Branding/Marketing/PR Thought Leadership

Diversifying recruitment: Nicoll Curtin takes the lead

Written by the Editorial Team

by Paul McKenzie-Cummins, Editor and Managing Director at ClearlyPR

Yesterday I attended the latest Recruitment Network Director’s Briefing – a must-attend event for recruitment directors looking to take their agencies to the next level.

I have been to many of these events and despite not being a recruiter myself, there are few sectors growing as fast as recruitment and to hear from the experiences of other ambitious business owners always triggers one (often more) ideas that I can apply in our business.

Each event sees a number of key presentations from recruitment leaders who have and continue to do great things and are more than happy to share best practice. Yesterday’s first speaker focused on something that is an area of great interest to me personally – diversity and inclusion.

James Johnson, CEO of Nicoll Curtin, has won widespread recognition for the work they have done to transform the agency into a more diverse and inclusive business. But the process wasn’t a straightforward one, it took time to get everyone buying in to what they were seeking to achieve.

Diversity, he said, is not a “distraction”, which is something he admits they had been guilty of thinking. Rather, it needs to be at the very heart of the business if that business hopes to attract and retain the very best people.

Nicoll Curtin tasked themselves with achieving 30% female representation at senior level. Yet despite earmarking key individuals within the business who could be primed to take the next step up, the company found that over a two-year period those people had left the business. This left a hole in their succession planning and prompted a re-think.

James went on to explain that they needed to redefine who they were as a business in terms of how they hired people against its vision, mission and values.

In practice, this was manifested in a number of ways – one of which was the way that staff is incentivised in relation to the use of alcohol.

He said that while beers on a Friday afternoon can be a great boost for many consultants, it also risked alienating those who don’t drink, whether for personal or religious reasons. They also looked at their flexible working practices and how they either supported or prohibited women in particular from forging a longer-term career with the business and the role models they had (or lack of).

Indeed, when speaking with his teams, James admits to being surprised that many female staff felt that the nature of recruitment itself meant it would be difficult for women to progress within the industry – something he was determined to resolve.

Today, Nicoll Curtin has achieved 42% female representation at senior level and also increased the number of ethnic minorities within the business.

But this was not about meeting any quotas, as James is eager to stress; it was simply a case of truly believing in diversity and inclusion – removing barriers and making subtle changes that can have a big difference.

He said that sometimes the majority of people within the business are often unaware of how their actions or what they say affects the minority – what he called the majority/minority effect.

Diversity and inclusion is not, he concluded, a HR issue. It has to be something you believe in and in doing so your business will reap the rewards – not just in terms of gaining a greater perspective at senior level but also in terms of the positive impact it can have on your bottom line.

Diversity, therefore, is not a tick-box exercise – it simply makes good business sense.