The UK is facing a labour shortage issue thanks to the pandemic and Brexit, and this can be solved if businesses start widening the pool from which they hire, said panellists at a session titled 'CEO Activists — Collaboration not competition'.
The panel was part of the DIAL Global Summit where senior leaders from FTSE & Fortune 500 companies talk about how they are prioritising actions over words across visible and invisible facets of diversity.
They discussed tangible strategies and steps that can be taken to make measurable progress in creating equality in workplaces.
Steve Ingham, CEO of recruitment business Page Group, said “at a time of talent shortage it's incredible we forget 14% of the country who are disabled."
“We ignore them, when actually when you meet these people they have more more energy and resilience than those who are able-bodied. We ned to bring them into our businesses.”
He added that he has often spoken to candidates who say they have left a company because “it was not doing enough for diversity, not doing enough in the community, not taking social responsibility, and not doing anything for environment and sustainability.”
Workers now more than ever care about these issues and companies will suffer if they don’t take these issues seriously or only pay lip service to them for the sake of symbolism, the speakers said.
Steve Rowe, M&S (MKS.L) CEO, said there is a talent shortage partly because “too many businesses are fishing in one part of the pond” such as only looking at Oxbridge candidates “while there is talent all over the country, in every community and at every education level."
"It is crucial to make businesses accessible so everyone can see career paths within our organisations."
Meanwhile Steve Murrells, CEO of The Co-Op, said all three panellists could employ thousands of individuals from diverse backgrounds but they would fail if the firms have not made strategic cultural and structural changes that allow for these individuals to thrive.
And the way to do that is to understand what it feels like to be on the receiving end of issues like racism or sexism.
"You've got to get underneath the skin of what it means to be a black person or a person with a disability, only then can you make the necessary changes."
He said it would not be easy: "What could we three white men possibly know about racism?"
But he said: "What we can do is listen and make changes."