BIE joined ‘How to really recruit for diversity and not just tick the box?’ web discussion, hosted by Fiona Hathorn, Founder of Women on Boards, and Caroline Hayward, CEO & Founder of the Chairman’s Network, earlier this month.

The session was designed to support and advise senior leaders on how they can increase diversity within their organisation and foster more inclusive work cultures.

Fiona led participants through an engaging presentation, before opening the discussion for a Q&A. Here are some of the highlights, with a focus on recruiting for diversity.

‘Turn off the spotlight and turn on the floodlights'

Fiona asserts that we need to look beyond what we already feel comfortable with and open ourselves up to the fact that there is a large pool of often overlooked external talent.

As it stands, there is a fuller, immediately accessible pipeline of senior white men ready to step into senior roles. This does not mean, however, that there are insufficient well-qualified diverse candidates to fill a significant proportion of the board roles in the UK.

If businesses take the spotlight off senior white men when recruiting and turn on the floodlights to broaden their search, the wealth of diverse talent will become apparent across the board.

Fiona went on to explain the five steps all employers can take to ‘turn on the floodlights.’

  1. Ensure key stakeholders are onboard.
    It is important that everyone in the recruitment process understands why traditional approaches may be changing and the benefits of widening a search.

  2. Refine your requirements.
    You may not intend your candidate brief to narrow down the pool of candidates to a particular demographic, but it can do. For example, given the history of the labour market, the majority of ex-CEOs with a finance background and significant NED experience are white men. But is this truly the skillset which is missing from your business?

  3. Remove the potential for unconscious bias.
    Anonymise the early selection steps, at this stage initial evaluation should be purely focused on skills and experience.

  4. Widen your candidate pool.
    Many boards still recruit their non-executives through networks. This gives a greater degree of security as you will often have a deeper knowledge of the person. However, it also carries the risk that you have settled for the first ‘good enough’ person you find, rather than looking at a full range of available candidates.

  5. Consider your interview process.
    Although interviews will naturally follow a candidate’s experience, some level of standardisation of questions allows for better comparison between candidates. This helps ensure the interview focuses on the skills needed for the role, rather than being side-tracked into shared interests or experiences.

Business Case Resources

Unsurprisingly, research supports the argument for diverse and inclusive workplaces, and Fiona referenced some useful resources to demonstrate the business case for diversity, which is compelling and substantial.

Next steps

Fiona concluded that the most important step businesses can take to create more inclusive environments is to be ready to address the lack of diversity and inclusion in their workplace.

D&I training sessions will not move the dial alone, leaders must work hard to lead by example and challenge current company culture if they are to see real change. While leaders will need to acknowledge that the journey will not always be easy, and it will require buy-in from the entire organisation, the rewards are worth the effort.

Many organisations are now increasing investment in D&I programmes, suggesting that employers are recognising the value these efforts are having on recruiting and on financial performance. Evidence signals that those businesses prioritising D&I are more likely to attract high-quality candidates, improve employee engagement, have better decision-making ability and ultimately, stronger business results and profit.

Head to the D&I page on our website to read more about how we are supporting our clients on their D&I journeys, and how we are moving forward as a business. Conversely, if you are interested in joining Fiona's Women on Boards support network then head to their website.



Written by

Catherine Osaigbovo

Catherine has 25 years’ recruitment experience of which the past 14 have been spent specialising in HR. Her remit covers the entire permanent HR lifecycle, with her passion lying in building HR leadership teams and their direct reports with an inclusive focus. A Diversity & Inclusion focus and strategy is at the heart of creating a culturally intelligent leadership team to enable businesses to become even more successful.

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