront about flexible working and parental leave policies on job advertisements, personalise your equal opportunities statement and publish diversity data to attract a more diverse applicant pool.

6. Make D&I integral to your employer brand

Consider how effectively your company values are reflected in all marketing and social media activity. Publicising company values should be a priority. Interestingly, supermarkets are leading the way in this area. In the summer of 2020, for example, we saw a number of supermarkets making statements publicly denouncing racism, and in December 2020, major grocers broke protocol to run their adverts back-to-back during two primetime slots on Channel 4, with the hashtag #StandAgainstRacism. In HTL, one travel company reassessed its corporate advertising strategy and made its marketing imagery more inclusive, which led to a 28% increase in the number of women hired.

7. Pay close attention to the use of technology in recruitment

Technology can be an invaluable tool for recruiting more efficiently and mitigating the risks of human bias. However, close attention must be paid to digital systems that can reinforce damaging stereotypes ad halt progress on D&I. Ensure sufficient checks and balances on any digital tools used for hiring.

8. Consider centralising recruitment processes

When it comes to recruitment, one of the biggest questions for HTL businesses is whether to centralise the process. Moving towards a centralised hiring model can mitigate unconscious or conscious bias from individual site hiring managers.

9. Track data

What gets measured gets attention. By collecting and analysing diversity data at every level of the recruitment journey, businesses can identify the stages at which diverse candidates exit the process and amend their hiring processes accordingly. One hospitality company reviewed its entire assessment process and found that women were dropping out at an online timed assessment stage. The business took the timed element out of the online test, which redressed the balance and resulted in a 50/50 gender split of final-stage applicants.

10. Set targets and measure progress

In practice, this can cover everything from demanding balanced shortlists from executive search partners to matching the ethnic makeup of the local population.

Fundamentally, any efforts to hire with diversity in mind should be underpinned by a culture of inclusion. Without a truly inclusive culture, businesses will not be able to unlock the value of making diverse hires. As the hospitality sector prepares to fully reopen, I hope this toolkit can provide guidance on how to rebuild with diversity at the forefront. The case for D&I has never been stronger than now – and it is our hope that this publication can play some small part in driving meaningful change.

Beyond these ten recommendations, the toolkit also takes a detailed look at the real-world successes of diverse hiring strategies. Read, for example, about the changes McDonald’s have implemented, which have resulted in women making up more than 50% of their appointments in each of the last three years, and ethnically diverse hires up from 24% to 45% over the same time period. Or about the steps taken at Nando’s, for whom an inclusive and respectful culture for all is at the heart of the business.

It has been a privilege to once again work alongside WiHTL and the wealth of people working so hard in the hospitality, travel and leisure sectors to move the dial on diversity and inclusion to produce this toolkit. Through the various examples of best practice we have unearthed during conversations with dozens of forward-thinking consumer businesses, we hope you will find this toolkit food for thought. Do let me know if you have any feedback, and have a wonderful weekend. | LinkedIn