In an ever-growing working climate that desires inclusive workspaces, believing that you need to recruit externally for individuals from underrepresented groups can be a knee-jerk reaction. There is no question that any attempt to attract talent from underrepresented groups will require a shift for some businesses in the recruitment and talent acquisition process but harnessing underrepresented talent can in the first instance come from within your organisation. There are other layers to this initiative that need to be considered by organisations before acting.
The first steps to accessing the hidden talent
Any business or organisation looking to improve the environment for underrepresented groups needs to look at several elements in the workplace before acting.
Executive board Are your leadership team diverse?
Organisational structure Does the current structure offer opportunities for all?
Development and training How do you educate leaders and staff on inclusivity?
Employee engagement Is your workplace a psychologically safe space?
Recruitment processes Are job ads and spec inclusive in their language?
To put things simply, understanding how you advance underrepresented talent either from within or outside of your organisation must be based on data and employee engagement. You may feel you know which questions you should be asking, but if you’re not a member of an underrepresented group then you are potentially asking questions in an echo chamber. Be intentional and mindful in assembling a working group to discuss these issues first. This is your space to ask about development paths, how your employees feel about training and progression, and what are their thoughts on corporate behaviour and the culture of your business. Armed with this information you can work smarter by carrying out meaningful surveys with relevant questioning. This is a step up from simply assessing the numbers of ethnic minority groups in management roles.
Staff surveys and audits
It’s certainly valuable to conduct staff surveys on harnessing talent from underrepresented groups because there’s no other way to understand how people feel. Questions must be asked that have been formulated with the input of a group of staff who come from those underrepresented pools of talent you want to access. There will of course also be a need for an equity audit. This is a more formal scientific process that considers your recruitment, and talent acquisition. It also provides data on training and development as well as succession pathways and understanding how underrepresented talent moves in and out of your organisation.
Businesses and organisations are led by individuals who are informed by their own lived experience and therefore this process will likely mean training senior management in leading transformational change to harness underrepresented talent. Often training unearths unconscious bias and facilitates an acknowledgement of privilege. Once the leadership team have worked on this themselves, it enables them to reshape talent acquisition and create a fair and equitable workplace that allows them to tap into underrepresented talent.
Ensuring a workplace is inclusive is an ongoing process that requires commitment and meaningful metrics that can evidence change. The payoff is an organisation that is diverse and enables businesses to problem solve, innovate, and ultimately increase profitability.