3 inclusion and diversity initiatives favoured by UK's most diverse companies

3 inclusion and diversity initiatives favoured by UK's most diverse companies

Virginia Bottomley, Chair of Odgers Berndtson’s Board & CEO Practice, discusses the UK Leadership Diversity Report 2021

During the 20 years I have worked with Odgers Berndtson, there has been a sea change in the priority given to enabling individuals to reach the top regardless of gender, ethnicity, or any other protected characteristics. This is hugely welcome as we build back better. As search consultants we value being able to make a strong contribution in this critical area.


The UK Leadership Diversity Report 2021

The UK Leadership Diversity Report 2021, delivered in partnership BoardEx, highlights how companies with strong diversity on their Boards and leadership teams hire candidates from underrepresented groups.

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The findings from the report are clear. Organisations with greater diversity use three key inclusion & diversity (‘I&D’) initiatives when recruiting Board members and senior leaders. Partnering with I&D membership organisations, setting diversity targets, and implementing measures to reduce unconscious bias when recruiting. These are the hallmarks of companies committed to inclusion and diversity. On the other hand, organisations that are not diverse are far less likely to use any of these initiatives.

The difference between the two is stark. Diverse companies are as much as three times more likely than non-diverse companies to partner with I&D membership organisations. They are also twice as likely to set diversity targets and are twice as likely to have measures in place to reduce unconscious bias when hiring candidates.

Diverse organisations have a different mindset 

Diverse organisations are far less likely to hire leaders who don’t share their mindset when it comes to inclusion and diversity.

Nearly 60% of non-executive directors (NEDs) from diverse companies told us they would be unlikely to offer a position on the board to a candidate who could not demonstrate an understanding of I&D in the interview process. When the same question was asked of board members from non-diverse companies, they were nearly three times more likely to offer jobs to leadership team candidates who had little experience or knowledge of I&D.

This shows that hiring a candidate with a diversity-oriented ethos breeds diversity in an organisation. It also means that if you’re a candidate looking for a leadership position at a diverse company, but don’t have the skills and experience in promoting and implementing I&D, then you’re unlikely to get the job.  

Why are the findings so important?

Unequivocal commitment to inclusion and diversity is now an essential component of a responsible and successful business. However, achieving genuine diversity, particularly at the leadership level, cannot be achieved overnight. What’s more, there’s no single route to becoming a diverse organisation.

To pinpoint the most effective measures that can be used to tackle leadership diversity, at Odgers Berndtson we carried out this joint research with BoardEx, a global executive intelligence service. Surveying over 600 UK Board and C-suite members, our aim was to find out what the leaders in this field were doing right and what the laggards were doing wrong. As a result, we’ve been able to ascertain which specific I&D recruitment and retention initiatives help to increase diversity on boards and leadership teams.

With the information in this report, organisations across the UK have a simple toolbox to put themselves in a far stronger position when addressing their own inclusion and diversity challenges.

How Odgers Berndtson can help

Odgers Berndtson is an established global executive search firm with extensive networks of diverse leadership talent spanning multiple sectors and functions. Part of our success comes from having strong links with I&D membership organisations, which broaden the talent pools from which we search for candidates. By working with Odgers Berndtson, organisations gain access to these networks in their search for diverse leaders.

Not only do we know where to look for diverse talent, but we know how to attract it. Part of our expertise lies in adapting the search process to make roles more attractive to a wider pool of candidates. We also offer psychometric testing and assessment during a search which helps in reducing bias throughout the recruitment process.

Likewise, our expertise is not limited to just headhunting. Mentoring and coaching programmes are an effective way of helping diverse talent progress to the leadership team. Odgers Berndtson’s sector and function specialists can advise organisations about how this can be achieved. Odgers Berndtson is part of a number of mentoring initiatives to fast-track underrepresented groups to board roles.

As a search firm we cover every level of the leadership spectrum. Our Berwick Partners division provides senior management and director level roles, while Odgers Interim provides senior interim executives to fill critical leadership gaps and deliver business transformation expertise. Our ability to meet every requirement in the leadership structure means we work with a broad range of organisations nationally and internationally. The relationships we have with leading organisations at the forefront of tackling inclusion and diversity means we have access to knowledge and expertise that can be shared with clients, colleagues and candidates alike.

Download the report and read more on Odgers Berndtson’s commitment and our call to action on inclusion & diversity