Diversity consultancy urges caution over diversity targets
In light of the launch of the Parker Review, diversity consultancy, The Clear Company, has urged employers to be cautious around setting definitive diversity targets without considering the need for wider cultural changes.
Launched by the Business Minister, Margot James, the Parker Review has set a voluntary, yet public target for FTSE 100 firms to have at least one BAME (black, Asian or ethnic minority) board director by 2021.
While The Clear Company commends the on-going encouragement for UK businesses to improve diversity, it reminds organisations not to consider targets without also assessing the current employment culture for its capacity to include a more diverse workforce.
Kate Headley, director of The Clear Company, explained, “Creating a truly diverse workforce is absolutely something we back fully. However, as inclusion isn’t yet a deep-rooted attribute of most employment cultures, in our experience at least, targets, even voluntary ones, don’t have the desired effect. Quite the opposite in fact.
“We see many employers actively seeking to attract diverse candidates yet still appointing from a traditional talent pool because they don’t realise their recruitment processes contain barriers to diverse talent. And, where employers do succeed in the appointment of diverse talent, they often fail to retain them because they’re employment culture seeks to mould their new people to a well-established organisational ‘fit’. In these kinds of environments diversity targets encourage a perception that new hires are recruited because of their disability, gender, sexual orientation or, as in this case, ethnicity, not because they have the skills and attributes needed to do their job. For most employers this is certainly not their intention but, actually, the end result is a higher level of expectation and intensified performance scrutiny of diverse new talent.
“Conversely, we also see examples of employers actively lowering the bar for skills and capability when hiring because they’re struggling to meet their diversity targets, which simply seeks to affirm a culture of tokenism.
“In the end, when new hires fail as a result of performance expectations not being met because of poor hiring decisions or bounce off a working culture that doesn’t respect them for who they are, the target scheme itself becomes a failure and greatly sets back overall inclusion objectives.
“We would encourage the Minister to make it clear it’s essential to firstly understand why BAME people aren’t currently making it to board level, or even considering working for the firm in the first place. Changes to employment practices to positively encourage an inclusive culture can then be based on that newly acquired knowledge. Only then is it possible to create an environment that, by its very nature, attracts and retains a mix of people reflecting the diverse world we live in.”
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