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8 Ways an Executive Search Firm Can Support Clients’ DEI Ambitions

Raj Kumar Paramanathan | April 12, 2023

DEI stands for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. It has been rightfully adopted as the banner for many corporations worldwide, making it a prioritized aspect of recruitment in recent years. Moving into 2023, reservations in support of DEI have been widely adopted by over 90% of companies across the world. Not only has DEI been vital in encouraging individuals from minority communities to integrate with organisations of their choice, but it has also been an effective response to the global skilled talent shortage.

As important as DEI is, many corporations are looking at introducing DEI into their recruitment process. And, mentioned below are the 8 ways in which an executive search firm can support clients’ DEI ambitions:

1. Encouraging holistic approaches with DEI conversations 

The trends and markers of DEI have come a long way in recent years and need to be organically accommodated to suit business models around the world. And when it comes to supporting clients’ DEI ambitions, sometimes the most effective solution ahead is also the simplest one - having conversations. Consultants equipped with the latest reports and identifiers of DEI from early adaptors and leaders of DEI can help set the stepping stones for new entrants by initiating conversations to boost DEI awareness and trigger actions.

2. Unravelling biases in the selection, interview, and promotion process

The present recruitment procedure conducted by corporations across the globe is no stranger to implicit biases and stereotypes, making it a difficult terrain for women and minority communities. Consultants with experience in identifying these biases can help inform and make the clients aware of the same in their job descriptions, interview questions, or work reports for promotions. Unravelling these conscious and unconscious biases when it comes to reviewing resumes can help mitigate segregation and create better awareness too. Incentivized resume rating as an exercise has grown widely popular in studying and understanding the prevalence of implicit bias in the process of recruitment. 

3. Training on unconscious bias

Generating awareness of racial, cultural, and gender diversity in the corporate environment has come a long way in recent years, garnering more support for minority communities. However, unconscious bias has long remained a major concern, resulting in discrimination in sourcing candidates and the final selection outcomes. Being enmeshed with the structured hierarchy and autocratic behaviour patterns within the workforce, unconscious bias can lead to considerable segregation, fuelling stereotypes and prejudices. 

However, training on unconscious bias is an effective tool for executive search firms in supporting their clients’ DEI ambitions. Microsoft’s anti-bias training is a prime example of how it allows individuals to adopt inclusive behaviour in support of racial, sexual, ideological, and cultural differences and experiences.

4. Holding courageous conversations with clients

In addition to sensitivity training, executive search firms should be equipped with consultants to assist and guide clients by having courageous conversations to persuade clients to let go of their unconscious biases, rethink prejudices, validate and challenge statements in the job description. The ability to show good judgement to influence hiring managers in support of the clients’ DEI ambition can give recruiters an additional edge, instead of serving their conventional role of resume providers. This also helps in establishing an egalitarian environment rather than staying tolerant of biased or obtrusive methods of management.

The age-old prejudices harboured by parties are a major challenge in the progress of DEI ambitions and must be dealt with through objective approaches. Creating a courageous dialogue with clients can yield fruitful results for both parties, once consultants have developed a strong foundation of trust and confidence. Challenging job descriptions to be inclusive of communities rather than eliminating certain groups and using neutral terms can help clients develop a sensitised approach while recruiting from a wider talent pool.

5. Post-interview debriefing

Stereotypes and prejudices are major challenges in the recruitment and promotion processes, often resulting in inaccurate decisions. Post-interview debriefing by consultants can allow clients to eliminate biases and assumptions that can hinder the assessment of candidates. Post-interview debriefing is also beneficial in evaluating a candidate’s observations and achievements in an objective light.

6. Diversity in longlist and shortlist

Incorporating diversity in the longlist and shortlist can be a much-needed boost to the clients’ DEI ambition, and can help strike an ideal balance in the workplace. Consultants should be more considerate while approaching diversity in the longlist and shortlist, helping clients to grow perceptive of their limitations in the selection and recruitment process. For instance, if a female candidate does not make the shortlist, the longlist should be able to supplement the decision with an adequate explanation about her exclusion, rather than the decision being driven by virtues of ethnicity, gender, or genderl orientation.

7. Understanding cultural nuances

Progressing into the 21st Century has ushered in a wave of globalisation like never before, encouraging corporations to widen their workforce in terms of diversity and inclusion. And in addition to providing a wider, fertile talent pool, diversity in the workplace has been identified for its notable contribution to improving general productivity and problem-solving potential. Diversity has encouraged an accelerated accommodation of ideas and perspectives, marked by its distinct nature of openness towards and appreciation of individual differences.

Gender and cultural nuances undoubtedly have considerable sway in career prospects and choices, and understanding these nuances can help executive search firms to assess candidates based on their orientations and decision-making trends. A notable instance of cultural nuances is - the male candidate is more likely to apply for a vacancy while being eligible on 6/10 criteria, while female candidates tend to apply for vacancies when they meet 10/10 requirements. On this note, generating more awareness and understanding of such nuances can be an impactful transformation for executive search firms.

8. Reducing the Gender Pay Gap

The gender pay gap is not just a shocking marker of the inequalities that challenge women in the workplace but is also a major impediment to their professional goals and ambitions. Introduced as a concept demanding immediate attention, the first instance of a major action being taken to bridge the gender pay gap was the Equal Pay Act, passed by the US Congress in 1963. Despite tackling major challenges such as occupational segregation, the threat of the gender pay gap still exists in corporations around the world, with the average pay of women being 82% of what men earned in 2022.

When it comes to Executive Search firms, researchers believe that supporting clients' DEI ambitions by taking lead in negotiating offers on behalf of a woman candidate can help bridge the gender pay gap considerably. Backed by surveys conducted in past years, an increasing number of female employees have found negotiating a higher salary intimidating than male employees. So, what is the solution? Providing recruitment consultants equipped with talent reports to reflect market data can be a viable answer for executive search firms in supporting their clients’ DEI ambitions.

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