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LONDON, United Kingdom — Following the launch of BoF Careers’ white paper How to Create More Inclusive Recruitment Processes, three contributors and diversity, equity and inclusion experts — Suki Sandhu, founder and CEO of executive search firm Audeliss and diversity and inclusion consultancy Involve; Suezette Yasmin Robotham, founder of #BlackTechBeauty; and Jane Hatton, founder and CEO of Evenbreak, a recruiter for disabled job seekers — formed a #BoFLive panel to deep dive into essential milestones to overhaul hiring practices, as well as how to inspire and maintain momentum to drive real change.
“You tend to see passion and fire when something happens around diversity, equity and inclusion work and then the world gets quiet and that imperative goes away,” says Robotham. “We are not talking about performative DEI — we’re talking about deep shifts and changes to ultimately drive proper action.”
Indeed, diversity, equity and inclusion, or DEI, has well-proven benefits for an organisation’s bottom-line. In the white paper, BoF Careers shared McKinsey & Co.’s findings that businesses in the top quartile for ethnic and cultural diversity outperformed those in the fourth quartile by 36 percent in terms of profitability in 2019. But Sandhu argues, “we need to move away from business case — it’s about your employees and well-being. If you look after them, they will look after you and your business. They will perform better.”
However, to enable your employees to perform better, companies need to make significant changes to their approach to hiring and retaining talent — with basic, fundamental shifts needed to kickstart the process. “The whole dialogue around diversity and inclusion needs to change. We’re talking about talent and getting the very best people. [But] often, those crappy recruitment processes prevent organisations from attracting and assessing and accessing that talent,” says Hatton.
Building upon the learnings and insights of the white paper, BoF shares further actionable insights from the panel discussion on How to Create More Inclusive Recruitment Processes.
Start With Your Leadership — and Their Behaviours
The behaviour of the leadership team sets the precedent for the business — and this can have a profound effect on the recruitment processes across all levels. “Leaders are effectively the ‘culture carriers’ of the organisation. The leadership team are supposed to role model the behaviours they expect, including the way they recruit,” says Sandhu. “If they hire another White guy to the board, what kind of message is that sending to everyone else in the company?”
To help educate and promote diversity and inclusion within the leadership team, Hatton recommends reverse mentoring. “If you have an older, white, straight, not-disabled male board, why don’t you attach each [member] to a diverse member of staff, to learn about barriers they’ve never had to face. It makes the board more aware but also gives that employee a role and influence with a direct line to the board,” she says.
The leadership team are supposed to role model the behaviours they expect, including the way they recruit.
The panel also discussed the role of a Chief Diversity Officer, whose function is integral to the company’s DEI efforts but often under-resourced and poorly placed. As a result, this leadership role often brings with it a heightened level of burnout. “A CDO needs to be attached to or run an operational function so that the DEI work becomes just as fibrous to whatever that operational function might be as in any other aspect of an organisation,” says Robotham.
In the white paper, Robotham offers further insights into the role of the chief diversity officer, while Sandhu and Netflix’s Director of Inclusion, Michelle P. King, shared their insights and advice for diversifying the leadership team.
Interrogate Role’s Real Requirements
“If a Black person looks at an organisation and all they see is a sea of White faces, the assumption could be, ‘I’m not going to fit in there. I’m not going to have a seat at the table there.’ If you can’t see evidence that that organisation is genuinely open to diverse talent and genuinely inclusive, then why would you apply in the first place?” asks Hatton.
Organisations need to authentically demonstrate its support of inclusive recruitment, which can be assisted by a strategy that encourages accountability, as well as the financial commitment of paying to advertise vacancies on a job board specifically for that talent.
“You rarely see a strong recruitment strategy that speaks to how companies are going to fuse DEI into their model and metrics of looking for talent. So, folks will latch onto an idea without having it linked to something [that will] hold them accountable,” says Robotham.
If you can’t see evidence that that organisation is genuinely open to diverse talent and genuinely inclusive, then why would you apply in the first place?
Sandhu recommends hiring managers take the time to interrogate the job brief rigorously, to “think more holistically about where that candidate can come from.” While this might allow for more talent to come from alternative industries or backgrounds, it might also enable more internal mobility.
“In every company, in every industry, there’s lots of diversity at the bottom and as you climb, it gets less. […] We can look below and identify more diverse candidates ready for exec moves but they’re in a glass ceiling where they are right now. We try to be strategic and granular about the skillsets to get the hiring manager to think differently — and just challenge their perceptions on who they think is the right fit for the job,” says Sandhu.
Refer to the white paper for actionable insights and examples on where to recruit and publish job postings, as well as the impact of language in job specs and launching a dedicated careers page.
Train Your Interviewers
Bias training is recommended as an essential process for every hiring manager, to ensure they conduct a fair assessment process. However, Robotham takes it a step further: she wants to see more companies implement “an interview or training and assessment certification that says that someone can be interviewing on their behalf.”
Training is both a time and financial investment — and so is recruitment, yet it is often tackled alongside one’s day-job. Companies should impart the necessary time and preparation for all involved in interviewing and assessments to ensure a fair process.
Be comfortable with it being uncomfortable, to suss out what’s causing folks to leave and build a process that addresses that.
“Are you clear on who the stakeholders are? Are you clear on what the brief is? Are you clear on how you’re assessing that criteria? Are you using competency or strength-based interview questions? When you’re collecting that feedback from the stakeholders, is it all in line with the competencies and assessment criteria so you don’t get someone turning around and saying, ‘she’s not a cultural fit,’” says Sandhu
Read the white paper today for more tips on assessing candidates fairly, from résumé reviews to interview coaching, as well as the difference between competency and strength-based interview techniques to abandoning the concept of “cultural fit”.
Post-Hire — and Onboarding While Remote Working
In order to make sustainable change, organisations must address their company culture to avoid what Robotham calls a “leaky bucket” — a culture that struggles to retain diverse talent. This process requires companies to reflect upon and confront their culture.
“Be comfortable with it being uncomfortable, to suss out what’s causing folks to leave and build a process that addresses that,” says Robotham. “DEI work is challenging because, before you even get into bias, you have to actually ask people to come to terms with who they are, what their background is, what that experience ultimately means for how they present and represent themselves.”
Hiring managers should also create impactful and supportive onboarding strategies — a requirement especially challenging in a remote working environment. Sandhu says onboarding starts “from the day they accept the job,” recommending you utilise a buddy system to help new hires “navigate the politics or culture in the organisation before they join virtually.”
The panel also reflected upon the benefits of an employee handbook for new recruits, which can share information on the policies, processes and procedures, as well as crucial character profiles. “It’s about knowing the characters involved — who the key people are you’ll be working with on a day-to-day basis and how they like to work. It’s those informal things you have to find out by yourself,” says Hatton.
The white paper shares further information on fostering allyship and measuring performance to facilitate a more inclusive work culture and post-hire experience.