How to Approach Diversity Within Your SME

How to Approach Diversity Within Your SME

Siân Goodson, Founder of executive search business Goodson Thomas, shares her strategies to help SME owners ensure they have a more diverse workforce and senior team

By Siân Goodson

Diversity makes clear business sense, yet many companies still haven’t woken up to the benefits of diversity, and too many sectors are woefully behind when it comes to ensuring their workforce represents the people they serve. 

It’s important to remember that diversity comes in many forms, not just gender, age or physical ability. The most successful firms have a variety of different perspectives and mindsets in their teams; achieving this means being creative in the way you approach your talent recruitment and retention strategy. Here are some strategies to help you ensure you have a more diverse workforce and senior team.

1. Have an equal opportunities policy in place

An equal opportunities policy sets out your organisation’s commitment to fairness and states how you will deal with issues that contravene these guidelines. The aim of any recruitment strategy should be to find the right person for the job irrespective of age, sex, race, ethnicity, disability or other factors that have no impact on someone’s ability to do their job. Having an equal opportunities policy in place complements this, as it helps attract a higher calibre of candidates.

Employers who openly declare their commitment to fairness in their job advertisement are more likely to attract a more diverse pool of qualified applicants, who can be confident that fair consideration will be given to them irrespective of non-job-related factors.  

If you have an equal opportunities policy in place, now is an excellent time to revisit it and consider whether it needs updating. If you don’t, try to involve your staff in the development of your policy, as it will give them a greater sense of buy-in and ownership. Once your policy has been prepared, be sure to communicate it widely.

2. Be transparent about your hiring criteria

Being transparent about your hiring process has several benefits. It shows potential candidates that you’re honest, professional, and that you care about their experience. Making transparency a core part of your recruitment strategy will give you more success both in hiring and retaining top candidates because expectations have been clear from the start. 

Be as clear and accurate as possible in your job description, which should include the core elements of the role, the work style and personality best suited to it, and the parts of the job that some people could find challenging. By being honest about any challenges in the job description, you ensure there are no hidden surprises further down the line. Make your hiring criteria, process and timeline public, and give feedback to everyone you interview. Giving candidates a positive, transparent experience will, over time, ensure you attract a more diverse pool of applicants. 

3. Analyse and adapt your approach 

Track your hiring data and team makeup, and pinpoint where you have gaps in your talent pool. This will allow you to tweak your recruitment strategy. Alongside using your data to inform your approach to diversity, training your staff on unconscious bias can help stop it creeping in when you are hiring. Simple steps such as removing the name of a candidate from their CV before you share it with the recruitment team is an example of how you can remove unconscious bias from the recruitment process.  

4. Consider flexible working 

Offering a fair flexible working policy can help boost employee motivation, retention and productivity. It’s little wonder it’s becoming a no-brainer for an increasing amount of companies. A flexible working policy, communicated well, will also help you attract and retain a wider pool of talent from different walks of life. It also shows that, as an employer, you trust your staff to do the job without micromanaging them, and it'll mean that those with other commitments, such as children, will be more likely to apply for a job in your business. 

5. Introduce a mentoring scheme 

A formal mentoring scheme will help your recruits focus on long-term career goals and shorter-term objectives, encouraging motivation and retention. Ensure the scheme is set up to spot and progress talent wherever it lies in the organisation, and ensure all new recruits are given a mentor or ‘buddy’ so that they can settle in and have somebody to go to if they need a hand.

6. Use an executive search specialist

A diverse organisation starts at the top, but building a diverse senior team can be challenging and time-consuming. If you want to expand your business and hire senior team members, it may be worth considering using an executive search specialist. By ensuring your senior team is genuinely diverse, you can more effectively deliver diversity across your wider business. 

An experienced executive search consultant can advise you on creative ways of recruiting and handle the entire process for you to a specific brief. The best executive search consultants will have a track record of recruiting into diverse senior teams, so be sure to ask them about their experience.

With so many benefits to building a genuinely diverse team, it’s worth spending the time getting it right.

About the Author

Siân Goodson is the founder of fast-growing executive search business Goodson Thomas, which she was inspired to start by her passion for ensuring businesses have a real competitive advantage in their people. She is an experienced executive search consultant, having delivered C-suite, senior leadership and non-executive assignments across multiple industries. Her expertise spans search, leadership development, change management, succession planning and talent pipeline development.