Don’t Blame the Fish

Diversity in the workplace

In this month’s ERP today, I along with other industry executives discuss the progress of equality and ‘how far have we really come’. If you’d like to read the article — you can find it here.

Aside of support networks, organisations with a desire to improve their inclusive culture, I call out the need to take action in 4 key areas:

  1. Ensuring you have a Diverse Board (Role Models)
  2. The Board & Exec teams actively participate in the support networks (Sponsorship)
  3. All levels of management understand and embrace inclusion (Management Training)
  4. Pipelining, retaining, developing & attracting women into the organisation (Pipeline Management)

On the fourth point, pipeline management, the Harvard Business Review recently published the most interesting article — found here.

HBR discusses how those who are NOT making progress with their diversity stats or inclusive culture — blaming the pipeline of women, lack of applicants and the lack of candidates with the right skills.

I loved the analogy that ‘if you go fishing and you don’t catch a fish — you don’t blame the fish — you change your technique’ and yet — companies not improving diversity & inclusion often blame pipeline of candidates — ‘the fish’ — women in the market not applying for role.

So, are there some quick tips to think differently about inclusion?


The Language Used By Organisations

Echoing views shared at a Reed Recruitment Women in Finance event I attended in 2018 where Reed had conducted research on the use of masculine words ‘putting off female applicants’, the discussion goes further to talk about the language used during interviews.

How many times have we all heard when exploring the culture of the organisation, the response is ‘we work hard, play hard’.

‘Work hard, play hard’, what comes to mind?

Work Hard — Late nights? ‘In the office’ culture? Highly pressured environments?

Play Hard — Drinking culture?

If we are genuinely looking to build inclusive cultures, we need to be aware that how our organisations are described and perceived is super important — otherwise we stand to alienate many groups. In this example of ‘Work Hard, Play Hard’ — possibly we alienate single parents, carers, the LGBTQ community, ethnic groups, recovering addicts or maybe anyone with a history of mental health issues (stress, depression, anxiety).

Great candidates will remove themselves from the process, often without sharing the real reasons which deterred them from the company.

Food for thought on terminology is easily found. I learned this week of a company called Textio, providing technology that will scan your job descriptions and give you advice on how you might want to be more inclusive in your advertisements.

Whilst Textio cannot help in the room for an interview — at least it will help attracting companies and give food for thought on how you are positioning your organisation to get the best talent available hired.

Or alternatively you can hire with the Applied platform - the only applican tracking system that is purposed built for unbiased recruitment. 


Images and People in the Interview Process

Another really actionable tip in the article is the representation of relate-able role models during the interview.

Using diverse images in presentations — so potential candidates can relate to the organisation — and also that they meet a diverse group of people as part of the interview process.

I appreciate this can feel very chicken and egg — ‘well, they would meet a diverse panel IF we could get the right people in the business — but we have to start somewhere’… this is when I come back to point 1) Ensure you have a Diverse Board and 4) Pipeline Management.

Organisations like Women on Boards can accelerate recruitment of diverse senior level executives and board members, without compromising the skills and experience of the candidates needed to help your company. Expert help is ‘at hand’ if sourcing isn’t going well.

Also working with specialist recruiters who pride themselves on building broad, inclusive networks of candidates so there is no ‘box ticking’ — a solid pipeline flows through your organisation to ensure the best hires.


Actionable Management Buy-In and Executive Sponsorship

Finally, in order for any of this to be actioned and implemented — Executives and Management teams need to be fully bought into inclusion — remembering a diverse employee base is good for business for many reasons.

The Other Diversity Dividend

Forbes — D&I: A Worthy Investment with Strong Dividends

Does your management team truly see the benefits? Really believe in the benefits. Do they understand and agree why diversity is good for business?

Organisations achieving change are encouraging transparent conversations to deliver the progress needed — they invest in coaching and enablement of managers, the talent pipeline and adapted interview skills to ensure a solid pipeline is maintained throughout the process.

Why the need for transparent conversation?

When inclusion isn’t organic in the management team — there is usually an obstacle, a question, a fear or something in the way which needs to be discussed and resolved. Let’s open up the dialogue to ensure hidden obstacles are addressed.

With a few tweaks on language, how we attract, retain and develop talent, with the fantastic support of established inclusion networks in the industry, every organisation has the ability and the tools now to make real progress.

Remember ‘Diversity is a fact and inclusion is an act’.

The ‘act’ is a process, it takes time and needs to evolve with our teams. Only by constantly developing and maturing our inclusive behaviours we will reach our destination.


If you are interested in new ideas, inspir’em sales meeting exercises and lesson plans are available to continue the development journey of your teams.

Contact us today to further boost your sales and see your revenue grow.

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