Diverse talent pipelines

By Caron Tinto, Industry Skills Intelligence Officer at GMCA
23 November 2021

Inclusion and the return on investment for your business 

There are many strategic advantages an organisation can gain by developing its own talent pipeline ecosystem. One of the big advantages is that it’s a great way to build a diversified workforce.

Over the years, it has become popular to think of the hiring process as a talent pipeline that ensures a ‘flow’ into a pool of prospective candidates before opening a new position. This talent pool can include employees promoted from within the organisation and candidates from external sources like job portals, referrals from agencies or career websites. With a ready pool of suitable talent, an organisation can considerably reduce the cost and time to hire. 

Work, over recent years, has proved that diversity has a positive impact on a business. Workplace diversity can inspire feelings of belonging (O’Donovan, 2018), increase profits (McKinsey & Company, 2017), lead to more innovation (Nathan & Lee, 2013), drive better decisions (Levine et al., 2014) and make teams more productive (Neuman et al., 1999). 

Inclusion is a conscious effort that organisations must make -ensuring their approaches to people management, recruitment, and continual professional development do not put any group at a disadvantage. Inclusion, for organisations, is driven from grassroots but steered from the top; leaders must take responsibility for holding all employees accountable for inclusion and challenging biases, whilst being aware of their own unconscious biases (ENEI 2017).

We all carry unconscious biases that can influence recruitment, promotion, staff development, and recognition decisions; leading to a less diverse workforce. Unconscious bias is one of the main barriers to equal opportunity for both access to and progression in work. 

What action is your organisation taking to raise awareness of unconscious biases? 

Training your staff and recruitment interview panel members on unconscious bias is an excellent way to achieve inclusivity across the whole workforce. The 2015 report written for the CIPD by the Behavioural Insights Team, A Head for Hiring: The behavioural science of recruitment and selection, provides practical guidance and tips on avoiding bias in recruitment. 

How might your organisation achieve more diverse talent pipelines? 

Taking steps to diversify talent pipelines is more important than ever as we face the challenges of a growing opportunity gap in the wake of COVID-19 and post-brexit. Other disruptors such as Digitalisation and Big Data offer us all the opportunity to do things differently. Increasingly, we are seeing many organisations leveraging technologies needed to work and learn at any time, any place, to support learning in the workplace. Now is the time to harness this trend further and future-proof your organisation by understanding the skills you need and how you will source them through diverse talent pipelines. 

What are today’s generations entering the workplace looking for in terms of diversity? 

When searching for a role, many job seekers from recent generations will be looking at your organisation’s career page and website to see what you are doing to address inclusivity and social value. Evidence of this at the recruitment stage around social impact, demonstrating the benefits to both candidates as to ‘what’s in it for them’ to work for your organisation and wider society, will help to attract more diverse talent pipelines while also raising your employer brand. 

How might your organisation decide to take steps to evidence social mobility? 

Taking the Government’s Social Mobility Pledge is an example of a significant and pioneering shift towards a genuinely purpose-led organisation committed to social mobility. The pledge is supported by leading UK businesses such as Direct Line Group, Compass, BP, Sodexo, Persimmon and Pennon Group. Organisations making this pledge or similarly taking steps to boost opportunity and social mobility are playing a part in closing the growing opportunity gap in the wake of Covid-19. 

Reaching out to future diverse talent pipelines can be achieved through partnering with schools, colleges, universities, and organisations such as Department for Work and Pensions. This industry-led partnership approach is helping young people, job seekers and career-switchers of all ages to understand what roles and career paths are available to them. 

What schemes does your organisation offer to maximise opportunities for residents in your local community to access roles in your organisation? 

Today it is important to think more widely in terms of routes into the workplace. To name a few T-levels, apprenticeships, traineeships, and work placements are some of the schemes employers can put in place to create different routes into the industry.

Some organisations still favour traditional academic routes such as graduates, however, businesses are increasingly starting to move away from traditional qualifications, in favour of exploring vocational routes into the workplace, as they realise the benefits of opening up talent pipelines. 

So what extra steps could your organisation take to become more diverse? 

Diverse recruitment planning and opening it out to groups of people from disadvantaged backgrounds or circumstances can benefit businesses. Reaching out to schools or colleges can be done through one of the large social mobility organisations, such as Princes Trust, Big Issue, Speakers for Schools, Inspiring the Future, and the Careers and Enterprise Company.

Successful organisations dotted about regions that work specifically with industry, placing candidates into difficult to fill roles, such as software developers. Some of these initiatives target underrepresented groups such as Manchester Digital, which targets female tech talent in the North West. Last year, IN4.0 partnered with creative organisation Niyo Enterprise, helping them expand in the North West and create new opportunities for black women, who make up just seven per cent of the women employed in the UK tech industry. This includes whether they seek a job in the tech industry, seek to upskill in digital, or aspire to be a tech entrepreneur. 

Local initiatives

Understanding what local initiatives are taking place will mean your organisation is more competitively placed. It will allow you to tap into more diverse talent pipelines. For example, Greater Manchester Working Well was first launched in 2014 by the Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) and has since developed into a range of schemes tailored to suit both individual and employer needs. The Working Well suite of programmes includes the Working Well Work and Health Programme (WHP), which supports unemployed people with health conditions or disabilities, and the Specialist Employment Service, which supports people with learning disabilities, autism, and mental illness. 

Other schemes, following the pandemic outbreak, including Greater Manchester’s devolved powers meant the city-region could quickly respond and support people who were at risk of losing their jobs or became newly unemployed. The Work and Health Programme, JETs, is the equivalent of the national Job Entry Targeted Support service. 

In-house progression

Turning to ‘in-work progression’, research tells us older women are more likely to be excluded from job interviews with older black women experiencing further difficulties. Those selected tend to be shortlisted for lower status jobs (Paraskevopoulou et al., 2019). Therefore, recruitment processes designed to promote a level playing field for people from disadvantaged backgrounds or circumstances are encouraged.

Some organisations are starting to adopt a ‘CV personal details blind’ approach to considering applications such as replacing names with numbers. Others are adopting different approaches to how internal managers consider home location, by reference to socio-economic mapping or the league table performance of academic institutions attended. Many organisations are revising entry-level qualification requirements, such as Grade 4 GCSE (formerly GCSE). Changes to traditional recruitment processes are opening up talent pipelines for many organisations. 

How does your organisation facilitate helping people to progress their career, including disadvantaged groups? 

Internal processes should be designed to allow everyone a fair opportunity to apply for roles. Individuals from ethnic minority backgrounds in the UK are less likely to get in and get on in the workplace than their white counterparts. One in eight of the working-age population is from an ethnic minority background, yet they occupy only one in sixteen top management positions (CIPD 2017). 

Lifelong learning must be accessible to everyone

Individuals who don’t typically request CPD, possibly due to various issues, including low self-efficacy or barriers/demands in their personal lives restricting them from accessing it, should be encouraged and supported to access it in readiness for future career progression opportunities.

Organisations who engage in ‘positive action’ to increase areas of underrepresented groups in the workplace should be aware of imposter syndrome (individuals appointed into progression opportunities who internalise the belief that they only got the promotion based on a personal characteristic and doubt their ability, skills and accomplishments).

Employers are encouraged to design objective recruitment and selection processes to evidence selecting the best candidate based on performance and capability. It is important to coach managers in the workplace to recognise and support people who might feel self-doubt, applying techniques to help them deal with it in the workplace. 

How can HR practitioners access national and regional data to inform recruitment strategies and planning? 

By taking a proactive, methodical approach to workforce planning, HR and L&D practitioners play a critical role in supporting businesses to understand current and emerging risks and opportunities and put in place the resources needed to respond effectively (CIPD, Learning and skills at work 2020).

Being aware of labour market information and understanding your local community is critical to inform your Talent Acquisition Strategy. It will help maximise your chances of finding the best possible people for your roles. It will also fulfil your organisation’s social value in terms of your actions’ wider economic, social, and environmental effects. 

Labour Market Information is available at both a national and regional level. NOMIS is a service provided by the Office for National Statistics, ONS, to give you free access to the most detailed and up-to-date UK labour market statistics from official sources. 

At the Greater Manchester Combined Authority, we are underway with a three-year Skills for Growth programme, funded by European Social Fund, working with employers, business networks, providers & colleges. Industry intelligence is being gathered and used to inform the commissioning of skills delivery through a procured framework of approved training organisations. The programme’s skills delivery element focuses on increasing the skills levels of employed people, increasing the number of people with technical and job-specific skills, and increasing the skill levels of priority groups.

Organisations might benefit from researching what training commissioning is happening in their region, some of which will be free to access and can help upskill or re-skill your staff leading to more diverse talent pipelines. 

Measuring diversity in your workplace and more importantly measuring any impact

Organisations will typically measure diversity dimensions for which data is readily available, namely gender or ethnicity. However, diversity extends much further than this. Leading organisations extend diversity measurement to race, ethnicity, nationality, educational attainment, length of service, age, sexual orientation, family status, carer and parental status, employment status (full time, part-time, flexible working), promotional status, immigration status, faith, veteran status, English proficiency, languages, as well as many others. 

Without clear and robust measures to track diversity and inclusion efforts and outcomes, a tendency to revert to habitual thinking and behavioural ‘unconscious bias’ patterns, is likely to happen. Every organisation faces unique diversity and inclusion challenges in the context of its industry; therefore, no two employers will utilise the same metrics. 

What next steps could your organisation take to identify diversity metrics? 

It can be helpful for employers who are starting on their diversity and inclusion journey or employers seeking to strengthen the impact of their programs to be aware of common metrics used to track diversity and inclusion. Understanding how to set meaningful metrics and mapping progress towards achieving your goals will help inform your Recruitment and Talent Acquisition Strategy so that they can take relevant action to address any shortfalls.

About the Author

Caron Tinto is a Chartered Fellow of the CIPD, currently working for GMCA in the Industry Skills Intelligence Team, which is part of the wider Work and Skills directorate. Her role is to gather, disseminate and implement industry-led skills intelligence to create a better labour market-aligned skills system in Greater Manchester. This includes informing commissioned activity around Greater Manchester’s £100 million annual devolved skills budget as well as informing non-commissioned skills activity with employers and skills providers across Greater Manchester.

Caron is an HROD professional with over 10 years of experience working in senior leadership teams for public and private sector organisations. She is passionate about lifelong learning and enjoys bringing the best out of individuals, helping them to achieve their full potential.

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