What do a quarter of employers do for boardroom diversity? Nothing

CIPD and Omni call for employers to introduce new strategies in their recruitment processes to improve boardroom diversity

A quarter of employers (24%) make no effort to attract and recruit more diverse candidates for top-level jobs, a new survey from the CIPD and Omni finds.  

The Resourcing and Talent Planning Survey 2020 – which polled 660 employers, shows that organisations had success in improving diversity, with two in five (41%) recruiting a more diverse workforce in the last year.  

However, the survey suggests employers could be making even more progress, as less than a quarter (23%) go beyond basic legislative requirements in their recruitment and selection processes.

For example, only 37% monitor their recruitment to obtain data on protected characteristics, just 27% remove certain biographical details from the selection process, 33% ensure they have a diverse interview panel. Only a quarter (23%) check recruitment tests used are valid, reliable and objective. 

The use of technology during the recruitment process is also explored in the survey. Just 28% of employers say it has helped to reduce unconscious bias and are more likely to report that technology has increased the diversity of their hires. However, the survey says it’s important that tech recruitment solutions are tested to make sure they aren’t disadvantaging candidates and are accessible to all. 


Employers must actively change if they want to improve boardroom diversity, says Claire McCartney, Senior Resourcing and Inclusion Adviser at the CIPD.

“The findings of this survey suggest that improvements in workforce diversity have happened by accident rather than design. We could be making quicker and considerable progress with a more strategic approach.  

“It’s particularly disappointing to find that a quarter of organisations are not doing anything to improve boardroom diversity. This is where the problem has its roots, so achieving change here would have maximum impact. We need to have a broad range of diverse people in decision-making roles and be role models for future talent.  

“Employers can’t expect to make meaningful change through a leave-it-and-see policy. Improving diversity must be actively worked on, and we’d encourage all employers to add much more rigour, consistency and challenge into their recruitment and processes.”

Both the CIPD and Omni are calling on organisations to be more strategic about attracting and recruiting diverse candidates to fill senior roles. They suggest employers consider targeting their recruitment strategies to include people with characteristics that are under-represented in these roles.

Organisations should reflect on how they can make diversity a priority, says Louise Shaw, Director Resourcing Transformation at Omni RMS:

“Despite some positive findings, it’s disappointing that little progress has been made since 2017. The #BlackLivesMatter protests brought the racial inequalities within our societies and workplaces into focus, and we believe organisations must be held accountable for ensuring greater diversity at the very top. 

“Recruiting diverse talent is only the start and organisations need to be reporting on their true effectiveness by measuring inclusive engagement, retention, and career development. This is what will give organisations full visibility of what is and isn’t working so they can make informed changes and realise the business benefits.” 

The report echoes Shaw’s ideas and recommends the following: 

  • Critically evaluating an organisation’s brand to see how attractive it is to diverse candidates.
  • Developing programmes like career returners and mid-career change to help broaden talent pools and people’s skills 
  • Evaluating recruitment activities to assess which are most effective at broadening talent pools 
  • Asking questions about what is critical to the role; people from different industries or backgrounds may have transferable skills and knowledge and can bring fresh insight. 

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