Leadership: Inclusive recruitment


Individuals from diverse backgrounds offer employers a wealth of talent. Inclusive recruitment means not defining people by the challenges they face, but recognising the strengths they bring to a workplace.

Donna Lawson is assistant director – employability at Catch22
Donna Lawson is assistant director – employability at Catch22

Employers want to recruit people with the right skills, talent and experience every time. They also want people who fit into their existing team and organisational culture.

The danger is having a one-track mind about finding the “best” fit can lead to only opening doors to people who are familiar to us – those with experiences like our own and whose ideas or values we immediately align with. This risks creating an insular workforce and one that is more fragile and less able to adapt to change.

At Catch22 we get “hard-to-reach” individuals into sustainable careers. By addressing the long-term needs of employers, we find them a loyal, diverse cohort of recruits, and our young people find themselves on track to success, supported every step of the way.

1. Explain why inclusivity matters and influence from the top. By developing young, hidden or untested talent, we can breed loyalty and gain new perspectives. It also provides development opportunities to existing staff through supervision. Explain this to your staff. In order to create a more inclusive organisation employees at every level need to be on board.

2. Review your policies and recruitment processes. In order for your organisation to become a more inclusive employer, policies and processes may need updating and recruitment and management initiatives may need transforming. Consider your application processes. Is a lengthy application form really necessary for an entry-level role? Are Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checks really required? Could you consider hiring someone with a criminal record?

If you run recruitment days then think about ways you could make these less stressful to encourage more people to attend. Initial phone or video chats can put nervous people at ease. Provide examples of the kind of tasks you will expect people to undertake in advance.

When advertising a new role, highlight skills over experience and consider the job description and language used. Is your job ad attractive to those with the minimum required skillset? Can you remove unnecessary acronyms? If you’re targeting a specific audience, ask them how to make the advert stand out. Consider your policies on flexible or remote working.

Train supervisors to understand inclusivity. By putting good supervision structures in place, you can ensure wellbeing, performance and development are priorities.

3. Open up the conversation. Talk to employees at all levels of your organisation about the recruitment challenges you are facing. At Catch22, we run victim support services and often work with elderly people yet we struggle to recruit older support staff. By talking to existing frontline staff and making them feel part of the solution, not only have we improved engagement levels among all staff, but we’ve come up with new ideas on how to hire a more diverse team, and ultimately reach more victims in need of our help.

For Bright Light, a project we are running with The Children’s Society, we find employment, apprenticeship, and training opportunities for London’s care leavers. We asked care-experienced people for their input to develop the programme and it has resulted in a better programme in every way.

At The Social Switch Project, a partnership with Redthread and funded by Google.org, we train young Londoners to become social media managers and we train frontline professionals to talk about social media with young people. In both strands of this project, the experiences of every participant and every staff member, as well as experts in the field, directly influence the programme as we work to improve it.

4. Ask for support. Different perspectives strengthen every team. Connecting with organisations like Catch22 can help you attract talent from groups who may never have considered searching for roles with organisations like yours.

For example, we are working with Microsoft to get young individuals who have faced personal challenges such as school exclusions, issues at home, or health problems into digital apprenticeships. The Microsoft programme includes in-work support and a four-week pre-apprenticeship programme, because we know this significantly improves sustainability rates.

5. Challenge misconceptions about “red tape”. Perceived bureaucracy, safety regulations and required resources can put many employers off providing invaluable work experience and apprenticeship opportunities. Did you know that employers’ liability insurance now covers work experience students, provided insurers are members of the Association of British Insurers? There is often confusion about the need for DBS checks. Employers do not need to carry out DBS checks on members of staff supervising young people aged 16 to 17. Meanwhile, health and safety guidance makes it clear that if organisations already employ young people, risk assessments won’t need to be repeated for work experience students while employers with fewer than five employees won’t need a written risk assessment at all.

With an established process for training and supervision, you can mitigate upfront costs. The Apprenticeship Levy can help and organisations like Catch22 can help you use it effectively.

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