Why we should be improving diversity recruitment efforts at the apprentice level

Engineer showing equipment to a female apprentice, close up

By Andrea Derler, Principal, Researcher and Customer Value at Visier 

Conversations around diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) within organisations and businesses have certainly intensified over the past couple of years.

In 2020, the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement shook the world when tens of millions took to the streets to protest the unlawful killing of George Floyd by a US police officer. Its impact has been felt far and wide, shining a spotlight on the issue of workplace diversity across all organisations and industries and sending a loud and clear message: collectively, we must do better.

There’s a global conversation to be had around racial discrimination and better inclusion policies. But talking about it is not enough. Organisations need to practice what they preach.

Whether it’s hiring dedicated diversity and inclusion officers or running sessions that identify some of the biggest diversity hurdles, businesses have started to respond to the traction gained by these landmark events. But most importantly, many are turning what once were theoretical conversations into tangible actions to make a change. And, what’s more, this should not just be happening at the management and senior levels. But, at the entry level apprenticeship position point too in order to future proof a diverse workforce for the future.

Beyond doing the right thing

Beyond following a personal moral compass, companies are taking action to support workplace diversity as there is a clear business case for doing so.

There are reams of studies that point to similar conclusions, including a  comprehensive review of more than 1,000 companies spread across 15 countries by McKinsey.

This study shows compelling findings relating to both gender, ethnic and cultural diversity to business success. For example, businesses in the top quartile for gender diversity on executive teams were 25% more likely to have above-average profitability than companies in the fourth quartile. Strikingly, McKinsey concludes that a 48% performance differential separates the most from the least gender diverse companies.

In terms of ethnic and cultural diversity, top-quartile companies outperformed their least diverse counterparts by more than a third.

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Futureproofing the next generation

The societal and performance benefits generated by diverse workforces are clear, and it is certainly promising to see organisations of all kinds working towards greater equity and inclusion in their workplaces.

However, we also need to ensure that DEI strategies are designed to consider those just starting out in their careers to offer equal opportunities to all.  

This means paying serious attention to the talent acquisition process – in particular, the development of fact-based strategies to eliminate diversity bias and improve diversity hiring within the funnel.

National Apprenticeship Week is another important milestone in our corporate calendars. Now in its 15th iteration, the series of events brings together businesses and apprentices across the UK to shine a light on the positive impact that apprenticeships make to individuals, businesses and the wider economy.

We’re a big believer in apprenticeships, and it is here where companies should begin improving their diversity hiring strategies.

Letting data do the hard work for you

There are various methods and approaches that can be adopted, yet leveraging the power of data and people analytics is key.

Firstly, employers should identify the source of their diversity gaps. Analytics can offer insight into the makeup of your workforce and examine headcount through key diversity metrics such as age, gender, race, and more. Such analysis could, for example, reveal that your organisation needs a greater number of female management apprentices. 

Analytics can also help to ensure ongoing diversity in the hiring pipeline by keeping track of diversity ratios. This can be particularly valuable in situations where recruiters are under pressure to make quick appointments and may forget to add diversity into the funnel – here, well-deployed data analytics will flag occasions when hiring processes lose diverse candidates.

Another step companies can take is to properly match interviewers to candidates. For instance, try matching a female interviewer to female apprentice candidates and see whether it improves your hiring rates. Once again, data analytics can help to track the progress of such initiatives and may justify rolling out such an approach for all types of roles in your organisation.

Information on how long employees stay at the company, how they perform, and how soon they receive promotions can tell you a lot about the success of your diverse hires. Indeed, by connecting pre-hire and post-hire data systems, you can reveal all kinds of useful paradigms that can shape recruitment processes and help identify the best possible and diverse candidates.

This is all part of the holistic approach to diversity recruiting. By making effective use of quality data throughout every stage of the process – from candidate, to applicant, to new hire – companies will be far better placed to enjoy the benefits of a high quality, diversified entry-level workforce.

Andrea Derler, VisierAbout the author

Andrea is an experienced, published, researcher of human capital practices specialising in organisational change & transformation, talent and leadership development, performance management, DEIB, and organisational growth mindset. Prior to Visier, Andrea led research teams at the NeuroLeadership Institute and Bersin by Deloitte LLP. Andrea loves sports, coffee and Nordic mysteries.


About the author

Alison is the Digital Content Editor for WeAreTheCity. She has a BA Honours degree in Journalism and History from the University of Portsmouth. She has previously worked in the marketing sector and in a copywriting role. Alison’s other passions and hobbies include writing, blogging and travelling.
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