Widening the pool

Recruiters are addressing the diversity issue, says David Press

The diversity that exists within UK secretariats is something that should be celebrated and promoted by the profession. Although no official studies have yet been undertaken, there is strong evidence to suggest that company secretarial departments across the UK are far more balanced in terms of gender, age, ethnicity and disability than other professions. It is also well evidenced that diverse teams are more productive and creative environments with higher retention rates, compared to less diverse teams.

Diverse recruitment is about widening the pool from which candidates are sourced so that the best person for the job is found. From a recruiter’s commercial perspective, a wider candidate pool maximises the talent search for clients, which improves business delivery and the reputation of a recruitment firm.

Recruitment companies have a responsibility to ensure diversity and social mobility targets are discussed, measured and addressed throughout the recruitment process. They must lead from the front by demonstrating that their own workforce reflects the diversity they expect from their clients. Recruiters should be trained to understand the legislation relating to equal opportunities and to perform fair and proper interviews. Consultants should be encouraged to take part in initiatives that promote diversity within the profession, such as attending events and seminars or building relationships with diversity organisations. Recruitment companies need to regularly assess the diversity of their own database and where necessary take steps to make the firm more attractive to under-represented groups.

Employers that engage with recruiters must ensure that diversity and inclusion are part of the discussion in order to reap the benefits of such recruitment. Clear guidelines and expectations should be set out to ensure recruiters provide the best available talent from the broadest pool. This should also include regular compensation checks to ensure fair pay among the team.

There are many simple steps within the recruitment process that can help attract and retain a diverse pool of talent. It starts with the job descriptions, which are typically re-worked versions of previous documents and can date back many years. These need to be assessed carefully as they may no longer accurately reflect the job and could be worded in a way that acts as a barrier to attracting the right individuals to the role. A fresh approach is required to ensure the job description reflects what the role is, rather than what it was. Similarly, job adverts should be carefully written to be inclusive and free of any language that could be discriminatory.

The selection process includes shortlisting candidates, interviewing and perhaps conducting psychometric tests. During this critical phase, recruiters must put aside all their unconscious bias to ensure candidates are being assessed purely on their skills and ability, not their background, gender or ethnicity. Some UK companies have started to strip out some of the data that would reveal personal information to ensure they assess individuals purely on merit and this trend is expected to continue.

Shortlisted candidates should be representative of a wide variety of individuals who have the capability to undertake to the role. Candidates that respond to advertisements should be presented at the same time as those from a database or network search.

The interview process is the first impression prospective employees have of a company so this ought to be carefully managed. Interviewers must be trained on diversity and cultural issues and the interview panel itself should be made up of diverse members. Reasonable adjustments should also be made for those with disabilities or family commitments.

A good recruiter will guide the employer beyond the appointment and help shape a 21st century company secretarial team that is truly representative of the current talent pool. Adopting a clear strategy and an unbiased perspective creates better teams and will ultimately attract higher quality talent to the profession in the long term.

David Press is Director of DMJ Recruitment, CGIUKI's strategic recruitment partner

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