When thinking about diversity, too many companies make the mistake of only focusing on race and gender. But the truth is, there are many more types of diversity than this — and if you only focus on a couple of dimensions, you are much less likely to reap the benefits of having a diverse workforce, such as innovation, productivity and profitability, among others. In order to become a truly diverse and inclusive organisation, companies should consider all different categories of diversity — including ones that are often absent from public discourse.
Here are a few different candidate pools that you may have been overlooking — while it’s far from an all-encompassing list, keeping these groups in mind in your recruiting efforts will help you attract even more talented candidates to your organisation.
1. Neurodiverse Candidates
For those not already familiar with the concept, neurodiversity promotes the idea that the human brain works in many different, but equally valid ways — meaning conditions like autism, dyslexia, ADD/ADHD, etc. should not be treated as disabilities, but rather natural variances, each with their own unique strengths. Those with ADD/ADHD, for example, often have heightened creativity, as well as the ability to hyper-focus on tasks that capture their interest.
Some companies have even created dedicated programs designed to recruit and retain neurodiverse employees. Companies like Microsoft, SAP and JPMorgan Chase all have “Autism at Work” programs, which typically involve targeted outreach to job seekers with autism, an autism-friendly hiring process and education and support around autism and neurodiversity for managers and employees.
The results of these programs have been impressive to say the least — JPMorgan Chase, which hired more than 70 employees with autism between 2015 and 2018, has seen that workers with autism are significantly more productive than their neurotypical counterparts. James Mahoney, executive director and head of Autism at Work at Chase, stated that “autistic employees achieve, on average, 48 percent to 140 percent more work than their typical colleagues, depending on the roles,” due to the fact that “they are highly focused and less distracted by social interactions.”
2. Older Workers
Sometimes referred to as the “last acceptable form of discrimination,” research has found that ageism against older employees is rampant throughout the workforce. One study found that “a majority of workers over the age of 50 are likely at some point to be shoved out of their jobs, either via an overt firing or resignation under pressure of demotions, loss of future benefits or deteriorating work conditions.” Afterwards, these employees are unlikely to recoup their losses, often forced into accepting lower-skill, lower-wage jobs.
Part of the reason this occurs may be that employers mistakenly believe that older workers are slower-paced or less technologically-savvy than younger employees, but there is virtually no concrete evidence to support these assumptions. In fact, older workers frequently outperform younger employees, often due to their experience, institutional knowledge, reliability, leadership skills and problem-solving. In addition, older workers change jobs less frequently and are more likely to be motivated by factors like “community, mission and a chance to make the world a better place” than salary or promotions.
3. Candidates Without Elite Educational Backgrounds
Candidates who have gone to elite universities often have an automatic advantage going into an interview. After all, many people believe that a degree from a prestigious university signals intelligence and tenacity. And while there certainly are plenty of students at elite universities who fit that bill, there’s no reason to believe that you can’t find smart, hardworking employees from less-selective institutions — some great candidates may not have even have a uni degree.
What’s more, recruiting only from exclusive schools nearly ensures a more socioeconomically and racially homogeneous workforce. One study found that many prestigious universities accept more students from the top one percent than the bottom 60. Other research has found that admissions practises at the most elite universities favour white, wealthy students.
One of the reasons that diversity is so beneficial to businesses is that it brings together a wide variety of opinions, thoughts and beliefs — something that is much harder to achieve when the majority of your workforce shares a similar background. Recruiting candidates who have attended state schools, historically black colleges and universities, or even those without a uni degree helps ensure that you attract employees who have a wide range of life experiences and ways of thinking.
4. Veteran Status
Veterans frequently struggle to find work after transitioning into the private sector, but given their many desirable qualities, employers should be jumping at the chance to hire them. While veterans may not always have directly-related work experience, there are many ways in which they can make up for it. Those who serve in the armed forces are often disciplined, work well under pressure and have a strong work ethic. In addition, they commonly collaborate well together, exhibit strong leadership skills and have a high degree of integrity. Nearly all employees can learn hard skills like coding, data analysis and mastery of certain tools and platforms, but it’s much more difficult to teach soft skills and personal qualities.
Many companies have already benefited from veteran hiring initiatives, including four-time Best Places to Work winner Power Home Remodeling.
Mike Hansen, National Director of Military Affairs at Power Home Remodeling, first started his company’s veteran hiring initiative after discovering that veterans across the organisation “were doing not just well, but disproportionately well.”
“Everybody who is hired, whether they’re right out of [university] or a 40-year executive, comes with baggage. The difference is the military population has a natural leadership background, a strong work ethic and an understanding of how to operate in chaos that most non-veterans can’t really relate to,” Hansen said in an interview with Glassdoor. “The culture is very mission-driven in the military, and that can be applied to any work environment. The second that an organisation is able to vocalise their mission, that military drive kicks in and veterans just naturally work towards the objective.”
There is no one quick solution to increasing diversity at a company — it’s often a process that requires time, hard work and budget. But after considering all of the benefits that diverse companies enjoy, it becomes clear that investing in diversity is worth the effort. And if you can make sure that your diversity and inclusion initiatives speak to all sorts of underrepresented employees, you will have an even greater chance of bringing in a wide variety of valuable perspectives.