You could be forgiven for thinking that “diversity” has become a management buzzword, but at the Growth Lending Group, which comprises BOOST&Co and our sister company, Growth Lending, we spend a lot of time and effort in ensuring that we attract candidates from across society. It goes without saying that unlawful, unethical, unwarranted discrimination against any minority group is wrong, but beyond our societal responsibilities, there are three key reasons for attracting and welcoming as wide a group as possible.
When your organisation reflects the world around it, you benefit from the greatest number of viewpoints and experiences when developing your products and/or services; you speak to the widest audience possible when selling these; and you access the broadest, richest pool of talent available, enabling you to maximise the performance of your team.
Doing the right thing always pays off
Simply put, when we fail to embrace diversity, we put unnecessary limits on our product and business development and raise unnecessary barriers to success. With diversity, we open ourselves up to different cultural sensitivities and insights, and ensure that our market is as broad and deep as possible. (It’s also vital to marry diversity with inclusion, which will be the subject of my next article.)
There are different frameworks for understanding diversity, including the UK’s Equality Act 2010. This tells us that we cannot discriminate against anyone on the grounds of age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage or civil partnership (in employment only), pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex or sexual orientation.
At the Growth Lending Group, we add anything related to snobbishness to this list. We have achieved a mix of social classes and backgrounds by ensuring that we don’t discriminate on the grounds of people’s class, the type of school they attended, their hobbies or their accent. Some people think this is covered by understanding unconscious bias, but it is more reliable to face down any potential discrimination directly.
This can seem frightening to some owners of small businesses who have unfounded fears about paying a workforce that cannot deliver, but a helpful way to look at it is to say that you can only discriminate against someone on the grounds of their ability to do the job. You don’t have to hire someone who cannot drive on medical grounds as a long-distance lorry driver or consider someone with an NVQ in nursery nursing for a role as a professor of astrophysics.
You cannot, however, discount someone because you can’t pronounce their name, or look past them because you don’t like the way they spend their home life. (Here’s a tip – never check a candidate’s social-media accounts. I never do, because although I believe I’m aware of my unconscious biases, I refuse to trust myself.)
How we recruited from a deeper talent pool
A carefully considered recruitment strategy has enabled us to attract a diverse workforce to the Growth Lending Group. Here are five of the key initiatives we use.
Give people time
The first consideration, and the most important, is to build time into the recruitment process. When we recruit in a hurry, we get a slew of candidates from predominant groups.
Candidates from minority groups often learn to be wary: if they have experienced discrimination in previous jobs, they will choose their future roles more carefully, often needing to know much more about an organisation’s culture. To avoid missing out on these candidates, it is important to allow them enough time to get to know how we work.
Host attraction events
Sometimes a quick recruitment process is unavoidable, so to counter this, we run a series of events where people can get to know us, even before we have confirmed roles. We choose venues and times that appeal to everyone and we ensure that all of our guests get involved. A breakfast in an accessible location, attended by a range of team members, is an example of an event that doesn’t preclude any minority group.
Publish authentic job descriptions
Our job descriptions are narratives that build an accurate picture of the relevant role and the milestones we expect a successful candidate to reach. We avoid bullet points, which might dissuade less bullish candidates from applying, and we ensure that our phrasing reflects the language we use internally.
Rather than posting clickbait on LinkedIn, we publish a full job description and describe how our growth has created the vacancy. We highlight our family-friendly policies and, wherever we can, state that working from home and/or part-time hours are a possibility.
Sign up to charters and initiatives
We recently signed up to the government’s Women in Finance charter, which asks financial services firms to commit to four key actions, such as setting targets for gender equality in their senior teams. We have already achieved all of these, but we know it is important to show what we’re doing and to ensure that we are held to account as time passes and expectations improve.
The organisations that set up such charters provide us with access to valuable resources and create a network that enables us to learn from others’ success.
Share your successes
Two of our recent initiatives show how people from minority groups feel supported at BOOST&Co. For Mental Health Week, I ran training sessions on mental ill health in the workplace, and I am open about living and working with bipolar disorder. Our head of content and marketing, Ria Hopkinson, who is one of Stonewall’s Bisexual Role Models, ran a fabulous month of lectures on queer culture for LBGT History Month. Both initiatives were attended by everyone in the team.
When you have a minority characteristic, it is much easier to join a firm that accepts and celebrates someone like you. It is wrong to force people to become role models, but if they are willing to put their head above the parapet (or to shout from the rooftops, like me and Ria), this provides a great opportunity to attract others.
Such initiatives need money and/or time, but encouraging diversity is a worthwhile investment to make. Although our recruiters have done a great job, we know that there is more to do, so as we continue to grow, we will invest in software that enables us to approach diverse candidates directly. If we can source our own candidates while increasing diversity, everything I have discussed will be paid for in reduced recruitment agency fees.
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Check back soon for Heather’s next article, on how to prevent discrimination by nurturing inclusion within your organisational culture