Awareness of diversity in the workplace has certainly increased over the last decade especially with the increased popularity of apprenticeships. However, many organisations still lack a diverse workforce. This isn’t necessarily a conscious decision, often it’s simply due to a lack of resources or expertise to challenge the status quo.
If businesses are serious about tackling diversity then here are some pointers on how HR/ learning and development teams can tackle this head on.
The first step is for a business to recognise that it should address diversity. If the general consensus amongst the senior leaders is ‘we don’t have a problem with diversity’, it will be difficult to create any momentum. Questions to ask are – Does our workforce really represent the diversity of the town or city we are based in? What are the current age demographics in the business? Are we actively engaging with young people to attract them into our organisation? And what data do we have to review and challenge all this?
Align your actions with your diversity strategy and set some goals. What do you want to achieve? Perhaps there is a gender imbalance in one area of the business, perhaps there is minimal representation of Black, Asian, Minority, Ethnic (BAME) groups at a senior level, perhaps there’s a history of elitism in some roles? Be ambitious but be realistic. Can you work with your HR colleagues to develop goals for the next 3-5 years? Set a small number of SMART goals so you can report on success.
Now, look at how you can increase engagement. Early careers work doesn’t begin with apprentice recruitment, it starts in schools at a much younger age. For example, if you want to increase the number of female applicants for an accountancy apprenticeship, can you engage with a local girls’ school, can you support a programme of work experience? This isn’t about providing an unfair advantage, it’s about presenting possibilities to potential applicants that may otherwise not have been available.
Next, look at how you attract interest in your roles. A major barrier to entering the workplace for many people from typically excluded groups, is the application process.
Job titles mean something to your business but not much to anyone outside of it, are they stopping people not yet accomplished in the fine art of trying to get a job?
Think about how you can encourage a wider range of applicants; engage in social media to advertise your roles, redesign your job ads to describe a typical day rather than a dull list of tasks, recruit for values rather than experience, or offer an option to discuss opportunities as a first stage.
Educate your hiring managers. Some managers may have unrealistic expectations of what good looks like – especially when unlikely hires are being considered. Apprenticeships for school leavers are an opportunity to ‘take a chance’ on someone. Remind managers they shouldn’t be looking for perfection. Give them guidance and support during the assessment process and be brave enough to challenge decisions if biases creep in.
Finally, monitor and celebrate successes. Look for successful role models who are challenging stereotypes. How can they continue your story and support you with each subsequent intake of young people?
If you’d like to discuss this in more detail or would like more information about how you can use apprenticeships to diversify your workforce, please call The Apprentice Academy on 0161 200 1670 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.