The search for talent - how to cast the net wider

The skills shortage affects many companies and the issues around Brexit may make it more difficult to attract overseas talent. Is the solution to hire from outside your industry?

The skills shortage affects many companies and the issues around Brexit may make it more difficult to attract overseas talent. Is the solution to hire from outside your industry?
Rather than searching for new managers and leaders of the future from a small pool of potential candidates, companies should be looking for talent from outside their own industry.That could help solve some of the recruitment dilemmas that face today’s businesses in an environment where they are competing globally for the best and the brightest.Katie Welsh, director of search and pipeline at Armstrong Craven, a global talent mapping, pipelining and executive search partner for scarce and senior positions, says a fresh injection of thinking can help energise a company and change it for the better. “Some companies are demanding a diverse shortlist and holding executive search firms to account for this,” she says.

Listen to Teresa Boughey – CIPD fellow, CEO of Jungle HR and policy influencer - talk about the importance of inclusion


“This is good, but can be a flawed approach. As an example of good practice, financial services companies are looking to other industries for leadership talent to become more customer-focused and more tech-enabled and hire-in new ways of thinking which in turn, is making them more diverse.”For example, big banks like HSBC have targeted leaders from the technology and media industries, which has also enabled them to access a much more diverse talent pool. “In addition to this, companies should consider recruiting diverse talent across all role and levels, not just senior/executive roles. This will enable promotion and a direct focus on succession planning, across a greater diverse talent pool in the long term.”

Is your company gender diverse?

“When I start working with new clients, they generally acknowledge the fact that they don’t have as many senior level women working for them as they’d like, but they don’t know how to find and attract the women that have the right skills and experience,” says Emma Robinson, director at Red Diamond Executive Headhunters.“It’s not that these companies go out looking for a specific type of person, they just don’t know how to look widely enough to avoid it and, therefore, it’s often the case that they only attract candidates who are similar to the employees already employed by the business.”
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Industries like technology, which have traditionally been male-dominated, are now opening up their doors to women and ethnic minorities as they begin to appreciate that innovation can only come from having a wide variety of employees with new ideas and fresh thinking.
Tara McGeehan, president of CGI UK and Australia Operations
“Organisations must inspire the next generation of female talent to see that tech is an exciting, dynamic and inclusive industry; and a big way of doing this is showing them future opportunities,” says Tara McGeehan, president of CGI UK and Australia Operations.“It’s important because innovation comes from people bringing new ideas and ways of thinking to the table, so selecting candidates from the same pool with the same background creates stagnant thinking, which kills inspiration.”

A safe space to excel

Kate Lanz, neuropsychologist and CEO of Mindbridge
Kate Lanz, neuropsychologist and CEO of MindBridge, and author of All the brains in the business: The engendered brain in the 21st century organisation, says that truly innovative thinking can only take place in an environment where all employees feel able to express their thoughts and ideas.“Regardless of our sexuality, when we are in an environment where we feel safe and have the space to be ourselves it settles the limbic system in our brain,” she explains. “This allows the clever part of the brain, the pre-frontal cortex to do its best thinking. Only then are we able to be truly collaborative, creative and find innovative solutions. This is vital in our highly competitive and fast-changing business environment.”She says that we’ve been focused on gender in relation to our physical differences, rather than the differences in our brains. “The interesting twist is that our gender and brain sex are not always the same. Some people are male brained and some female brained, but many are a mosaic of the two.”

Getting rid of the myths around leadership

Angela Love, director of Active Workplace Solutions
In this fast-moving economic environment, leaders need to take responsibility to diminish barriers, bias and myths, says Angela Love, director of Active Workplace Solutions. “Let’s take ambition in men as an example,” she says. “When people see the same traits in women they are often classed as being pushy and aggressive, so the bar is set differently. Motherhood is another perceived ‘barrier’, with inevitable interruptions in the workplace wrongly interpreted that work is not their first priority.“This raises two issues in my opinion. First, it is a completely outdated viewpoint yet still a reality in the boardroom where, according to reports last year, the average age of the all-male board in the UK is 55. Perhaps as the younger generations climb the ladder this viewpoint will be erased. Second, to blow a hole in this myth, mothers are fierce, dynamic, nurturing, consolatory and relentless in their pursuits. I think that makes them ideal leaders.”

Tips to make your organisation more diverse

Armstrong Craven’s Katie Welsh has these suggestions to improve diversity in your workplace:
  1. Recruitment: Address recruitment processes such as job adverts, interviews and assessment to appeal and accommodate to all potential candidates. Work to understand how your company is perceived and don’t just rely on feedback from candidates in the hiring process – this won’t provide an accurate reflection of how your company is perceived by the talent you are trying to attract.
  2. Talent: Look at the diversity, or lack of, in teams and functions across the company rather than just the board and leadership group. Understand the diversity mix in the external talent pool to ensure it supports hiring needs and where possible, look at ways to attract talented professionals from other industries or with related skills.
  3. Culture change: Businesses shouldn’t neglect inclusion, as hiring-in or proactively promoting diverse talent into a culture that does not accommodate new ideas is only going to be a short-term solution to a longer-term issue. Companies should also be including all employees into discussions about diversity, rather than just creating diversity echo-chambers with the most supportive leaders.
  4. Diversity the talent pipeline: Companies focus on a ‘top-down’ approach, as the public eye and media is focused primarily on board and senior leadership team so this is where they aim for diversity, but often neglect lower down in the organisation where immediate focus and efforts will start to pay off on a longer timeline.
  5. Think about routes to senior management: The common route to the CEO role is through operational and commercial leadership positions, so companies must address diversity across all roles and functions to ensure adequate succession and to really benefit from diversity in the leadership group. Companies shouldn’t rely on executive search firms to address diversity at point of need and to fulfil quotas in the short term.

Think Women International Womens Day
Come and discover how diversity, inclusion, leadership and education is changing the world for women at our Think Women Lunch to celebrate International Women’s Day on March 6. 
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