The latest Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) report by leading recruitment experts Hays revealed that most employees across Asia still believe business leaders carry a bias towards hiring people who look, think or act like them.
The findings of the 2019/2020 version of the annual report are based on survey responses from close to 2000 working professionals based in China, Hong Kong SAR, Japan, Singapore and Malaysia. 87 per cent of respondents were born in Asia, 54 per cent were female, and 67 per cent were involved in recruiting new staff (either as a hiring line manager or in HR/recruitment functions). The survey covered personal experiences of the respondents with D&I in their workplaces, as well as their perceptions of its practice within and impact on their organisations.
A need for unbiased and diverse leadership
47 per cent of respondents across Asia felt that greater D&I practices in the workplace could have the most positive impact on the ‘recruitment of best talent’. However, the implementation of this is still lacking, with 52 per cent of respondents having felt that their age, gender, ethnicity or other D&I factors had led to their changes of being selected for a job being lowered. This discrepancy could be attributed to bias in leadership, with 59 per cent of respondents strongly agreeing or agreeing that leaders in their organisation has a bias towards hiring people who look think and act like them. 72 per cent of employees considered unconscious bias training for leaders to have a positive impact on the selection and hiring of more diverse talent, yet only 49 per cent of companies provide such training – a figure that is skewed by the high 64 per cent in China.
An overall trend of improvement
However, individual indicators of organisations applying D&I practices to employee selection have been positive and mostly in line with the expectations of their employees. For example, 75 per cent of respondents believed that ensuring interview panels are diverse would positively impact diverse hiring, with 62 per cent or organisations already practicing this. Similarly, 74 per cent of respondents voted for involving a range of diverse stakeholders for the review and selection of CV or application forms; which is practiced by 66 per cent of organisations. An interesting addition was the capturing of workforce diversity data (i.e. ethnicity information) of those hired, which was voted to have positive a positive impact on hiring by 69 per cent of respondents and is being implemented by 56 per cent of organisations.
In Malaysia: Awareness on the rise but leadership bias remains
50 per cent of survey respondents in Malaysia said their organisation would benefit from attracting, selecting and retaining more individuals from a variety of ethnic backgrounds – the highest number in Asia to say so. But despite these positive indicators, there is a mix of opinion as to whether organisation leaders have a bias towards hiring people who look, think or act like them for promotion. 55 per cent agreed that this was the case to some extent, including 16 per cent who strongly agreed. strongly agreeing – the highest number to do so across Asia. However, 31 per cent said that they disagreed with the statement, which is also the largest number in Asia to say so.
In terms of leadership, 72 per cent said their leadership team was diverse, and 80 per cent considered a diverse leadership team to have a positive impact on the retention of more diverse talent. But when it comes to developing under-represented groups into leadership roles, 40 per cent disagreed that their companies did so, a rise from 30 per cent in 2018, with a further 27 per cent unsure of their organisation’s position.
Tom Osborne, Managing Director at Hays Malaysia commented, “While there have been many promising improvements in Malaysia’s hiring practices to include more diverse talent, a top-down approach is vital in ensuring widespread implementation and success. Those in managerial positions could help promote diversity amongst leadership and the larger organisation by setting individual diversity recruitment targets, undertaking training to mitigate unconscious biases, and actively working to develop under-represented groups, specifically into leadership roles.”