Michelle Brown joined us for our latest HoW Webinar with a fascinating discussion on equality, diversity, and inclusion in our recruitment strategies. Michelle is the Head of Marketing at VERCIDA – a leading diversity resourcing and inclusion company. VERCIDA are the experts in diversity, inclusion and leadership, a solution to businesses needing to attract diverse talent and create a culture of inclusion.
Below, you’ll find just a brief summary of the discussion between Michelle and our Director of Strategic Development – Giles Heckstall-Smith. For the full conversation, watch the video below!
Are we just talking about ED&I rather than doing?
One of the things we’re seeing are companies considering their diversity and inclusion strategies, but not investing the time and money into these strategies to make them effective. A recent report shows us that only 65% of companies are dedicating any kind of budget towards their diversity and inclusion strategy.
That alone tells a story. We’re seeing organisations focus more on tick-box strategies rather than effective initiatives to reach a diverse workforce.
For those companies who are investing, the approach is two-fold. The first is with training up your current workforce, to remove bias in the workplace. One of our clients – Hayes – has a full intranet, confidently documenting their ED&I policy in detail so that it can be referred back to when needed. Whether it’s through the hiring process, or if there are problems which arise in the day-to-day.
The second is with their marketing. Our clients first come to us believing they just need a new ED&I policy, but companies like us help them on a deeper level. We create a specific ED&I marketing strategy to bring in a particular demographic. For example, an engineering company may have a reputation for being male-dominated, and they’re looking to change that perception to bring in more female workers. To make that work you need someone who is fully committed to take on that responsibility – that’s the service we offer and the service our clients have invested in.
How do you hire a more diverse workforce?
The reality is that companies with the most diverse workforce are the most profitable, and communicating that is key. Our own data shows that organisations which are highly diverse are 35% more profitable than their competitors. In the UK, each 10% increase in senior team gender diversity sees EBIT rise by 3.5%.
If you take supermarkets. Everyone uses one, everyone has food. In the past – this is changing now – but most adverts were focussing on white, middle-class shoppers. So how are you communicating this to your customers? Supermarkets realised that there was a whole range of specific shopper who didn’t identify with a particular supermarket, so their loyalty was up for grabs, and step one was to show those shoppers that people like them shop with you.
However, a supermarket which didn’t have a strong diverse recruitment strategy in place, could advertise all they like that a black person – for example – shopped with them in their marketing, but if their workforce doesn’t represent that, it comes across as fake. You have to be careful. You need the people you are trying to reach out represented among your colleagues.
There’s a word of caution here as well. It all comes back to culture. If you’re a business which only has one or two neurodivergent people, or people of a particular ethnic group, you can’t badger them for marketing messages or ideas, because then the onus is on them, and that’s quite the burden to bear. Your company culture needs to be open and welcoming enough, and backed up with a strong ED&I policy, so your current diverse workforce feels comfortable raising ideas on how to reach people just like them.
It’s a bit of a chicken and egg scenario. You need to start hiring a more diverse workforce to be able to hire a more diverse workforce.
Is the amount of diversity we’re seeing in the media just tokenism? And how do we avoid that?
The Black Lives Matter movement held everyone up to a magnifying glass. We started seeing CEO’s of companies come out and speak about it, and that was amazing. But then every company was like “we’ve got to be seen to be on board, so we need to have black people in everything we do!”
You can tell when it’s forced and when it’s tick-boxing. If I walk into a supermarket in a rural, northern part of England where the black population is minimal, and I see that demographic up on every sign, and every poster, it’s clearly virtue signalling. You’ve got to carry this through, you’ve got to back this up with company policies and initiatives to bring in a more diverse workforce that your marketing represents. Don’t market to demographics like the black population if you’re not training your staff to be aware of unconscious bias, or you’re investing money to hire a workforce representative of that.
How do we tackle Unconscious Bias in our existing workforce?
Invest time and resources into putting your staff through Unconscious Bias training. If you’re looking to focus your attention in one place, start with a test. Project Implicit is a great one which you can access for free here. It offers up tests on race, gender, and neurodivergency, and many more. Encourage your colleagues to talk about their results, to share what they learned about themselves!
GH: From a Jobtrain perspective, we’re constantly looking at different ways we can facilitate ED&I in hiring and recruitment. One of those ways is with our Accessibility Toolbar. We absolutely love Recite as a tool for this. Whether it’s changing font types for people with dyslexia, or increasing font sizes, or the translation tool to help with any potential language barriers.
We’ve also been revisiting the support we offer our current clients. Our Client Success Team try to help those who use our ATS with blind shortlisting, or blind applications, but Morgan – the founder of VERCIDA – made a great observation; that blind shortlisting, if handled poorly, is just pushing the problem down the line.
What if the required talent or skills are not represented or reflective of the geographic diversity?
It is a problem we’re beginning to see more and more. Unfortunately, it depends on when you are. If you’re a business in London, you’re going to have a massive diverse talent pool to pick from. Your company needs to be reflective of where you are.
However, I think that the way ads are still written will push away the potential talent which is in your geographic diversity. Job Ads which refer to a Warehouse worker as a “Warehouse Man,” or jovial job ads using the term “guys.” You may be surprised how this might turn away women!
Statistically, we see men will apply for anything, even if they don’t meet all of the criteria laid out in the job advert. A woman who sees an ad, with only one, loose requirement she doesn’t have experience of, is more likely to move on to the next vacancy if the language has masculine connotations. Be aware of this with every vacancy you push out.
Inclusion doesn’t just mean ethnicity, gender, or neurodiversity
GH: I was at the IHR conference in Manchester last week, and the last talk was really, really inspiring. Two people who set up a company called Bridge of Hope explained their ED&I practice. Their company is created purely to help businesses and organisations to recruit a more diverse workforce, and this extends to ex-veterans and ex-offenders as well.
It’s likely widely publicised by this point, but Timpsons – the repairs company – have an active policy focussed on bringing ex-offenders into their organisation, and this is a policy which isn’t just a document which lives on their website, it’s factored into the induction of new employees.
MB: Absolutely. The pandemic has highlighted the different socio-economic structures among our peers which may once have been hidden from us. We can see the living rooms, or offices, or bedrooms of our colleagues. We’ve just got to think differently of how we get these other people on board. When we discuss the qualities and qualifications necessary to bring in a new hire, what are the transferrable skills which could cover most of our bases? What can be trained in-house? Are our barriers too high?
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