What is the role of recruitment in Equality, Diversity & Inclusion?

Equality, diversity and inclusion (ED&I) has been a part of Deltra’s DNA since our inception. I wanted Deltra to be a place where gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, disability and social class had zero bearing on your success or treatment. We’ve always endeavoured to make that a reality not just among our employees but also in the way that we treat our clients and candidates. As specialists in hiring, recruiters can play a pivotal role in pushing forward ED&I in the workplace, and I feel it’s our duty to do just that.

Since it’s currently National Inclusion Week, I wanted to help shine a light on the issue of inclusion, offer some food for thought, and share some positive steps that we are taking.

Why is inclusion important?

In recent years, some companies have focused on improving diversity, but that’s only one piece of the puzzle. It’s great to support a more diverse workforce, but inclusion is the next necessary step. Inclusion is about action; creating a workplace where employees feel valued and accepted, regardless of their personal background or circumstances.

Diversity and inclusion are two sides of the same coin. Diversity quotas were discussed at one of our Women in Transformation events, with the speaker noting that quotas can make employees feel as if they’re only there for the sake of diversity. On the other hand, some attendees felt that quotas were necessary as without proactive intervention, the change will be too slow. Ultimately though, diversity quotas are only helpful if inclusion is also considered.

Every employee should have access to the same opportunities and be treated equally. That is the true recipe for success, because people will only bring their best to work if they feel respected and appreciated.

The business case for inclusion is indisputable as well. Non-inclusive workplaces encourage absenteeism and lead to low engagement and productivity. It also makes financial sense to take action to aid the wellbeing of staff, as companies with high employee engagement achieve five times more revenue growth. 

Why are we talking about it?

I feel that the recruitment industry has an opportunity to lead this change. More of our clients are coming to us to ask what Deltra can do for them regarding ED&I, so it’s clear the tide is turning. Even though we’ve championed diversity for a long time, all of us can and should do more.

At Deltra, we believe that recruitment is about more than simply filling positions. A recruitment agency should be a true partner to its clients and encourage equality, diversity and inclusion among them – that’s what we try to achieve at Deltra. As recruiters, we need to consider the ethical and societal role that we can play too.

I also recognise that I’m an outlier as a member of a minority at the co-head of a recruitment company. In my experience, I haven’t seen much diversity in gender or ethnicity among senior recruitment professionals, and the figures back that up. Bullhorn found that although women make up 60% of UK recruiters, they only account for 32% of C-level positions. The trend continues for people of colour – only 16% of the C-suite but 30% of the wider recruitment workforce. Clearly, there are barriers to seniority that need to be addressed.

What is Deltra doing to help?

We’ve always invested in driving forward the project, programme and change space however we can. Our Women in Transformation events give women a place to discuss challenges, network, and build a supportive community. Similarly, our Mentoring Programme connects women with others in the industry that can provide mentorship, career advice, or inspiration. These initiatives have helped us gain a better understanding of the gender imbalance and workplace exclusion, but ED&I stretches much further than that. We want to keep pushing the boundaries to drive equality across transformation and change.

At Deltra, we don’t share our candidates’ immutable characteristics like gender, sexuality, or ethnicity, because they shouldn’t influence a hiring decision. That being said, diversity and inclusion are always at the forefront of our mind when meeting candidates to make sure that we are challenging any unconscious bias we may hold.

The problem remains that in some industries, the talent pool isn’t very diverse. That doesn’t mean we put forward less qualified candidates simply to tick a diversity box, however. It means that we put the effort in to gather a diverse shortlist. Some recruiters fall into a trap of relying on the same candidate network for ease, but this can inadvertently shut out underrepresented groups. Taking a step back and examining the wider market is the surest way that candidate databases will become more representative of the full breadth of talent available to our clients. We’ve always been proud of how quickly we mobilise suitable candidates and we don’t want that to change, so we’ve made diversifying our database a priority.

We’re also taking time to assess our own internal diversity and inclusion. We are lucky at Deltra to have quite a diverse team, but our commitment to ED&I is ongoing and we are not complacent. A diverse team of recruiters who feel included at work is our best bet to do the most exceptional job we can for our clients and candidates.

What does the future hold?

It will be a slow journey to get to a point where we don’t even need to mention ED&I, but until then awareness is key. It’s why events like National Inclusion Week are so important. If people are aware of the discrimination that takes place, then they are more likely to challenge it. By destigmatising the conversation around ED&I, we can actually tackle it head on.

Diversity has become a buzzword, but it only encompasses part of the problem – inclusion must be incorporated into company policy. We hope to drive this change by leading by example. Let’s start by being honest with ourselves about our biases and making a concerted effort to do better.

Mike Weston

1st October

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