In a piece first published in Business Express, Totum Director Deborah Gray looks at how embedding long-term diversity and inclusion strategies into recruitment policies should be at the top of the agenda for any professional service firm that wants to work with, and attract, the best talent in the UK.

When professional service firms think of their ESG credentials, there is a tendency to jump straight to the ‘E’ and forget about the rest. Yes – it’s important to thinkconsciously about your impact on the environment, but ESG does not stop there. For businesses looking to secure their long-term success, the ‘S’ of social impact is also crucial.

In fact, one in three employees and 32% of jobseekers would not apply for a job at a company where there is a lack of diversity among its workforce. Moreover, 37% of people would not apply to work at a company where there are disparities in employee satisfaction ratings among different ethnic/ racial groups.

As part of a commitment to social impact, the benefits of having a diverse workforce cannot be understated. Diverse teams are much more innovative, entrepreneurial and creative than those which aren’t, while research fromBoston Consulting Group found that companies with more diverse management teams provide a 19% boost to company revenues. Similarly, studies estimate that if businesses fully embraced BME Talent in the UK, the economy would receive a £24 billion boost.

For firms looking to keep social impact, inclusion and diversity firmly in their sights for success, there are a number of factors to consider that can help to shape recruitment policies.

Thinking carefully about job advertisements 

Right from the get-go, recruitment communication needs to be unbiased and inclusive – and this starts with the job advertisement itself. When putting together a job advertisement, it’s vital to avoid the temptation of recycling an old one from years gone by. The description of a role and the skills required might not have changed. However, the workplace and people’s values may well have.

Paying close attention to the specific words and phrases that are used is also essential. Job adverts should avoid phrases such as “cultural fit”, “native speaker” or “clean-shaven” as this might deter BME talent from applying. Complex jargon and specialist terms can also overwhelm applicants. Adverts should be as simple and to the point as possible.

If a firm has achieved any accolades or awards for being a diverse employer, clearly stating these on job advertisements will make candidates feel more welcome when applying. For example, Totum is proud to have signed the Race Fairness Commitment – a pledge to pursue and advocate for fairness at work for people of all ethnic backgrounds.

Similarly, while understanding of your sector and business landscape can be important, the use of lengthy adverts scattered with jargon and acronyms is not helpful for anyone, let alone candidates with dyslexia or autism. This type of writing is alienating a pool of potentially great recruits. Neurodiversity in the workplace is a truly positiveaddition, especially in areas such as problem solving and numeracy.

Another integral aspect of a job advertisement is where it is based. The pandemic has facilitated a shift to remote working which has opened up a plethora of opportunities for increasing diversity in the workforce. Meanwhile, a staggering 79% of senior business leaders have said that they will never return to the office full time. The removal of geographical barriers means there is no limit in accessinga diverse talent pool: professional service firms can now expand their horizons to attract and engage top talent across the UK.

Countering unconscious bias throughout the recruitment process

Blind approached and anonymous testing can help remove barriers to inclusion in the interview process, following research from the Centre for Social Investigation at Nuffield College that found applicants from minority ethnic backgrounds have to submit 60% more applications to get a positive response compared to ‘White British’ candidates. Further, according to recent research, 20% of female BME jobseekers in the UK have altered their name in job applications and almost all reported a higher level of call-backs as a result.

This year many of our clients have been leading innovative projects around diversity. Simmons & Simmons and Clifford Chance are setting the precedent for new approached to the way firms recruit, train and progress their talent. In 2021 Clifford Chance promoted the highest number ever of new female partners.

A number of new resources are available to help firms create a pathway towards more inclusive work environments. For example, this year at Totum Partners we hosted a series of successful diversity and inclusion webinars, including a focus on ‘How to create the most diverse firm in Britain’. By working with experienced recruitment partners, businesses can begin to champion diversity through both their hiring practices and broader company culture, ultimately supporting long-term growth and business success.

Auditing recruiter’s candidate lists

It is thought that 40% of the global workforce is considering leaving their current position in the coming year.However, for firms looking to attract and retain talent for the long-term, this is a clear indication of the importance of committing to diversity and inclusion. In fact, almost 70% of millennials and generation Z said they are more likely to want to stay for five or more years with a company if their employer has a diverse workforce.

When looking to fill new vacancies, organisations need to carefully review the lists of candidates they are receiving from their recruitment partners. If there is a lack of diversity then questions need to be asked, and now. Last year at Totum Partners, 56% of our candidates were female and 26% had registered as Asian/ Asian British, Black/ Black British, or mixed/ multiple ethnic groups.

Looking towards the future 

So, with over 75% of jobseekers wanting to work for a diverse company, the ‘S’ in ESG is an integral component in building a company culture that prospective and current employees want to be affiliated with. Embedding long-term diversity and inclusion strategies into recruitment policies should be at the top of the agenda for any professional service firm that wants to work with, and attract, the best talent in the UK.

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