Rebecca Foden, Recruitment Leader for a large FTSE and a mentor of Inclusive Careers is cautiously optimistic;
“We are sitting on a cliff edge with the possibility of an industry awakening. The energy of the Black Lives Matter movement is starting to turn small deeds into tangible actions from the C-Suite engaging with their Black employees. These green shoots could lead to ever-lasting change and finally democratise hiring. It remains of paramount importance for companies to focus on hiring Black talent and not miss out on the opportunity before them”.
A top diversity job board & mentoring ecosystem - Inclusive Careers has provided four strategies to bolster diversity hiring efforts and what companies can do to hire more black talent.
Let’s look at the real facts behind the ‘perceived’ lack of pipeline. In the UK 14% of the working age population comes from a Black or Minority Ethnic (BME) background increasing to 34% in London. This equates to approximately 4 million ethnic minorities currently employed and 996,900 are Black people.
“One in seventy of the current UK working population is Black”
Dismantle Internal Barriers
There are many reasons that can get in the way of diversity hiring - referrals, sourcing and culture fit - But the shortage of diverse talent or pipeline is plain and simply feeble.
Many companies have invisible talent right in front of them in their existing workforce. There’s an opportunity to wake up and make-up for lost ground looking at their own employee ED&I data and potentially ask why Black representation is still clustered in the lowest paid positions?
How can this pipeline of untapped talent be unlocked?
If the internal pipeline of diverse talent is non-existent then companies need to rethink their whole resourcing strategy and hiring processes.
Before jetting off on another tired resourcing strategy, companies need to take time to understand the difference in resources and socio-economic backgrounds.
Some people benefit from economically stronger or highly educated family networks which gives them an advantage in accessing jobs. Ethnic minority job-seekers tend to rely on ‘socially proven’ networks to avoid discrimination (friends & family) to find jobs than white British do.
Companies need to extend their sourcing practices beyond traditional approaches and look in different places for talent. Companies can no longer rely on the same social networks and personal connections to fill available positions, as these informal links are proven to overwhelmingly exclude Blacks. While it might seem simpler and more efficient to rely on personal connections, this limits black applicants’ access to many companies because the majority of the people who already work at them are white – and white people tend to have networks full of other white people.
“Watch for Unconscious Bias Decision-making”
Companies also need to watch out for hidden bias in designing their resourcing strategies, for example whilst investing heavily in recruitment automation yields cost savings, they may be unwittingly indirectly disadvantaging the lowest socio-economic groups owing to lack of access to smart-phones and laptops.
Never Narrow the Pool
Narrowing the candidate pool is a complete ‘no-no’ and attending career fairs only at ‘elite’ Russell or Ivy league universities or targeting companies in exactly the same industry as yours is a sure fire way to limit your diversity success.
“Extra effort is needed - companies need to search and hunt for diverse candidates”
There is no shortcut or diversity hack. It’s important to identify networks, partnerships and organisations who can place you in touch with underrepresented individuals. This may also require a small financial investment, similar to any other candidate or talent acquisition strategy and budget prioritisation should be placed to the diversity agenda.
It goes without saying that a diverse TA team is essential. Currently the recruitment industry lacks diverse leadership and companies need to address this issue just as they address the issue for hiring diversity for other budgeted roles.
HR and TA tend not to gain L&D investment often omitted for the same talent programmes that they are managing. It’s important that a diversity investment talent strategy is ordered to accelerate diverse recruiters to be part of the solution.
Use your Purchasing Power to Insist on Diverse Shortlists
There are now no black chairs, chief executives or chief financial officers in FTSE 100 companies and only 10 out of 297 holding one of the ‘top three’ roles have ethnic minority backgrounds.
The FTSE tends to use the world leading executive headhunters Spencer Stuart, Heidrick & Struggles, Russell Reynolds, Egon Zehnder and Korn Ferry - SHREK with less than 7% black leaders the FTSE will struggle to become diverse as the same talent is recycled without any diversity of thought.
The FTSE has a responsibility to drive behaviour change of the SHREK firms and ensure that more vigour is placed on diverse shortlists. A token diverse person will also be insufficient and hunting for talent across different industries and thinking about stretch opportunities will bolster a more inclusive approach.
That’s not only where the problem lies, as companies tend to place all their diversity efforts on entry-level roles rather than leadership. To ensure a full democratisation of hiring, you will need to color the C-Suite to ensure an inclusive culture with aspirational role models being seen at the top of the company. This will pave the way for the current represented to envisage themselves as future leaders of tomorrow.
Ensuring diverse leadership will also socially proof your wider D&I strategy as Black talent will aspire to work for you creating a ripple effect across your company.
The CEO has the power to change diversity and hold all leaders accountable to achieve it. They need to ensure leadership engagement is at the heart of the company’s ED&I strategy.
It’s vital that the demographics of your company reflects the demographics of the community and customers it serves.
From laying out the levelling up agenda and setting clear diversity targets across every underrepresented group from entry roles right through to leadership. Linking top leadership objectives, performance management and reward incentives will make the agenda crystal clear.
Create a Diversity Scorecard for Your Organisation
Data is pivotal to address who’s underrepresented in your organisation. The CEO needs to understand and report on the entire employee lifecycle from recruitment to performance management and employee relations across all nine protected groups under employment law.
Data will provide information on whether there are systemic issues impacting specific groups, for example if you have a disproportionate high representation of BME talent in entry /blue collar roles without equal representation in management or leadership then this will point to a lack of equity across your company.
Creating an overall diversity scorecard is understanding why you seek to create inclusion and diversity in your company, so for example if you have a higher number of employee complaints from BME talent - does this mean that your current diverse hires do not feel included or bullied or harassed?
Can you detect any hidden bias on performance ratings or promotion and or pay awards. Reporting on the scorecard should be a quarterly and annual process that drives inclusive behaviour and centres diversity at every layer across your company.
Leadership should own their own scorecard metrics to ensure that they can plan, monitor and improve each quarter linking inclusive hiring practices and performance management and opportunities to the main organisational diversity dashboard.
Embedding D&I scorecards takes time and leaders need to be brought on a journey to identify opportunities to make their teams more diverse. There will be different challenges based on specific industries, geographies and skills.
Wider education and support from HR will help to underpin actionable plans that hold leaders accountable.
Sponsorship of Black Talent
It is not enough for companies to hire Black employees. They also need to invest in them and promote them through ongoing sponsorship. Targeting diverse talent and seconding them to flagship projects is essential to unlocking your ED&I talent strategy. It’s important for employees to be able to speak up at the next important project meeting and look around the room, if there are no women and no people of colour then questions need to be asked to leadership why they are not building diversity into important projects and ultimately longer term succession plans.
Lastly, the CEO must seize every opportunity to sponsor the wider TA team to be bold and do things differently - hiring in the same fashion will only deliver the same outcomes. The TA team are often the eyes and ears of a company - they see internal hiring behaviour (good & bad) and hear external feedback about your employer brand. Seeking regular feedback from your TA team will provide you with an ongoing temperature check of current company culture and stubborn areas/issues that may derail your ED&I efforts.
Having courageous conversations at work and engaging with your employee network groups and leaders is pivotal. It won’t be an easy journey and it may feel uncomfortable at times. Companies who are bold will create sweeping and lasting change - every small deed at every level needs celebrating to continue a culture of change.
Inclusive Careers is a diversity job board and mentoring platform to help underrepresented folk in the tech industry. Visit the website and sign up as a member to hear more articles direct to your inbox.