If there was one overarching message from ISE’s EDI Conference it was that the need for diverse talent is more urgent than ever, explains Yasmina Mallam-Hassam at Goldsmiths Careers Service, University of London.
From the very outset, data from the ISE Student Recruitment Survey showed that single channel approaches such as apprenticeships and school leaver schemes are not working as hoped to create a diverse talent pipeline.
Additionally, 59% of recruiters had not yet established targets for recruitment of diverse talent or had set targets, but not collected data.
Yet the need for diverse talent is becoming ever more acute and was made clear in several of the sessions. For example, roles requiring green skills grew 35% from 2016-2021, but green skills amongst workers only grew by 20% (LinkedIn).
There was no shortage of creativity and enthusiasm through the different conference sessions with many successful programmes and initiatives being showcased.
It was also clear that this is very much a learning process, and the conference was an invaluable opportunity to reflect on the practice in our own organisations and learn from others.
Here are four tips from the conference for your own DEI attraction strategies:
1) Support and reassurance
Research from Cybil showed students from lower socio-economic backgrounds and underrepresented groups perceive that their backgrounds will affect their options and that finding a job will be harder. This shows how critical it is for recruiters to provide support to level the playing field.
One instance that resonated with me were the stories from two neurodiverse students from Rolls Royce talking about how they were able to ask questions informally during the recruitment and onboarding process from staff within their neurodiversity network, allaying the sense of uncertainty and giving the confidence to ask for reasonable adjustments.
Subtle shifts in language and collaboration with the company took the pressure off the students to advocate for their own needs.
It was interesting to see how this theme of connection was also being facilitated through the technological solutions on offer.
Building contacts in the professional world enables students to develop those all-important networks and for companies it facilitates reach into social mobility cold spots and has the potential to accelerate talent objectives.
HSBC and Zero Gravity’s Headstart programme was a good example, meeting several organisation objectives and enabling HSBC’s workforce to better reflect society by mentoring talent from lower socio-economic backgrounds, enabling their graduates to give back through mentoring. It is also educating senior leaders on the barriers for talent from underrepresented groups through reverse mentoring.
3) Multichannel partnerships …school/university/community
One thing that was abundantly clear was that partnerships were essential to engaging with talent and this has the potential to positively affect communities.
Direct Line Group’s Community Outreach Programme worked with a broad range of organisations such as UK Youth, SEND educators and Springpod as well as internal staff volunteers to achieve wider CSR impact. It is engaging with over 9700 young people for online mentoring as well as in person events.
National Grid also showcased this wider community involvement to tackle the shortage of talent for future green jobs. Partnerships with schools and universities is more important than ever.
4) Alignment of purpose
Students want meaningful work, and they want to be their authentic selves in the workplace. As recruiters and educators, we need to enable students to access opportunities that enable them to showcase their strengths and leverage their backgrounds.
Stafford Long and Word on the Curb talked about the need to hear from marginalised voices. I think organisations can go further in harnessing that creativity and entrepreneurial drive, support retention and prevent ‘quiet quitting’. The example of Dentsu enabling one of their graduates of Black Heritage to become a Gen Z advisor, creating their own role to reduce attrition rates is a case in point.
And if you ever doubt the why of EDI, the final talk by Clare Lomas epitomises this. The resilience she showed after her accident and the purpose she created in her life to end paralysis enabled her to achieve amazing feats, impacting many lives.
The resilience that people from underrepresented groups have developed comes from dealing with adversity and harnessing creativity, strength and compassion that will ensure organisations have the talent to meet the challenges of the future.
You may also be interested in…