As a consequence, building a diversity and inclusion team has not always been as high on the agenda as it could be for some of those firms currently.
Where's the demand?
While diversity may not be as high a priority as it could be with some, demand for diversity professionals is still significant - and growing steadily. There are now a number of very strong heads of diversity in place in many of the UK's leading corporates with a real remit to build diversity and inclusion teams. Recently we have found that this is especially evident within the financial and professional services sectors. For example, within a partnership environment we often find that a partner has been assigned with overall responsibility for diversity and inclusion and that the necessary budgets have been allocated to build those teams.
Furthermore, we have attended a series of meetings in recent years at a number of the major global financial institutions on the specific topic of diversity. While usually organised by HR, these have often been actually delivered by board members, country business heads and senior leaders in business units. This is clearly very much a top down initiative with the aim of ensuring that we, as suppliers, are fully on board and understand the importance of diversity to their business and why it is such a major agenda point.
The message has been very clear. This is not a 'nice to do', but fundamental to the success of organisations operating across local and international geographies. In these organisations the message is loud and clear; diversity is a board level priority and, despite the ongoing difficulties in the market, senior individuals will willingly give up their time to address this topic.
A strategic and tactical focus
Interestingly, the current demand appears to be focused on the mid-level for diversity managers and senior managers. In particular, several roles have arisen in organisations where diversity was previously managed by the HR generalist team as part of broader remit but where there is now a definite shift towards a more robust diversity policy and more tangible and focused implementation. This move to a far more strategic and tactical focus with the necessary dedicated resource is proof-positive of an increasingly proactive stance on diversity.
With regard to the specific experience our clients are looking for, the demand is very much for corporate know-how ideally gained with major blue chip firms where diversity has developed across a matrix, international structure. They are seeking candidates with proven experience in large organisations who appreciate the nuances and dynamics involved in achieving results within complex, stakeholder-driven, corporate environments. In fact, this experience - ideally combined with an excellent grounding across a number of key HR areas and, of course, significant potential - is often more important to them than pure subject matter expertise. They reason that they can buy that expertise in from specialist consultancies for as long as is necessary.
Candidates in demand will have practical experience in designing, implementing and driving a diversity agenda within a corporate. Such candidates may have possibly had a first career in L&D or moved sideways within their organisation from the recruitment function or from the HR generalist population and gravitated towards a diversity role.
There is certainly a long way to go when it comes to diversity and inclusion in today's workplace. Furthermore, as employers and as suppliers of talent to organisations across the globe, responsible recruitment consultancies have a moral obligation to work with their clients and candidates to do what they can to help move this issue ever higher up the corporate agenda.
Dona-Mirelle Battat (pictured) executive director at Digby Morgan