Chief people officer Xero
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Diversity talks: Attract and hire diverse talent

Xero chief people officer Nicole Reid offers advice on how to ensure that diversity and inclusion are at the heart of your firm’s recruitment strategy.

8th Oct 2020
Chief people officer Xero
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Five women of different nationalities and cultures standing together. Friendship poster, the union of feminists or sisterhood. The concept of gender equality and of the female empowerment movement.

Diversity is a word that gets bandied around quite a lot, but what does it actually mean? 

It’s about acknowledging, appreciating and celebrating all the ways we are different. This includes dimensions such as gender, age, race, disability, religion and family status, as well as differences in background, experience and skills.

There are an estimated three million accountants in the world, a significant portion of which are based in the UK. Their contribution to the global economy is huge.

Recent months have shown just how important accountants have been in helping small businesses stay afloat. Research has found that of the UK’s 5.8 million small businesses, almost half (45%) said their accountant is more important to them than ever before. 

Against this backdrop, accounting firms are making new hires. Recruitment has its own set of challenges in 2020, whether it’s having to conduct an interview over video, or train a new team member from your kitchen. 

Develop key principles to guide you 

Diversity is not only the right thing to do, it’s also the smart thing to do. If your workforce is diverse, you can better understand and serve your customers, attract top talent and innovate successfully. 

Diversity of thought is also essential for innovation and disruption. If everyone is thinking the same as you, you aren’t reaching your maximum potential.

In the same way, you might have a set of values that you live by, think about what your key diversity and inclusion principles might be.

These principles could cover a whole host of topics, from equal pay for equal work, being accountable to create an inclusive culture, attracting diverse talent, hiring fairly, and supporting flexible ways of working.

Focus your hiring efforts on diversity

Recognise that recruitment can be one your key channels for attracting and engaging with talent from a diverse range of backgrounds.

There are opportunities to promote diversity at every stage of hiring from how you write a position description, how you draft your job ads, where you advertise, how you conduct your interviews and the decisions you make regarding shortlists for interviews. 

Another area to think about is whether there is the opportunity to offer flexible working for roles. And ensure it is promoted in the right way to attract diverse candidates. 

Also challenge yourself and your colleagues to present a diverse range of candidates for each role. If the shortlist doesn’t reflect diversity, encourage everyone to ask ‘if not, why not?’.

Address the potential for unconscious bias by reducing one-to-one interviews. Consider the education you provide to the interviewers to address the potential for bias, and how to counteract and call out bias, through the hiring process. 

Training can assist with learning more about the meaning and impact of unconscious bias, when it can come up in the hiring process, as well as addressing bias in all aspects of the employment life cycle. 

Move on from diversity to embrace inclusion 

It’s no good coming up with a plan to tackle diversity if your culture doesn’t support inclusion. 

Attracting and retaining diversity is important, but the key component is having a culture of inclusion and belonging that enables everyone to feel valued, respected and supported for their differences.

It’s about creating a work environment where people can be their authentic selves, feel accepted and know they belong. Only then will people thrive in their roles and want to stay for the long term. 

Think about a range of initiatives that could build awareness and understanding of cultural diversity, LGBTIQ+ inclusion, ability and disability, supporting parents and carers, mental health and promoting flexible working.

With the vast majority of people working remotely during this time of Covid-19, focusing on connecting and building an inclusive culture has never been more important.

Make every effort to ensure your people understand the importance of fairness and respect, that they feel valued and have a strong sense of belonging.

The future of work after Covid-19

Covid-19 presents enormous challenges but also highlights the opportunities for organisations to adapt and be resourceful.

Working remotely has shown us that we can still run successful businesses while operating in ways that are significantly more flexible than we ever thought possible. 

Many have also reflected on the opportunity it has provided to speak more openly about wellbeing and mental health needs and to share the other individual challenges being faced. 

Opening up the conversation about who we are and our personal situations has become a part of everyday conversations through the pandemic. There is an opportunity to build on this in the future to tap into broader talent pools and to promote inclusion and belonging more generally. 

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