Finance focus part 2: how to improve diversity during recruitment

In June 2019 Flexology hosted a roundtable session for finance leaders in the South West to discuss the issues faced in attraction, recruitment and retention of a diverse workforce into the finance profession, and how these challenges can be overcome.

It is clear to us that the business world is starting to see the commercial advantages of a diverse workforce and its impact on financial performance, through improved talent attraction to having happier, more productive staff, better decision making and better alignment with customers.

However, things aren’t changing as quickly as we’d like them to. Evidence shows that the gender pay gap is widening, that only six per cent of those with revenue responsibility at FTSE 300 companies are women, and that none of them come from black or ethnic minority groups. A number of businesses have initiatives underway to change things, while some are working, others clearly aren’t or not fast enough.

We have gathered ideas from a panel of senior finance professionals to share with the region and help to promote diversity.  This is our second installment, covering diversity at the point of recruitment.


17 September 2019

How can we promote diversity at the point of recruitment?

There are a number of aspects to a recruitment process where diversity can be improved.  Firstly, it is important to get a diverse pool of candidates applying for a role. Then you need to manage the recruitment process to treat them all fairly.  There are aspects of the recruitment process which are very structural so it is possible to put processes in place to ensure they can be fair. Finally, there’s the softer side to consider as well, such as training and cultural workshops for existing staff to ensure that people stay.

1. Attraction 


If you are not attracting a diverse candidate pool applying for a role there are a few things that you can try:


  • reviewing the wording on role descriptions, for example ensuring that “required skills” really represent those required for the role and checking that you are not writing your role descriptions with a bias to either gender - you can use to review this;
  • using different candidate sourcing to reach out beyond the usual attraction pool, for example using a different agency with a different focus that may generate a more diverse talent pool;
  • using a different approach, for example offering flexibility in the role, whether part time or full time, for example home/office split, compressed hours or reduced days.  There are a huge range of flexible working options, different things work for different teams and roles. Offering some flexibility can massively open up the talent pool.


2. Fair treatment during the recruitment process


In order to remove unconscious bias the recruitment process needs to be more structured, for example using question sets and testing for required skills, eg Excel.   This helps to ensure that candidates can be fairly reviewed and helps to reduce grey areas such as “cultural fit”.  

Eliminate unconscious bias by using a structured interview process

Interview panels are another way to ensure that unconscious bias is eliminated, by introducing a diverse interview panel to ensure that interviewers aren’t all the same type of person.

3. Training for existing teams to ensure the new hires are happy and stay

It is important to ensure that you have an inclusive and understanding culture in your business, to ensure that diversity is promoted and you retain the talented people that you have recruited.  This can be supported by training and awareness workshops.

Training and awareness workshops support diversity

We all know that an open work environment, where opinions are valued and different views encouraged, is very valuable to business performance.  However, does everyone in your leadership team support this?

It is important to encourage people to challenge

Finally, data monitoring and MI can be really valuable in reviewing where diversity is falling down – at the attraction point, interview point or shortly after hire – the results may be different than you think!  Consider what diversity really means to you when gathering the data.


“We need to look beyond the ethnic appearance of a person when looking at MI. A black person who has been to private school will be very polished at interview. So while it might seem like an ethnic thing, it’s actually more important to look at social mobility, the school and all those aspects, so we can pinpoint things down.”  Angela Appiah Shippey, Client Director at FD Works