In uncertain times, it’s normal to follow the safe path, to stick to what you know. But when it comes to recruitment, this ends up damaging your company – familiar faces from familiar places don’t tend to drive change and innovation.
In 2019, all board and executive director level roles were filled by White people at 47 FTSE 100 companies. I think we can do better. If you agree – that’s great! But do you know your own company’s stats, its policies, what it’s doing to improve? Or do you simply hope that as you personally are progressive, your company is the same?
You need to actively open the door to people underrepresented in your sector. Luckily, I have a few suggestions for how you can get out of the ‘safe’ zone and to the forefront of this necessary change.
Make it clear that you’re an equal employer
Young job seekers today want to know you’re an equal employer. According to the Deloitte 2019 Millennial Survey, “when considering whether to work for an organization, a majority of millennials … give a “great deal” or “fair amount” of importance to the gender, ethnicity, age, and general range of backgrounds of employers’ workforces.”
So assuming you’ve been working hard on this – tell people! Explain your inclusive hiring policies on job postings. Outline flexible work options and benefits. Use inclusive, up-to-date language. List the salary rather than asking applicants what they’ve earned previously (which just perpetuates gender, ethnicity and other pay gaps). People will be looking for these things, and if they don’t find them, they’ll click straight off your job listing.
Search for the talent, don’t expect it to find you
A 2019 Oxford study found that people of colour needed to send an average of 60% more applications than their White counterparts to receive the same number of callbacks. The study broke the data down further, for example by ethnic group and job sector, concluding overall that “discrimination is an enduring phenomenon”, and comparing to previous research, “found no sign of progress for Caribbeans or for South Asians over the past 50 years.”
To attract the best applicants of colour – who, frankly, may be tired of sending their CV out to narrow-minded, biased employers – go straight to them. Make use of diversity-focused job sites and recruitment fairs, get involved in career networks focused on people of colour, work with recruiters who actively seek talent from a wide range of backgrounds.
Don’t rely on the same old networks
In LinkedIn’s 2018 analysis of recruiting trends, 38% of respondents said their biggest barrier to improving diversity was “finding diverse candidates to interview”. The obvious question is, were they looking hard enough? I suspect internal hiring, ‘trusted recommendations’ and old boys’ clubs make up a lot of the hiring pool in those companies.
Over-reliance on familiar networks keeps the same people applying for the same jobs. To find a diverse range of candidates, you need to look elsewhere too. Don’t rely on in-person networking, which severely limits your pool. Either find ways to get more people into those rooms, or make sure you don’t give too much weight to how someone seemed over cocktails at an industry mixer.
Be transparent about company data
If an applicant wants to know about D&I at your company, they’re going to look online. What will they find? If your diversity stats aren’t great, the temptation may be to quietly hold onto them until you have something better to report. But that silence speaks volumes.
Instead, be frank about where you are right now – and about where you want to be, and how you’ll get there. The most important thing is to show positive and continuing change in your company, a genuine and provable commitment to inclusivity, and opportunities for applicants from all backgrounds to thrive.
Give time and money to training and mentoring schemes
You may be focused on improving diversity at your own company, but it doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Long term, you need to operate on a larger scale. The clue’s in the name with systemic racism: it’s in our social systems that racial inequality is created and maintained. So, work to change that.
Set up internships, scholarships and work experience for people from groups underrepresented in your sector. Reach out to youth groups, student organisations and career networks to give talks and offer mentoring. Make it clear that your commitment extends beyond a prettily worded D&I statement, and into the real work of creating change – both within your company, and in society at large.