Acas Expert Masterclass, Birmingham, 11 March

Early last year, I was asked to speak at an event within the Midlands that was focused on Autism in Employment. The attendees and other speakers were from a variety of backgrounds – from employers to employees, jobseekers to university researchers, medical experts to stakeholder organisations – so when the organisers and I agreed on the topic of recruitment, I knew I wanted to deliver something that was not only engaging, but also made the delegates look at recruitment in a different way.
My starting point was the Acas research paper on Neurodiversity at Work (which I hadn’t read before, but found so helpful that I’ve been recommending it ever since). It gave me things to look for that could either put someone on the Autistic spectrum off applying for a job, or make applying/succeeding much more difficult for them. Many of these things might otherwise have seemed innocuous or relatively harmless, such as vague or ambiguous language in adverts, hypothetical scenarios that bore no resemblance to the role, psychometric testing, loud/distracting settings for interview, or even requiring someone to self-identify as ‘having a disability’ in order to request adjustments to the process.
I then looked for job adverts local to where the event was taking place that included these pitfalls to use as examples in my session, and was honestly surprised by how common they were (even, though I chose not to use it as an example, in job adverts for one of the sponsors of the event). Even though I was used to talking about best practice and inclusion in recruitment, I found it eye-opening how many companies are still falling into traps that exclude certain groups, even having just been looking at the relatively narrow focus of neurodiversity.
I think it’s very easy for employers to unintentionally fall into relying on language or requirements that aren’t inclusive in recruitment – because that’s the language someone is used to using, because that’s what the policy says, because ‘that’s the way we’ve always done it’. More often than not, the root cause is that someone just hasn’t stopped to consider how this might come across to or impact on someone whose needs are different to their own – something that I would guess most of us are at least occasionally guilty of.
We’ve certainly seen an increased focus from companies and stakeholders on increasing inclusion in recruitment practices (several putting this as one of their key priorities this year), likely influenced at least in part by an increase in job candidate interest in companies’ approach to Diversity and Inclusion. We’ve also seen over many years of experience that effective recruitment is a key factor in staff performance, engagement, and retention – the importance of getting the right person into the right job.
For this reason, inclusive recruitment is one of the four key topics covered at our Masterclass event on 11th March, and I’m looking forward to seeing my colleagues and Senior Advisors, Emma Slaven and Maggie Steven, giving their practical, experience-based advice on how companies can start to make their recruitment more inclusive, giving them more chance of attracting (and retaining!) the best person for the job. I’m also looking forward to hearing delegates share their own experiences, and learning what approaches and techniques have worked for them.