No matter the size of your organisation or team, the global pandemic has arguably created a seismic shift in how and where people work. This, in turn, has undoubtedly evolved hiring strategies, with recruitment becoming borderless and potentially more diverse as strict location, commuting needs and working times become less of a necessity. For HR teams, this environment has the potential – on paper at least – to create a perfect environment for more diverse hiring, an ideal scenario when we consider the current skills crisis that employers across the UK are facing.

However, for many businesses, equity, diversity and inclusion (ED&I) is still an ideal that senior teams want, but are struggling to achieve. The fact that the likes of gender quotas and ethnicity pay gap reporting are all being discussed by HR and business leaders suggests that real progress has yet to be made. That’s not to say that organisations are lax in their commitment to this cause. In fact, it is common knowledge that diverse workforces are more productive and can positively impact bottom line figures. You’d be hard pressed to find any business leader who doesn’t agree that diversity is valuable for a business. So why is ED&I so difficult to achieve?

I’d argue that the greatest challenge lies in corporate cultures. If a firm isn’t, by its own nature, diverse, then the culture won’t be either. Investing time and money in recruiting from new talent pools and differing demographics will only deliver limited success if these individuals are entering an environment that doesn’t ‘gel’ with their own visions and values. Instead, staff turnover numbers will rise. Employers may be able to say that they’ve increased the representation of specific demographics through a diverse recruitment campaign, but if they aren’t staying with the business, then the greatest problem lies in the culture, not the hiring process.  

In today’s environment, this issue is more predominant than it has potentially been before. The main reason behind this is the swift evolution of the workplace that we’ve experienced since the global pandemic struck. With employees working both in and out of the office and new hires being on-boarded in a completely digital way, it’s hard to monitor and assess how cultures have changed. The values that a business stood for just two short years ago will likely have changed since then. What potential talent value in a new employer has also adapted. The pandemic, the great resignation and even the global climate crisis have all impacted what potential new hires value most in a business.

The challenge now, though, lies in closing the gap between what people expect of a company culture and what it actually looks like for a business. HR teams are already under-resourced and over-burdened, so dedicating time to reassess what the company culture looks like now and if this is in line with the expectations of the workforce isn’t a priority for the human resources function in many firms. However, I’d argue that this forms the foundation of the skills crisis solution.  Funnelling resources into attracting talent from diverse demographics will be a waste if they are bouncing off a culture that contradicts the ideal they’ve been sold during the hiring processes. Instead, now is the time to take that step back and truly analyse what the business culture looks like.

In fact, as the trade association for the professional staffing sector, we have been taking a proactive approach on this issue and encouraging our recruitment members to reconsider what their business stands for today. We recently partnered with organisational culture experience company, Brands with Values, to deliver a research project that will help us to create a clear picture of how recruitment culture has evolved so we can equip the staffing sector with a better idea of what consultants want from their employers.

Not only will this help staffing companies become more diverse themselves, but, perhaps more importantly, this will also aid inclusive recruitment strategies for the employers they provide staffing solutions for.

The HR function is overloaded at the moment, but putting the right attention into creating equitable, diverse and inclusive cultures – and partnering with like-minded suppliers – will prove hugely valuable in the short and long term. As we look to return to ‘normality’ in some way, now is the time to get ED&I on track. Those businesses that can create the right culture will be the ones that will have the greatest competitive advantage in a post-Covid landscape.