Firms told they can't 'recruit their way out of a diversity problem'

Tom Belger
·Finance and policy reporter
·2 min read
Commuters at Waterloo Station, in London, at 08:54hrs on Thursday, after Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a range of new restrictions to combat the rise in coronavirus cases in England.
Employers have been warned focusing on recruitment alone is not enough to tackle a lack of diversity in workplaces. Photo: PA

Employers have been warned focusing on recruitment alone is not enough to tackle a lack of diversity in UK workplaces.

Jo Portlock, inclusion and diversity director at Reed Business Information, told a panel event on diversity at the DIAL Global virtual summit on Friday firms had to also focus on measures to retain staff from diverse backgrounds.

She said too much discussion over diversity focused only on recruitment, adding: “You can’t recruit your way out of a diversity problem.”

The DIAL Global Virtual Summit is supported by Yahoo Finance’s parent company Verizon Media. The virtual conference, entitled ‘A Call to Action & Moving the DIAL for Meaningful and Sustainable Change through Diversity, Inclusion & Belonging’ speaks to senior directors and C-suite executives at the largest organisations in the world to discuss how companies can foster a truly diverse and inclusive workplace.

Portlock said employers had to consider how to build a “culture of psychological safety,” where staff challenging or speaking up on issues was embraced rather than “ostracised.”

She and other panelists highlighted the importance of data to accurately capture the diversity of workforces. Portlock said employers had to “make it an appropriate culture for people want to share that data” by showing the purpose and following up with action, highlighting her own organisation’s plans to gather more information on staff self-identification.

Another panellist, McCann Health Medical Communications chief operating officer Alice Choi said targets were also crucial to ensure follow-through on employers’ stated commitments on diversity.

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“One of the dangers is that every organisation in the current climate is going to say they absolutely want to drive this change and see this change, but people need to see not just the rhetoric but people walking the walk,” she said.

Employers should set key performance indicators (KPIs) that are not just aspirational but realistic, transparent and “widely communicated,” she added.

Rushi Jalla, chief diversity & inclusion officer at BAE Systems, also spoke on the panel. She said her company had carried out a four-day diversity training programme for senior staff.

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Most staff who completed the programmes said they had learned that “treating everyone the same is not treating everyone fairly,” said Jalla. The company assessed participants’ hiring records before and after they participated, and found a 15% increase in hiring of women and people of colour.

Participants began to think critically on what their times were missing when recruiting, rather than “falling back on ‘fit’” and gut feeling, she added.