Long and short term strategies to build diversity among senior managers

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Are employers focusing too heavily on recruitment and not enough on retention when trying to imrpove diversity within their organisation?

Currently the Employee Engagement Mananger at the Employers Network for Equality and Inclusion, Kieron O'Reilly brings over a decade of experience in helping businesses promote diversity and inclusion within their culture. 

Kieron shared his insights with us on some of the common mistakes employers can make when they try to develop and implement strategies to promote gender diversity. 

"Many programmes aimed at improving gender diversity focus on recruitment at the junior level, looking to bring professionals from a diverse range of backgrounds into the workforce of the organisation."

"However, while these policies are an important element in creating a gender diverse workforce, these programmes alone cannot help businesses build a diverse senior management team unless they are part of a wider strategy."

"Identifying where barriers exist within your talent pipeline and taking steps to address them is essential to improving diversity within your business at all levels."

Junior level recruitment

"Recruiting gender diverse junior level staff is, of course, an essential element of building a diverse workforce.  However, in order to retain and develop these professionals, businesses need to ensure that they have a secure pipeline which allows staff from diverse background to thrive and achieve career progression."

"In order to address any issues with this pipeline, it is essential to determine where talent is being lost and from which demographic groups. If there are particular points in the careers of female staff where they tend to leave the organisation, employers can then revise their strategies to address the issues which appear at these points."

"It is also worth considering where your talent pipelines begin. Even for organisations which are recruiting large number of female professionals, if they are being recruited into areas from which board and C-suite level staff are rarely sourced, it will be difficult to increase diversity at senior levels."

Senior end of the pipeline

"While establishing a robust talent pipeline can help to cultivate staff who can fill senior roles in the future, taking more immediate action to address a lack of diversity at senior levels can require a different approach."

"If your senior management team does not reflect the overall gender diversity, it may be beneficial to review data regarding relative rates of promotion throughout the business to determine whether men are being promoted more frequently than women."

"By cross referencing this data with tenure and performance rating to identify if there are members of staff who are not receiving promotions despite the data suggesting that they would be well suited to take on a more senior role."

"However, it is also important to consider that there may be challenges which are beyond your direct control, such as an overall lack of gender diversity within a particular professional field."

"In these cases, while enacting policies to encourage gender diversity should still be a priority, it allows employers to set realistic targets for diversity at senior levels in the short term."

Promote internally first

"In order to create a more diverse workforce, particularly at the senior level, one popular strategy is to look for talent outside the organisation."

"This can be a valuable approach, helping to introduce new ideas and perspectives to the business, potentially helping to develop new initiatives to address gender diversity."

"However, in order to develop, cultivate and maintain the culture of your company, focusing on internal promotion and development should also be a priority."

"Ideally, creating diversity at senior levels should be achievable through internal promotion and development and if this is not the case then it should be a high priority to review your internal talent pipeline."

Be aware of your own perceptions

"In addition to gaining empirical data on what is impacting your talent pipeline, it is also important to consider how your own perceptions and biases may be influencing the conclusions you reach."

"If the senior leadership of a company lacks diversity, it may be easy for them to draw conclusions about what is causing them to lose diversity as people develop within the company."

"Often, while many senior business leaders regard recruitment as the biggest challenge in achieving a diverse leadership team, many more junior professionals perceive progression as the most significant barrier."

"While the reality may lie in between these two points of view, having this awareness of how opportunities within the business are perceived can help to shape which policies you enact to support gender diversity and build a more robust pipeline."

Be honest with yourself and your staff

"Confronting the barriers to achieving gender diversity within your organisation can be challenging. In some cases, doing so can reveal subconscious biases and areas of dissatisfaction among the workforce."

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