Businesses need to recruit more smartly to improve diversity

OraRuth Rother, co-founder of, discusses how businesses can use pioneering recruitment techniques to boost recovery, broaden their talent pool and pre-empt the threat of new legislation.

The continuing refusal of Britain’s blue-chip businesses to widen their recruitment strategy is both harming their performance and exposing them to dangerous legislative and financial consequences. That is the clear implication of a number of recent developments, which raise the spectre of a future Government armed with the power to interfere in recruitment policies, impose severe penalties, and destroy corporate reputations.

When she announced the Government’s Equality Strategy, equalities minister Lynne Featherstone warned that if businesses fail to meet her aspirations for a more diverse top management team, the Government could name and shame diversity-resistant companies and introduce as-yet-undisclosed tougher measures.

In addition, Lord Davies’ report into board-level diversity threatened mandatory quotas unless boardrooms begin to diversify, after figures demonstrating that, by 2010, women had infiltrated only 12% of FTSE 100 company boards.

Yet it is not just the regulatory and legal threats posed by a lack of workforce diversity which should concern Britain’s boardrooms.

OraRuth Rother

OraRuth Rother, co-founder of

Why cloning the workforce is bad for business

Research shows that cloning the existing workforce by hiring in a mirror image of the board is also bad for the bottom line. McKinsey has found that companies that introduce more female influence to the boardroom increase their stock price by up to 53%. Studies have consistently found that a diversity of personality types helps business to drive innovation, attract a wider pool of prospective candidates, improve brand image and connect to a broader range of customers.

But setting targets will put businesses at risk of even more tribunals and discrimination claims. Quotas which discriminate in favour of under-represented candidate groups are driven by the same flawed assumption as the old, all-male boardrooms which recruit in their own image; the belief that businesses must hire a specific image embodying a homogenous group identity, rather than seek a diverse range of personal qualities.

This raises the following questions: is it possible for business to harness the benefits of diversity to improve their image, draw on a wider pool of talent, avoid damaging tribunals and stave off the threat of new government legislation, without the need for quotas with all their inherent legal dangers?

The answer is that it is possible for organisations to both create greater balance and a truly beneficial mix of personal qualities by seeking greater psychological diversity in new recruits.

Psychometric testing

Advances in profiling and psychometric testing allow businesses to conduct internal audits of the corporate mind in order to distil the dominant personality type of existing employees and then seek candidates with different, but complementary, personality profiles.

Studies have discovered the way in which personality traits with such classifications as “energising”, “attention”, “deciding”, and “organisational” each produce different business outcomes.

By illuminating the psychological DNA of each business, these discoveries can help business to successfully take on new hires with contrasting personality profiles and draw upon the unique benefits of each behavioural style.

Crucially, hiring carbon copies of one behavioural style will amplify an organisation’s weaknesses – the equivalent of a football team with underperforming strikers continuing to hire more defenders.

An excess of energising types will excel at generating ideas, but fail to successfully implement them, while introvert types are better at controlling expenditure. Marks & Spencer’s 1999 share-price collapse is believed to have been partly caused the decision of then-CEO Sir Richard Greenbury to surround himself exclusively with “M&S clones” allowing ideas to saturate in a stagnant “groupthink”.

Critically, by incorporating a broader range of personality profiles, companies will also automatically increase the gender diversity of their board. This is because men and women display differing psychological profiles, which translate into mutually complementary business styles.

Diversity distilling techniques

As post-recession applications surge, businesses increasingly need techniques that can help to distil the personality profiles of candidates and improve applicant diversity long before the interview stage.

As recruitment increasingly migrates online, these diversity-distilling techniques are being adapted by innovative software companies. is an online candidate-assessment and job-matching management system currently in beta. It uses psychometric screening and profiling software to sift candidates at the initial recruitment stage against behaviours and skills. These can then be mixed and matched to complement the behavioural styles of existing employees and the needs of the business.

The system prevents discrimination at the candidate-selection phase, by initially presenting matching candidate profiles anonymously to hiring companies, ensuring candidates are chosen purely on the basis of personal qualities. The flexibility means that system can be tailored to seek any skills or behavioural criteria desired by hiring companies. This allows organisations seeking psychologically diverse candidates, to hire candidates who exhibit specific personality profiles guaranteed to balance and complement the existing team. The system takes subjectivity and self-interest out of the hiring process, through using an ipsative screening formula.

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