On Tuesday 14th November, we hosted a number of HR representatives and diversity champions in the charity sector at our WhiteHat offices. Part of a series of events designed to facilitate industry-specific conversations and knowledge sharing amongst peers, we were joined by HR representatives from ActionAid, The Faith & Belief Forum, The Frontline, Solace Women’s and Afrikids for our Diversity in the charity sector roundtable breakfast.

The event kicked off with introductions, with each attendee highlighting their biggest challenge and eager to learn more about peers’ best practices. One of our guests described their biggest challenge as ensuring the inclusivity of the workplace, with a particular focus on improving employee well-being. Along similar lines, another of our guests was looking for answers on how to reduce turnover in their organisation. A couple of our guests focused on the recruitment of diverse individuals, expressing an interest in learning what others are doing to reach specific groups of individuals such as BAME and LGBT communities, and how to tackle the pay inequalities that currently exist in the charity sector, whilst another raised the challenge of power dynamics and how to enable diverse talent to shape their own working lives.

Keys areas we covered:

Attracting and recruiting diverse talent

When it comes to hiring diverse talent, there are a number of things you need to take into consideration. Whether it is choosing where to advertise, uploading your job description or throughout the interview process, there are a few changes you can make to your recruitment process that will help you recruit diverse individuals with great potential.

One of our attendees shared how they built a more diverse pipeline of candidates simply by changing their job descriptions. By focusing on clear deliverables in their job descriptions, rather than ‘how to do the job’, they increased the number of applications received, both from diverse candidates and from existing employees looking for progression opportunities. As a result, they both diversified and encouraged existing employees to upskill and reskill, therefore increasing retention.

Another shared how they used a diversity matrix for every role to make sure they were advertising to the relevant audience, for example, when they were recruiting working mothers, they targeted forums like mumsnet and Working Mums.

When discussing the recruitment process, one of our attendees asked for advice on what steps they could take to ensure they saw a number of diverse applications. One attendee suggested setting application targets, making sure to only start shortlisting once a certain number of diverse applicants had applied, whereas another suggested blind hiring, a recruitment technique removing any personal information during the assessment process.

The conversation moved onto interviewing versus assessment centres.

Interviews are often geared towards people that are ‘good at interviewing’ but that doesn’t mean they are always the best candidate. One attendee shared that they were trialling giving applicants the questions beforehand, asking successful applicants to come in 30 minutes before the interview to prepare. This enables individuals that aren’t confident to have the time to calm their nerves, setting them up for success. Assessment centres, on the other hand, are a great way of getting the applicant to show their motivation and ability by setting them tasks that they would do in the role and involve future team members in the process.

Building an inclusive workplace

When looking to hire diverse individuals, it is crucial that you start by creating an inclusive environment.  Diversity cannot exist without inclusion, and vice versa, but making sure your inclusion strategy is front and centre is key to setting up your team members for success when hiring and retaining diverse talent.

Unfortunately, especially for charities that span different cultures, offering an inclusive environment can be tricky and it is so important to consider how it affects those in different countries. One of our attendees addressed how important it is to remain aware of differences in culture and beliefs in countries and observing the effects, to adapt and improve; but also making sure employees have access to training on diversity and inclusion, what it means in the workplace, and what behaviours can encourage the inclusion of all.

One thing everyone agreed on was the fact that improving diversity and inclusion in the workplace won’t happen overnight, and it rests upon the engagement of everyone in an organisation, to move forward to a diverse and inclusive workplace.

Improving wellbeing in the workplace

A number of reports show that wellbeing is vital for a productive and happy workforce yet, more and more, individuals are experiencing work-related stress and mental health issues in the workplace. And if an employee is overworked or stressed, then it can have a negative effect on performance and moral.

For some charities, especially where there are a large number of front line roles, wellbeing is a huge focus. One of our attendees shared how their wellbeing strategy was employee-led through action groups, in which individuals would decide what topics to cover, and how. Another shared how they were all given a self-care day each year which could either be taken as one full day or two half days. The premise behind the self-care days was that managers couldn’t say no but that the day could only be used for something that brought them joy - they were for enrichment, not the mundane!

Unfortunately, as raised by one of our attendees, it can be difficult to get buy-in to implement initiatives like this, especially across an international organisation. The group emphasised the importance of having conversations internally about what you mean by ‘wellbeing’ and really understanding what you are trying to achieve to make sure it is as meaningful and impactful as possible.

Plus, as one attendee said, you can always start small. They have monthly fruit baskets delivered to the office - small but effective. Alternatively, offering companies like Spill, a message-based therapy service, to your employees often provides that little bit of extra support.

Whatever you decide to put in place, everyone agreed that ensuring senior management were bought in and actually took part themselves, there was a greater chance of success.