By Guest Blogger:

Jenny King, Managing Director

Iroko Consulting


Recruiting and retaining good candidates is an increasing challenge for most membership bodies. UK unemployment levels are at their lowest for 40 years. The impact of the change to free movement for EU workers is yet unknown.

Often the focus during candidate assessments is on a good team ‘fit, with hiring managers taking the view that once the employee is in post it’s easier to develop skills than foster shared values.

‘Organisations with the most ethnically diverse executive teams—not only with respect to absolute representation but also of variety or mix of ethnicities —are 33% more likely to outperform their peers on profitability’ Source: Delivering through diversity 2018, McKinsey & Company

Changing views around diversity at work

Our understanding of what is meant by diversity in the workplace is increasing. In the UK, diversity goes beyond the protected characteristics of age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion and belief, sex and sexual orientation, covered by discrimination law. We give much wider consideration to social background, class, educational achievements, regional accents and diversity of thinking.

‘Diversity is about recognising difference. It’s acknowledging the benefit of having a range of perspectives in decision-making and the workforce being representative of the organisation’s customers’ Source: CIPD

Workforces lacking diversity in thinking risk a cloned organisation culture where everyone takes a single approach. Innovation and creativity occur when people feel safe to challenge the established view – when managers and leaders welcome alternative perspectives – seeking out and valuing the contributions individuals can make.

Neurodiversity recognises and values the importance of ‘diversity of thought’.

Put people with different perspectives, backgrounds and experiences in a room, and your team will be more innovative and creative. Autism, dyslexia, dyspraxia, ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) and more – for so long viewed as medical conditions to be mitigated, are now seen as natural forms of human neurocognitive variation.’   

Source: A Guide to Neurodiversity at Work 2018, CIPD

Value the difference

Employers need to allow enough flexibility in job roles to allow individuals to play to their strengths, rather than a rigid approach which takes no account of comparative advantage. Placing excessive emphasis on ‘all-round’ generic competencies can disadvantage neurodivergent staff who may have highly specialised skills that could be harnessed differently. This flexibility needs to start at recruitment to ensure that assessment and selection activities allow for diversity of thought. Hiring managers who try to avoid future conflict by hiring ‘people who think like us’ risk a lack of balance in team roles and are storing up future problems.

Getting it right at the start

Hiring managers aim to recruit the best candidate for the role so it’s important to be clear what that means for your organisation. What weighting should be given – not just to the core skills but to complementary, varied skill sets that will help make teams more diverse and stronger.

Training managers on recruitment skills helps raise awareness of unconscious bias and potential discrimination but organisations need to look at their overall approach to candidate attraction.

Recruiting new people is expensive and takes time. It’s important to know that what you and any recruitment partners do is working well and contributes to building a diverse workforce. Whatever your size, undertaking a regular review or audit on recruitment activities helps ensure your approach is fit for purpose.

If you would like a copy of the free recruitment guide ‘Where are they hiding? Finding and attracting NFP Staff’ please email [email protected]

With over 25 years’ experience in human resources and leadership in the Not for Profit sector, Iroko Consulting work with clients to develop collaborative and motivated workplaces.