What are West Midlands Employers doing to attract diverse talent?

Part one of our workshop series, we brought employers from the West Midlands together to solve common challenges and find what works in recruiting diverse talent.

This week our Harvey Nash Midlands team created an opportunity for employers to do just that with the launch of their Inclusion 360 - The Midlands Collective event series.

See more photos from this event

Bringing together employers from around the region these interactive sessions aim to share ideas and learning from each other's experiences on inclusive best practice in talent Attraction, Selection and Retention.

Kindly hosted by DWF at their offices in central Birmingham, over 25 leaders in HR, resourcing and diversity and inclusion (D&I) from a wide variety of sectors took part in what became a lively discussion around their key challenges in attracting diverse talent. Top of the list were: how to improve and promote an inclusive Employer Value Proposition (EVP), getting buy-in from senior leadership for D&I in workforce planning and how to simply attract more diverse talent.

At the start, members of the Harvey Nash team, including regional Directors Natalie Whittlesey and James Lawson, advised attendees that they shouldn't expect the morning to be just a listening exercising. They would be split into small groups and encouraged to discuss what they are currently doing to address some of these issues and come up with ideas to take back into their businesses.

Tameron Chappell
, Harvey Nash's Occupational Psychologist warmed up everyone's minds with a short presentation about 'The Facts' about why you might be inadvertently dissuading applicants from your target candidate groups. There were many looks of concern when Tameron said she had done her homework and looked at everyone's career websites. She emphasised the importance of your shop window and the images and stories you feature.

Power of language

She also discussed the psychology of language and how certain words and phrases in your adverts, job descriptions or mission statement would be more attractive to a 'fixed' or 'growth' mindset. A fixed mindset is more likely to believe abilities and traits are innate and hardwired e.g. 'I am, who I am' whereas, a growth mindset will place much greater emphasis on learning and development.

New research
from the software development company Textio and Paradigm a diversity consultancy analysed fixed and growth words used in over 60,000 job descriptions. They found that jobs where women are hired are twice as likely to contain growth mindset language. And those with a higher number of fixed mindset phrases performed worse with both men and women and were filled 11 times more slowly. Might be time to review the language used not just on adverts, but also everywhere your applicants are likely to visit for their own research.

Your candidate journey

Tameron also suggested that everyone write out the complete candidate journey and how it might be experienced by their atypical candidate. Go visual, find a big open wall and use post-it notes to mark out the steps and where the challenges might be. Look for any quick wins, such as changing photos or inserting more 'growth mindset' language. Of course, fixing the exterior and windows is part of a much bigger culture change process. Do you have an inclusive environment where your new hire will feel they belong and can thrive?

So what are employers doing?

It's clear that D&I is high on the agenda for everyone and through the small groups it was encouraging to hear about the many ways employers are innovating in talent attraction. Below is just some of the highlights.

Sharing stories from within

There is a clear trend toward creating career websites that are more reflective of the real workplace and the work you do. Many employers shared how they are using images and videos diaries that represent the actual workforce and follow a day in the life for a diversity of employees.

One of the recommendations was to also share success stories of promotions, return work parents and any career shifters to show what is achieved for both internal employees and newcomers.

Engaging senior leaders

Without the support of senior leaders and sponsors any culture change programme will not be successful. So it was unsurprising that most groups spent a lot of time discussing ways to engage their leadership.

Our host, DWF shared how they used language that resonates with their leaders and relied on 'stats and facts' and client feedback to build the business case. Others shared how they similarly encouraging customer feedback to help set the internal agenda.

One woman from the logistics department of a major retailer shared how she has brought in actors to role model actual bias and behaviours observed by leaders that were then played back to them. They also got employees to talk about how this made them feel. She said it has been eye opening to their leaders, who were shocked and unaware of the impact from their behaviour. They will now be rolling it out to all middle management.

Know your diversity goals

There was a lot of discussion about being clear about whom you want to attract in the first place and why, that way you can set your strategy appropriately. It was suggested that you should set up clear focus groups to understand the gap analysis around attracting the type of candidates you want.

One attendee from a financial institution shared how they saw an opportunity to increase the age demographic in their call centres. They looked at the data and realised they were not attracting anyone 30 and over.

So they went back to basics and reviewed their adverts and how they advertised for this demographic. They removed language on 'career development' and 'opportunities to advance' which they felt were more attractive to new graduates and they placed greater emphasis on it being a good job and great place to work.

They also advertised through classic channels such as radio, print and billboards and were very successful in attracting a wider age profile. Unfortunately, they hadn't considered the rest of the process and lost applicants when they were directed to an online application. Unless you try, you'll never know.

Your suppliers and third parties

One recommendation was to review the places where you're attracting talent including your Preferred Supplier Lists and where and how they're attracting talent. Many companies are working with suppliers and strategic partners such as Evenbreak who have this connectivity with diverse demographics and specialist knowledge of diversity and inclusion.

These relationships can help expand your reach with talent pools that may not happen upon your website organically. It was suggested to look at what measures and targets your recruiters have for themselves and work with those that have greater experience and knowledge of diversity and working with a wider demographic.

Join the movement

It was encouraging to hear just how much great work is being done by employers to attract new talent and move toward a move inclusive culture. For those that weren't able to make it, all of the insights from the day and not included in this blog will be collated into a 'how-to' guide and shared with our Inclusion 360 community.

See the photos of the event

If you'd like to find out more about future Inclusion 360 events and the full Harvey Nash portfolio of services please get in touch / and follow us on Twitter: @Inlcusion360HN.

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