Simple first steps: The path to recruiting for diversity of thought

Simple first steps: The path to recruiting for diversity of thought
Published: 1 December 2020

The combination of increasing external public pressure and the commercial, financial and cultural benefits seen from diversity of thought has prompted organisations to take swift action to push equality, diversity and inclusion up the ‘strategic to-do list.’ As companies start to make positive steps towards changing their culture and understanding the impact this has on their employees, how can we start to move the needle in the right direction with regards to diverse recruitment? And what role can headhunters play? Emily McIntyre, Consultant in Berwick Partners’ Higher Education practice explains.

One obvious method to increase diversity of thought across an organisation is through the recruitment of diverse talent, but this continues to be a challenge for almost every industry across the country. Organisations are still struggling to get to grips with the infrastructure that needs to be implemented and the work that needs to go into achieving them. Diversity is more than simply a target to be achieved. It should be interwoven into the fabric of an organisation’s culture and be a key thread through any recruitment process from start to finish. Otherwise, we run the risk of individuals being approached to ‘tick a diversity box’ rather than genuinely considering them for a role. It is essential organisations can authentically engage with this untapped talent pool in a way that is honest and genuine. Headhunters have a huge role to play in this by providing help, advice and guidance on recruitment best practice. So here are some simple steps to start moving your recruitment processes in the right direction:

Think about what diversity means to your organisation

Companies are (quite rightly) demanding diverse candidate fields but cannot simply rely on headhunters to provide them. If you cannot define what diversity means to your organisation and how this impacts its culture, then headhunters are simply unable to advocate this to candidates. It can be a powerful part of any Employee Value Proposition and make your organisation more attractive. Make sure before any recruitment process starts you have thought about this and discussed it with your selection panel and headhunters; highlighting this is a key priority throughout the search.

Share as much information as possible

What metrics, data and policies do you have that may help inform discussions with candidates? What targets are you looking to reach (and by when) and how do you hope to achieve them? Be sure to share what work is currently going on that is focused on diversity and how this is impacting your culture. This will demonstrate to candidates how serious you are about diversity of thought and can have a positive impact on how your organisation is perceived externally.

Make sure your authentic voices are included

Anyone looking to join a new organisation will want to know what the working environment is like for those from different backgrounds. This is also something headhunters will need to understand to advocate the role honestly. Be sure to speak to people with different lived experiences within the organisation who are comfortable sharing their stories and make sure they are part of the recruitment process.

Reassess what the ‘ideal’ candidate or process is

Innovation in recruitment can be a hard thing to achieve, but there are small changes you can make that will have a large impact. For example, avoid your job description stating that an individual needs to meet every single aspect of the person specification. Consider what truly is essential and desirable and what parts of the person specification can you compromise on. Remove gender biased language and make a statement that you wish to encourage those from diverse backgrounds to apply. Be flexible with interview dates and try to create as candidate friendly a process as possible. Finally, be open to challenge from anyone advocating those from different backgrounds. These people may not come up a ’traditional path’ but could still be perfectly qualified for the role.

Providing specific training and promoting open conversations about diversity

There is a lot of training available with regards to diversity and inclusion. The most relevant of which would most likely be unconscious bias training for anyone involved in the recruitment process. Across the organisation you should also encourage everyone to enhance their knowledge and understanding of issues that may affect those with other lived experiences. This can be through relevant literature, articles or even documentaries. It will help people feel confident to talk more openly. Form working groups that focus on a wide range of diversity that can create safe spaces for open conversations to occur. This will improve experiences of inclusion, help to deliver cultural change and increase staff retention.

Unfortunately, there is no easy fix to diverse recruitment. Anyone in the industry will tell you it takes hard work, perseverance and passion. The best recruitment processes occur when you can put yourself in a candidate’s shoes and see things from their perspective. Headhunters have a very privileged role to play in helping to develop the next generation of talent but we also have a responsibility to do this as authentically as possible. By working with our clients to help them understand what authentic recruitment means, we can help them make fairer choices so that diversity is genuinely embraced and not just a tick box exercise.  

At Berwick Partners, we are proud to play our part in helping the next generation of emerging leaders build and develop their careers, but we also act as advisors to our clients, challenging them (and ourselves) to not only talk more openly about diversity but to do so with honesty and integrity. We still have a long way to go but I remain optimistic with regards to the future, for “in diversity there is beauty and there is strength.” – Maya Angelou.

For more information, please contact Emily McIntyre, Consultant in our Higher Education practice.

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