Time for HR to break free of the complacency at the top

David Bernard

Founder and CEO


How well are we really doing on Diversity?

Research led by McKinsey over the last few years gives us a diversity dichotomy. There are two forces at play.

  1. The business case for diversity in teams is stronger than ever
  2. Progress in diversity is poor - especially when we look at the international picture.

The Business Case for Diversity Increasing Performance

McKinsey finds that those companies leading on gender diversity are 25% more likely to financially outperform companies lagging behind. For ethnic and cultural diversity, the top quartile companies are 36% more likely to be profitable than bottom quartile companies.

Enough said.

Where is the Urgency for change?

Now whether you're on the side that thinks that strong financial performance is just a nice result of team diversity or whether it is the reason to pursue it, both sides should agree the lack of progress in this area doesn't stack up.

Gladly, here in the UK (aside from the US), we are leading the way with gender equality on executive teams. But representation in the UK only grew by 5% between 2014 and 2019. And let's not overlook the fact that there are still only six female CEOs in the FTSE 100 in 2021.

Morally wrong. And totally illogical for good measure too.

Once we start to dig into cultural, ethnic and other forms of diversity, there is even more work to do. We all know there is.


Why are we where we are?

To some degree, this is a natural consequence of the unhappy coupling of two factors. Firstly, the situation companies find themselves in is a psychological manifestation of who human beings really are. Secondly, it is exacerbated by poor societal structures that have been hundreds, maybe thousands, of years in the making.

It is a difficult thing to say to the most open-minded of people that humans are programmed to find differences in our perceptions distasteful. But it is true. It is unnatural for the human psyche to seek out differences and take instant pleasure in them.

Our talent pool - like our social media feeds - can become an echo chamber - sustained by an assumption that those who can climb to the top will have similar traits and behaviours to those already there.

Despite this rather depressing summary of the human condition, we are not destined to surround ourselves with what is comfortable and familiar. Of course not. The vanguard of the human race has been those who seek out change. It is the change-seekers who become the change makers.

For Diversity, Equity and inclusion, there will be change makers in politics and big-tech but it won't be fast enough. The undercurrent of revolution can come from somewhere far closer to home for those of you who have made it this far into my article.

Those in glass houses...

I'm proud of the culture that we're building at AssessFirst, but I recognise that we too have a way to go until we are in the right place. This is an issue that is deep rooted in society. Almost everywhere. No easy fixes.

And we can look at this two ways. We can either wait for society to catch up to where we, as HR leaders, know the world needs to be to support us in nurturing diverse talent. Or, we can take the bull by the horns and - collectively - drive wide reaching change by breaking apart those societal structures in our hiring decisions. Piece by piece, by accelerating diversity, equity and inclusion in our own organisations, we will ignite a revolution from the ground up.


What will you do when you wake up tomorrow?

How do you eat an elephant?...

There are a lot of pieces to this puzzle. And there is no picture on the box to guide you because no one knows what it will really look like when it is finished. But you know that you want to do something more - whether starting from scratch or building on foundations you've already been a part of.

The starting point is to find your baseline. Ask your people how they think your company is doing on DE&I. Collect data, measure this. Understand the scale of the problem. Know how big the elephant is!

Once you know, there are four high level tips that can get you started on a strategy.

  1. Get unbiased views of all candidate potential (internal and external)
  2. Consult with your DE&I team or lead when publishing job descriptions. If you don't have a team or lead, create one!
  3. Implement DE&I training for your workforce
  4. Offer remote working opportunities where practical

If you're a change-seeker, you might like the premium guide the AssessFirst team produced to support businesses of all shapes and sizes with their diversity, equity and inclusion strategy.


Change your HR for the better.

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