More and more companies are setting themselves the goal of increasing the diversity of their workforce, especially at senior management levels. The consistent focus of all recruiting measures on increasing diversity is becoming one of the most important strategic approaches in small, large and medium-sized companies. There are many reasons why diversity is so important. Diversity plays an important role not only from a social perspective, but also from an economic one.

I. Increasing diversity - but what is the point?

a) Increased diversity = one of the most important weapons in the fight for talents.

Probably the most important argument for taking more diverse target groups into account in hiring decisions is the shortage of skilled workers. Because with the shift from an employer market (number of vacancies < number of suitable applicants) to an employee market (number of vacancies > number of suitable applicants), companies continue to struggle with the challenge of finding qualified skilled workers. In this competition for the best young talent, so-called high potentials,from a business perspective, it simply makes no sense to overlook talent from diverse backgrounds or to fail to address them directly and consistently. For example, in today’s workforce, talented females are often as well-educated or even better educated than their male counterparts (Hobler et al. 2020). So by not actively addressing female talent’s individual needs, companies risk losing the best talent for open positions.

b) Increased diversity = increased profitability

Companies with a workforce that is diverse in personal (e.g. gender, sexual orientation, culture) and professional backgrounds (e.g. degrees, work experience) are more innovative, successful, and profitable. Studies impressively show how strong the connection between diversity and profitability is: Companies with high diversity are up to 36% more likely to be profitable than average (McKinsey, 2015). One important reason: Diverse, heterogeneous teams work more productively, creatively, and efficiently than purely homogeneous teams (Homann & Greer, 2013).

c) Increased diversity = increased employer attractiveness

However, the positive effects of higher diversity not only radiate inward (e.g. company key figures, team effectiveness), but also outward (e.g. employer brand). Companies that focus on diversity are not only more profitable, but are also perceived as more attractive by potential applicants (Daugherty & Chowdhury, 2019). For example, it is even more important for numerous employees to work in a diverse environment than to receive a higher salary (Stepstone, 2020). Other benefits of higher diversity include higher retention and lower turnover (job changes) (Chamberlain, 2016).

II. Increasing diversity - But how?

Fair and non-discriminatory personnel selection is the most important lever for more diversity in the company. This is because the selection of talent in recruiting lays the foundation for more diversity in teams and thus sustainable company success. But what kind of levers do companies have to pull to make their personnel selection non-discriminatory and fair, and so attract talent from different backgrounds?

5fae8dc4d52cd1652b6e0ccd Wege zur Vermeidung von Uncounscious Bias
Table 1: The 4 influencing factor for successful diversity-friendly recruiting

Influencing factor 1: Standardization of the recruiting process

The most common reason for (often unintentional) discrimination against applicants with diverse backgrounds is a lack of standardization in the selection process. Because without realizing it, HR managers are often influenced by irrelevant aspects in selection processes that are not very standardized (this is also referred to unconscious biases) that lead to faulty personnel decisions. Unconscious bias: “unconscious cognitive biases and other faulty tendencies in perception, memory, and judgment” (Wondrak, 2014).

Two examples of unconscious biases in the interview:

To ensure validity and fairness in recruiting, it is therefore necessary to standardize the personnel selection process and design it according to scientific findings. Consequently, it should be ensured that each individual personnel selection criteria used for the hiring decision is as standardized and scientifically sound as possible. In particular, this includes the standardization of the job interview,the use of scientific aptitude aptitude diagnostics test procedures and an empirical, data driven requirement analysis.For example, interviews are particularly valid (i.e. they reliably predict career success) when based on sound requirement analysis, follow structured guides, and trained interviewers make decisions in consensus (>) interviewers, see also our guide to interview design).

Influencing factor 2: Neutral, inclusive language

It starts with the job title and ends with the description of the activities: Language and images in job ads should appeal equally to applicants from diverse backgrounds. In practice, however, this is rarely the case. For example, the language used in job ads has traditionally been geared primarily to the needs of white, male applicants, and the images used rarely show the faces of women or people from diverse ethnic backgrounds. The result: An important potential to appeal to individuals with diverse backgrounds and experiences is being squandered. For example, research shows that women are less likely to apply for a job if it lists a variety of requirements (Mohr 2014) or uses stereotypically masculine adjectives (e.g. assertive, combative). Consequently, companies should continually review their job ads and corporate communications for potential hiring biases and inclusivity. An important step here, for example, is to review the requirements for their actual connection to career success and to delete criteria for which no demonstrable connection can be found. Further potential lies in continuously reviewing the impact of adjectives and descriptions in different target groups and selecting images that depict an inclusive corporate culture (see also our guide to job ad design).

Influencing factor 3: Diversity-appropriate aptitude diagnostics

One of the most important secrets to success for more diversity in the company is the use of scientifically based aptitude diagnostics in the personnel selection process. This is because the strong orientation of aptitude diagnostics procedures to the quality criteria of classical test theory generally ensures high objectivity, reliability and validity of the selection process. Another important quality criteria in scientific aptitude diagnostics is test fairness. Test fairness describes that no group is systematically disadvantaged in a test procedure (e.g. based on gender or ethnic background). However, caution is advised. Although the use of aptitude diagnostics and the standardization of selection instruments contribute greatly to a higher degree of fairness, this is not always the case. For example, questions and test content are (often unintentionally) biased toward western cultures (Camilli, 2006), and a lack of norming of test scores in diverse, current samples leads to biases in test scoring. A high potential lies in the use of largely language-free test methods, for example in the form of psychometric mini-games.. After all, gender, ethnicity and skin color play no role in the test results of the largely language-free but psychologically and measurement-theoretically based mini-games. The analysis of test results is supported by intelligent algorithms that are continuously developed and incorporate the results of large-scale, diverse samples. What diversity-appropriate personnel selection packaged in psychometric mini-games can look like, read here!

Influencing factor 4: Unconscious bias trainings and workshops

Greater diversity always means continuous learning and reflection on one’s own biases. Even if HR managers and employees can rely on current research results, aptitude diagnostics and intelligent algorithms when advertising jobs and selecting talent, we are never protected from unconscious biases that can distort assessments. An important influencing factor for diversity-appropriate personnel selection is therefore continuous education and training, which stimulate constant reflection and active change of one’s own behavioral and thought patterns . To anchor diversity not only in personnel selection, but also in the corporate culture, such training is central not only for employees in recruiting, but also across divisions. Because only when all employees become aware of their biased views can culture be established in which everyone understands that ultimately everyone benefits from more variety. A first step is to become aware of these hiring biases . After that, you can be supported by intelligent algorithms!

Do you also want to increase the diversity of your workforce and attract the best talent? What diversity-appropriate personnel selection packaged in psychometric mini-games can look like, read here!
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Chamberlain, R.P. (2016), “Five steps toward recognizing and mitigating bias in the interview and hiring process”, Strategic HR Review, Vol. 15 No. 5, pp. 199-203. .

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