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Diversity data of recruiting firms not being collected

Susi Donaldson tells HRNews how ‘buy-in’ at senior level is vital for success with a diversity strategy

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  • Transript

    Are you collecting workforce diversity data? If not, there may be a price to pay. The latest research on this shows that recruitment firms are not doing enough. Two in five recruitment firms and not collecting any diversity data at all meaning they don’t have the clear picture needed to identify underrepresented groups. 

    The poll by the Recruitment & Employment Confederation and the Association of Professional Staffing Companies (APSCo) found that 41 per cent of recruitment businesses didn’t record any demographic data on their workforce and leadership teams. Religious beliefs and staff qualifications were the least likely datapoint to be recorded, with 90 per cent and 73 per cent of firms polled respectively stating they did not collect this data.

    The research also found that two-thirds of recruiters were not collecting data on the sexual orientation of their workforce and nearly half were not recording data on ethnicity. This extended even to the boardroom, with more than two in five firms admitting they did not record the ethnicities of their senior leadership team. Neil Carberry, chief executive of the REC, called for recruitment firms to do better as they sat ‘at the heart of workplace diversity and inclusion’. 

    People Management quotes Ann Swain, chief executive of APSCo, who said there was a pressing ‘lack of information’ about the makeup of the recruitment sector and that ‘without a clear and honest picture of your workforce, it will be difficult for staffing companies to identify where there are gaps and what demographics are currently under-represented. She said companies looking to create true diversity needed to begin with ‘accurate and essential’ record keeping. However, she did acknowledge that there are restrictions on what employers can and can’t ask staff and how recruitment businesses approach the tracking of sensitive personal data will require careful management and guidance.’

    We agree with both those points but all the evidence around this shows that to be successful this needs to be a strategic priority. The incentive is certainly there. All the research shows that diverse and inclusive businesses are more profitable, more innovative, and better equipped to attract the top talent. Susi Donaldson is currently helping a number of clients with their diversity strategy. She joined me by video link from Glasgow to discuss it. I started by asking Susi about the importance of getting ‘buy-in’ at senior level: 

    Susi Donaldson: "It’s absolutely essential that this flows from the top and boards should be absolutely instrumental in the development and implementation of their racial diversity, equality and inclusion policies. We need to ensure that they're role modelling the correct behaviours, there needs to be executive sponsorship for these initiatives, and it needs to be embedded into the company's overall strategy. So, I would say it should be a standing item on the board agenda, for example, and there should be the key performance indicators. Board members could be involved in various mentoring schemes, for example, and also should be encouraged to be open about how they progressed to the senior levels within the within the organisation."

    Joe Glavina: "So what's your key message Susi. One point for HR to focus on?"

    Susi Donaldson: "I think it's absolutely critical to have the data. If you don't know what is going on within your organisation you can't take steps to improve your policies and procedures, there's no measurement there for you, there's no reference point. So, I think the first step is for organisations to gather the data and then, once they have the data, they can set aspirational targets and have some accountability. So many of our clients, for example, at the moment are in the process of collecting their diversity data and traditionally, because it's sensitive data, special category data under the GDPR, companies would do this on an anonymous basis, but I think there's a growing realisation that this sort of data has much more value if it can be linked to the individual. For example, many companies are now gathering the data through their HR systems and where it can be linked to the individual it means that you can track progress in terms of diversity, so you can track the effectiveness of your policies and procedures, your succession plans and talent programmes and promotion schemes in terms of the different diversity strands and that feeds into your target setting. Equally, there are a lot of organisations for example who are proactively reporting on their ethnicity pay gap even though it's not yet a mandatory requirement and, again, that sort of initiative just helps to shine a spotlight on the issue of ethnic diversity, helps them to understand what's happening within their organisations and to devise their initiatives accordingly."

    Susi has talked to this programme a number of times on the subject of diversity and inclusion and written several articles issues with a sector focus - most recently on how the pandemic has stalled progress on the gender pay gap in construction. You can find all that on the Outlaw website.


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