Neil, the CEO of the REC, talks about his belief that responsible and conscious capitalism can be inclusive and be able to realise the benefits to their business
Inclusion is more than a buzz word in 2021, it is a critical business priority. The main message Neil shares with the Business leaders he works with is ‘don’t leave it to your HR Director’. Inclusion needs to be companywide and often a fundamental shift to ensure that employees feel comfortable within the environment you have created and can therefore perform to the best of their ability.
Neil is a proud capitalist and feels priorities around inclusion and diversity can be associated with the political left. Businesses need to understand that they work hand in hand with society, they are not separate and instead are given a license to operate by the society in which they exist. They should reflect and serve the society in which they operate. Their customer base and potential employee base is more diverse than ever, and people perform at work when they are able to be their authentic selves. Neil believes, post-lockdown we will see the concept of responsible capitalism become more pronounced, allowing businesses to state their purpose more clearly and why their success is beneficial to not only their shareholders, but also the wider community. Businesses need to think long term how to stay competitive and this includes aligning what their employees want to achieve with what the business wants to achieve, and unless they can manage this, Neil predicts they will become progressively less relevant.
Our understanding of leadership within businesses is changing, welcoming a more authentic approach where leaders act with more humanity, actively using their influence to challenge any negative aspects of company culture and work towards making the problem go away. Neil believes the real art for leaders is to make the link to corporate reputation, understanding that by allowing people to bring their whole selves to work no one loses. Often this is missed, using flexible working as an example, which was originally brought in for working mothers, but was quickly realised that that level of inclusion benefit everyone and potentially allows a new route to open up disability employment. People planning needs to factor into business planning, and not human capital. If recruitment is done well it opens up a huge amount of productivity upsides each year.
Post Lockdown different groups of the workforce will have varying priorities; with some keen to get back to the office whilst others will continue to prefer working from home. This poses a real challenge for businesses as they need to balance the two and engage both. This will make it harder, especially for bigger firms to ensure employees have a consistency of experience. The pandemic has made leaders more aware of employee’s home lives and mental health and we need to find a way to integrate this when the return to work begins. Neil says that if businesses are interested in driving a more inclusive economy now is a good time as the canvas is blank. We need to actively promote a society that works for everyone.
Quite often the experience required for a role is just ensuring that businesses are getting ‘more of the same’ and missing out on groups of people who have not had access to the same capital as others. We should look at a person’s lived experiences and what they would be able to bring to the role. Recruiters have a big role part to play in this and need to start having more in-depth discussions with their clients; finding out what they really want from their ideal candidate and ensuring they have effective diversity and inclusion within their processes. This is something they will have to get better at as an industry, changing the ‘pond’ they use to search for candidates and instead following the phrase ‘for hard-to-reach people, reach harder.’ Similarly, companies need to take the time for long term succession planning, starting the recruitment process early to stop decisions being made purely based on time pressures. All of this requires leaders willing to change the rules that went before.
SEE Change Happen
The Recruitment & Employment Confederation