Embracing Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in Recruitment: Lessons Learned by a Small Charity

There’s no shortage of places to look if you want to embed diversity, equity, and inclusion into recruitment. The problem is, so much of the research, blogs, events, case studies, discussion forums and so on all seem to be aimed at big organisations. What if you’re not recruiting hundreds of people each year, you don’t have enough data to make meaningful observations, and you can’t afford to invest in applicant tracking software?

Like many charities, at NPC we have less than 50 staff, our HR team have other responsibilities besides just HR, and we operate on a tight budget. The sheer volume of guidance can feel overwhelming. It’s hard to know where to start, especially when the case studies come from much larger organisations that feel far removed from our reality.

Over the past 2-3 years, we’ve trialled several initiatives. To be honest, the results have been mixed—some good, some bad and some inconclusive. So far, the biggest lesson we’ve learned is to think hard about how we focus our limited resources on those initiatives that are most likely to achieve the biggest impact for us. Sometimes this means acknowledging that some aspects of best practice are beyond our reach, at least for now.

diversity in the charity sector changed

Break down the process

Recruitment is not a single activity. We’ve found it helpful (and less daunting) to examine four stages separately and agree specific actions for each stage.

  • Employer brand: How do we present our complete employment offer in a warm, engaging, accessible way? Examples of recent improvements include giving our valuesmore prominence, introducing a new code of conduct and refreshing the work for us pages on our website.
  • Channels: How do we reach the widest possible pool of talent quickly and cost-effectively? For example, we’ve learned more about the settings available in online job boards and social media. We’ve started tracking the diversity of candidates by channel and made diversity, equity, and inclusion part of the brief whenever we engage an external recruitment agent.
  • Application and selection: How do we ensure our processes are accessible, streamlined, and a positive experience for all? We looked at implementing an applicant tracking system to minimise unconscious bias, but then Covid-19 hit and this is on hold for now. Instead, we’ve tried to emulate aspects into our existing process, for example, removing names and education information from applications before screening (very labour intensive, not a long-term solution!) and introducing panel briefings before interviews to increase awareness of unconscious bias and share tips on how to minimise it.
  • Onboarding and induction: How do we offer new and returning staff a warm and engaging experience that enables them to quickly become part of the team and perform at their best? The pandemic required some quick thinking to move inductions online, but also presented the opportunity to split our process between essential activities that apply to all, and discretionary activities that can be tailored to the role and individual preference.

Applicant Manager

Learn from others

Diversity, equity, and inclusion is complex. A dedicated HR team, let alone a dedicated diversity, equity and inclusion specialist, is beyond reach for many small charities! Luckily, there are others in the charity sector who do this for free, or relatively low cost.

  • Understand market trends: Several recruitment platforms, including CharityJob, publish free reports analysing market conditions and trends. These consistently highlight the importance of flexible working. So, we have made this the focus of our employment offer and we advertise all roles on full time, part time, job share or secondment basis.
  • Participate in work programmes that target underrepresented groups: These provide low-cost, instant access to information and talent pools combined with training, a specialist network and peer support. We’ve engaged with two programmes. Change 100, a 3-month paid work experience scheme for undergraduates and graduates with a disability, and 2027, a 12-month programme to bring frontline workers from working class communities into grant-making. We’re hoping to engage with the government’s Kickstart Scheme too.

Use readily available data

Diversity, equity, and inclusion is inherently subjective and often emotive. This adds complexity when making decisions. It’s unlikely that any organisation has perfect data. We certainly don’t, but we try to make best use of the data we do have to make informed and objective decisions on where to focus our efforts. To share just a few examples:

  • Equal opportunities data: Admittedly narrower than ‘diversity, equity, and inclusion’ but analysing this data in 2018 told us that only 2% of applicants disclosed a disability. So, we decided to become a DWP accredited Disability Confident employer. In the 12 months to 30 June 2020, 9% of applicants and 8% of staff chose to disclose a disability. The same data also tells us where efforts to date have failed to deliver meaningful change. For example, in the 12 months to 30 June 2020, 25% of applicants who chose to disclose came from an ethnic minority background, compared to less than 10% of our staff which could imply unconscious bias in our selection process.
  • New starter feedback: We’ve introduced a 3-month check-in for all new starters to capture their early experiences. Following their feedback, we’ve slowed down our induction process to give new colleagues more time to reflect and absorb information and introduced a mini-induction to support staff returning from a period away from work, whether that be maternity leave, sabbaticals, furlough or other absence.
  • Staff feedback: A small group of staff volunteers (the DEI Group) meets regularly, aiming to promote, champion, and encourage continuous improvement in diversity, equity, and inclusion at NPC. For example, members of the group have facilitated a re-write of our competency framework. Our staff feel very strongly that everyone deserves to be paid a fair wage, so we’ve become a Living Wage Employer and signed the Show the Salary

leading a diverse workforce

Don’t stop at recruitment

Appointing new staff is just the start. Here at NPC, we want to embed diversity, equity and inclusion into all aspects of our work. From a people perspective we’re exploring several other areas that focus on our existing staff group. Just a few examples are:

  • Professional development: How do we celebrate our full range of existing skills and knowledge as well as identify gaps and design solutions that best meet staff needs?
  • Well-being: How do we foster an environment that enables staff to perform at their best, every day?
  • Equity and inclusion: How do we measure and monitor, recognising that diversity might be a statistic, but equity and inclusion are feelings?

What next?

We’re hopeful that we’re making a good start, but we know there is more to be done. We recognise that, despite best endeavours, our efforts have failed to significantly shift the dial on some recruitment demographics, especially ethnicity. We know NPC is not alone in struggling to make meaningful progress. We’d love to hear from other organisations who would be willing to share as we continue.

Tags: equality diversity and inclusion, recruitment

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About the author

Sarah Broad

Sarah joined NPC as Chief Operating Officer in 2017 and is responsible for NPC’s internal working environment. Sarah is a qualified Chartered Accountant. She completed her training with PricewaterhouseCoopers in the UK and Australia before moving into finance roles in the private sector including: Computershare, STA Travel and the International Accounting Standards Board. Before joining NPC, Sarah was Chief Financial Officer at Leonard Cheshire Disability.