With equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) firmly on the agenda, there’s one person in an organisation that shoulders more of the responsibility; the hiring manager. As the gatekeeper to an organisation, they’re influential over every aspect of the recruitment process and the way EDI is embedded, or not.  


EDI in the workplace 

In the current socio-political climate, diversity isn’t a nice to have, it’s an essential. With such a competitive hiring market EDI is fast becoming a defining factor for potential candidates. Over 75% of job seekers say that a diverse workforce is an important factor when deciding where to work.  

That puts the pressure on leaders and hiring managers to create an inclusive environment.  

Creating a diverse workforce isn’t just about ticking a representation box. It means more ideas, more backgrounds, more perspectives and can lead to more unique solutions. McKinsey has long been vocal on the benefits of diversity, with a range of the consulting firm’s reports showing that firms are likely to have above-average profitability rates if they have a diverse board.  


Barriers to creating a diverse and inclusive culture 

Diversity and Inclusion in a workplace doesn’t just happen. It’s not an easy thing to achieve and is a long-term commitment to striving for improvement. There are inherent biases that work against some potential candidates and it’s only with conscious and meaningful steps that businesses can overcome these.   

It all starts with recognising that there are a variety of visible, and non-visible ways that everyone is different and they need different allowances or approaches in order for barriers to be removed.  

The typical characteristics that come to mind when thinking about diversity are gender, age or ethnicity but sexuality, disability, socio-economic status, background and experiences all play a part too. EDI requires putting measures in place to level the playing field for everyone, but that’s a huge ask and can understandably be easier said than done. 

The common barriers to creating an inclusive culture are: 

  • Unconscious bias and lack of awareness 
  • Lack of role models 
  • Workplace bullying 
  • Lack of training 
  • Sector stereotypes 

An inclusive workplace starts with the leadership team and creating true champions of diversity. EDI isn’t a time-specific campaign which will start and finish in a set timeframe. It’s a lifelong commitment and a truly diverse workplace needs that dedication to come from the top and filter through all aspects of the business.


The role of the EDI hiring manager 

If you think of the hiring manager as the gatekeeper for new starters then it’s easy to see how their attitude to EDII will directly affect the organisation. But without the right training and support it’s possible for EDII to fall down their agenda, instead focusing on more traditional recruitment methods and skills.  

Research has found that judgements made in the first 10 seconds of an interview can predict the outcome. If the hiring manager has particular biases – which are easily applied in a recruitment situation and difficult to manage without first identifying what biases exist – EDI will be hampered. 

The hiring manager is in a unique position to influence EDI. Their involvement in decisions over job adverts, the language used, the recruitment process itself and the interview stages means that for all intents and purposes, an organisations EDI agenda does start and stop with the hiring manager. 

Worryingly, the CIPD’s annual Resourcing and Talent Planning survey, in partnership with Omni found that only 28% of organisations train their hiring managers and other interviewers on even the basic legal dos & don’ts of selecting candidates.  


What can they then do to support the diversity agenda? 

Tackling assumptions 

Addressing assumptions is the first step hiring managers need to take. It’s easy to be swept up by the critical business needs the new hire addresses, but understanding what assumptions are being made about experience, age, education and other factors along with the existing team set-up and requirements is crucial to levelling the playing field for more diverse candidates. 


Implementing the right technology 

The right recruitment technology can help alleviate unconscious bias within the hiring process. They offer the ability to define key decision criteria in advance, track demographic data, anonymise CVs and remove biased language from job adverts. 


Tracking metrics 

Without accurate metrics you won’t be able to judge the impact you’re having. Taking time to track the diversity of applicants and their progress through the hiring process will help hiring managers to understand where they need to do more. These metrics could also be extended to new hires, tracking their progress in their new position to ensure that the onboarding process and support extends past their job interview.


Standardising the interview process 

Creating a standardised process helps give all potential candidates the same experience and removes bias based on first impressions. This can include training for managers, using standardised scoring criteria, specific questions phrased in the same way, hiring managers could even share the questions in advance with the candidates to help them show up confident and prepared.  


Managing the candidate experience 

Ensuring candidates feel supported and comfortable during the application process is a big part of the EDI hiring manager’s role. That includes everything from understanding any adjustments someone needs, bringing together a diverse interview panel and encouraging diversity in the candidate pool. The key is to think of the application process as a cohesive, collaborative experience to bring out the best in everyone. 

Hiring managers are crucial in driving the EDI agenda forward, but that also means without the right support and training they can also undermine it. There are steps that hiring managers can take to start to create a diverse and inclusive environment but EDI is complex and ever-changing. That’s why working with experts like Omni to support barrier free selection methods and to equip hiring managers with the skills and confidence to succeed should be part of your business’s EDI strategy. 

Find out more about Omni’s inclusive recruitment and selection training