Pavan Arora, Recruitment Director at Acorn Recruitment explains why box-ticking exercises are no longer enough for employers to attract inclusivity-minded talent in today’s world.
The recent show of solidarity from the footballing world in standing up to racist and sexist abuse online is just the tip of the iceberg. When it comes to tackling discrimination, the winds of change have been whispering in the trees for some time.
But with initiatives like the Black Lives Matter movement and aforementioned premier league social media boycott continuing to make headlines, the time to proactively support equality, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) within the workplace is most definitely now.
Any HR professional worthy of their job title knows the days of ticking boxes are firmly behind us. What employers need to be doing now – if they’re not already – is putting a tangible diversity strategy in place to show prospective and existing employees that, when it comes to inclusivity for all, they really do mean business.
Candidates now value inclusivity
A series of unprecedented developments has changed the UK recruitment market irrevocably in recent years, and I’m not just talking about the pandemic. We place hundreds of candidates into roles every week and the feedback from job seekers is as consistent as it is clear.
Employees today are looking for fairness and equality in a prospective employer as much as flexibility and more conventional staff benefits in a jobs market that has been strengthened from their perspective by the rise in remote working. It’s not enough for businesses to be seen to be responsible or open to the idea of promoting equality, diversity, and inclusion – those serious about attracting the right level of talent need to be routinely incorporating it operationally, and that goes for us as recruiters too.
Removing unconscious bias from recruitment
More of our business clients are looking to ensure their suppliers are following best practices when it comes to diversity and inclusion by ensuring recruiters are following a bias-free recruitment methodology too. Any business looking to grow in today’s market can only do so by removing unconscious bias during the recruitment process, helping them hire the exceptional talent they require to help propel their company towards success.
Not all businesses have this bias, and some might ignore it while others will work towards changing it. But organisations who are already working towards removing that bias will be embedded in their local communities, know the diverse workforce available, and will benefit from that as those people will no doubt mirror the audience or customer they want to reach.
Achieving a diverse and inclusive workforce
Those serious about achieving this reflective workforce will likely already have or be in the process of, putting systems and processes in place internally to drive this reach. These might include:
- Steering groups to reflect on current processes, analyse current diversity levels and help identify positive action which ensures fair representation across the workforce at all levels.
- Active engagement with underrepresented groups and training providers to ensure the current workforce is capable of adopting a fully inclusive approach.
- Positive recruitment methods that encourage underrepresented groups to apply for vacancies available.
- Promotion of gender-neutral job advertising.
- Supporting The Disability Confident Scheme and similar EDI workplace movements.
Drawing on the experience of existing employees from underrepresented groups is also going to be key in engaging with potential candidates with similar backgrounds. Leading by example is as powerful as it gets in my view, and something we also strive for at Acorn as a key recruiter operating within the UK today.
We have our own EDI steering group which meets monthly to help develop inclusivity and equality across all areas of our business, with representations at all levels across the group. We have also undertaken our own analysis of diversity levels internally, which has allowed us to take positive action in addressing which groups we feel may have been underrepresented previously and work towards a workforce more representative of the communities we operate in.
Our team is also consistently working to build on and establish new partnerships with charities and other third sector organisations which can support us in engaging with underrepresented groups when it comes to our own staffing needs and those of our clients too.
This is because, for any significant change to be made, there has to be a clear mission that is driven at board level and a tangible strategy put in place for it to happen ‘on the ground’. What will happen from here for organisations integrating equality, diversity, and inclusion effectively is a natural progression towards a self-identified achievement of success. It’s important for employers to understand that EDI is not an exercise solely driven by the desire to achieve better business results or simply to improve their bottom line – it’s much more than that.
It is the corporate and social responsibility of organisations today, and their role within society as well as the employment market, to ensure equality for all across our communities. In a world where the line between our home and office lives has never been thinner, candidates today want to know that the people they are working for are the kind which are going to sit well with them on both sides.
Businesses looking at EDI in any other way – the old ‘tick box’ exercise or a bottom-line booster – are only going to lose out in the long-term on both potential candidates, and future customers and clients.
Pavan Arora is the Recruitment Director leading specialist, permanent, and contract recruitment teams at Acorn, an award-winning recruitment provider with 40 offices across the UK.