4 steps to increase the diversity of your workforce


Do you want to be a forefront of innovation for your industry?

Do you want more creative ideas from your employees?

Employing a more diverse workforce could be the answer.

But how do you go about it?

Diversity is great for business

With growing diversity in countries and communities, there is general agreement that workforces should reflect this. A breadth of research promotes the positive effects of diversity, suggesting a range of merits of having a diverse workforce such as increased  innovation, higher sales revenue, increased  profit, and the enrichment of others’ perspectives¹.

Equality is a legal requirement

Companies in the UK are bound by law to be seen to promote equality in the workplace, treating members of all minority groups, and particularly those categorised by protected characteristics, such as ethnicity, gender and age, in the same favour, unless there is objective justification not to.

With heaps of potential business benefits, and a little legal pressure too, there is plenty of incentive for a company to seek to employ a diverse pool of individuals.


So, how can you optimise diversity in your employee selection processes?

Step 1 – Evaluate your process

Do you know if your process is fair? Are you using ability tests, or other measures in your selection process with a high level of intellectual demand?

If you are, consider whether they are putting some candidates at a disadvantage.

Ability tests are commonly used in employee selection processes, particularly in high volume systems such as graduate schemes, as they are consistently some of the best predictors of job performance². However, tests of this type are measures that show some of the greatest adverse impact on minority groups, particularly some ethnic groups, putting them at a disadvantage compared to other candidates³.

Carefully checking how different groups are performing on the tests that you use will enable you to work out if this is causing an issue for you. A number of steps can be taken when they are built to make sure they are as fair as possible but remain a valuable tool for predicting job performance.

Step 2 – Train your assessors

Subjective scores can be unconsciously effected by assessors who have ingrained views or prejudice about certain groups. Train your assessors to decrease any biases they may have to reduce any adverse impact on the scores they give to candidates, particularly on more subjective measures like interviews or assessment centre exercises⁴. Ensure that assessors understand the whole of the employee selection process and how their contribution fits in.

Step 3 – Attract a diverse group of people

It’s common sense that the more diverse your applicant pool is, the more chance you have of selecting a diverse range of employees. Use attraction strategies to target minority groups or seek to give an enhanced impression of “fit” to particular minority groups⁴. These methods attempt to increase the diversity of the applicant pool and hence to increase the probability of selecting a more diverse set of employees.

Step 4 – Think more broadly about what good performance looks like

Broaden your measures to include a range of predictors that add value over predictors of job task performance such as indicators that predict more contextual performance in the job you are recruiting for, e.g. personality, and other knowledge, skills, abilities and other characteristics (KSAOs). By broadening the range of predictors that are measured, you offset the adverse impact of ability tests and other proxy measures of ability, such as educational attainment, that you use⁵. In addition, measuring your KSAOs in a range of different ways, across a number of stages e.g. through interviews, work samples or assessment centres, is generally more effective than single stage processes in increasing minority hiring. If you use the measures with the largest expected differences between groups first, this may also be advantageous⁶.

This is a positive approach: a broader set of predictors, measured in a broad range of ways means a broader range of people have the opportunity to succeed, and so you have a higher likelihood of offering jobs to a diverse set of people.

If you want to optimise your process to make sure the measures you obtain are best predicting how people will perform in the job, AND giving the you the best chance of selecting a diverse workforce, you can take this a step further and apply maths and models e.g. weighting scores in a meaningful way, to produce composite scores⁷.

…Hello Diversity

You will maximise the likelihood of recruiting a diverse workforce by using a combination of strategies from the steps described above to create a fair selection process for everyone, e.g. using trained assessors, not relying on a single predictor, and assessing the different predictors across different stages and in different ways through the process.

The potential adverse impact of different methods and measures should be considered when choosing selection tools in the first place; arguably it is as important or more important as individual performance. The tools chosen need to focus on the needs of the organization and the job, but also should minimise adverse impact for all groups of candidates.


Want to know more or find out about how we could help you maximise diversity in your company?

Get in touch.



Abbi Tew, 4th April 2014



  1. Herring, Cedric. “Does diversity pay?: Race, gender, and the business case for diversity.” American Sociological Review 74, no. 2 (2009): 208-224.
  2. Schmidt, Frank L., and John E. Hunter. “The validity and utility of selection methods in personnel psychology: Practical and theoretical implications of 85 years of research findings.” Psychological bulletin 124, no. 2 (1998): 262.
  3. Pyburn, Keith M., Robert E. Ployhart, and David A. Kravitz. “The diversity–validity dilemma: Overview and legal context.” Personnel Psychology 61, no. 1 (2008): 143-151.
  4. Ployhart, Robert E., and Brian C. Holtz. “The diversity–validity dilemma: Strategies for reducing racioethnic and sex subgroup differences and adverse impact in selection.” Personnel Psychology 61, no. 1 (2008): 153-172.
  5. Hough, Leatta M., Frederick L. Oswald, and Robert E. Ployhart. “Determinants, detection and amelioration of adverse impact in personnel selection procedures: Issues, evidence and lessons learned.” International Journal of Selection and Assessment 9, no. 1‐2 (2001): 152-194.
  6. Finch, David M., Bryan D. Edwards, and J. Craig Wallace. “Multistage selection strategies: Simulating the effects on adverse impact and expected performance for various predictor combinations.” Journal of applied psychology 94, no. 2 (2009): 318.
  7. De Corte, Wilfried, Filip Lievens, and Paul R. Sackett. “Combining predictors to achieve optimal trade-offs between selection quality and adverse impact.”Journal of Applied Psychology 92, no. 5 (2007): 1380.


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