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With over 21 years of experience working in the Recruitment industry, Jo Major, Founder of Diversity In Recruitment, is a passionate advocate of driving Equality, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion across the recruitment industry and believes that we have the opportunity to influence and lead real change.

We’ve sat down to speak to Jo about the challenges she believes we face within the recruitment industry. 

What are the benefits of driving EDI in a recruitment business?

What does EDI mean to you?

A candidate's identity and background should never be the reason why they aren’t selected for a job, are unable to progress in their career, or don’t receive the salary that they deserve. EDI is about appreciating that not everybody comes into the recruitment process under the same circumstances, and that some candidates will need adjustments and additional resources in order to access our services in a way that works for them. If we're thinking about equity in our recruitment process, we're really challenging that 'one size fits all' model that we've set up for the majority of candidates. We’re asking candidates what they need to make sure that they're given the best opportunity to be successful throughout the recruitment process, and making those changes to ensure a level playing field.

When it comes to diversity, it's about appreciating that candidates come in all different shapes and sizes, with multiple layers of identity. I think we often think about diversity as just the nine protected characteristics, however there are so many ways that make us different. I think diversity in recruitment will always be about representation and making sure that everybody gets an equal opportunity to be in your candidate pool, so long as they've got the skills and experience.

Inclusion for me is about how you make people feel. Inclusion is a feeling of belonging, being safe, valued, respected and feeling like you can show up as who you are. It’s about developing an inclusive culture where employees have the psychological safety to come to work and focus on being themselves without having to worry about their identity.

How do you train EDI into your recruitment agencies?

As part of my work at Diversity in Recruitment, I help recruiters get to grips with D&I. I provide recruiters with the skills and tools to be able to attract candidates who are underrepresented and marginalised. In doing so, I ensure that their recruitment processes are fully inclusive, giving them the confidence to be able to partner with clients in a much more consultative way.

My programme is delivered in a way that I feel is accessible to recruiters. It enables them to take in bite-sized pieces of information over five weeks of learning; allowing them to embed it into their daily practices between each session. The first couple of sessions is very much understanding the why. It's really getting recruiters to understand what inequality looks like - because we can’t solve a problem that we don’t understand right?

We explore factors like bias, preference and privilege; all of which massively influence the choices that we make in terms of who's suitable and who's not. We then look at how we can make recruitment inclusive; unpicking our traditional ways of recruiting and rebuilding this with inclusion, equity, and accessibility in mind. We explore candidate attraction strategies; looking at what we already do and how we can enhance them. I get recruiters to think beyond attracting more of what they’ve already got and instead, encourage them to connect with talent that don’t sit in their immediate network.

I encourage recruiters to also understand the mindset of somebody who's faced prejudice or discrimination and develop an understanding as to why people are marginalised and underrepresented in the first place – the first steps of allyship.

What are the main challenges that you see for the recruitment industry in terms of EDI?

I think the main challenge is just understanding that inequality exists. A lot of the people I've worked with haven't faced any barriers into work, so aren’t ready to admit that this is a problem. For example, many connect inequality with behaviour like racism or ageism and don't think for a moment that it could also include the fact that potential candidates struggle to access your website because they are neurodivergent or have a disability.

The metrics we use in recruitment go against a lot of things I train on. As an industry, we’re consistently told to prioritise speed and time to hire - that's something we sell ourselves on, right? When I talk about inclusive recruitment and changing your attraction methodology to attract those that are not in your network; recruiters instantly worry about the impact of slowing things down and adding in additional layers of work. This makes it difficult to encourage recruiters to think about something as important as equality when they’re under immense amounts of pressure to meet their targets.

What needs to be done to improve EDI in the recruitment industry?

Education, education, education! Education creates awareness and gives you the tools to do the work.

It's also about looking at the hiring culture we have as an industry. I think that we need to admit that we have a problem with representation, and really consider the deep-rooted reasons as to why we have to have initiatives like Programme One to attract Black talent into our industry, and that - despite the incredible work of RIDI - we are still struggling to represent disabled talent.

It’s not a pipeline issue as there are no barriers to getting into the recruitment industry - it's an incredible career that's readily available for everybody. With that in mind, we should be one of the most diverse industries, yet I continue to attend industry events that are packed full of sameness, and continue to see recruitment websites with a ‘meet the team’ page in which everyone looks worrying similar. I think we need to challenge the cookie-cutter approach that we've developed for hiring into our sector, and look at the qualities a recruiter in 2022 needs to have - credit to the businesses that are doing this, the difference is immense for them!

What are some of the benefits of driving EDI in your recruitment agency?

We know that EDI positively impacts productivity, innovation, and profitability. We know that organisations that are more representative and more inclusive experience better retention, as happy and fulfilled recruiters don’t tend to jump ship when things get tough. Diversity brings perspective and the more brains we have around the decision table, the more innovative and creative we can be. As a recruitment industry, we need to be constantly thinking about developing our services and products. If you've got a group of very similar people calling the shots and making the decisions, it makes it difficult to be relevant and super creative and that’s when echo chambers are created.

When we are informed as recruiters, we can guide our clients on their own EDI journeys. You would never put a recruiter in front of your top client to take a job brief if you weren't confident that they knew what they were talking about - so why are we asking recruiters to help their clients solve representation issues without giving them any training? If recruiters don’t have the confidence to navigate conversations about EDI with clients, they will simply avoid the conversation or agree to things that they shouldn’t be agreeing with - like positive discrimination.

What advice would you give to a recruitment agency looking to further their efforts in driving EDI?

The first thing to do is understand that it’s going to take some change, investment and resources. It's about giving yourself a roadmap and avoiding getting caught up in the strategy side of things initially - you don't need a big strategy or policy document to get started, they tend to be timely to develop and usually get shelved and gather dust!

You need to know where to start. Don’t get comfortable with believing that just because you have run a few webinars or podcasts, written a statement of intent or stick a 'reasonable adjustments' statement on your emails, the job is done!

If you don’t have the expertise internally, look outside of your business and look at who is going to help you evolve the way that you recruit.  Once you've got your house in order and are confident that you’re doing the work towards making what you do more equitable, inclusive and accessible then share your journey - just make sure it’s about the cause and NOT the applause.

How is recruitment changing in terms of EDI?

There are some incredible recruitment business leaders that are saying - you know what, this might cost us money and time but we're doing it anyway! – and they’re the future of the recruitment industry! We still hear far too much noise from businesses about EDI and not enough action. It only takes me 5 minutes to do a quick audit of their website to see the reality of where they are at. We have lots of work to do, and when I say 'we', I mean all employers across all industries - not just the recruitment industry!

Our commitment to EDI

Here at Bar2, we're prioritising EDI in our business strategy in order to create an environment where our employees feel represented and encouraged to succeed. By working alongside businesses such as Diversity in Recruitment, we can educate and inform our leaders and partners on ways they can avoid unconscious bias in the workplace. 

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