As we reach the brink of 2024, workforce diversity remains a pressing challenge across the hiring board.
But why is this still the most consistently talked about challenge with our clients? We have a few thoughts.
As more research comes to light, it seems clear that we're attempting to fit a square peg – 'inclusion' – into a round hole - 'mainstream recruitment processes'. In simpler terms, employers won't get what they want from a process designed to exclude, not include. The dissonance is palpable, and the need for recalibration is imminent.
In our ultimate Clu'd up Employers Club round table of the year, we spoke with two of our clients, Oliver Bonas and Global Media, about what has worked, what hasn't and what we will do about it. Below is a summary of our conversation to inform and support your own planning for 2024 and beyond.
Why the 'not thought leadership' edition?
Since there’s no generally accepted definition and no sign of a certification process or standard, it seems anyone can claim the "thought leader" title by simply saying so. This is known in academic circles as Proof By Blatant Assertion.
So, I could call this write-up “Thought Leadership” if I wanted to. But I don’t want to, and the fact I could without validation is my point. I think it's incredibly important to be mindful of false prophets in the D&I / inclusion space. Maybe if said thought leaders did a bit more thinking and a bit less speaking, we wouldn't still be wondering why it's difficult to hire diverse candidates in 2023... so, I continue with a collection of opinions that are very interesting and a great read. But please take them as they are intended: opinions.
What we've learned about inclusive hiring in 2023
This year, the landscape of Talent Acquisition and Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) initiatives has seen a fresh focus on accessibility, candidate experience, and the pivotal role of technology in fostering both through fairer hiring processes.
As we predicted last year, we've also seen increased attention on broader diverse communities, including disabled and neurodiverse talent, individuals over 50, and veterans. But with increased focus, a new sense of diversity fatigue has been echoing around the corridors of corporate Britain. And increased anxiety around "getting it wrong", as inclusion starts focusing on communities requiring infrastructural support and sometimes more complex needs, has piqued.
Funnily enough, there aren't many situations where I don't argue that data doesn't solve everything. But the importance of tracking diversity data (compliantly) is really key in underpinning the success of increasing demographic focuses, with a key takeaway being that measurement is essential even if it doesn't always tell the story one desires. This pairs with the need to build trust through experience, but we'll touch on that later.
So, to condense learnings...
Tracking robust diversity data: The mantra is clear - if you can't measure it, you can't improve it. Robust tracking of diversity (and inclusion) data provides insights into areas of success, potential, sentiment and where to focus your attention.
Trust is earned, not awarded: Y'all can have every diversity campaign under the sun and millions on budget, but if the culture and experience do not match up and you are not being authentic about your journey... friends, people are talking. This is no longer working, and we see through it, so please stop.
Strategic partnerships: Collaborating with external organisations who help you develop trust with more diverse communities, such as Clu, has proven beneficial, showcasing the power of alliances in driving inclusive hiring practices and attraction and retention of broader diverse talent communities by mitigating risk and fear.
Out with diversity, in with inclusion: We have focused for a long time on trying to get representation right on our longlists and shortlists. This is fine, but the focus is wrong. It leads to bad practice. It leads to very bad practice. And ultimately, it's not working. Name-blind CVs don't make people less racist. Unconscious bias training does not make people less misogynistic. These are plasters over deeper issues that are the real reason diverse talent is not a) applying or b) staying in your organisation. Organisations are finally coming around to this.
Blind CVs are blindly optimistic: Using blind CVs to mitigate discrimination at the screening stage has shown promise, yet questions linger about their impact on long-term retention and candidate experience. I mean, if you're so conscious of discrimination in your organisations that you hide people's names to get them in the door, surely there are bigger fish to fry? Maybe this technical plaster over some deeper-seated bias is more about boosting process numbers than setting women and ethnically diverse candidates up for success. Just maybe.... *sips tea.
How do we make inclusive hiring better in 2024?
A key revelation is that separate programmes for every community are not sustainable. As we look to 2024, inclusive process design and a cohesive focus on infrastructure and technology to scale activities will underpin success in inclusive hiring initiatives.
This calls for bravery in understanding where our roles in supporting diverse communities start and end, increased accountability for success and failings across the board, and ongoing education and training to mitigate shortcomings and optimise development.
10-point roadmap for better inclusive hiring in 2024:
Be brave, not perfect in supporting diverse talent: Encouraging organisations to be braver in supporting diverse communities, especially disabled and neurodiverse talent, is key. Trying, getting it wrong, and improving is better than not doing anything.
Accountability, accountability, accountability: Prioritising ongoing education and making accountability an integral part of every individual's role, ensuring a collective responsibility towards fostering inclusion, will drive a culture of togetherness and not individual contribution.
Design your processes inclusively: Advocating for a shift towards inclusive process design and acknowledging the role of infrastructure and technology in shaping the future of hiring practices will be key. Consult with diverse groups to understand barriers and operate from a place of opt-out (the individual chooses), not opt-in (the individual has to take on additional tasks/admin to participate), when it comes to addressing barriers.
Transparency = psychological safety: Acknowledging the importance of transparency and its role in psychological safety will always foster a more open and inclusive hiring environment. For example, speak about the journey you're on as a team or organisation, and don't try to hide stories you see as negative. Oh yeah, and don't try to hoodwink diverse talent with employer branding campaigns of a really diverse team when you're just not that—reiterating point one. Transparency breeds trust. And this should be central to our EVP campaigning.
Small Changes for Big Impact: Focus on practical techniques to make small changes that can scale Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) efforts—publishing process adaptations, as well as company benefits in advance. List what flexible working patterns you offer. Create larger print signs in your lobby. Many little changes add up incrementally to make a bigger impact than constantly delaying your big project because of time and resources. Remember why we're doing this, people.
Education, education, education: We can't stress the importance of ongoing education and training. But there is a balance between generic training and running initiatives with expert input that inspires action and doesn't just revive the traumatic lived experiences of diverse people. We're good with the theory and understand there's a problem, but it's now time to move past why and what to how. Reach further - your diversity results will thank you.
For the love of closing the skills gap: Is there a war for talent? Yes. Is it necessary? No. When you look for profiles from specific backgrounds with specific experience, it's no surprise that there's a slim talent pool. But as competition for talent increases and employers need to think harder about sustaining talent pools and pipelines, methods like skills-based sourcing and screening can ensure a more objective evaluation of candidates and increase the breadth of your total addressable talent pools.
The paradox of employer branding: This joke says it all. There is a thin veil between selling a dream and painting a picture. And whilst employer branding is useful for attraction, its relationship with the truth is something to be desired. Employer branding is literally advertising. This is the biggest part of the problem unless you do it authentically and inclusively -which is not currently the case. On behalf of the diverse candidates, please focus less on diversity storytelling and more on fixing your culture, as the net benefits of focusing on the latter will eclipse your current focus on the former in attracting diverse and high-performing candidates. Thank me later for all the money you'll save on attraction and retention. Or buy me lunch; we are a start-up, after all.
Show me the data!: Following on from the previous point. The ability to smoke and mirror diverse candidates has dissolved as the corporate black box becomes increasingly transparent. Awards, pledges, and empty support statements are fine, but without solid data and results (even if they're not great), candidates are just not drinking the Kool-Aid like they used to.
Flexibility is a two-way street: Interestingly, more candidates than not have been looking for hybrid roles in the Cluniverse in the past few months. The flex appeal is real (I enjoyed typing that). As we find that ideal balance between being trusted to manage our time and forging vital psychophysical connections with our colleagues, it's important to remember that increased flexibility works both ways. Employers can set boundaries in the same way employees can. And increasingly, employees appreciate those parameters as it's helping them make more informed decisions about where and how they want to work.
I think most of us now know that the structures that have long governed recruitment and people experience strategies have been proven in recent years to be no longer fit for purpose. The breakpoint is deciding when enough is enough. And it feels like 2023 has been a bit of a tipping point.
Huge budgets, huge wastage, increased problems, and less reliable solutions. It's all a bit much when all we really want is to get good people into jobs they'll love - and do a bit of social good in the process.
Our mission at Clu is to create a working world that works for everyone, where the workplace becomes a vibrant tapestry of diversity because of authentic improvements in inclusion - not banking on plausible deniability.
As we continue to navigate the evolving landscape of inclusive hiring, 2024 looks promising for transformative changes grounded in inclusivity, accountability, and continuous learning. Organisations that embrace these principles are poised to unlock the true value of every individual, fostering a workplace where diversity thrives by default.
At Clu, we're reinventing how job seekers find jobs by helping Employers get great at skills-based and inclusive hiring.
Find out more by getting in touch with us. We'd love to hear from you.