With Gay Pride parades taking place around the world this month, and 2019 also marking 50 years since the Stonewall riots in New York (widely seen as the birth of the gay rights movement), organisations should be in no doubt that today, being an inclusive employer isn’t just right, it’s expected.
Common sense suggests teams comprising different people, from different backgrounds, leads to a more successful organisation, and now there’s data backing this up. The Centre for Economic and Business Research found diverse workplaces are 12 per cent more likely to outperform the industry average than the least diverse firms.
But it’s still too often the case that job seekers from minority groups drop out of firms’ application processes, simply because it makes them feel unwelcome. Whether it is homogenous interview panels, or company websites featuring executive teams from similar backgrounds, a non-inclusive culture is often (unintentionally) portrayed.
Solving this and making sure that your recruitment is attractive to diverse audiences is complex and requires a thoughtful approach. Even displaying accredited equality 'Kitemarks', or showing you support Pride events (both very visual ways to signal that your business supports diversity), can still be problematic. While some audiences will love it, others might think it’s being done for cynical reasons.
So, are there other, more proactive measures firms can take to make recruiting to LGBT+ candidates better? We believe there are, and the watchword is definitely authenticity.
Proactive measures include things like having landing home pages with pictures that showcase all backgrounds or characteristics – black/white, men/women, disabilities, etc. But there’s a case to be made for more explicit promotion of LGBT+ people, as sexuality isn’t always as easily identifiable as an individual’s ethnicity or gender.
Firms that show real authenticity though, are those that go the extra mile. For instance, companies should talk to LGBT+ people in their own business and reach out to sector-wide networks (like InterLaw in the legal profession and Interbank for the financial services sector). By doing this, they’ll find out what actually deters people joining certain companies, as well as which channels might be best for connecting with LGBT+ candidates.
Undertaking unconscious bias training is another absolute necessity. Right now, there’s lots of talk about AI technology and blind screening and the potential to eliminate hiring bias (something we should all accept exists). But in many ways, these technologies simply push bias further down the line. If actual interviewers are allowed to carry bias, then they’ll still hire according to their prejudices. It’s why we also recommend having as mixed an interview panel as possible – including involving those who are LGBT+.
But this is only part of the solution. Once people are applying, they need to know the business is truly inclusive. Video can be an extremely useful channel for communicating this. We recommend firms invest in creating content showing LGBT+ employees (and those from other protected characteristics) clearly explaining what the business is doing to support them. Failing to support LGBT+ staff has a significant impact on attrition rates. A study in the US by Deloitte found 72 per cent of the workforce would or may consider leaving their role for an organisation that was more inclusive.
Digital platforms that facilitate live group chats are another essential tool for communicating an inclusive culture, but in a more natural, conversational way. Senior leaders can talk about and answer candidate questions on their company’s policies towards diversity, while LGBT+ employees can attend as well to provide an authentic, personal, peer-to-peer voice.
Live group chats also create the opportunity to learn from the candidates. We’ve worked with organisations where under-represented groups have dropped out at certain points in the recruitment process. Through live chat, employers have been able to understand why and when these occur, and they’ve been able to remedy it. The questions that are asked most regularly can also be analysed, to see what policies need changing, for instance around parental leave for gay staff who adopt.
Will these changes on their own dramatically alter an organisation’s diversity? Not immediately, no. But those that make a point of showcasing their diversity (and specifically LGBT+) credentials will gradually see under-represented groups gravitate to them. And in a world where strength increasingly comes through recognising and appreciating the different perspectives people bring, this can truly only be a good thing.
Ali Hackett is director of Meet & Engage and Chico Chakravorty is MD at BAME Recruitment