In this guest post, Byron Calmonson, director at recruitment consultancy Resourcing Hub, talks about the importance of backing up diversity and inclusion policies with real action and engagement with the relevant communities.
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These days pretty much every organisation has a diversity and inclusion policy statement with lots of fancy, politically correct wording. In most cases, that’s all it is – words with no real meaning or positive action behind them.
The lack of diversity and inclusion in tech and many other sectors is a genuine problem that needs real action, but sadly they’ve become meaningless buzzwords. Having a close family member on the autistic spectrum I’m acutely aware of the issue.
As this person is moving into adulthood and considering college and careers options, I’m frustrated by the limited progress and support in this area. People with autism and other differences are not necessarily held back by lack of ability or ambition, but by inflexible, archaic recruitment frameworks.
We all need to take a long, hard look at ourselves and our search and selection strategies. As a forward-thinking tech resourcing business, we’re fully committed to workplace diversity and yet we often revert to the traditional communication methods. We screen candidates by the quality of their CVs or online application forms. Candidates who get over that first hurdle have to undergo further screening over the phone before potentially making it onto the client’s final shortlist.
Instead, we should bear in mind that, for some candidates, communication over the phone is very challenging. Why don’t we ask candidates how they want to engage with us? There is so much great technology that can be used, including WhatsApp and other messaging platforms, FaceTime, YouTube or simply email or text.
However, many fantastic candidates will never even make it to the application stage as they will never hear about your company and vacancies or feel that the opportunities are suitable or achievable for them. The majority of hiring managers and recruiters simply undertake the traditional recruitment advertising on LinkedIn or the big job sites and will therefore only reach their traditional candidate pool.
For instance, despite some recent progress, there is still a significant disability employment gap in the UK. In mid-2016, only 49% of people aged 16-64 with a disability were employed, compared with 81% of non-disabled people. A survey by AbilityNet revealed that many disabled people felt overlooked by technology companies and developers. Over half of all respondents believed the latest devices were built with a mainstream, non-disabled audience in mind. To reach more candidates with disabilities, organisations need to develop and invest in websites, online application forms and screening tests with accessibility features and involve disability groups in the process.
In this context, it was incredibly encouraging to hear about recruitment consultancy Auticon at Computer Weekly’s recent Diversity in Tech event. Auticon recruits tech consultants who are on the autistic spectrum. Many of these candidates have great technical skills, but need the right opportunity and support. To connect with these candidates Auticon has developed strong and effective relationships with universities as well as disability charities and working groups. Each candidate who passes the interview stage is assigned a job coach, who will also work with the client firm to ensure they implement reasonable adjustments to make the company environment and communication autism-friendly.
Auticon’s work shines a light for others to follow. We need many more unconventional and disruptive recruitment initiatives aimed at under-represented groups. For example, to be able to connect with and attract candidates from lower socio-economic groups, organisations can try outreach programmes for schools and communities, paid internships or sponsorships of school technology, such as providing tablet computers.
To engage with under-represented ethnic minority communities, it would be beneficial to team up with local leaders or role models to organise recruitment events and open days. In terms of digital channels, it’s worth promoting your company and roles on relevant niche websites and connecting with the target candidates on specialist social media groups.
I’m a passionate advocate of workplace diversity and inclusion due to both business and personal reasons. It goes without saying the process doesn’t end with the successful recruitment of diverse candidates. Employers must also ensure they offer an inclusive and supportive working environment, providing mentors to ensure these candidates get every opportunity to thrive and add value.
Enough is enough. It’s time to turn our clever diversity and inclusion policies into action.
Byron Calmonson is a specialist in ICT skills, leadership and talent and has been a director at the Resourcing Hub, an IT and business recruitment consultancy, since 1999.