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Achieving diversity from the bottom up

Almost all not for profit organisations now recognise the value of having a diverse workforce and that achieving this is something they need to work towards. Organisations often begin by seeking to increase diversity among their senior, high visibility staff. But it is equally important to make sure that you have a diversity strategy in place for entry and lower level staff, ensuring that you are creating a pool of employees to become future leaders.

Why embrace diversity?

Employing people from a wide range of ages, backgrounds and lifestyles can add a great deal of value to organisations. Diverse workforces have a broader mix of skills, knowledge and experience, giving an organisation more creativity and flexibility to overcome challenges.  It has also been proven that increasing diversity leads to better staff retention.

For not for profit organisations, it is particularly important that their staff empathises with the beneficiaries of their services, and a diverse workforce can help to achieve this. Charities also have a public duty to promote equality, as per the Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000, Disability Discrimination Act 1995 and the Employment Equality (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2003.

Top down or bottom up?

Bringing in top level staff from a non-typical background is a great way for not for profit organisations to publicly demonstrate their commitment to diversity. However, it is also important to diversify the composition of staff at lower levels, to ensure there is a ‘talent pipeline’ that will supply the next generation of management.

Improving diversity at all levels of the company is also important in encouraging staff to believe in and support equal opportunities policies and mission statements.

So where do you start?

Obviously, to ensure you have a diverse workforce, you have to be able to measure both your existing workforce and progress against targets. When setting these targets, you need to consider the populations you want to reflect – the public in general, your specific service users and your volunteers and donors.

Following are some specific ways in which you can introduce equal opportunities at the lower levels of your organisation.

Explore different advertising options

To improve diversity in your workforce, it is important not to rely on word of mouth, referrals and traditional routes to market to advertise your roles. These generally only bring in candidates who are similar to your existing employees.

Instead, explore different networking channels such as special interest groups or training organisations. Make sure your vacancies are advertised among your organisation’s beneficiaries, by putting them on your website and in any newsletters, magazines or other publications you produce.

Start at the interview stage

If you are serious about improving equal opportunities, you need to make sure your interviews take place in accessible locations and at flexible times.

Assess each person you consider against a predetermined person specification, and not against the other candidates. Take care when writing this specification to avoid your own beliefs and attitudes don’t skew the selection criteria, and be sure that the qualifications specified are really needed to do the job and not ones based on assumptions.

Consider positive action

Reverse or positive discrimination is illegal in the UK.  However, there are measures you can take to target particular groups that are under-represented in your company.

For example, including statements such as “we welcome applications from disabled people” in your job advertising or offering guaranteed interviews to disabled candidates can encourage more of these people to apply for your roles.  You could also consider allowing certain groups more time to submit their applications.

Other positive action steps that you can consider include offering on the job training or flexible working options targeted to attract a specific group.

Recycle unsuccessful candidates

If you’ve seen a candidate who you feel would work well within your organisation, but might not be suitable for that particular role, don’t automatically dismiss them but take a while to consider how they could fit into the organisation in other ways.

Are there other vacancies coming up which they could apply for? Or is it possible to place them in a role in which they could be trained up to do the job they originally applied for?

Mentoring and work placements

A great way to bring candidates from different backgrounds into your organisation is to offer mentoring or work experience schemes. This way, you can give disadvantaged candidates some valuable work experience and career training and advice. If you come across any who might fit particularly well within your organisation, you can then choose to move them to temporary or permanent paid employment.

How can TPP help?

Many employers, particularly small organisations, simply may not have the resources available to devote to diversifying their workforces. This is where a recruitment consultancy like TPP can offer real value.

We have arrangements with a wide variety of associations, networks and job boards, meaning that your vacancy can either receive as wide a coverage as possible or be targeted at a particular population group, depending on your requirements.

Useful Resources

The Equalities and Human Rights Commission
Chartered Institute of Professional Development