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Top tips for recruiting an inclusive workforce

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Charlotte Valeur

Chair, Institute Of Directors (IoD)

When recruiting someone, what should we be looking for? We all know that diversity and inclusion should be considered carefully, but when and how should this influence our decisions during the recruitment process?

The first thing to consider when recruiting a candidate is skill and experience. It is important to establish if the candidate has a particular expertise in the sector, or if they have dealt with similar situations to those they might face within the role you are hiring for.

Once these boxes are ticked, broader questions may be useful, often with less clear-cut answers. Does the candidate want to develop in the role? What is their underlying motivation for the role? And, most simply, but perhaps most often, are they ‘the right fit’ for the organisation?

It’s this last question that underpins all the others, but it can also be the most dangerous to rely on. You want a new member of the team to buy into the values of your organisation, it’s true – up to a point.

Don’t look for ‘mirror image’ candidates

The danger is that an employer won’t just look for people who buy into their business values. They may also look for people who have the same views, ideas, and perspectives as them. It’s easy to fall into the trap of looking for a mirror image.

This is particularly perilous in the current environment. While different generations have always spoken different languages, it’s now the case that new technologies and platforms can upend received wisdom within weeks.

YouTubers have built vast platforms to engage with audiences and firms have, at times, been slow to catch up. All companies are engaged in a constant battle not to be outflanked.

Successful businesses thrive on the ‘new’. It can be tempting to settle into certain ways of operating, but this temptation must be resisted.

Change is hard, and not always enjoyable. But, as was once said, ‘If you don’t like change, then you will like irrelevance even less.’

The best way to ride the wave of change is to get people on your team who understand it. That’s why my new mantra is ‘hire someone who doesn’t fit in’.

You need people to challenge the existing ways

You need people in the building who will stir the pot and challenge the existing way of doing things. Disagreement can be healthy, it is through differences of opinion that we grow.

This is where leadership comes in. True leadership does not consist of quashing differences and disagreements, but rather embracing them and capitalising upon the opportunities they give rise to.

The tone of inclusivity must be set from the top. This doesn’t mean that everyone can or should agree all the time. It means that people have the space to disagree and not feel threatened.

As a leader, you have to be ready to explain your decisions, not simply expect people to accept them as gospel.

What can leaders actually do to act on this?

One tool is ‘reverse mentoring’: embed the idea in your organisation that those at the top can learn from everyone. Rigorous stakeholder mapping may sound dull, but it’s also vital.

But it’s through taking a truly inclusive approach to recruitment that business leaders can make the most impact. That means embracing those who are different from you.

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