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It’s not just about diverse shortlists

​Diversity and inclusion is top of most businesses’ agendas right now, especially when considering their hiring goals. However, the urgency of getting things done impedes getting things right.

There are two really key points I want to make:

First of all, we need to challenge our understanding of what constitutes ‘diverse’ – everyone is diverse, which means we must stop defining minority groups within homogenous environments as ‘diverse talent’ because it assumes diversity is all they can bring to the table. Diversity recruitment is just simply recruitment and as a female of mixed heritage I want to know I’ve been hired because I’m a superstar and not because I look different.

Secondly, there is no point talent pipelining if your organisation isn’t inclusive, as reflected through your culture, EVP and reputation. As my incredible D&I Committee co-lead Kelly says, culture eats strategy for breakfast.


Quite frankly, diversity of thought will come from a diverse group of people. When you’re in a rush to find someone who fits a job description, it’s all too easy to revert back to tried and trusted hiring techniques and talent sources, which is not conducive to new modes of thinking. By talent pipelining, you have access to a wider net of talent and the process will change behaviours from looking for someone to fit a mould.

This will lead to improved idea generation and problem solving where everyone’s creative juices can flow and better decisions are made because of it.


To reiterate my earlier point, you can only achieve a diverse workforce if your company culture is authentically inclusive in the first place.

So you’re thinking all this is great and interesting, but give us some tangible advice. Here goes:

  • Firstly, make inclusion your core mission, establish non-biased recruitment processes, implement pay gap reporting, ensure your benefits serve everyone equally, make training mandatory and enforce zero tolerance – make everyone feel like they belong and you’ll attract more talent.

  • Through your CSR, actively attract talent to your brand, industry or functionalities you consider less diverse within the business. More often than not, there is a lack of diversity within some areas full stop, so we need to encourage young people to enter those markets.

  • Sponsor institutions, attend events or offer your specialist knowledge among circles of untapped talent, including those hosted by search firms – get your company name in lights!

  • Consider mentor schemes with local higher and further education institutions.

  • Establish paid internships or apprenticeships – making sure the pay is fair otherwise they immediately exclude those who are financially disadvantaged.

  • Set goals, not quotas. For example, set a goal that all job adverts or the company landing page is written in neutral language or that you will train 100% of the talent and hiring community within a certain timeframe.

  • Work with agencies who have a solid D&I agenda – they can represent your brand in the market when talking to passive candidates.


It’s very important to consider who is attracting talent into your business and addressing their biases. Make sure your talent teams are actively considering potential candidates based on the value they can bring to the organisation and not just the credentials of the previous person; by default you’ll be looking to replicate a hire, not consider the value a diverse perspective could bring. With your hiring managers, ask them if they consider a group of people to be better at a job role than another and then get them to consider why their teams lack wider representation.

Remember equality and equity are different things – suggesting all candidates have an equal footing by going through the same interview process is not equitable. You could miss out on a brilliant candidate who is neurodiverse because you’ve insisted on ‘the social test’.

This will lead you directly into analysing barriers to entry that have existed. For example, within the Russell Group universities, there is a huge student population disparity concerning race; by stipulating Russell Group educated candidates in job descriptions, you’re immediately discounting a huge range of talent based on barriers to entry that existed when they were at school.

Avoid being performative at all costs – at the end of the day you’ll miss out on great talent and damage your reputation in the process. You’ll teeter on territory of being viewed as unfair or participating in a ‘tick box’ exercise. This is absolutely not a quick fix and why improving our talent pipelining for future generations is so important.

The fact you’re at the end of this article means you are engaged and you want to make change in this space. This change is going to take time but why not be a leader, why not pave the way for your industry and be a vital part of the transformation? Go on, I promise you can do it and believe me, you have no idea the positive impact you will have on people’s personal and professional lives (and outperforming your competitors is pretty nice, right?)

 Olivia Dodd – Investigo