While diversity and inclusion is a priority for organizations as they search for new talent, many companies hire and promote the same types of employee time and again. Karla Boddy, Client Services Director at Cielo, recently wrote an article exploring this topic and the conundrum of diversity in the workplace.Karla Boddy headshot

From the article:

A recent survey on diversity found that while 45% of qualified accountants at the top UK accountancy firms were women, just 18% of partners were female. The survey also showed that 54% of accountancy firms had no partners from ethnic backgrounds.

Cielo recruits qualified accountants as well as corporate financiers, tax advisors, lawyers and management consultants for a range of businesses across multiple industry sectors and geographies. This has given us some deep insights into how technology can increase the impact of diversity and inclusion initiatives. When technology is integrated with an effective people strategy, it transforms an organisation’s approach to diversity.

When we work with firms, one of the first things we do is review its website. The culture of an organisation can often be seen through its online presence – it is its shop window in the candidate marketplace. We consider whether the website portrays a range of people from different backgrounds. Does it show people with different ethnicities, ages, abilities and genders? Does it have pictures of real employees rather than stock images?

Strong imagery gives potential candidates a sense of the kind of organisation they could be joining. But pictures are just a small part of the solution to this complicated puzzle. Words are also important. We work with firms to analyse the messages on their websites and career pages to ensure they address themes of diversity and inclusion.

Using language appropriately is key, and another way to encourage a greater range of people to apply for roles is to use the inclusive words in job descriptions. Augmented writing software analyses the content and tone of job adverts and other communications to identify any unconscious gender bias.

For example, evidence shows that words such as ‘exhaustive,’ ‘enforcement’ and ‘fearless’ can prove more attractive to male applicants, while phrases such as ‘transparent,’ ‘catalyst’ and ‘in touch with’ are seen as having a more feminine tone. Based on feedback from the software, you can then modify your language and ensure recruitment communications are as inclusive as possible.

Recruiting Solutions

Some of the best candidates get overlooked or sidelined because of biases on the part of the people doing the hiring – biases they are most likely not even aware of. These can impact the amount of time taken to fill vacancies and, more importantly, affect the quality of candidates.

AI-powered recruiting solutions can review job applications and use sophisticated algorithms powered by machine learning to make them more effective. These tools can also be used to create job listings that equally attract male, female and minority candidates.

Companies that specialize in making workplace technology more accessible to employees with a disability can support firms to attract and retain a wider pool of people.
Software is available that includes text-to-speech functionality, dyslexia software and a translation tool with over 100 languages. Functions like these make websites accessible to millions more people who would otherwise miss out.

Once you receive responses to job adverts, technology can also be used to perform objective assessments of skills, competencies and talent, ignoring demographic factors like gender, race and age.

Technology and AI tools also have the capacity to take over time-consuming tasks, such as sending follow-up emails to candidates who do not fit the requirements of a role, and scheduling interviews. Some AI tools can even support recruiters to find passive candidates online to help increase the range of applicants. Some solutions include AI-powered chatbots that can answer basic HR questions from candidates.

As well as supporting with HR and recruitment, technology is also enabling all business functions to change the ways in which they work. Solutions such as video conferencing, cloud servers and mobile telephony mean employees can work from any location. In turn, this means that employees can adopt more flexible working patterns, and this supports diversity and inclusion by making it easier for parents or carers to balance their home and work lives.

A broader, diverse candidate pool is essential for finding the right people and aligning your workforce for the challenges of today and tomorrow. It is exciting to see the difference that technology can make; however, it is important to remember that technology must be combined with an effective workplace strategy that is driven from the top.

Leaders must foster an inclusive culture first, and only then will technology be able to help solve the diversity conundrum.

As originally published in The Accountant, September 2019 print edition, republished here with permission.