Recruitment alone isn’t the answer to diversity

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It’s now commonly accepted that workplace diversity is intrinsically linked to business performance. Consequently, firms are boosting efforts to recruit talent from wider, deeper and traditionally overlooked talent pools. However, delivering diversity through recruitment is not a silver bullet.

Achieving greater representation can only be achieved through true and meaningful cultural change – and that cannot be the responsibility of internal hiring teams and external recruiters alone.

Despite the widespread realisation that boosting workplace diversity is not only the ‘right thing to do’, but also brings business benefits, there is no doubt that we are failing to harness the potential of the full spectrum of available talent. The McGregor-Smith Review, for example, suggests that utilising the full potential of black and minority ethnic (BAME) individuals can contribute £24 billion to the UK economy after a year, representing 1.3% of GDP. Elsewhere, a third (32%) of LGBT employees choose to hide their sexual orientation at work and only 9.7% of executive positions in the FTSE 100 companies are held by women. Clearly there is more to do.

However, taking steps to source diverse talent is fruitless unless the organisation promotes – and lives – a message that celebrates its commitment to supporting individuals from all walks of life.

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Looking at financial services as an example, which has historically been the preserve of older, white, males, the pressure is on to increase representation through recruitment. And there is immense opportunity in this sector in terms of brand representation and how they present themselves to boost their EVP in the minds of diverse talent.

Today, there are great examples of financial institutions that are taking a holistic approach to reengineering not only employer brand, but also wider brand perception. Barclays LifeSkills, for example, is working to position the organisation as one that truly helps people. It’s a strong but subtle message that dovetails into recruitment-specific messaging, namely its ‘Bolder’ apprenticeship programme: an initiative designed to extend opportunities for apprenticeships across the organisation, specifically providing support for older adults wishing to get back into the workplace. A strategy that makes sense when you consider that, according to the Department of Work and Pensions, there are a million people aged between 50 and 64 who are not in employment, but state they are willing to, or would like to, work. What’s more, according to PwC’s Golden Age Index, bringing more people over the age of 55 into the workforce could also boost the UK economy by £80bn.

Barclays is a perfect example of how recruitment and wider culture must be aligned if businesses are to tap into alternative talent pools. Someone in their early 50s potentially has a 20-year-career ahead of them, yet, unless they have a structured support programme to on-board them, many may not even consider applying for the role, let alone reach their full potential. 

In a similar vein, there are also some fantastic examples of organisations that are actively engaging with other specific groups - such as females returning to the workplace after a career break or ex-military personnel - by putting in place tailored programmes to not only recruit, but also embed, individuals.

A recent report from the Women and Work All Party Parliamentary Group, Women Returners, recommended that the government takes further steps to diversify the apprenticeships sector by specifying that a percentage of apprenticeships should be part-time or flexible. The government has since pledged £5 million to support women back to work or ‘returnships’ – returning professional internships – as a way of boosting the number of females in management and in industries where they are under-represented.

However, some organisations are already ahead of the curve when it comes to tapping into this valuable talent pool. PwC’s ‘Back to Business’ returnship programme, for example, aims to help bring senior professional women back into the workplace who have had a career break of more than two years. Deloitte also has a similar programme which brings on board talent on a part time or flexible basis, providing candidates have at least five years’ experience in professional services including a minimum of two years in a similar position to the role they wish to apply for.

Likewise, according to the Royal British Legion, working age veterans in the UK are nearly twice as likely to be unemployed as their civilian contemporaries, and organisations are increasingly realising the value of this talent pool. Indeed, Alexander Mann Solutions has been recognised for its work in supporting ex-service personnel into employment by the Defence Employer Recognition Scheme. The organisation has also signed the Armed Forces Covenant and directly employs a number of reservists, veterans, and military spouses and partners.

While the majority of organisations understand that they must tap into previously under-utilised talent pools, those who succeed in making their organisations more diverse are the ones which look beyond attraction and sourcing. Promoting messages of inclusivity is a wasted exercise unless there are specific measures in place to support individual groups. Recruitment and culture must come together for diversity to truly flourish.

About Paul Modley


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