As organisations seek a diversified workforce, Invenias, part of the Bullhorn group of companies, has asked what role executive search firms play in driving greater diversity in recruitment. In partnership with MIX Diversity Developers, a boutique consultancy firm specialising in diversity and inclusion (D&I), Invenias have undertaken a global survey of executive search professionals to ascertain the impact that diversity is likely to have on their working practices and business strategies in the future.
Preliminary responses from more than 400 executive search professionals suggest that D&I is a key agenda item, with over two thirds of respondents stating that it will be ‘highly important’ to their clients in 2019.
Over half of those surveyed believe they have a part to play in advising clients to choose a diverse shortlist. Not only did respondents express that D&I is a priority area for their clients, but over half are receiving specific requests (whether officially or off-the-record) for diverse long-lists.
“Whilst some search firms seem to be rising to or even thriving in the face of these demands, others seem somewhat defeated by the challenges, particularly brought about by the time pressure placed on them by clients and the competitive nature of the industry,” comments Hayley Barnard, managing director of MIX. “It takes time and commitment to find diverse candidates.”
The research goes on to investigate the challenges faced by search firms relating to diversity and to look at potential solutions for their clients.
The survey found that it remains more difficult for female candidates and BAME candidates to be appointed to an executive board/senior management position. Nearly two thirds of those surveyed believed that it is currently more difficult for a woman to be appointed to an executive board/senior management position, but that there is evidence that attitudes are changing.
Nearly 40 per cent of those surveyed felt that this was a similar premise with BAME candidates; although 30 per cent of respondents felt that attitudes were yet to change.
Greater diversity and inclusion will not happen by accident and requires specific practices, interventions and checks to ensure greater equality. David Grundy, CEO, Invenias comments: “The overriding question for executive search professionals is how they can help their clients build diversity along with inclusive recruitment practices. We are increasingly seeing Executive Search firms focus on developing their Diversity & Inclusion capabilities in order to better serve their clients.”
Despite the challenges faced, executive search professionals recognise a myriad of opportunities offered by D&I, from championing emerging leaders, to having the opportunity to implement real change within their clients’ business. Some see their ability to consult and advise their clients on less obvious candidates as a competitive advantage, going a step further by providing guidance on how to find, attract and retain diverse talent.
Karen Greenbaum, President and CEO of the Association of Executive Search and Leadership Consultants (AESC) stated, “I thank our partner Invenias for shedding light on the business imperative for diversity. Our profession has a great opportunity to help clients think differently, to be more agile and creative in their approach. We can bring highly diverse, out-of-the-box candidates who better fit today’s organisational cultures—talent best suited for digital transformation and innovation.”