Diversity and Inclusion in FMCG Hiring

One of the earliest and most famous efforts to improve diversity in hiring came from the Boston Symphony Orchestra in 1952. They had a male-dominated ensemble, and they wanted to find out whether it was due to bias. Was there a common belief, unconscious or otherwise, that men were better musicians?

The orchestra started using a screen to see if ‘blind auditions’ changed the outcomes, and the result was shocking. There was absolutely no difference.

Even though the panel couldn’t see who was playing, they still chose the men. Perhaps that settled the question — maybe there was no bias and the male musicians were, generally, just better.

Except, once the audition process also involved musicians removing their shoes, the number of women passing the first audition increased by 50%. With no tell-tale click of high heels on a stage, there was nothing to give away the sex of the musician.

One of the many lessons from that story is that increasing diversity and inclusion is more complex than you might assume — changing one aspect of your hiring process may feel like progress, but might in fact do nothing to help, because there are several factors at play.

What can FMCG learn from that, and how can the sector improve the diversity and inclusion measures in hiring? Here are our tips.

Set your diversity goals

Your first step must be establishing what you’re trying to achieve. ‘Improving diversity’ and ‘creating a more inclusive hiring process’ are not goals. They’re aspirations, but they’re vague, and if you don’t define success, it’s hard to know if you’re making progress, and it’s easy to give up.

Define what aspect(s) you want to improve, how much, by when, and how you will know if you’ve achieved it. If you don’t meet the goal, it’s not a disaster, it’s a lesson — its purpose isn’t to judge you, it’s to help you assess and improve.

After that, there are two main sides to diversity and inclusion in hiring — removing bias in the process, and attracting diverse candidates.

Removing bias in FMCG recruitment

Removing bias from people is incredibly difficult. Removing bias from processes is relatively easy. Here are the ways you can reduce accidental discrimination in your hiring process.

Assess CVs differently

A standard CV reveals a lot of characteristics that can trigger unconscious bias. A name can suggest a cultural background, the year of graduation or a first job indicates age, and education or address can suggest an economic or class status.

You can request that when your search consultant passes on CVs, they remove that information. Indeed, if the consultant doesn’t already have the candidate’s details, you can ask them to request and screen applications without them.

That can be effective, but that can also lose a lot of the richness that helps candidates secure an interview.

Another approach is to have your consultant use AI to scan CVs. Software that’s programmed to pick up skills and experience won’t carry the assumptions and prejudices that people do, and can help make sure suitable candidates don’t miss out on the next stage.

Standardise early interview questions

Phone or video calls are extremely vulnerable to bias. Accent and appearance are classic areas of bias, and even if the interviewer has a standard set of questions, they can be led to judge the answers differently.

In the early stages, truly standardised questions with written answers mean the responses are judged better on their merits alone. It’s no silver bullet, but it can make the processes considerably fairer.

Diversify the hiring panel

The process can only be ‘blind’ for so long, and candidates will have to meet interviewers. If they meet a diverse range of people during the process, they’ll be less likely to encounter similar or persistent biases. Seeing diversity will also reassure the candidate against a bias they might form — that the company is for a certain type of person, and therefore they won’t fit in.

Attracting diverse candidates

Reducing bias in your interview process won’t achieve very much if diverse candidates aren’t applying. Here’s how to avoid putting anyone off applying, and to make sure people from a range of backgrounds know about your opportunities.

Word your job postings carefully

There is strong evidence to suggest that ‘gendered’ language impacts the number of female applicants for a role. Stereotypically masculine words like ‘competitive’ and ‘leadership’ and ‘aggressive’ see fewer applications from women.

Work with your search consultant to ensure that you and they avoid, if possible, using terms that carry connotations that members of a certain group shouldn’t apply.

Think about where you promote your roles

If your search consultant knows your diversity goals, they can advertise the role more strategically. For example, membership groups for women or ethnic minorities in FMCG will be pleased to help promote your opportunities, especially for senior leadership roles.

Manage your employer brand

Speaking of marketing, your brand can have a serious influence on the diversity of candidates you appeal to. That can be as simple as the imagery you use on your website — associated images of one ‘type’ of person rather than a diverse group can communicate that only that type succeeds in your business.

On a deeper level, if there’s a lack of diversity at the top of the company, that can communicate the same thing. Ask yourself why that’s the case, and address it. Perhaps, for example, certain individuals don’t feel as comfortable overtly demonstrating ambition or pushing for promotions. There could be any number of causes, but you can start by helping ‘minority’ candidates achieve their potential within your business, so that the environment is more visibly diverse.

Start improving your inclusivity today

Diversity FMCG isn’t about ticking boxes or making up the numbers, it’s about ensuring that nobody’s gender, race, sexuality, or background makes it harder for them to succeed. It’s about making sure you don’t miss out on talent that could do incredible things for your business.

To help find that talent and secure it for your business, partner with the experts. Nobody knows FMCG search like Lime Talent — there’s over sixty years’ combined experience in consumer goods, just among the founders, and since 2013 Lime Talent has been placing candidates that are the perfect match for our clients and the roles they want to fill.

Call 020 7042 3800 and start improving the diversity of your talent pool today.