Diverse recruitment isn’t just an in-house matter

Sandra Kerr OBE, Business in the Community Race Equality Director explains why an organisations recruitment process should include unconscious bias training, both for internal departments and external agencies. 

Our latest fact sheet, ‘BAME Women at Work’, which uses insights from our Race at Work survey, shows Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) women are particularly likely to use recruitment agencies when looking for work. 20% of BAME women said they would use an agency to find a new job, compared to 10% of white women. Yet whilst employers may be taking action to stamp out unconscious bias in their internal hiring processes, these practices may not be happening in their external agencies. This is particularly key for senior roles where organisations may be more likely to use a head-hunter.

For these reasons, we would encourage employers to not only provide unconscious bias training to their own employees involved in recruitment but to ensure that any recruitment agencies they use also receive this training. Businesses should also encourage agencies to provide diverse lists of candidates for roles at all levels, wherever possible. The McGregor-Smith review of race in the workplace recommends that employers set clear guidelines for the level of diversity required, taking into account local demographics and ask for long lists and short lists with unnecessary data removed, such as gender, age, and ethnicity. We support this recommendation and strongly encourage all employers to adopt it.

The last two words – ‘wherever possible’ – are critical here. When we simply do not have enough BAME female role models in the workplace, it’s vital that as well as working to attract and recruit BAME employees, employers should ensure they are taking action to retain and progress them. This could include unconscious bias training for staff involved in appraisal processes and monitoring which employees are selected for ‘fast-track’ programs or given ‘springboard’ work.  We also recommend that the opportunity for flexibility is made available for job roles at all levels.

Ultimately, not having access to the most diverse potential talent pool means that employers miss out – not only on the skills of potential candidates, ensuring diversity of perspectives and experiences to guard against group think decisions, but also financially. To ensure that their workforce truly reflects the customers, clients, and communities they serve, employers must work with external stakeholders – including recruitment agencies – to ensure that there is diversity at every level of their organisation.