Talent acquisition and CSR must break silos to help diversity

Most businesses recognise the value - whether moral, monetary or reputational - of both diversity and inclusion (D&I) strategies and corporate, social and governance (CSR) efforts.

We are all familiar with the fact that diverse teams boost the bottom line however, only 25% of companies say their D&I and CSR efforts are well aligned, according to chief executives for corporate purpose (CECP).

Talent acquisition teams are working to recruit from a more diverse pool of candidates. Simultaneously, CSR teams are doubling down on initiatives to contribute to positive corporate, social and governance-related issues, both within their own company and externally within the wider community. Initiatives include a range of measures such as pro-bono support, summer internship offers and funding. 

As these strategies are very rarely integrated, diversity discrepancies will continue to exist.

Why are companies failing to identify that talent acquisition and CSR teams can heavily complement each other when recruiting a pipeline of diverse talent?

Talent and CSR:

Embedding CSR in business strategy

Calling on CSR to incite international change

Talent named top threat to post-pandemic business by CEOs


Strategic discrepancies hinder long term objectives

When looking to develop a diverse talent pipeline, businesses often have their blinkers on and assumptions ready-made. As a result, hiring is often based on a false justification for bias, as noted by professor Nichola Lowe, and candidates with less formal education are more frequently underserved and undervalued.

Companies collectively spend hundreds of millions on D&I initiatives but lack the integrated, long-term vision needed to drive the diversity agenda forward and transform their workforce sustainably. Often, businesses are more comfortable with a short-term demonstration of support to improve reputation.

Despite evidence to the contrary, some businesses fear that deeper involvement in long-term CSR engagements such as D&I initiatives could negatively affect short-term profits.

Yet, it’s more wasteful to spread funds thinly to boost corporate reputations in the short-term, rather than dedicating resources to positively and sustainably influence metrics. 

What’s needed is integrated and robust strategic and collaborative efforts that take into account a holistic view of talent acquisition and development - starting from the top.


Responsible leaders catalyse change  

Alongside the preparatory work of educational institutions, businesses must share responsibility for fostering diverse workforces to catalyse long-term accessibility and change. Leaders who have a holistic view of their business must first recognise this responsibility, and frankly, this opportunity.

They should step up and think strategically about how best to use resources from both HR and CSR departments to achieve an integrated talent pipeline that is fully aligned with its D&I objectives. 

There are a number of ways to increase workplace diversity, most of which begin with changing mindsets, and increasing collaboration between CSR and talent acquisition teams, and external stakeholders:


  • Eliminate unconscious bias in the hiring process

    There are various ways to eliminate unconscious bias from the hiring process, from removing gendered wording and introducing blind applications, to using data-driven insights and an interview panel. Perhaps most importantly is advertising roles through new, unconventional channels to target more diverse candidates, such as engagement with university departments, specialised bootcamps and focusing campaigns in known geographical areas with higher diversity.


  • Share educational responsibility

    Candidates do not always present as fully formed, skilled workers, so looking beyond formal qualifications to identify demonstrations of potential, such as creativity, analytical thinking and teamwork, will open up the hiring pool to candidates with more diverse attributes. It is then hugely important to support workers from entry-level positions up the rungs to managerial positions to ensure nobody gets left behind.


  • Develop long-term pathways: partnerships

    Businesses can collaborate with educational institutions and governments to communicate which skills are in demand in certain industries. On a system level, this will help to ensure that potential candidates are being supported in the right areas early on - and in tandem with an evolving workplace.


  • Develop long-term pathways: internships, sponsorships & scholarships

    Engaging directly with minority groups and local and disadvantaged communities will help to open up the possibility of certain careers, even where current representation may be lacking, and also builds trust.

    Initiatives like Udacity’s Blacks in Technology scholarship and Pledge to Equality can provide opportunities to candidates who are not able to access funds or skills training elsewhere but have the potential to transform their careers. 

  • Share your successes

    Inclusivity and parity aren’t just important; they should be integral to a business’ values, structure and operations. By tracking progress on D&I objectives, businesses can ensure accountability and maintain momentum. By sharing best practices, they can help to decrease existing disparities and pave the way for a more inclusive workplace. 


Looking to a fairer future

According to McKinsey research, it will take just under a century for Black employees to reach talent parity across all levels of the private sector in the US. Increasing diversity in the workplace should be on every company’s list of priorities.

The ‘how’ is where business leaders must commit to leveraging all available resources in the most effective way. This includes looking internally at unnecessary silos, and externally at potential strategic partners that will enable long-term progress.

Now, as economies begin to pick back up again and businesses consider their post-COVID hiring strategies, they have an opportunity to address the balance and incorporate a racial-equity lens, along with lenses for other disadvantaged groups, to their decision making.  


James Hendrickson is enterprise director, CSR, ESG & sustainability at Udacity


If you have a pressing D&I problem you can't get to the bottom of, send in your query here where it will be be answered by our resident D&I specialist Huma Qazi in the next issue of HR magazine.