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How To Ensure You Have an Inclusive Work Environment

I was at an HR session this week that focused on what companies need to do to attract and retain talent.

The main takeaway (and this was after the scary numbers about labour shortages, ageing demographics etc.) was that the companies need to make it as easy as possible for people to participate.

What does that mean? The key to attracting the best talent and keeping them–that is avoiding the huge costs associated with recruiting and training someone only for them to walk away which alarmingly 25% do within the first 12 months–is to create an inclusive work environment.

Much of the focus was on senior talent, how the HR professionals in the room can be an attractive option for the more experienced rock stars in their space.

But it got me thinking about where inclusivity starts and how it can become mainstream. There’s no doubt that a decision to be inclusive comes from the top down but is there something leaders can be doing to ensure its coming from the ground up?

In physical terms, where can inclusivity start?

Many moons ago I was a third party recruiter. Often times the hiring manager I was working with described what they were looking for and one of the questions I would ask is “What are the attributes, personality traits, standout details of a person killing it in this role now?”

An example response would be “Sarah is a University of Guelph grad from the Food Science program, she worked at Kraft before she joined us and had also done a co-op term so she had a solid foundation. Once she joined us she showed leadership potential from the start, asking for additional projects. Her standout moment was when she reformulated a product that not only saved us money but increased the nutritional value. We are sorry to lose her. We want another Sarah!”

This made my job easier, I could basically find someone ‘on paper’ the same as Sarah.

The problem I see is that this must inevitably lead to more of the same in terms of education, experience skill set right?

Switching gears slightly….

I wrote a blog a while back about the advantages of hiring students and new grads from ALL schools instead of focusing on only a couple of schools that you have hired from before. Its normal to do this, what has worked in the past should work again. But its really interesting to learn that some of the largest tech companies used to do this. They only hired from specific Ivy League schools, but after reviewing who their most talented employees were, they soon realized they came from all over the place.

Related: Time to Rethink Your Hiring Methods

So to bring all this together;

An inclusive work environment starts by hiring students and grads from everywhere–see who applies to your opening and be open minded–don’t target a particular school or program otherwise you run the risk of having a workforce made up of very similar people, with similar education, interests and background.

Remember, these new hires are your future senior leadership team!

What are you already doing to ensure a diverse, inclusive environment? The work environment experts are stating you’ll need to survive….

Thanks to Food & Consumer Products of Canada for hosting the event that inspired this blog and Four Corners Group & Lighthouse Nine Group for your amazing insights.


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