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Workshop Recap: Hiring Diverse Future Leaders With Early Talent

‘A brick can be anything it wants to be..’

At the inaugural Inclusive Hiring conference on 30th January 2020, Tom Price-Daniel led an eager group of 30 early talent experts through a one-hour session to identify obstacles in hiring for early talent diversity… and some potential solutions to evolve industry thinking, methods, and approaches.

Opening address from Headstart’s Chief Revenue Officer, Tom Price-Daniel

“Despite the large sums of money invested in diversity each year – has anything changed?

A study on accepted candidates from “red brick” universities in the UK over the past 30 years found that if you’re a black African, Asian accent or, in particular, a Pakistani applicant applying for a role today, you are still as likely to be excluded from that process as you were in 1976. We have to question – how can this be? What are we doing – or not doing – to make space for change?

The fact is, the way many organisation’s approach diversity isn’t generating the impact we think it should. Perhaps it’s time we changed our methods – but how?”

Tom Price-Daniel opening address Inclusive Hiring - Early Talent workshop

Workshop Task 1: The ‘Brick’ exercise

Subtly disguised as an icebreaker, the goal of the first task was to acknowledge and celebrate diverse thinking and uncover patterns of homogenous thoughts. By sharing ideas, we are comparing the vast array of different approaches and thought processes across the room. No idea is a bad idea, and seemingly-bad ideas can ultimately lead to good ideas.

Each group spent a few minutes thinking about different ways to use a regular red building brick; suggestions ranged from the ordinary, ‘to build with!’ to the wild including, ‘a hat’ (uncomfortable!), ‘tiny shoes’ (for a statue?), ‘a showerhead’, ‘exercise equipment’, ‘a musical instrument’, and our favourite, ‘a brick can be anything it wants to be’.


Through this process, and in just a few minutes, we found that strange ideas generated more unusual ideas. As thinking in each group diversified and riffed we noticed the evolution of our outcomes, from outlandish to acceptable.

Workshop task 2: Early talent challenges and solutions

In order to address the current challenges in the early talent funnel, we need to think differently and try new approaches.

Each group tackled a part of the hiring funnel: sourcing, screening, selection, or hiring. The task at hand was to first discuss and explore the challenges within the category, then visualise the scenario. After presenting the challenges, each group spent a few minutes expanding on potential solutions to remove blockers, obstacles, and prevent bias in early talent hiring.

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Hearing from industry leaders: Accenture’s journey

At the end of the workshop, Joan Moore (Head of Early Talent) and Helen Lorrigan (Candidate Experience Lead) from Accenture presented their experience working to improve diversity within early talent.

Whilst their previous screening process was solid, the team felt they could do more to assess and screen candidates on their potential and strengths, rather than pedigree and past performance. Placing diversity at the heart of everything they do is important – as well as bold targets, they value building a forward-thinking and innovative organization. Their customers, FTSE 100 companies, also recognise the value of diverse project teams.

Accenture run a campus engagement campaign called Discover Your Path – making it clear that “it doesn’t matter where you come from, and what you’re studying – it matters what you’re good at, where your strengths are, what your mindset is – and you can bring that to any career at Accenture.”

By helping students discover their own skills through a series of online quizzes, they are then introduced to profiles of Accenture staff with similar mindsets, showing the variety of experience and background that the organisation values. Activated through 52″ touchscreens on campus, they also created a podcast as a way to bring life to Accenture’s business, and cover important topics like mental health, how their technology and projects have improved lives, and diversity in tech.

Accenture have taken bold steps to refresh their on-campus engagement. Having stepped away from career fairs and events that didn’t create a positive ROI, the investment has been used to bolster diversity and inclusion projects. From broadening their focus away from just Russell Group universities, to running events for prospective candidates, changing their sourcing methods, and removing minimum UCAS points, Accenture have now won over 8 industry awards for their D&I initiatives, and are #1 on Refinitiv’s Diversity & Inclusion Index.

Accenture’s process prior to Headstart involved an ‘old fashioned assessment process’ – candidates completed a written application form, did video interviews, and were invited to a standard assessment center. Whilst nothing was broken, the team felt a niggling feeling that unconscious bias was affecting hiring decisions, placing a lot of effort into attraction and sourcing but not seeing the results at the other end.

They embarked on an in-depth transformation process, engaging with internal stakeholders with interviews, workshops, and focus groups, and evaluating all available data. By creating their own ‘strengths framework’, they had a much clearer idea of the skills and experience that really mattered through which they could evaluate candidates.

With Headstart, Accenture candidates apply through a modern and mobile optimized experience, and can take control of their journey. With thousands of applicants, it’s easy for Accenture’s team to manage high volume with built-in automation features, and focus on evaluating candidates through Headstart’s contextual recruiting algorithm, that allows recruiters to evaluate a candidate’s experience and academics in the context of their background.

Accenture also have much more data on the performance of diverse groups through their hiring process, so they can take proactive and reactive action as required – whether that’s sourcing for specific groups, or re-engaging candidates that have dropped off.

For assessments, Accenture moved away from competency-based interviews to strength-based assessments and situational questions – giving everyone the opportunity to demonstrate their potential and their capacity to learn, regardless of experience and background.

Accenture have seen stunning results from their innovative and forward-thinking early talent process, including huge progress in gender and ethnicity hiring – and every sign points to their continued success.

Next steps

How do the challenges and problems identified above affect your ability to hire diverse early talent? Explore the potential solutions offered at each stage, and create action plans to roll-out the much-needed diversity and inclusive tactics in early talent recruitment.

Our recommendations:

  • Explore apprenticeships programmes to develop the diverse talent you need
  • Use an applicant tracking system that does all the heavy-lifting and counter-acts bias in each stage of the recruiting process
  • Ask for – and share – feedback from the candidate to hiring managers to drive better self-awareness on interview styles and highlight areas of potential unconscious bias
  • Instigate team-wide unconscious bias training
  • Assess your hiring process from the perspective of diverse candidates to improve accessibility


If you’re looking to improve diversity within your early talent hiring programme, get in touch.

Headstart is on a mission to transform the way organisations hire! We are the world's first diversity driven Applicant Matching and Management System. We use Machine Learning and Data Science to transform the recruitment process, enabling clients to find the right high potential employees regardless of gender, ethnic status, sexual orientation or age.

With major brands like Accenture publicly supporting our mission, Headstart is already improving the recruitment experience for candidates around the world.

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