Why ED&I in the public sector is so critical – and how tech can help

Tribepad CEO and co-founder Dean Sadler on why improving public sector workforce ED&I is a major mechanism for creating a more equal, diverse and inclusive society that works better for everyone.

Posted 3 October 2022 by Christine Horton

All organisations need to worry about improving equality, diversity and inclusion in the workplace, and make it a major priority at both a macro and micro level. But when it comes to local government, ED&I (equality, diversity and inclusion) matters even more.

The Local Government Authority has stated that “everyone should have a right to equal access to employment and […] equal pay and equal access to training and development.” But that’s not the only reason it matters.

Local government and councils are the major mechanism impacting and influencing how communities function. How can they do this and serve the people that they represent, if they don’t reflect them? Improving workplace ED&I in local authorities is essential to support and serve those in their area. The representation gap in local council hurts our communities as it means that any groups or demographics excluded from the workforce are excluded from decision making that impacts them. It is impossible to really understand the priorities and challenges of underrepresented communities without hearing their voices.

According to the Office for National Statistics, 5.7 million people are employed in the public sector – that’s a lot of people and a lot of change. In theory that should be representative. Yet In London, where 40.2% of the population identify as Black, Asian and minority ethnicity (B.A.M.E.), there are only six B.A.M.E. leaders across 109 London boroughs, metro borough councils and unitary council authorities. Just 3.7% of the top 20 senior management positions in local government organisations are held by B.A.M.E. leaders, compared to 7% in the FTSE 100.

It all starts with recruitment and bringing diverse voices into the organisation, empowering them to progress and develop. And using the best technology to help you get there.

Attracting a diverse range of candidates

It’s not enough to say you want more diverse candidates – you need to be proactive about approaching under-represented communities. This comes from looking within.

Consider where you advertise roles, and the audience demographics. Are the right people even seeing your adverts? You might have to think outside of your usual channels. Ask yourself the perceptions people might have about your organisation, and whether your employer brand and reputation supports your ED&I campaigns. Make sure that the language you use in your job adverts is inclusive. There has been lots of research around the use of gendered words – supportive, empathetic and similar are considered female words, whereas words such as ambitious and dynamic usually attract males. Ask yourself how accessible the careers site is for people to navigate and understand, and look at your recruitment process. Too many hurdles can lose people early on. It might not be intentional, but if any of these are issues, you might be excluding people from the outset.

Using an efficient and streamlined recruitment process that draws on research and information to create an excellent system for both candidates and hiring managers can make for a more inclusive experience.

Get more people to the interview stage

It’s essential to make sure that a diverse range of people get to the interview stage. For a start, commit to weeding out unconscious bias and unintentional exclusion to build a recruitment process that’s truly fair and inclusive. CVs don’t work for everyone, and having an anonymised process could be the answer. Coventry Council saw an impressive increase in Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic candidate applications, with a rise from 18% to 39%, as a result of adopting Tribepad’s Anonymous Applications feature; which helps reduce unconscious bias in the recruitment process.

Look at the data and find out where diverse and underrepresented applicants drop off in the process. Where are you losing people, and do you have a systematic data led way to understand those trends and make corrections? Power to change starts with knowledge, and the right Applicant Tracking Software (ATS) can empower you to do so.

It’s also essential to make sure that the actual interview process is inclusive. Some candidates may not be able to travel, or take time off. Travel expenses can be an issue, and childcare difficult to secure. These things are not barriers to making them a good employee – but could be a barrier to getting them to the interview stage. We got used to doing online interviews during lockdowns, and the majority of companies say that they are here to stay.

Retaining diverse people

Having people in the organisation is one thing, but how do you elevate their voices? In some cases people might need different support to thrive, and progress to more senior positions where they shape thinking and make decisions that genuinely impact the lives of people they serve. Make sure that the micro actions match up to the macro statements. Does everyone genuinely have a chance to stand up and have their voices heard? Not everyone communicates in the same way, or feels confident in meetings, so it’s really important to bring people in at all times.

Look at your onboarding process. Onboarding is essential because it allows people to be more productive and perform better. It has been found that organisations with a standardised employee onboarding program experience 62% greater new hire productivity and companies who onboard properly experience 50% greater new hire retention. Technology can help you systematise just how you do that onboarding, with a structured approach that has built in flexibility depending on need.

It is essential to really look at your diversity hiring, and develop clear objectives around what you want to achieve.

The public sector is leading the way in the use of anonymous applications and accounted for 56% of the 271% increase in anonymised applications between 2019 and 2021. Technology can make the recruitment process fairer, more effective and more efficient – so everyone wins.

Dean Sadler is CEO and co-founder, of recruitment platform Tribepad.