The first of these is that, rather than talk about the bottom-line benefits of improving diversity and inclusion, firms are now coming to us saying they want to improve their D&I because it’s the right thing to do.
They have moved on from the business case, in other words, and are leaning into the moral or ethical case for change. The second big trend is that they are keen to “get on with it” and take practical steps to improve their D&I.
For many organisations, this means collecting and analysing data to understand the reasons for their current lack of D&I. They are keen to measure the effectiveness of their D&I efforts and, where possible, come up with practical solutions to problems.
This article examines the D&I trends we’re seeing from our clients around the talent pipeline, and around effectively onboarding, integrating, and developing diverse talent once engaged.
Challenge 1: The talent pipeline
Amongst Sheffield Haworth’s clients, we’re seeing similar challenges come up repeatedly, and the theme that connects them is lack of data around talent attraction and selection. In particular, many clients are interviewing – and even making offers to – more diverse candidates, yet many candidates are turning them down, and these organisations don’t know why.
How do we get better at attracting more diverse candidates? they ask. More to the point, they lack qualitative data to know why more candidates either aren’t successful at the final interview stage, why more candidates aren’t offered roles, or why in some cases diverse candidates are turning down job offers.
Alongside these challenges, we’re also seeing a trend in several multinational clients deciding to be more proactive about finding the solution. This year, for example, the senior team of one such client began carrying out monthly reviews of their talent pipeline in one of their regions, specifically to identify and track female talent.
With our help, they’re tracking all females approached, with a view to seeing how far along the selection process they have got. How many dropped out? At what stage of the process did they drop out? Why did they drop out? How many got through to each stage of the process? How many who were not offered roles might be suitable to be reapproached?
By taking such a thorough analytical approach, the client hopes to uncover the reasons why more women aren’t being offered roles – or aren’t accepting them. In this way, they hope to establish any hitherto unknown barriers or trends that they can remove or mitigate.
We’re seeing other clients exploring similar initiatives to track female talent, with the same goal of increasing female representation within senior leadership and management levels.
Challenge 2: Integration
Of course, D&I is not just about attracting and hiring diverse talent. It’s also about helping diverse talent to integrate into your organisation and setting them up for success. Here we’ve been seeing another common trend amongst larger clients which are experiencing institutional or bureaucratic challenges around how to put in the right kind of onboarding and professional development experience for diverse talent.
Again, almost all large firms want to become more inclusive and are keen to onboard diverse talent effectively. Yet I’ve been invited to meetings with the HR leaders of some very well-known multinationals who tell us that it’s hard to coordinate onboarding and inclusion efforts because different parts of the business control different parts of the budget for the different parts of the process.
For example, in many large organisations, one cost centre “owns” talent acquisition from a budgetary point of view. Yet onboarding, induction, and learning and development support falls under the remit of different cost centres – often more than one. It is proving difficult for HR departments to manage this process effectively end to end because they have to justify the budget for each part of the process separately in an uncoordinated way. Added economic pressures in the current environment can also lead to push back on the investment.
Our clients have reached out to us for advice on how to coordinate inclusion processes. Here, there are no one size fits all solutions, but clients are working on ways to get around these problems, from soliciting support from senior leaders to drive more joined-up thinking and carve out separate inclusion budgets with HR oversights, to encouraging more cooperation between separate budget holders. One example, is investing in a coach to mentor diverse candidates during the interview process and then continue to help with their integration into the business.
The key to finding solutions here seems to be the willingness to acknowledge the problem, agree the solution and then align budget.
What does the rest of 2022 have in store for firms’ D&I priorities?
Our clients are at different stages of their D&I journey. Many are experiencing success at attracting more diverse talent at junior and graduate levels but struggle to do so in more senior positions, while some find onboarding and learning and development more of a struggle than others.
One thing that does seem here to stay is the recognition that D&I is important, and that the inclusion aspect is just as important to get right as the diversity part. Feeling that you belong, are accepted and supported is essential. In that sense, the validity and desirability of the goal is agreed. Where companies differ is on the specific challenges they face and the solutions they’re exploring in order to get there.
The common theme when it comes to enacting change is the lack of data, and it is in this area that the most far-sighted firms are beginning to direct more of their resources. Those that can collect and analyse D&I recruitment data fastest are those most likely to achieve a competitive advantage in the fight to attract and retain top diverse talent in the latter stages of 2022 and beyond.