Inclusive recruitment: Too often we see teachers and educational leaders rejected for not being the “right fit” or not even being seen at interview due to the barriers created within recruitment processes. Traditional recruitment strategies see non-specific job descriptions, jargon, overly gendered language, a focus on the “pedigree” of school you are in or the university and class of degree you have.
Thankfully, times are changing, and with more emphasis on inclusive recruitment we are beginning to see beyond just recruiting the person that makes us feel most comfortable (normally because they are most like us) and considering how inclusion can benefit the school community, its brand, reputation, ability to innovate and a broadening of future talent pools.
“Inclusive organisations are two times as likely to meet or exceed financial targets.”
The importance of inclusion within all areas of school process is pivotal to the success of the organisation and indeed the sector. By adopting inclusive hiring practices we can boost the diversity within our staff and therefore reap the benefits of different experience, perspectives, and ideas.
Not only is this the right thing to do and allows you to better represent the communities you are based in and you serve, and we know diverse and inclusive organisations are also more likely to engage a broader market. Inclusive organisations are two times as likely to meet or exceed financial targets and achieve better business outcomes, three times as likely to be high performing, and six times as likely to be innovative and agile (Deloitte).
There are also proven additional benefits of diverse organisations, which whilst corporate-focused, have transferrable value within schools:
- Outperforming industry norms. Gender diverse and ethnically diverse companies are more likely to outperform industry norms by 25 per cent and 26 per cent respectively (McKinsey & Co, 2019)
- Improved decision-making: Diverse and inclusive teams make better decisions 87 per cent of the time (Korn Ferry Institute, 2018)
- Greater revenue: Diverse organisations are 19 per cent more likely to see higher innovation revenue (BCG, 2018)
There is increasing focus on how independent schools need to widen participation, both in the student and staff communities. This is both input and output focused; demonstrating both the actions taken but also the impact they have had. Indeed, this is reflected in the Charity Commission Code of Governance (2020):
The board has a clear, agreed, and effective approach to supporting equality, diversity, and inclusion throughout the organisation and in its own practice.
There is also, rightly, a focus on outcomes. Any organisation with over 250 staff (recently increased to 500) must produce a gender pay gap (UK), and it is good practice to also look at ethnicity pay gaps and socio-economic status pay gaps.
Similarly, in order to be able to report on inclusive action as part of the annual report and to gain trust, schools should now routinely collect data on representation and outcomes for staff and students at all stages of the recruitment and progression journey.
“How are we using language within our adverts, have we thought about the day and food?”
But what do we mean by diversity? Diversity is the differences we all have that make us human. These include the often visible demographic data but also the invisible characteristics, the introvert and extrovert and variety of neurodivergent characteristics.
When planning any recruitment, it is vital that the end-to-end process is considered. For example, how are we using language within our adverts, have we thought about the day and food (if we are recruiting around Ramadan have we factored in the repercussions of a dinner as part of the process and how a Muslim candidate might feel?).
Or what about the reflective practitioner – is there value in providing questions beforehand, because after all, how often do we want staff to present on something without doing any preparation? As with all recruitment processes, spending time beforehand to ensure we are testing the right thing and have created a useful day for both candidate and employer can be equally important as the outcome. Remember what someone takes away and says about you even as the unsuccessful applicant will have implications for future applicants.
At Schools’ Inclusion Alliance we have developed a seven-step plan for inclusive recruitment:
Schools are not going to have a fully diverse mix of staff representative of their student body overnight but thinking differently and being actively involved in inclusive practice across all areas of school life will bring about change. We often talk about small nudges, for every effort a school makes to generate a wider talent pool the more talented the school community will become.
“Schools are not going to have a fully diverse mix of staff representative of their student body overnight.”
The biggest mistake people often make is to think and talk about diverse candidates as if they are somehow “less than” rather than just different. More than ever, we understand that talent is everywhere, opportunity is not. The most talented people don’t always come from the expected places or have the expected career path.
An inclusive recruitment process opens up our ability to see beyond the expected, to challenge us to suspend our judgement about why someone may have followed a certain path, moved roles etc and to hire the people with potential, skills and passion we need to create brilliant teams, and therefore brilliant schools.
Every school is on a different journey and therefore the opportunities and challenges are different for everyone. However, even making small nudges and implementing some changes can make processes more inclusive and impact outcomes, both in terms of hiring decisions but also for candidate experience and school brand.
“More than ever, we understand that talent is everywhere, opportunity is not.”
Focus on what you can do, rather than the things that feel hard. So when you are next thinking about whether someone is “the right fit”, perhaps it might be better to ask how the school can “profit” from the candidate’s unique set of skills, experiences and talents rather than fall into the trap of looking for the comfort of similarity.
The SIA Hiring Inclusively toolkit is available on our website.