Lord Holmes on D&I: Don't pay 100% for talent but only utilise 70%

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Speakers at the inaugural Good Recruitment Benchmark Summit spoke on the need to push for more awareness of D&I in recruitment, and on improving the candidate experience

Improving D&I is often about “getting stuck in" and not over-complicating things, according to Chris Holmes, a lifetime peer in the House of Lords and former gold medal-winning Paralympic swimmer.

Speaking at the inaugural Good Recruitment Benchmark Summit, organised by TALiNT Partners and the Recruitment & Employment Confederation (REC) and supported by HR magazine, Holmes described the trauma of waking up blind one day when he was 14 years old (after progressive vision loss) and of adjusting to life without his sight. (Holmes’ blindness is caused by genetic eye disorder familial exudative vitreoretinopathy.)

“I grew up in the Midlands in a white, working-class, monochrome, post-industrial town. There was no sense of D&I there… and when I lost my sight people stopped seeing me,” Holmes recounted.

“Fortunately and brilliantly for me there were inclusion and diversity role models even though those words were probably not even coined back then,” he added in reference to the teachers and coaches who got him back into his old school and swimming club.

“They wouldn’t have described themselves as such,” he continued, explaining the importance of action rather than theory when it comes to inclusion, and adding: “If we empower just one other person our time here will be worthwhile.”

Holmes is leading a review into why so few disabled people apply for public appointments and has just launched a call for evidence. He also originated a bill to ban unpaid internships that are more than a month long, which was read in the House of Commons for the second time last week.

Holmes spoke on how wasteful it is for organisations not to encourage people to be themselves and feel included at work. “Why would you go through the process of having really effective recruitment and onboarding if then the environment is not inclusive and empowering for people to flourish?” he said. “Otherwise you have bought 100% and you’re going to make it 70%.

“There’s no magic in any of this and nor does there need to be. We know the answers; they’re not complicated,” he said, adding though that “threading this through every element of an organisation is difficult – otherwise it would have just happened and it hasn’t.”

Other sessions at the Good Recruitment Benchmark Summit covered topics including onboarding, D&I, and supply chain management. Presenting during a session on candidate experience, head of sales at Adzuna Iain Wills talked on the need to improve the experience of unsuccessful candidates as well as those on track to be offered a role.

“While people are in your processes and are aiming towards getting the job… that’s where most work is happening,” he said. “That’s all quite nice and enjoyable and fun, because these are the successful people going further into your processes. But 99% [of those who apply] end up being unsuccessful, so it’s about how you make sure the candidate experience is personable… and leaves them with a decent taste of your brand.”

Also presenting during this session was Claire Holness, head of talent acquisition Europe and Latin America at Ericsson. Everyone’s had a bad experience as a job candidate, she highlighted, encouraging her audience to think how much worse this could have been if they weren’t recruitment professionals, however.

“We probably get a really strong white-glove experience because people know that we’re talent acquisition professionals,” she said, explaining that a key step at Ericsson has been to launch a Your Next Step portal, offering unsuccessful candidates tips and resources for preparing for their next application and role.

This session also explored the importance of giving candidates an honest impression of the more challenging aspects of a role, as well as selling it to them. Many participants in the session agreed that the pendulum had perhaps swung too far in favour of marketing jobs in a purely positive light.

One spoke of recruiters having inadvertently created a “commoditised application process”, whereby technology had made it too easy to apply to jobs in a scatter-gun fashion. They suggested it was now recruitment and talent acquisition professionals’ job to encourage people to not apply as well as to apply – to prevent a flood of applications and so enable organisations to give those who are contenders a good experience.

The issue boils down to “how do we make it easy to engage but hard to apply?” mused Ken Brotherston, managing director of TALiNT Partners, concluding this session.

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