What students want from employers in D&I

Dec 14, 2021 | Development

New research shows what students want employers to demonstrate in diversity and inclusion, says Springpod.

We enable young people to access career opportunities regardless of their background by partnering with employers to help them build a truly diverse talent pipeline.

We recently surveyed our diverse audience – 49% BAME students, 63% female and 22% eligible for free school meals – to understand their thoughts on diversity and inclusion within the workplace and to see what they would be looking for when applying for roles. 

With over 3000 respondents, the ​​Springpod Diversity and Inclusion Report shows that 70.7% of students want to see diversity and inclusion as a high priority to employers.

Based on these findings, we’ve compiled three ways to successfully build a diverse talent pipeline based on what students want from employers.

1. Make the hiring process fair for everyone

Before you start the hiring process, it’s important to ensure it’s accessible and fair for everyone. However, our survey showed that 40.7% of students thought their background would affect their decision on what roles to apply for. 

As illustrated by one respondent: “I am from a low socio-economic background. What puts me off from applying for high salaried work is the feeling of not fitting in with the people you will closely work with.”

When it comes to being diverse, it’s not just about those with a different religion, skin tone or sexual orientation; their socio-economic factor plays a part too. 

For those from low socio-economic backgrounds who may not have been to top universities, it’s sometimes intimidating to apply for roles as they believe employers will only hire graduates from ‘top universities’. 

It’s important to remember when choosing potential candidates to base your decisions on those who have the right skills for the job, rather than just those who have attended top schools or are from a higher class. 

“People, especially males from working-class backgrounds, are much more inclined to go into trades, apprenticeships, or full-time jobs. They are less likely to be persuaded to go into university or degree apprenticeships where they can achieve childhood dreams. In 2019 49% of Oxford offers went to UK state school students. The more income your family has, the easier it is to get places in life.”

2. Prevent unconscious bias

Unconscious bias refers to a person’s perception or attitude towards certain groups of people that exist outside their conscious awareness. 

Even though this is a bias that a person does unconsciously, it’s sometimes hard to avoid. However, it remains an important detail to consider when looking at who to hire.

“It is a very well-known fact that unconscious bias plays a huge role in job interviews and applications, and I believe that companies do not put enough effort in stopping this.”

If people choose candidates based on their unconscious bias, this could affect both the employer and potential employees. It may mean businesses limit their diversity by not hiring someone suitable for the role or promoting talented people based solely on their background.

There are a few options to prevent unconscious bias within your organisation. You may use a blind recruitment strategy or implement a scoring system to your process that is clear and objective.

One student said, “I will be more inclined to apply for jobs that have features such as race and gender blind hiring in place to prevent discrimination.”

Sarah Wilder from MPM Legal Solutions added, “There are some great examples of positive change brought about by blind auditions in symphony orchestras, which have hugely addressed gender imbalance. I’m generally in favour of removing as much bias as possible from the recruitment process. I’m not sure that I think a fully blind recruitment process is possible – but I’m open to learning!”

3. Early attraction through work experience

More than half (57.6%) of students said that work experience opportunities exclusively open to people from certain backgrounds would appeal to them more.

By offering work experience to young people, you can showcase your diversity and inclusion initiatives engagingly. It allows you to shine as an employer, giving students a comprehensive insight into your company and how it is run, your objectives, goals and your employees. It also means that previous work experience students are likely to come to you first to check if roles are available.

Many employers have turned to virtual work experience provision as a result of the pandemic. This allows you to immerse students into the world of work through virtual modules based on the available roles and the sector in which you operate. 

You can show that you have a diverse leadership team or showcase female employees in roles that are considered predominantly male-dominated. For example through Q&A webinars or getting creative with modules to showcase inclusive practices that your organisation adhere to. 

Asha Jagatia from Vodafone explains, “Hosting the event virtually removed some of the existing geographic barriers, allowing Vodafone to reach students outside traditional city hubs.

“This supported uplifting representation of different groups, with attendees being 54.6% female, 59.6% ethnic minority and 22.3% from low social mobility backgrounds. The programme received a rating of 8.7/10, in addition to 98% of students subsequently considering a career in Technology, and 97% interested in joining Vodafone.”

If you missed Springpod at this year’s ISE Diversity and Inclusion Conference 2021 you can catch it here

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