Why every business should be prioritising diversity and inclusion right now

Why every business should be prioritising diversity and inclusion right now


Over the last few years, diversity and inclusion have been increasingly at the forefront of conversation within business communities around the world, as Black Lives Matter, #MeToo and the coronavirus pandemic further amplify issues around inequality.

As recently as September, the drop in employment across the year was 26 times higher for BAME employees than for white workers. Meanwhile, data published by UN Women suggests working from home pressures during COVID-19 can set us back 25 years in terms of gender equality.

As we approach a “new normal”, companies have vowed to do more to iron out these problems and get women and people of colour higher up their ranks – and with good reason. People are waking up to needs for diversity, with a recent Glassdoor survey showing 67% of candidates want to join a diverse team. Generation Z, who have grown up with these discussions and will make up over a quarter of the workforce by 2025, also seek out diversity within the places they work.

This comes before we even start to mention the wide benefits that diversity and inclusion play in the workplace. Research carried out by McKinsey suggests that companies with greater ethnic diversity are 35% more likely to outperform those that are less ethnically diverse. Likewise, more diverse teams have also been shown to overachieve in terms of innovation and creativity.

If companies don’t act now, they’re more likely to be penalized, through losing great candidates, excellent employees, or profitable business – none of which are ideal as the world navigates its way out of economic turmoil following the coronavirus pandemic.

In this blog, we explore how recruiters and companies can get diversity strategy right in 2021. Read on to learn more about how diversity and inclusion can benefit you – and how you can go about achieving it.


Why inclusion and diversity is so important within talent acquisition in 2021

Women have seen a great amount of inequality throughout the pandemic, with female workers – and especially women of colour – being more likely to have been laid off or furloughed during the COVID-19 crisis. When their careers aren’t being stalled and financial security jeopardised, the lifestyles put upon them during COVID-19 has intensified challenges that women already face, and through working from home they have often been taking on two roles: their work life, and then housework, chores and taking care of their children. If things continue as they are, companies risk losing women in leadership roles, unwinding years of painstaking progress towards gender diversity in the process.

Historically, industries like finance and banking have a reputation of probably being an old boy’s club. White, male candidates that attended certain schools or come from specific ethnic or socioeconomic backgrounds. There were even initiatives between the finance industry and these universities that set students up to assure them roles once they graduate. Fortunately, the tide is changing, and both companies and recruiters are recognising that this is a reality. Alongside the pandemic, the Black Lives Matter movement last year really went a long way in highlighting existing inequalities. 

Finally, the narrative has forced close attention to be paid at industry level. If companies haven’t already, 2021 is an essential time to really take action on this, or risk falling behind as their competitors get ahead – and attract a more diverse and innovative subset of candidates.


How recruiters can actively help and promote diverse talent (and opportunities).

Last year HSBC said that they want to double the black directors they have by 2025. A excellent start to boosting diversity and equality figures; now the challenge is how you actually quantify that and go about achieving those goals. Companies and recruiters should put more attention towards making sure that everyone's included in terms of vacancies. You've really got to look for as much diverse talent as possible, to cover all bases and know you’ve looked everywhere you possibly could to present the best and most qualified candidates possible for the role.

As a recruiter, you might submit three CVs, but also try and make sure that covers as diverse a talent pool as youI can – not discounting those typical candidate sources, but actively seeking out women or people of colour to consider how they might thrive in a similar environment. There should be no biases.


The big challenges lie ahead for building more equality of opportunity

In an ideal world, this whole process would be accelerated. But there are still structural challenges in place that prevent that from happening, and companies really have to put the effort in to get past any limitations around recruiting.

Some companies will say that they want to move forward and right the wrongs in terms of diversity, but what they may end up doing is ticking a box and hiring one or two minority staff and think that’s enough out of a workforce of 100 people. But you’ve got to keep pushing – it’s really something that needs to be sustained over years, integrated within workplace culture, integrated into the brand as a whole.

With this in mind, at Boston Link we believe the biggest challenge is going to be making these changes without alienating your existing workforce as well. You've got such a balancing act ahead of you when you strive to break down walls, because on the one hand you want to really get an inclusive mindset into your company culture, But on the other you don't want a candidate to lose respect from their colleagues because there’s a perception they’ve gotten a job based on their gender or race.

Introducing change into your organisation without onboarding the process with current staff members or people involved in recruitment causes those employees to start to leave, and then your workplace can unwind very quickly. Likewise, companies have lost a lot of talented individuals because of outdated policies, or because they want to strive and grow in a more innovative workplace.


A closer look at inhouse diversity cultural training

When you have a melting pot of different backgrounds, socioeconomic statuses, and cultures, you have to do something to create an equal respect between those groups. To do that, communication – through training – is absolutely key. Diversity training has got to be all-inclusive, and cover all the unique things about different employees’ race, colour, ethnicity, language, nationality, sexual orientation, religion, gender. 

How else do you educate employees about diversity? You have to be proactive and set an example through leadership, encouraging dialogue the whole year long. Develop diverse teams, reinforce values, create a real culture of inclusion. Recognise and respect what makes us different, and how we all have different needs, but that we all have a common goal within the workplace.

Finally, convey the Seven Pillars of Inclusion (Access, Attitude, Choice, Partnerships, Communication, Policy and Opportunities) to really nail down the importance of a welcoming environment and the habits that create those attitudes in the long term.


Looking forward: The future outlook for diversity and inclusion

Companies are having to be innovative in terms of coming up with solutions to diversity. And it's a very difficult subject. To begin with, companies are going to have to report their salary structures, which is a huge positive –especially since figures still show women and people of colour are paid less across the EU for the same roles within an organisation. Hopefully what we’ll then see is more companies being forced into revisiting those structures.

As a whole, the working world is becoming more diverse. But companies have a responsibility to speed up those processes. In fact we believe businesses will be held more accountable in the future, whether it’s through publishing their diversity because nobody would want to be that one company publishing a 99% white workforce. In general, the younger generations who are coming into the workforce are more choosy with this. 


Diversity is your way to innovation

When you hire people from diverse backgrounds, nationalities and cultures, you’re bringing a fresh perspective to the table. The COVID-19 crisis has brought about a huge opportunity for companies to make significant investments when it comes to implementing a change in diversity in the workplace. Now, more and more companies are considering how they can improve their practices to attract the best of the best talent from all walks of life – including nurturing them through a culture in which they have equal opportunity to achieve their potential over the long term.

Prioritising diversity and inclusion is hugely beneficial for all parties; by widening the scope of sources you’re willing to recruit from – widening the talent pool and having those recruits convert into active employees – workplaces will gain more innovation, better employee performance and increase profits through diversity. As businesses struggle to navigate the way out of the coronavirus crisis, this may be the one thing they have the most control over.


Diversity and inclusion should be a key feature of your recruitment process. If you need advice on how to implement diversity practices into your recruitment strategy, contact one of our consultants to discuss your 2021 strategies.