SMEs fall behind on equality, diversity and inclusion, claims leading recruiter

Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are lagging behind when it comes to diversity, equality and inclusion, said Albert Ellis, chief executive of global recruitment firm Harvey Nash.

Tue, 9 Sep 2014 | By Nicola Sullivan

Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are lagging behind when it comes to diversity, equality and inclusion, said Albert Ellis, chief executive of global recruitment firm Harvey Nash.

Speaking at the Roast Restaurant in Borough Market yesterday [8 September] at an event organised by professional services firm EY to showcase the businesses that have adopted its National Equality Standard (NES), Ellis accused smaller firms of “hiring in their own image”.

He also said that smaller businesses were more likely to worry about changes to the workforce, such as the financial and practical implications of someone going on maternity leave.

It is important, said Ellis, that SMEs are educated in diversity issues, particularly because of the vital role they play in bolstering up the economy and the jobs market. “As government after government say: numerous small businesses hiring one person solves the problem.” He added: “FTSE 100s can’t solve the unemployment problem.”

Harvey Nash is currently undergoing NES accreditation, which sets out clear equality, diversity and inclusion criteria against which organisations are assessed. When the firm first started implementing NES, Ellis encountered some unexpected negativity from employees who used it as an opportunity to complain about things they had witnessed in the company. “I was approached on two separate occasions by people who wanted to complain,” he said.

According to Ellis, the board’s messages on equality and diversity opened up the “freedom and confidence to say ‘actually I’m not happy about something that I just heard down the corridor’.”

Ellis said NES had increased the “rigour and expertise” of its younger recruitment consultants, who are now equipped to “refute” behaviours or processes that may not embrace diversity, equality and inclusion.

“We make sure that interview panels reflect diversity and a gender balance, whereas maybe our consultants 10 years ago wouldn’t have even raised that [as an issue]. If you don’t have an interview panel that’s actually broad you are only going to get one type of person for an individual client.”

In other news, the Employers Network for Equality and Inclusion (enei) launches its manifesto today [9 September] at its annual reception at the House of Lords.
It is calling on the next government to set targets on diversity and employment, which are proportionate for larger employers and SMEs, and to introduce mandatory reporting on diversity and inclusion. It is also calling for parental, maternity and paternity leave to be repositioned as family leave and extended to include those with caring responsibilities.

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