Investing in Emerging Talent

In the latest Diversity Forum, the Clear Company and a panel of D&I experts shared their experiences and insights of their journeys to make their Emerging Talent programmes an inclusive experience for all.

Whilst attraction and assessment were the focus of the discussions several points were raised about the importance of onward investment in the emerging talent pool and how this can become an inclusive process that builds on the positive steps being taken in attraction and assessment.

To represent diversity and unity


Is diversity a priority?

Tony McCaffery, Founder of Diversity Scotland works across D&I in many sectors and highlighted the opportunity that employers have to start afresh with their approach to emerging talent.  With many employers keen to improve the diversity of their emerging talent intake there are key considerations.


The start point is to work with recruitment partners to understand and review the processes behind recruitment shortlists so that they are as diverse as possible. 

This can include

  • Working with different networks in order to reach a more diverse audience
  • Understand the student diversity of partner universities
  • Consider targets for recruitment partners

Tony highlighted a recent survey by the Institute of Student Employers (ISE) showing clear trends such as that while historically gender and ethnicity have been given the highest priority, employers are now realising the value of taking a broader view and the importance of having a balance in their team.  Employers also report that their typical staffing under-represents women and those who attended a state school, and that it massively under-represents the number of people with disabilities. There is some good news on LGBTQ+ and ethnicity, but most employers freely admit that their organizations are not as diverse as they would like.

Social mobility is getting more focus as background often has a major impact on career progression and therefore inequality, and neurodiversity is valued particularly by the STEM and Digital sectors. When asked which diversity dimensions were a top priority, most employers give a high or medium level of priority to pretty much all strands acknowledging the need for action. There is a lot of enthusiasm about trying to change the composition of staffing in the kinds of firms that are active in the graduate market.

The relevance of a degree as the main benchmark in emerging talent assessment was also discussed.  The overall conclusion was that apprenticeships and other educational pathways are just as valuable in widening the talent pool, but often internal education is important to change attitudes to this, especially when degrees have been heavily relied on in the past.

How has Lloyd’s approach changed over the years?

Sian Carter, HR Business Partner at Lloyd’s shared the changes they have been making to Lloyd’s emerging talent attraction and assessment. 

  • Work experience has been formalised to eliminate friends and family bias.
  • Reviews of processes shown to adversely impact gender, race, and social mobility have made a difference
  • Changes to branding celebrating different backgrounds and views to show that diverse talent is welcome, and that Lloyd’s are committed to it.
  • A critical review of all assessment processes looking at the ‘why’ for each stage to ensure that it adds value to the process.

Huge improvements have been seen in the diversity of candidates at offer stage and Lloyd’s are building on this and maintaining their focus on social mobility.  Branding is being looked at again to become less London centric and assessment processes have changed again to focus on candidate strengths rather than past experience. Lloyd’s are also investing in the candidate experience through coaching in order to build the emotional experience for all involved.

Attracting and recruiting a diverse workforce

Julie Newton, Head of Organisation Development at United Utilities shared their journey in attracting diverse applicants to STEM roles and minimising attrition in their emerging talent intake.

Their strategy aims to overcome the challenges of making step changes quickly, against the backdrop of regional variances in demographics and the difficulties attracting females into STEM roles. This is combined with the fact that their Head Office is based in Warrington, Cheshire which is not a racially diverse area so there are also challenges around this for them.

The first area United Utilities have focused on is their university intake approach, this has included:

  • Recruiting ambassadors in universities to support activities on site with diverse networks
  • Partnering with diverse networks e.g. UU have joined the 10,000 black intern’s programme
  • Ensuring they have diverse role models who visit universities
  • Reviewing the policy of requiring minimum grades

In their wider reach out, they have focused on building the relationships in communities through a variety of partnerships.  This included their school links, for example enterprise advisors target geographical areas that have traditionally had low social mobility.  United Utilities have also reviewed their onboarding processes to make sure the welcome and narrative is relevant to a diverse talent pool.

Customer research has also been used to understand how relevant the brand appears to diverse populations as this also has a strong link to emerging talent. Key findings showed that

  • Diversity was very important to younger age groups (18-34).
  • Customer service was also important in that when it was done well the brand was perceived as much more inclusive.
  • Authenticity was highlighted and showed the importance of reflecting diversity in terms of messaging, imagery, and actual evidence.

Walking the Talk

A recurring theme was the importance of onward investment and progression so that organisations keep their diverse talent. Concluding the forum Jenny Hinde, Director of the Clear Company noted that when organisations treat people as unique individuals this is reflected in their employee population and organisational success. 

For Emerging Talent several things should be considered

  • Make all processes sustainable and authentic so that the inclusive experience at attraction and assessment continues into everyday life at work.
  • Continue to invest in your Emerging Talent and give them a voice to allow them to influence the direction and future of the organisation.
  • Don’t forget data. Organisations that regularly collect their data and have achieved high disclosure rates are able to see patterns and trends to evaluate their progress and make changes for the better.
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