Turning intentions into outcomes: how businesses can make DE&I meaningful 

Over the last decade, we’ve seen inequalities brought to the fore and only exacerbated by socioeconomic challenges.

From youth unemployment rates rising amid a tough market, to data underlining that women are more likely to leave the workforce for caring responsibilities, we’re more aware than ever of the impact of employment on societal disparity.

Positively, increased understanding has seen diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) catapulted to the top of the workforce agenda and inspired action.

Many employers have introduced diversity and anti-bias hiring strategies to intervene.

One survey indicated that 73% of firms had a formal DEI policy in place, and it seems sectors facing specific workforce challenges are intent on making change.

For example, Wiley Edge’s latest Diversity in Tech 2023 report suggests that 47% of businesses were motivated to implement DE&I initiatives to expand the available talent pipeline.

Building fairer recruitment through D&I policy

Developed and delivered effectively, strategies can improve candidates’ experiences, provide employers with greater diversity of thought, and support social mobility.

But as we’ve seen with the rise of ‘greenwashing’, businesses that fail to put their money where their mouth is risk rendering DEI meaningless.

Words that don’t translate into action can compromise good intentions to attract and retain employees from diverse backgrounds.


Setting the stage for long-term change

The solution is for employers to create purpose-built action plans that create meaningful workforce outcomes while helping to tackle wider systemic issues.

Firstly, diversity targets should be tailored to the individual business, removing barriers to entry and progression for underrepresented groups. 

For example, gender diversity is a longstanding challenge in technology and women comprise less than 30% of the sector's workforce.

Therefore, it might pertinent for a tech employer to focus on improving gender diversity in the first instance, setting recruitment targets to introduce and retain more women in the historically male-dominated industry.


Disregarding the ‘employee’ you have in mind

Those involved in recruitment must avoid perpetuating subconscious preconceptions of the ‘type’ of person they are looking to hire.

Job advertisements should comprise gender-neutral language to avoid putting off prospects who don’t ‘see’ themselves as the candidate described from applying.

This also means that organisations can access a broader pool of talent, skills, and perspectives. For example, research suggests that women excel in areas such as taking initiative and acting with resilience.

Keeping diversity on the agenda during tough times

However, making meaningful change is about considering diversity in all its forms, from age and ability to ethnicity and sexual orientation.

An effective way to disregard irrelevant factors is to conduct blind CV reviews, removing identity signifiers from applications and focusing on whether an individual has the necessary skills and experience.

But when it comes to interviews, even those with the best intentions can fall victim to unconscious bias, thwarting an otherwise well-thought-out hiring strategy in turn.

Upskilling interviewers through anti-bias training empowers them to ask questions that garner the information they need, without superfluous factors affecting their perceptions.


Executing the action plan

The ultimate decision on appointment is where intentions can be realised, so getting the final stage right is essential. Employers should prioritise diverse shortlists, before admitting the most suitable candidate for the post.

Diversity, equity and inclusion heads need consistency

Ultimately, by implementing small measures at each stage of the hiring process, employers can avoid strategies becoming empty words and make DEI truly meaningful.

Khadijah Pandor is head of partnerships, EMEA & NA, at emerging talent and reskill training provider, Wiley Edge