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A Look At The Function Of Executive Search Firms In Promoting Diversity And Inclusion

Aug 5

Diversity and inclusion (D&I) remain highly debated. For some companies, this is a question of CSR (corporate social responsibility) or government regulations. Some people perceive it as a disadvantage, whereas others see it as an opportunity. Companies having a greater number of diverse employees do better than those with less.

It should come as no surprise that diversity and inclusion are at the top of the corporate agenda, and that companies are working hard to promote equality in their hiring practices. Consequently, what weight do you place on the work of executive search firms?

Context of the Worldwide Poll

Executive search firm Invenias wanted to know whether it might play a part in helping businesses that are trying to build more diverse teams find qualified candidates. Together with MIX Diversity Developers, a boutique consultancy firm focusing in D&I, Invenias surveyed executive search experts around the world to forecast how diversity would affect their practices and strategies in the next years.

More than two-thirds of respondents believe that D&I will be "extremely crucial" to their clients in 2019, suggesting that it will be a top priority for businesses in 2019. The research then delves into the problems and potential solutions that search businesses confront when it comes to diversity on behalf of their customers.

Research Results So Far

More than half of executive search consultants surveyed saw themselves as having a responsibility to advise customers to pick a diverse short list of candidates because of the importance their clients place on diversity and inclusion.

Over half of respondents indicated they are getting requests for varied long-lists from clients that value diversity and inclusion highly (whether on the record or off). In one study, when participants were asked to make a long list, they were split evenly between males and females 51% of the time. Over half of those who participated felt they could help their client by counseling them on how to produce a short list that was reflective enough after the big list was provided. Given the difficulty of having such discussions with clients, this is an encouraging development.

Attitudes are changing, however it is still more difficult for women and members of underrepresented groups (such as Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnicities) to be nominated to executive boards and senior management roles.

Companies can't make progress toward a diverse and welcoming workplace culture without first establishing a plan to address the issue of a lack of diversity in the workforce over the long run. Business still has a long way to go before it reaches the amount of diversity that we would like to see, especially on corporate boards. Almost two-thirds of respondents said that it is more challenging to nominate a woman to a position on an executive board or in senior management, yet they also believed that attitudes were changing. Almost 40% of respondents said this was the case when it came to BAME candidates, while 30% said views still needed to change.

Unconscious prejudice and a lack of applicants from various backgrounds are stumbling blocks to greater inclusion.

There are several factors at play here, but among them, almost 55% of respondents attribute the difficulties in selecting diverse candidates to unconscious bias. This enables executive search consultants to advise their customers as trusted advisors on inclusive recruiting practices by questioning the results of any short-listing efforts. In addition, a startling 46% of respondents blame a lack of diverse applicants for the absence of diverse C-Suite appointments, and executive search companies may have a direct influence on this number.

We can't just hope for more diversity and inclusion; we need to put in place deliberate procedures, interventions, and checks to make sure everyone benefits.

Executive search consultants will need to answer the broader question of how to help their clients encourage diversity and inclusive hiring practices. Sixty-five percent of those surveyed thought it would be easier to cultivate diverse longlists if clients were more receptive to candidates from a variety of industry sectors and placed less emphasis on prior work experience in favor of looking for candidates with relevant skills and underlying competencies. An adjustment in mindset is required. It's difficult to "get clients out of their comfy comfort zone," as one responder put it.

It is evident that certain programs are gaining momentum in the push for a more diverse workforce. More than half of the people surveyed said they use gender-neutral language in job postings and descriptions; more than a third said they take steps to minimize the impact of unconscious bias; and more than a third said they use resumes that have been scrubbed of identifying information such as names and demographic details (with a third of those surveyed already employing this method).

Executive search firms are increasing their knowledge of diversity and inclusion in order to better serve their customers.

It is clear that certain executive search companies are utilizing best practices to foster diversity, since over 80% of respondents to a recent survey expressed a desire for diversity in the interview process. Additional search companies will have to demonstrate their commitment to diversity and inclusion as part of the bidding process (39 percent ).

Executive search businesses, although facing challenges, see significant opportunities.

Executive recruiters can do a lot of good with D&I, from supporting up-and-coming leaders to influencing real change in their clients' firms. Some businesses use their ability to consult with and advise clients on less obvious choices as a source of competitive advantage, going so far as to counsel clients on how to find, recruit, and retain a diverse workforce. In a nutshell, "diversity makes firms more successful," as one respondent put it. Our greatest potential lies in increasing our clients' success.