As organisations and individuals start to realise more diverse and inclusive teams result in a better and more innovative workforce; it has finally become a focal point of recruitment processes around the world.
This shift towards hiring for diversity presents opportunities to improve and tweak hiring processes, and what's more, businesses also seem to have realised that in order to hire and support diverse talent, cultures need to be inclusive.
So, it sounds like we’re moving in the right direction?
Yes. However, there is still one very large oversight in terms of inclusivity – and that is interviews.
How interview accessibility impacts inclusivity
Whilst more companies are geared towards supporting people with disabilities, how these people get hired is often overlooked.
For those with physical disabilities, it can be a little more obvious how accessibility impacts inclusivity. Are people able to access the building? Is the environment friendly to guide dogs? Do you have software in place for the hard of hearing?
What is often less clear is how companies are inclusive of invisible disabilities like neurodiversity. For instance, how would a company ensure a fair and inclusive interview for someone with autism who struggles to present to a large panel of people? Or someone with noise sensitivity who can’t focus in loud environments?
It’s these situations that aren’t being thought about until after applicants have been through a process, and highlighted it, that really impacts inclusivity and therefore your ability to hire a more diverse team.
Looking more closely at neurodiversity with Cazoo
Recently, I’ve been working onsite with Cazoo – the UK’s newest tech unicorn – to support the expansion of their technology division. As well as revolutionising the used-car market for the benefit of the consumer, they take pride in their commitment to diversity and inclusion.
Speaking with Eli Montgomery, Cazoo’s Head of User Experience and Head of their Neurodiversity ERG, he shared stories where a person’s uniqueness was completely misunderstood:
I’ve been part of interview panels where being introverted was counted against someone. And that’s a sign of an immature hiring practice. There’s strength in bringing in different folks, and we should focus on the work. We need to make sure we understand people at their best and look for ways they add to our people mix.
The thing about good engineering cultures is they have resilience from the ground up – you need to show tolerance and resilience in your DNA. Healthy conflict makes us stronger.
Just because you don’t make eye contact doesn’t mean you’re not personable – you’re being put on the spot and if you can tell a good story, then eye contact becomes irrelevant. Eli Montgomery, Head of UX and Neurodiversity ERG @ Cazoo
This is important as it highlights that certain neurodiverse differences can be an advantage in certain situations. You need to recognise these misconceptions otherwise many exceptional people can fall through the cracks only because they don’t thrive in typical interview situations.
It’s clear from working with Eli and the ERG that even though there seems to be more awareness for ensuring accessibility for physical disabilities (Cazoo acknowledge they still have more to do here), more needs to be done to support neurodiverse talent.
It is only by fully understanding the effect of interviews on people that we can see what needs to change. Genius Within, a company that supports neurodiverse talent into work has compiled a matrix of effects, detailing what typical interview practices can lead to with neurodiverse applicants.
Change requires action. But it's worth it
By making interviews more accessible, you are allowing diversity into your organisation to positively impact your output and culture. Sounds great right?
It is. But achieving this requires actions – and diversity is not just diversity of thought.
To quote Eli again:
Diversity of thought is Diversity Lite. And it’s bullshit.
We’re committed to ensuring interviews are accessible and let candidates shine in their best light. We want every candidate to be their best self and put their best foot forward. Everyone should be set up for success, have clear guidelines, and clear expectations.
This takes away the power dynamics of interviewing and creates a more equal footing. Eli Montgomery, Head of UX and Neurodiversity ERG @ Cazoo
The forming of ERGs allowed Cazoo to better understand how they can support different groups of people directly from others who share similar characteristics and life experiences.
Importantly, they also empowered the ERGs to take action. In Eli and the neurodiversity ERG’s case, this has allowed them to build one of the more diverse and productive design teams in London – where diversity elicits productivity.
There are many actions you can take to improve interview accessibility although it’s impossible to have provisions in place for everyone, as conditions will affect different people in different ways.
One of the most important changes identified by Cazoo’s Neurodiversity ERG is the need to demonstrate their commitment to accessibility. Simply making sure people know you’re happy to have the conversation and see what can be done will go a long way to ensuring talent doesn’t drop out of a process because they assume you don’t care about interview accessibility.
As an example, moving forward Cazoo plan to write at the top (the TOP, not the bottom) of job descriptions that they are willing to take action to suit individual needs. Whilst part of a broader plan, this small change will hopefully have an impact on the diversity of talent who engage and, in-turn, what Cazoo can learn to improve inclusivity longer term.
It's rewarding and exciting to be working with Cazoo as they scale. With the pace of hiring only increasing we hope the initiatives we're helping to implement continue to increase the diversity of talent we're able to engage with and ultimately welcome into the team.
If you're passionate about D&I check out our latest eBook - Need to know: Diversity and Inclusion in the workplace - where we discuss the difference between the two, their importance, how to perform a diversity audit and several actionable steps you can take today.
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