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'It's about adding the ‘e’ from empathy in recruitment leadership'

2020 changed everything for recruitment, Cornerstone’s Alicia Roy and Sarah Drever Spence said during ToTalent Live. While investments may be made, they say is essential for organisations to include DEI in leadership developments, rather than treating it as a compliance issue.

Jasper Spanjaart on March 31, 2021 Average reading time: 3 min
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'It's about adding the ‘e’ from empathy in recruitment leadership'

With change come new challenges. Whether through social change such as the increased call for diversity, equity and inclusion or through the COVID-19 pandemic — it changes businesses, and the way they operate, completely. “But when the pandemic struck, we had to be reactive, with no real time for strategy”, Sarah Drever Spence, Senior Solution Consultant for Cornerstone, said during ToTalent Live 2021, the first-ever European Recruitment Leadership event.

“What we quickly saw is an organisational shift in priorities”, Drever Spence said. “They suddenly looked towards innovative solutions that usually took years, and implemented them within a matter of months. The pace of change has subsequently accelerated. It is now more about flexibility and agility, subjects that have been stressed over the year, more than ever before. But with that new-found focus on being agile, we have to be able to adopt to constant change.”

Alicia Roy and Sarah Drever Spence during their presentation at ToTalent Live.

Don’t just go after numbers

Part of the change Drever Spence described is found in the way organisations deal with Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging: DEIB. And better yet: the active strategy they formulate to ensure potential candidates aren’t discouraged upon entry into the organisation’s application process. “We don’t want it to be reactionary”, Alicia Roy, Content Manager at Cornerstone EMEA, added, “it is about how we can implement a change or help bolster a culture across any business.”

“If we say: 30% of new hires need to be from a certain background, then it’s not about diversity.”

And while organisations make their initial efforts to create a fairer, more diverse hiring process — just using statistics as goals shouldn’t be the goal. “If we say: 30% of new hires need to be from a certain background, then it’s not about diversity”, Drever Spence said. “Then if we hit people with a stick if they don’t meet that statistic, what are we doing? What you want is change from the top down and the button up.”

It starts with leadership

The solution is fivefold, according to Drever Spence and Roy — backed by Cornerstone’s extensive research on the topic. And, as always, it starts with leadership. “Diversity training has essentially been marginalised”, Drever Spence said. “It’s ‘say this, don’t say that’, all the while 75% are not including DEI in leadership development. It starts with learning at the leadership level.”

“It’s about being vulnerable and saying: I need and want to learn. It’s about adding the ‘e’ from empathy.”

The first point Drever Spence and Roy argue is about reflecting the external diversity of the workforce internally. Secondly, they advise to build that DEIB muscle with a bodybuilding approach: never stop training and learning about diversity and all of its facets. “It takes time and effort, and reinforcement when it comes to building that muscle”, Roy said. “It’s about being vulnerable and saying: I need and want to learn. It’s about adding the ‘e’ from empathy.”

“Define what good looks like and make sure that those business practices are shared across all business facets.”

Thirdly, with a steady training regime in place, they see a need to digitalise and revisit as much of the process as possible, for which a feedback loop is also required. Finally, Roy and Drever Spence emphasised the need for a diverse hiring team. “People need to be working towards the same objectives”, Roy continued. “Define what good looks like and make sure that those business practices are shared across all business facets.”

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Jasper Spanjaart

Jasper Spanjaart

Writer and editor at ToTalent

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