Diversity is good for business - Gillian Dalziel

Attracting a talented workforce is difficult for most businesses in the current climate and failing to appeal to marginalised or under-represented groups of society only exacerbates the issue for employers.

Gillian Dalziel, Early Career Specialist at Diageo.
Gillian Dalziel, Early Career Specialist at Diageo.

A commitment to driving inclusion and equality in the workplace has long been a priority for Diageo, whether that’s promoting STEM roles for women or better reflecting the ethnic diversity of the communities we operate in. This is not just because it is the right thing to do, it is because it is good for business.

It is striking that in 2020’s apprenticeship intake in Scotland, we had no applications from candidates from ethnic minority groups. That was not an acceptable situation, so we set about to transform the dynamic of our recruitment by actively engaging the communities we wanted to reach. This allowed us to challenge our assumptions and to reshape our recruitment strategy. The results were truly transformational with 17% of successful candidates in the 2021 apprentice intake coming from BAME backgrounds. We also addressed the gender balance of our apprentices, with an overall split of 68/32 male/female in the programme, and an equitable 50/50 split in the 2021 intake.

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However, this success does not mean we are by any means perfect or believe we have addressed the issue. We still have a huge amount to learn and do to increase the diversity of our workforce and supply chains.

To create a truly diverse workplace, we need to attract the best candidates from all backgrounds. What attracts a disabled engineering apprentice may well vary from what attracts a distilling apprentice from a minority ethnic background and it’s our responsibility as employers not to assume what will attract these candidates, but to actually engage with underrepresented communities to tailor our approaches.

Putting that into practice, we engaged Skills Development Scotland to gain insights into the demographic make-up of communities around key production sites where our apprentices are based to identify which groups were underrepresented.

As a result, we spoke directly with representatives of Intercultural Scotland and West of Scotland Regional Equality Council among other community leaders to attract candidates from minority ethnic groups to the apprenticeship programmes at Shieldhall in Glasgow. The conversations informed the development of our strategy based on evidence and real-life experiences of the groups we hoped to reach.

Previously, when we promoted opportunities we made certain assumptions about why we had a low number of applications from people from under-represented minority ethnic groups, for example, there was a perception that it was because that section of the community saw university as a preferable pathway. But what we learned from our engagement was that it is wrong to make such assumptions and that career progression with the scope of earning while learning was a key driver among apprentice candidates from this community.

Another lesson we learned was in relation to the channels we used to advertise and recruit candidates, taking a much more targeted approach to reach the groups we wanted to engage, for example using relevant media like Awaz FM, an Asian community radio station in Glasgow, to broaden our potential audience.

Creating diversity in business is the right thing to do, but it is also good business. Employers will only be truly successful when they create supportive communities where everyone is welcome. That won’t be achieved by making statements or setting targets, it will be achieved by taking targeted action to engage and attract applicants from the broadest spectrum of backgrounds.

Only by listening to what candidates want can we hope to attract the best talent that truly reflects a modern and diverse Scotland.

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Gillian Dalziel, Early Career Specialist at Diageo

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