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How SME leaders can embrace diversity and inclusion to attract talent more effectively

A more socially conscious workforce is emerging from the pandemic, so businesses must keep pace with these shifting expectations to attract and retain talent effectively, says Dawn Duggan, Head of People, Skills and Talent at GC Business Growth Hub.


The employment market is going through a major shake-up. The impact of the last two years has changed the way that talent is recruited and altered candidates’ expectations of their potential employers.

A more socially conscious workforce is emerging from the pandemic, so businesses must keep pace with these shifting expectations to attract and retain talent effectively. In fact, 76 per cent of job seekers now say that diversity is an important factor when considering a company. With that in mind, GC Business Growth Hub – part of the Growth Company and part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund – has identified three actions that you can take to recruit diverse talent streams more effectively moving forward.

Download the guide

Create inclusive job advertisements

Adopting a wide-reaching approach to recruitment begins with the job advert, and concise, inclusive descriptions are a positive first step. By eliminating unnecessary industry jargon and clearly detailing the relevant skills and competencies, you can reach a wider and more diverse talent pool. This approach is especially effective when the ad is consciously placed in relevant locations where a diverse pool of candidates can access it.


Review your interview process

Interviews are as important for your business as they are for applicants. This is one of the first opportunities that they will have to assess your company’s make-up and culture for themselves, so aim to have a diverse panel with at least two people interviewing.

To put as many candidates as possible at ease, you could also allow for reasonable adjustments during the process and stick to questions that relate to their skills and competencies.

For maximum fairness and inclusivity, you might also consider standardising the interview process by asking each candidate the same questions and scoring them accordingly. Being mindful of these adjustments could prove the difference in attracting the talent that you want or losing them to a competitor.


Address unconscious bias

Commitment to diversity and inclusion cannot stop once team members are through the door: a company looking to broaden its talent net and benefit from a diverse workforce should consider taking part in unconscious bias training to show that it is driven towards continuous development inside and out.

One way to remove unconscious bias from the recruitment process is to remove names, schools, locations, and dates of birth from CVs to ensure that you only focus on skills and competencies when assessing candidates.

Embracing diversity and inclusivity shouldn’t be something to be feared by businesses, but something to embrace. The results speak for themselves: a McKinsey report in 2020 found that companies with diverse management teams were more likely than ever to outperform non-diverse businesses on profitability.

Our expert advisors can help your business to be a part of that positive movement moving forward, with guidance and support tailored to help your needs. From training sessions on unconscious bias to advice on how best to structure job advertisements, the Hub can help you to attract diverse talent streams in a fast-changing world.


Download GC Business Growth Hub’s free guide for SME leaders, Attracting and Retaining Talent in a Changing World.

Dawn Duggan

Dawn Duggan, Head of People, Skills and Talent

Dawn has over 25 years of experience in developing, implementing, and evaluating organisational development, incorporating business strategy and skills development for businesses ranging from executive level to apprenticeships in line with national, regional, and local policy.   

She is responsible for the continuous design, delivery and evaluation of the People, Skills & Talent programme at GC Business Growth Hub, which includes initiatives such as the Executive Development Programme and Workforce Development. Over the last five years the programmes have worked with more than 1,800 businesses helping to create over 700 jobs and increasing GVA and turnover by around £33m, while thMentoring programme has over the past decade grown to having a bank of 180 volunteer mentors who have worked with over 600 mentees. 

In addition, Dawn is also responsible for the design and delivery of the £7million Skills for Growth – SME Support Programme, which aims to work with 3,000 SMEs and 15,000 individual employees between October 2020 and March 2023. 

Dawn has executive level coaching and mentoring expertise, as well as project management experience, financial management and a strong track record of ensuring contracts are delivered against targets and on time. She also manages high performing, diverse teams, and excels at stakeholder and partner management, delivering a high quality of service from project inception to evaluation.  


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