We need radical change to recruit more black students

Sep 9, 2020 | Diversity

Independent consultant Femi Bola MBE explains that radical change is necessary to recruiting more black interns and graduates.

Can I call you Margaret?

A friend of mine called Suki was asked this question 40 years ago as apparently her name was too difficult to pronounce. Unfortunately, this careless behaviour, though not always so blatant still happens today and underlies the difficulties organisations have with dealing with race.

The rawness and reality of the death of George Floyd has put equality, diversity and inclusion front and centre of many people’s consciousness worldwide. As a result, chief executives in their hundreds are issuing statements of support in recognition of the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement and seeking to clarify where their organisations actually stand in terms of their record and intentions in the diversity and inclusion realm.


A call to action

However, if we are going to take full advantage of this sad but unique moment in time we must get beyond the usual rhetoric and act. I know from previous experience that at this very moment diversity and inclusion committees, working groups and cross-organisational working parties are being formed.

I can only hope that this time this feverish activity will lead to frank and honest dialogue about race and result in more than a new or updated diversity and inclusion policy or mission statement.

Perhaps organisations will realise the demographic change they seek will only happen if they recognise racial discrimination is as much a problem within graduate recruitment as in wider society and decide to do something radical and different regarding recruiting more black interns and graduates.


But how?

Well, firstly by thinking differently about risk. How risky will it really be to change recruitment practices so that more applications from diverse candidates are considered?

Many organisations feel that the recruitment methods they currently use, which overly favour white middle class candidates, are low risk. However, since from my understanding and many of their own HR statistics, these organisations still experience performance, attendance and retainment issues with their graduate recruits, these methods are not fool proof.


Let’s be courageous!

Change does not mean lowering quality standards, it means unpicking how graduates are hired and rethinking what a ‘quality’ graduate looks and sounds like.

Some of these changes will require investment, senior management time and the expertise of diverse external consultants – remember you are not alone!

Others, accessible application processes, wider recruitment networks and ambitious recruitment targets are easier to implement and just require a change in mindset and an appreciation of the benefits a diverse workforce offers.

A bold and new approach may seem risky, but it is even more risky to stick to the ‘status quo’ in this new world of customers demanding real, visible and lasting change.

Watch Femi in the ISE webinar Can I call you Margaret? with James Adeleke and Darius Norell

Was this article helpful?
Tags: BLM


Share This