In the current market, companies are grappling with challenges that could not have been anticipated – the word ‘unprecedented’ is beginning to seem like an understatement. Many industries are facing a loss of revenue and disruption to operations whilst others are experiencing unexpected spikes in demand that they were likely unprepared for. In both scenarios, businesses and teams are forced to adapt and reconsider their key priorities.
The job market has become unpredictable, and most companies are left hiring from a pool of candidates they are unable to meet face-to-face throughout the recruitment process – a prospect that seemed incomprehensible six months ago. Although it is not necessarily intentional, diversity initiatives tend to drop down the list of ‘pressing issues’ in a time like this and the progress of fostering a diverse team is halted.
Oftentimes, Diversity and Inclusion initiatives do not present themselves as a priority when businesses are presented with disruption to the operations, in lieu of the fact that many studies show that companies with more culturally and ethnically diverse executive teams were 33% more likely to see better-than-average profits1. Whilst these teams may also be more fractious, diverse teams are proven to perform better – and this could in turn help make organisations more resilient in times of crisis. Considering current events, it is critical for companies to re-focus on their long-term hiring strategy to build a more crash-proof model for the future.
How Covid-19 will affect socioeconomic diversity in the work-place?
The pandemic has amplified gender, race, ethnic and socioeconomic inequities2 and has put D&I at risk despite its proven benefits to business recovery3. There are many factors at play here, specifically when it comes to socioeconomic diversity. Remote working conditions have been shown to erode inclusion – the assumption that all employees will have apt conditions to work remotely and work effectively automatically puts those who may not have a home office space at a major disadvantage. This is also an issue when it comes to remote hiring processes.
Firms would offer to reimburse a £50 train ticket, yet there is an assumption that all candidates will have access to the tools needed to conduct interviews virtually. This is particularly important when it comes to graduate recruitment. Many underprivileged applicants will be the first in their family trying to break into the industry and could lack the support to facilitate this. If a candidate applying for graduate programmes is from a family of six all having to share one computer, it is increasingly difficult to gain access should any other member of the family need it to work from home, study or conduct interviews themselves.
In a Covid-constrained world, even at the very base level, the cavernous socioeconomic gap is widening an earlier stage than usual. Those attending state schools may not have had digital access to learning as quickly as those attending private school, meaning disadvantaged children are even further behind. When it comes to thinking about university applications, private schools have the resource to publish online courses to prepare students for university applications whereas state schools, again, lack the resource to do so. Those who are now looking for graduate employment may find there are fewer opportunities to network and find a way to break into certain industries. Diversity initiatives are predominantly spearheaded through events, which for obvious reasons no longer go ahead.
Whilst a pandemic might not affect the prospects of privileged graduates in their careers, there certainly will be a knock-on effect that will likely cause those already at a disadvantage to fall even further behind.
How can organisations leverage the current climate to push D&I initiatives forward?
In a pre-pandemic world, events are a key part of pushing diversity initiatives forward. 57% of participants in our 2020 Gen-Z survey found these events to be affective in impacting change in the industry. Female candidates were more likely to engage in networking events that emphasised the intention of hiring a diverse intake.
Having said this, it was pointed out in the same survey that many of these diversity events are skewed towards those who already have a good knowledge of the industry they are applying for, as opposed to educating those who lack access from an early age. Ironically, networking events tend to play to the advantage of those who already have an established network. This emphasises the common belief that to get into certain industries, such as financial services, you already need to have pre-existing connections re-enforcing the ‘old boys club’ reputation.
Whilst these types of events may result in an uptick in gender diversity, they do not necessarily impact socioeconomic and ethnic diversity. Virtual events are by nature more accessible – this is a unique opportunity to invite a broader set of candidates to learn more about an organisation and in turn foster a more diverse candidate pool. As there is no cost-base per head, there is no limit to who can attend. In-person events that focus on candidates from underprivileged backgrounds may be beneficial to those based in London, however now is the time to target graduates who are from parts of the UK outside the capital, who either lack the same exposure, feel unable to attend university to begin with, or would not ordinarily have the means to travel to London for an event.
Many organisations have been faced with making cuts to help weather the storm – again, inclusion becomes a secondary consideration here as the long-term investment in hiring from a diverse candidate pool is lost amongst issues that seem emergent, like cutting costs. Studies show that this is at the detriment of the organisation1, but in a world turned upside down this is not always at the forefront of a hiring managers mind. Whilst it could feel there are immovable roadblocks in the way, there are also a range of opportunities to leverage this unique situation to reprioritise diversity initiatives as we settle into this strange new era. This is a chance for companies to push brand name and reach a wider and more diverse audience remotely, through the click of a link.
At Dartmouth, diversity is one of our core values, and we’ve worked with our clients to seize the opportunities presented, as well as navigate challenges faced. Hundreds of prospect candidates zoom into events to learn more about industries, opportunities and individual employers. Don’t miss out on leveraging this accessibility to talent like never before, and if you need some support, we’re here to help – if your team shows up, we’ll handle the rest.