David Docherty, CEO of the National Centre for Universities and Businesses (NCUB) and Chairman of Placer, explains why HR teams need to shake-up their work experience strategies in order to attract diverse talent.
Improved workforce diversity and inclusion are long-held objectives in most organisations’ HR policies. But we are now experiencing a real shift in attitudes, a recognition from employers, that cultivating diversity is not just the ‘right’ thing to do but a vital fuel for business growth.
Creative tasks, product innovation, problem-solving and reaching new markets, are just some of the critical business areas where a diverse team deliver improved results. A mix of genders, physical abilities, ethnicities, socio-economic backgrounds and sexual orientations ensures a range of experiences are brought to the table. And this variety of viewpoints can help companies to avoid groupthink, inspire innovation and improve decision-making – among other advantages.
Beyond the intuitive benefits, diversity also directly impacts the bottom-line. A 2015 McKinsey report found companies with a diverse mix of employees are 35% more likely to outperform their competitors and have financial returns above the national industry average. To effectively grow more diverse workforces, we need to improve talent acquisition at the top-end of the funnel, and that starts with work experience.
Students from underrepresented groups often face numerous barriers before they reach the front-door of a company. Moreover, research from the National Centre for Universities and Business revealed organisations cite word-of-mouth as the key channel to access work experience applicants. With internships or work placements the key ingredient to developing work-ready graduates, where does this leave those students without family connections, outside of existing exclusive networks, or those based in remote locations?
Businesses, universities, and students are being failed by the current work experience market. In order to unlock opportunities for young people and diversify talent from the outset, formal work experience policies need to be developed. A structured process, in which placements are advertised publicly, benefits the business by helping to ensure young people are recruited on merit, not based on who they know.
An even better solution is harnessing the power of new technologies to avoid unconscious bias. Platforms such as Placer – a new work experience app that directly connects businesses, students and universities – uses double-blind matchmaking technology to connect organisations with a diverse pool of bright young talent.
An inclusive work experience programme means companies can create lasting relationships to help fill the next generation of entry-level jobs. Doing so helps level the playing field allowing businesses to then access talent that may otherwise have been overlooked.
Recruiting diverse work experience talent also benefits young people, enabling a wide mix of students to develop crucial workplace skills – breaking down some of the barriers to employment. It exposes undergraduates to a workplace culture, shaping their adaptability, communication, self-reliance and timekeeping skills.
It’s encouraging to see more and more companies join the discussion on diversity. Not only because it is expected for employers to offer opportunities to all, but because they see the business benefits of having multiple voices around the table.
Yet there is more work to do to transform improved awareness, into action as individuals in our society are still facing barriers in the workplace. For example, Deloitte found students from the least advantaged backgrounds earn 10% less than their peers, and a recent government report revealed employment rates across the country are still notably higher for white people than for ethnic minorities.
Paying lip-service is no longer enough. While some businesses are recognising this, HR teams need to act quickly and implement work experience programmes for students to attract and retain a wide range of talent from the outset, or risk falling behind.
Placer enables businesses of all sizes to reach a diverse young talent pool of digitally native students with key skills, far beyond their word-of-mouth networks with just one, free, post. Employers can sign-up to Placer here: placer.co.uk.