Resourcing Insight Blog

11 Oct RTT – Promoting Diversity and Disability

Thoughts and takeaways from a Think Tank held at the Financial Services Authority on the 19th October.  For further information and insight please contact Jeremy at Oasis HR – 0207 11 88 444 / Jeremy.thornton@oasishr.com

Top Issues:

1. Diversity is still a “hot” topic within the Recruitment industry. However, people are scared of the ‘D’ word and there are still challenges in diluting the message to the wider population.

When a business receives over 30,000 applications, of which only 400 are from candidates who identify themselves as being disabled, how can you change people’s perceptions that declaring a disability will not affect their application? The candidate argument could be that if it will not affect it then why does it need to be declared? Conducting an anonymous survey within an organisation produces interesting results; people are much more honest about themselves because they know that the information cannot be matched with their employment record. Many employers ask for this information during an application process and claim that it will not be used to make a decision or linked to their application in anyway. How do you get an applicant to trust you when they have to fill it in during the same process as giving over their personal details? Has anyone managed to solve the issue of disclosure at the application stage?

2. Gender equality is still an issue for some employers

For example, in a business whose industry sector is predominantly considered to be within engineering, where 81% of the workforce is male, how do you raise the profile of that organisation amongst women and encourage more to apply to work there? When the board of an organisation is entirely male and women in senior level positions are being interviewed by a male interview panel it can be very off putting and send an uncomfortable message to those that are applying.

Research has shown that businesses with a more diverse executive board outperform their competitors. It was mentioned in the discussion that in a survey of the FTSE 100 companies, those that had female members of the executive board outperformed their competitors in terms of value by an average of 30%. This provides a compelling business case as to why businesses need to promote greater gender diversity among senior level hires. This leads on to the next big topic of the discussion.

3. You need to understand the ‘why’, for the ‘how’ to have any tangible impact

It is not enough for a business to say that they have to develop strategies to increase diversity in the workforce or, to encourage people to declare their disability during an application process. The question of why this is important for a business needs to be answered before any real measure of success can be determined. For example, if a business targets to have 3 women on the board in the next 18 months in order to increase company performance by say, 20%, that is a tangible and achievable ‘why’ to explain the needs for a more diverse business.

4. How to attract a diverse talent pool in a poor economic climate?

At the moment, having a fully workable diversity policy where the time can be taken to ensure that applicants from any background are able to fully use and access a portal to submit their CV would be fantastic. However, in the current economic climate, the most important thing, it could be argued is to get the best person for the job. But, how do you know that the best person for the job has applied when your application process is not accessible to everyone?

The application process itself can be an issue. Companies could learn an awful lot from their graduate recruitment teams regarding the attraction of candidates. Graduate recruitment teams build a ‘prospectus’ of what working for them will allow them to achieve. Businesses should develop these for their experienced hires too, as this can move a company from bottom, to the top of a list of places the candidate would like to go and work.

Online applications are another major issue. They can be very time consuming; only 30% of people who start an application actually see it through to completion. It is a big turn off for people to have to fill in too much information during an application process. 20% of the UK population require support engaging on-line and by not making things accessible you risk alienating groups of people from even applying in the first place.

5. How do you engage a diverse and disabled workforce without making them feel alienated?

Businesses have tried, sometimes unsuccessfully, to build groups and initiatives that aim to engage and include ethnic minorities and disabled persons with the company. However, these have not always been successful. Putting people into a certain network because they are “different” can backfire because people don’t like to be singled out.

In the past, creating groups named on behalf of minority groups only serves to decrease engagement, not make people feel more included. A rather successful way has been to create a network that appears to be tailored for every employee but by encouraging articles or activities that are subtly targeted to certain groups, employees feel more engaged and don’t feel like they are being openly being grouped.

All of the legal terminology surrounding diversity and disability irritates people and makes them feel defined by their disability. If people didn’t mention or consider disability at all then, how would you be able to safely people weren’t being discriminated against? On the other hand, has disability and diversity metric reporting gone too far the other way so that, now companies are so concerned on hitting targets that they are actually forgetting why they are there in the first place?

6. Are businesses doing enough to improve social mobility?

Getting people from poorer/disadvantaged backgrounds to aspire to achieve their full potential (i.e. be the first in their family to go to University; to stay on at school etc.) is a big challenge that businesses face, particular financial institutions and law firms. Businesses are going into schools and speaking to children as young as 11 and discussing their aspirations with them and getting them to speak with people who can overwhelm and inspire them to do well in education. Another idea being ran is to get pupils from local schools into company offices for an afternoon and, to let them explore the environment and discover what it is like to work in a professional services environment.

The myths surrounding the profession need to be overcome, and that can only be achieved by telling people the truth about a profession, not just what they see on TV shows. Along with this, businesses need to be prepared to help fund the cost of under privileged children’s education in order to see the longer-term rewards.

Several companies are now beginning to introduce schemes where the tuition fees of the student will be paid in full, on the agreement that they then secure a place with the firm upon graduation where they will stay for a minimum number of years to train and hopefully stay within the business

Key Takeaways:

  • The topic of anonymity seems to be becoming very prominent and the journey on this topic is definitely one to watch over the coming months. A lot will be asked about its value.
  • People are still very much focussed on gender. Disability and diversity need to be defined within a business in order for them to be able to target ‘why’ a business needs to focus on this.
  • It is clear that the topic of diversity and disability has moved on greatly in the last 18 months and businesses are doing a lot of good things to address this. However, there has been no greater clarity on why this is important and it something that needs further discussion moving forward.
  • Do not label diversity, for inclusion strategies to be successful you must appeal to targeted groups in a way that is not obvious.
  • Employability skills are still as important as ever, people need to be educated and trained on how to make them stand out from the crowd.
  • There are some fantastic initiatives being trialled by businesses that should be shared with the wider community.

To find out more about the Think Tank RTT – Promoting Diversity and Disability:

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