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Talking diversity and inclusion with Ronald Bleeker (Manager Corporate Recruitment NS) sent out a survey to more than 2,000 recruiters and asked them what they see as the biggest challenges in their work today. From the survey, ensuring a diverse and inclusive organization emerged as a major recruitment challenge.

That is why we spoke with Ronald Bleeker, Manager Corporate Recruitment NS about diversity and inclusion and how to set up an effective diversity policy.

Ronald Bleeker has had diversity and inclusion in his portfolio for two years now.

What does your diversity policy look like?

The goal of our diversity policy is to create a workforce that reflects society. Everyone uses the services of NS, and we also want to see this diversity reflected in our workforce. Diversity is a very broad concept. We not only look at background, religion, gender or sexual preference, but also at people with a distance to the labor market.

These are people with a physical or mental disability which would prevent them from doing their job properly under normal working conditions. We like to create the right conditions for these people. That brings us to the part of inclusion; ensuring that everyone in the organization, despite limitations of any kind, is able to do their job and is fully accepted for who they are.

For example, you can think of adapted computer screens for the visually impaired, facilities for people with a wheelchair, but also allowing people who quickly become over-stimulated to work from home more often and that you organise company outings and events in such a way that everyone is able to participate.

That sounds like it’s easier than it actually is.

It is also not a matter of going for the easy way, you have to be willing to make an effort. Every person is different and that’s why you look at each candidate individually. Of course you sometimes come across candidates for whom you quickly do not know how to facilitate a workable situation. But that does not mean that we will go for the next candidate on the list.

We employ specialised recruiters, with their experience they often know exactly where to find the necessary facilities and advise the managers on this matter. The focus is on what is possible instead of what cannot be done.

How do you set up a diversity policy?

First of all, it is important to prep carefully; “What does diversity mean?”, “Why should your organization have a diversity policy?” There is a lot of information about the subject and there are many parties who provide expert advice. From this we know, for example, that diversity within teams can lead to better performance and a better working atmosphere.

An additional advantage for recruiters is that you are able to  greatly expand your target group and network. To quickly fill your vacancies, it is recommended to search in a large pool of potential candidates.

In addition, it is essential that you get everyone in your company on board. Every person has a bias. This does not necessarily have to be a problem, but you have to be aware of it. If there is no support for diversity, policy is doomed to fail. This not only means convincing management, but also ensuring an inclusive culture within the teams.

Also realise that not everyone in your organisation has the knowledge you have. Take your team on a diversity training. Or participate in serious games such as Blindspot, through which you can discover your bias. When you create awareness, support usually comes quickly.

How do you implement such a policy in practice?

In addition to constantly training recruiters and adjusting vacancy texts, we also participate in pilots about unbiased recruitment. One of these pilots was the Pilot Nudging, in collaboration with the Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment and TNO. During this pilot, candidates were asked not to apply with a CV and motivation letter, but to answer some specific questions about competences and work experience. Therefore, we could not be influenced by age, name, hobbies, etc.

Things that are not related to work performance. This resulted in an independent ranking, of which we invited the highest scoring candidates for an interview. This has yielded enormously valuable insights, which is why we are now making plans for an implementation in our recruitment.

Do you have KPIs on diversity?

For our participation jobs we have the KPI to create 200 available workplaces. For our other diversity recruitment we have an extensive plan with concrete action points, but no hard KPIs. However, we do, for example, look at figures for the labor force with a migration background as target values. In case of equal suitability, we do prefer candidates with a migration or bicultural background.

How do you reach the right target groups?

There are plenty of ways to find out where different target groups are located. Think of websites, TV programs or radio stations. We often work with diversity networks, who also like to bring us into contact with the target group. For people at a distance from the labor market, we work together with the UWV, for example.

It is important to look at the positions within your company and to what extent a diversity policy can be realized within your target group. This is easy to do on the basis of figures on study backgrounds and graduation directions. Legal courses, for example, have a very mixed outflow, while logistics courses contain less of that. You have to take that into account.

In addition, we know from research that candidates with a bicultural background find it important that images and photos of the organisation also show that you have an inclusive workforce.. And our vacancies always contain a diversity statement, which refers to our diversity page.

What is your advice to organizations that want to set up a diversity policy?

Be open. To your organisation, to yourself and to your candidates. The more complex feelings that might occur can only be heard clearly in an open atmosphere. For example, if your organisation is not yet that diverse, this can deter an intended diversity target group, but also other candidates or even colleagues.

Especially then it is important to be open to candidates and colleagues by saying: “We are not yet very diverse, but we do have the ambition to become diverse”. Of course, you are not ready when you have hired someone with a bicultural background or distance from the labor market.

It is key to keep communicating. Regularly ask employees for feedback and make sure you know what is going on. It is absolutely essential that you have everyone on board and keep them on board.