How Empower are working to recruit a diverse workforce

We’ve previously written about how Empower can become an active ally in the Black Lives Matter movement and improve our own approach to recruiting a diverse workforce.

Previously we’ve had employees from minorities (including race and sexual orientation), parents who need to be able to work part time or around their family’s schedule, and currently employ people without university degrees and those who are experiencing mental health challenges. 

But looking at the current makeup of our team and the types of candidates we’ve recruited, we need to do more to attract diverse candidates for open positions at Empower. 

The 2011 census found that 87 per cent of people in the UK are white, while 13 per cent belong to a minority ethnic group – and this has likely increased in the last ten years. The current backgrounds of our team members does not reflect this balance. 

Empower is a small team, but we work on causes that are global and affect people from marginalised groups the most, and the makeup of our team should mirror this.

To give an example of our current situation with recruiting diverse talent, here are the results of the equal opportunities monitoring we had in place for the two most recent roles that were available.

Position 1: Director (Maternity Cover)

  • Number of applicants: 44
  • Applicants from a diverse background: 13 (29.6%)
  • Candidates taken through to interview stages: 4
  • Diverse applicants taken through to interview stages: 0 (0%)
  • Job offers made: 1
  • Job offers made to diverse candidates: 0 (0%)

Position 2: Digital Consultant, Climate Change Specialist

  • Number of applicants: 326
  • Applicants from a diverse background: 93 (28.5%)
  • Candidates taken through to interview stages: 8
  • Diverse applicants taken through to interview stages: 2 (25%)
  • Job offers made: 1
  • Job offers made to diverse candidates: 0 (0%)

As you can see, we fare well in attracting applicants from a diverse background, but those candidates are more likely not to make it through to the interview stages or be offered a position.

The Empower team has been researching how we can improve these stats and overcome these challenges.

We really like this passage from the JustGiving blog that emulates a lot of our team’s frustrations being interviewed and interviewing over the years and is at the core of why so many workplaces are so homogenous: 

Don’t judge peoples’ abilities and their passion for the work based on how much or how long they’ve volunteered and interned in the sector – this ignores the very real barriers that people face in order to volunteer. For example, people with physical or mental conditions may be limited in their ability to volunteer, as are women, who have larger household and family responsibilities. People with low personal wealth can’t afford to work for free or at minimum wage, let alone move to charity hubs like London in order to do so. In fact, we could be losing out on really great experience by removing these people from our candidate pool.  

Here’s an update on what we’ve done so far and what we’re doing next to continue improving our approach to diversity and equality.

Make clear our diversity statement in our job descriptions

We’ve updated our job descriptions to be more appealing to diverse candidates, stating the following:

  • Linked to our diversity and equality policy, available on the Empower website at all times
  • Offering flexible working options and stating we are family-friendly
  • Emphasising qualifications are not needed – in particular, higher education degrees
  • Offering remote video interviews as standard – these are easier to attend for people with other commitments and can be less intense for people who find interviews hostile or overwhelming.  
  • Including wording around a commitment to inclusion: “We encourage applicants from all backgrounds including people of colour, people with disabilities, people with non-binary gender identities and from all sexual orientations.”

Our current job description for a social media consultant addresses these changes.

Use jobs boards for diverse talent

YSYS Talent Door is great for recruiting a diverse workforce

We’re using online job boards focussed on diverse talent to advertise new roles. Here are the jobs boards we’ve found when recruiting diverse talent:

  • YSYS TalentDoor – Free to post job adverts!
  • Hustle Crew jobs board
  • Diversify Tech – Connecting underrepresented people in tech with opportunities in tech 
  • Dyversifi – career review platform for diverse employees. Like Glassdoor but for minorities 
  • HireHer – Diversity as a Service 
  • InHerSight – A company review platform, similar to Glassdoor but specifically for women
  • Incluzion.co – A marketplace for hiring diverse freelance talent. 
  • Key Values – Find engineering teams that share your values 
  • Good Gigs – Find jobs with mission-driven companies in design, tech, content, marketing, product, sales and more

Equal opportunities monitoring

We’re in the process of introducing equal opportunities monitoring into our UK recruitment, so we can properly understand who’s applying for jobs with us, and who’s underrepresented. 

Standing agenda item to discuss diversity and equality

During our monthly team meetings we have a standing agenda item to discuss Empower’s progress on diversity and equality.

Updated our diversity and equality policy

Empower has always had a diversity and equality policy in place, but we will regularly review and update it to align with what we learn through research and internal team discussions.

Retention is also important

When we employ someone from a diverse background, they will be offered mentorship. This helps to aid retention of diverse candidates and we make sure these relationships are highlighted in our job descriptions. 

Improving our approach to diversity and equality

This is definitely just a start, and we know that there’s lots more we need to learn and do. 

We’re actively keeping  diversity and equality high on the agenda. Here is what we have planned next:

  • Hiring a (paid) consultant from a marginalised background to review job descriptions and sit on the interview panel
  • Continue to ask all candidates the same questions and use a scorecard system to rank their skills, experience and attributes against the position’s requirements
  • Ask candidates to pre-record answers to interview questions – so that candidates don’t have to deal with previous experience of marginalisation in similar situations (Candidates from disadvantaged or minority groups may be particularly prone to experiencing pressure, due to negative stereotypes and the sense of being an outsider)
  • Introduce a practical test for candidates, which is done a different day from the interview and is reviewed anonymously.
  • Make unconscious bias and diversity and equality training is available to everyone in our team
  • Review our quota of diverse employees
  • Adding a religious and cultural observance policy, stating this in equality and diversity policy, plus future job descriptions

Useful reading for recruiting for a diverse workforce

We also found the following articles useful to read to help us improve on our diversity and equality practices:

We’ve spoken with a lot of different people and experts along the way and hope our progress improves the level of diversity in our team and inspires your organisations to do the same, but if you have any other ideas of actions we can take please let us know in the comments below.

Ben Matthews
Ben Matthews is the co-founder of Empower Agency. He is a digital strategist specialising in technology, media, government and charity. Ben offers senior client consultancy and trusted counsel, sets strategy, and ensures well-executed implementation for campaigns at all levels. View all posts by Ben >

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