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  • Writer's pictureJoseph Williams

The risks of demographic diversity targets in Talent Acquisition

In the pursuit of a diverse and inclusive workplace, companies default to setting demographic diversity targets. While the intention is noble, there is a growing concern that an exclusive focus on quotas might be hindering, rather than helping, the goal of attracting diverse talent.

Let's delve into the risks associated with this approach and explore five recommendations for a more effective and nuanced strategy.

The Demographic Quandary:

While the push for diversity in the workplace is crucial, in a highly competitive talent market, relying solely on demographic quotas is increasingly leading to tokenism, a situation where individuals are hired to meet numerical targets rather than for their qualifications or suitability for a team or role.

According to a study published in the Journal of Applied Psychology, teams that prioritise diversity for the sake of meeting quotas experience lower levels of team cohesion and, consequently, reduced productivity.

Similarly, The Harvard Business Review found that companies focusing solely on diversity quotas face higher turnover rates. With employees who feel they were hired for demographic reasons rather than merit being less likely to stay with the organisation in the long term.

Critically, when looking at company performance data, it is plausible to draw correlations to increased demographics resulting in increased performance but it is not demonstrable outside of circumstance. In our own research, we found that whilst almost 90% of hiring mangers said they were focused on diversity when hiring, only 25% admitted to looking for skills - the actual drivers of performance-related gains brought on by difference.

Diversity Targets Snapshot:

Statistics indicate that organisations are grappling with the unintended consequences of a myopic focus on demographics. A survey by the Harvard Business Review found that despite net gains in representation, 78% of respondents believed their companies prioritise diversity to meet quotas rather than fostering an inclusive, and high-performing culture.

Not only does this reality have compound impacts on everything from employer brand to collaboration and engagement. One bad hire, especially at senior levels, is enough to compromise years of diversity empowerment and progression in an organisation. It is better to hire fewer diverse people and ensure hey are set up for success and thrive in role, than hire many who are not appropriately qualified or cannot succeed due to compromised cultures.

Five Effective Diversity Strategies in Hiring:

The good news is, this isn't a conversation about talent availability. In all of our research and analytics, we've found that when we address arbitrary barriers to entry and develop inclusive processes and cultures, diverse talent representation thrives.

To get ahead of inclusive hiring in 2024, see what our experts have to say here and see our top recommendations below:

  1. Unbiased Recruitment Practices: Implement skills-based recruitment practices to mitigate bias - period. Studies show that skills-based hiring can increase diversity by 3x (10x more than blind recruitment) while promoting objectivity in the hiring process that doesn't hinge on concealing identities in the process.

  2. Consistent Evaluation: Focus on a holistic evaluation of candidates and standardise how you assess and score their suitability. Consider their skills, experiences, and potential contributions to the team - create questions that address these areas and scoring matrices to capture results. This ensures that diversity efforts align with the broader goal of building a talented and innovative workforce, equitably and fairly.

  3. Cultivate Inclusive Company Culture: Foster an inclusive company culture that equitably supports diversity. According to a Glassdoor survey, 67% of job seekers consider diversity an important factor when evaluating companies. This isn't about awards or branding, this is about how you ensure diverse talent is elevated and set up for success properly.

  4. Invest in Inclusive Recruitment Technology: Leverage technology like Clu, an inclusive recruitment platform, to tap into wider talent communities. These tools can use data-driven insights to identify candidates based on skills and potential, help you understand where your attraction efforts aren't succeeding and promote inclusivity without sacrificing merit.

  5. Continuous Learning and Development: Encourage ongoing learning and development for all employees - get to understand your candidates in the hiring process, so you can personalise onboarding and development. The average new hire decides within 3 months if they'll leave or not, so providing equitable access to training opportunities, mentors and sponsorship ensures that diverse talent has the support needed to thrive within your organisation.

Achieving diversity in the workplace requires a strategic and nuanced approach that goes beyond mere demographic targets. By adopting inclusive recruitment technologies like Clu and prioritising inclusion in attraction, evaluation and development process, organisations can tap into a wider pool of talent while upholding the standards of excellence.

It's not about lowering the bar; it's about widening the gate to welcome talent from all walks of life.


At Clu, we're reinventing how job seekers find jobs by helping Employers get great at skills-based and inclusive hiring.

Find out more by getting in touch with us. We'd love to hear from you.


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