Promoting diversity: is the UK doing enough for minority grads?
21 May 2021
The world of work is undergoing significant change. But is there hope for diversity and early talent amidst the doom and gloom of increased economic pressures?
- Promoting diversity amid an employment crisis
- Will graduates now enter a more diverse workplace?
- How to attract the best early talent
- Download your free copy of the report
Promoting diversity amid an employment crisis
There’s no doubt that the last few years have been tough in the world of work. That’s true for employers and employees alike. From the UK government’s furlough scheme to working from home and the risk of redundancies, it’s been a rollercoaster of change.
The fallout from the coronavirus pandemic was bound to have an impact on many employment demographics, but none more so than early talent. It’s been a tricky time to be looking for your first “real” job — especially if you’re from a minority group.
Early talent is being kept on pause
It’s hard to imagine a more difficult period to be graduate and start your career. Universities turned remote, exams were canceled and valuable years of life experience have slipped silently by.
With this in mind, we commissioned a research study, with 100 UK-based recruitment leaders, to better understand the world of employment that early talent is entering into.
The results were disheartening, if not surprising:
- 32% of organizations made fewer graduate/early talent hires in 2020 than the year before.
- 16% said they’d hired significantly fewer.
And the competition for the roles that are out there is fierce, with more than half of businesses seeing an increase in applicant numbers.
So, is there hope for the year ahead? Can recent events empower us to do better in the years to come? That’s something else our research aimed to answer…
Will graduates now enter a more diverse workplace?
There’s a lot of hype… but where’s the action?
If anything good came from 2020, it’s this: more and more people are aware of the importance of promoting diversity. The unavoidable truth of mass inequality and worldwide injustice was laid bare — not just in who could shift seamlessly to home working, but in how we treat other people during times of crisis.
George Floyd’s death on May 25th, 2020 sent shockwaves across the globe — stealing the headlines from coronavirus for the first time in months. Many companies joined the conversation surrounding Black Lives Matter, denouncing racism and pledging their support for the movement in press releases and on social media, for a short while at least.
Brands backing BLM: affirmative action or PR strategy?
Cosmetic brand Glossier donated $500,000 to black organizations committed to fighting racial injustice. Fenty Beauty also made donations and paused its operations on June 2nd’s Blackout Tuesday as a show of solidarity.
The founders of Ben & Jerry’s took their support one step further by participating in — and getting arrested at — BLM protests. Video footage of the incident went viral, prompting a wave of support from impressed customers.
But these gestures, no matter how big, are only temporary. The cynical among us may even call some of them PR tactics. What really matters to job-seekers from underrepresented demographics is that there’s an opportunity for them in the workplace. And how true is that?
Sluggish progress for workplace diversity
What’s really being done about promoting diversity in the workplace?
We can dip back into our research data to find out.
🗯 While 80% of companies are planning incremental or major changes to advance their DEI agenda, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of evidence to back these claims up. 22% had held further diversity discussions, following BLM, but were yet to take action.
So what’s the holdup? It seems there’s a strong desire for change, but little is actually being done. Why? Are companies not willing to fight the hard fight to make their structures inclusive and equitable for all? If they’re not, they may find they lose out on early talent applications — from all demographics and backgrounds.
The challenges facing UK employers in 2020/2021
We wanted to dig deeper into the challenges businesses are facing when striving for greater diversity. Among the responses we received, several common themes came up:
- Lack of budget
- Low appetite for change at an organizational level
- Poor education and training options for hiring managers.
By far the most common (and most concerning) motif, however, was a lack of suitably qualified diverse candidates. And yet, is that really the case?
🗯 It’s easy to blame a lack of talent for the problem — and far more difficult to look critically at the existing systems and processes.
Is your system designed to find the best candidate, regardless of their background or circumstances? A significant portion — 39% — said no, they were not confident in their technology to support diversity in hiring.
Less talk, more change — that’s how to attract the best early talent
There is enormous value in bucking the trend and fully committing to promoting diversity. When DEI is a priority, every facet of an organization benefits — including its bottom-line. And that includes attracting the best early talent.
With even more job applications expected in 2021, your company needs to be seen as answering Gen Z’ demands for increased diversity and inclusion. You need to be seen as open to hiring young people, graduates, and early talent. More than any others, this cohort is going to need our support post-pandemic — and that means everyone across the cohort.
Don’t be part of the 65% committed weakly to DEI. Join the 15% who are throwing out old ways of working and stepping towards a fairer future — and reaping the rewards as a result.
A 3-step mantra for creating positive transformation
Be honest. Know where you are today and where you want to be. Add a timeline, if you think that would help to achieve your goals.
Metrics are essential. They help you move the dial, motivate you to move it forward again, and encourage others with your progress. Without metrics, change is likely to be stagnant. Just ask the more than half of our respondents who said they hadn’t been given any diversity metrics to achieve.
Being vocal about the what and the why of your DEI efforts has benefits within and outside the business, especially when it comes to engaging early talent. Not only that, by then you’re accountable, too! When you promote your DEI goals, you must achieve and sustain them. That liability could be essential in achieving the transformations required.
Commit to early talent and diversity
There was always going to be a lot of pressure in 2021 to pan out better than the year before. And while many of the challenges that faced businesses last year ring true today, we can at least adapt and learn from our experiences. Promoting diversity should be at the top of that list of changes.
In a way, there’s no better time to rip up the rule book and start again — the current market and landscape are almost forcing us to do so. So are you ready to pave the way for a better, more diverse future? Great, us too.
Download your free copy of our report, Hiring The Next Generation: The State of UK Graduate Recruiting for an in-depth look into our findings.
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