Arter , client services managing director at Alexander Mann Solutions , is championing the company ’ s agenda on diversity and inclusion and exploring best practice .
Tell us about your new role and how it relates to diversity and inclusion ?
Having worked in talent acquisition since 1999 ( and at Alexander Mann Solutions for 10 years , in various roles ) I recently became client services managing director , leading a portfolio of clients and teams , across sectors , from a relationship , operational delivery and business-development perspective . I ’ m particularly interested in what different organisations are doing with respect to driving the diversity and inclusion ( D & I ) agenda forward and look forward to gaining insights across industries .
Have you faced professional challenges due to your gender or ethnicity ?
I ’ ve been fortunate not to have experienced too many issues in my recent career ; the challenges I ’ ve faced have been limited to outside of my professional life .
Alexander Mann Solutions is 71 % female , with a large number of female role models at senior-leadership and executive-committee level , many of whom have played an instrumental part in my own career journey . I would say , though , that as a person of Chinese origin , I can very often be the only non-white person in a meeting ( whether client or internal ). We have more to do at Alexander Mann Solutions to ensure that we are ethnically diverse at all levels , but especially within our senior-leadership population .
I take my responsibility of being a diverse role model very seriously and have become particularly mindful of this in recent years . It ’ s led me to play an active part within the company , to support our ethnicity agenda . I set up our Global Ethnicity Board last year with this aim in mind .
The pressure is on to make an immediate impact by delivering on what have been some very bold public commitments
What key issues are your clients facing from a D & I perspective ?
Most corporate businesses are experiencing similar challenges with respect to D & I . While , in the UK , gender balance has been many organisations ’ primary focus for a number of years , attention is increasingly turning to ethnic representation , following the death of George Floyd in the US in May 2020 and the subsequent Black Lives Matter protests .
Many people feel that if we cannot move the dial on D & I with the investment and executive sponsorship that exists today , we never will . This means the pressure is really on to make an immediate impact by delivering on what have been some very bold public commitments .
However , in truth , attracting diverse talent into some sectors is a real challenge . Whether that ’ s down to particular skill sets lacking within this demographic , or a lack of interest from the talent pool in joining some industries , it isn ’ t an overnight fix . With this in mind , many organisations are looking at what they can do at grassroots level ; for example , through increased incentives and partnerships with schools and colleges . There is also an increased focus on retaining diverse talent , as it can be difficult to ensure a diverse slate at more senior levels .
How can we increase the representation of minority groups in business , in practical terms ?
Along with ensuring we have the right brand and attraction strategies , and the right interventions throughout our talent acquisition processes , we need to focus more on embedding a culture of appropriate behaviour within the organisation , particularly for decision makers when it comes to hiring or promotions .
It ’ s critical that this isn ’ t seen as a tick-box exercise or a means of meeting a performance objective . Educating people around the importance of having diverse representation within teams will be key , alongside identifying and addressing unconscious bias .
This should help us to move past a short-term focus on D & I to achieving long-term , sustainable changes in how we make hiring decisions . It ’ s important to understand that this is not just a hiring issue ; the right behaviour must be embedded across the entire organisation in order to drive real change .
Rachel Arter is client services managing director at Alexander Mann Solutions .