There’s no questioning the case for increasing workplace diversity and inclusion. Study after study has shown how diversity can benefit businesses by promoting innovation and creativity, improving hiring and retention, even increasing productivity and profitability.
“The research is clear,” says Mohamed Elmi, Director of Research at Ryerson University’s Diversity Institute. “If you’re hiring people that look like the community you’re serving, that often opens up new markets, whether locally or internationally.”
Dr. Wendy Cukier, Professor of Entrepreneurship and Strategy at the Ted Rogers School of Management and Founder of the Diversity Institute, says the case for diversity goes beyond finding new markets.
“Canada’s demographics are changing dramatically,” Dr. Cukier says. “If business owners aren’t creating equal opportunities for women, newcomers, racialized people, Indigenous people, and people with disabilities, they’re missing out on a huge piece of the talent pool.”
While they may not need much convincing about the merits of diversity, employers at many small- and medium-sized businesses are often unsure how to leverage their limited resources and change their hiring practices to encourage and attract a more diverse group of candidates.
Here are some of the things employers can do to ensure their hiring practices are designed with diversity and inclusion in mind:
The primary goal of any effort to increase hiring diversity is the removal of potential bias from every step of the process, from candidate sourcing to interviewing. One way to do this is by using artificial intelligence to screen resumes, ensuring that consistent criteria are applied to each candidate.
Another option is to utilize software that anonymizes resumes by removing names and, in some instances, personal information. This might include details about graduation dates or the names of post-secondary institutions each candidate attended.
“People tend to like people who are like them, who went to the same school, who know the same people,” Dr. Cukier says. “That’s how we connect. We have to really guard against that in the hiring process.”
The wording of a job ad may seem benign, but experts agree that certain language can deter members of different employment equity groups from pursuing positions with your business. For instance, words and phrases such as ‘dominant’ and ‘fast-paced’ are often seen to have more masculine connotations, and might alienate some women job seekers. Conversely, words such as ‘passion’ and ‘collaboration’ are considered more appealing to women.
Pay careful attention to the words you use to describe your ideal candidate, and consider choices that are more neutral. Run your job ad through a screening app to check the text for any diversity issues before you post it.
Small- and medium-sized business owners generally don’t have the time, budget, or staff to dedicate to human resources and hiring, meaning many new positions are filled by referrals instead of open competitions. Letting people you trust recommend talented contacts for vacant positions typically produces quality hires with minimal hassle, but a byproduct of this convenience-focused approach is a barrier to increased diversity, as most people’s personal and professional networks tend to be demographically similar to themselves.
Posting job ads through online platforms, be they employment sites or even social media channels, is one way for SMEs to attract a more diverse range of applicants. Other businesses have gone further in speaking directly to the diverse talent pool they seek, posting job ads at daycare centres, community centres, and cultural centres.
There’s still a place for referrals, but employers should be sure to encourage them from staff who represent various minority and employment equity groups. In doing so, business owners can increase workforce diversity while maintaining the benefits of hiring through referrals.
Diversity attracts further diversity within workplaces, so make sure the images you use to showcase your business to the public display the diversity that already exists, or the diversity you aspire to. Whether it’s on your website, your social media feeds, or your marketing materials, the images you choose are sure to draw the attention of job seekers. If they see you making a demonstrable commitment to employ women, Indigenous people, racialized people, and people with disabilities, members of any of those employment equity groups may be more likely to apply for a job with your business.
Employers seeking to attract and retain a diverse and inclusive workforce can use Magnet to find qualified candidates. Click here to learn more.