How Professional Services Can Help Progress DEI

Employers and employees in professional services are highly educated and skilled, but many are also underrepresented across different positions, including corporate and senior leadership. Studies have found that organizations in professional service industries lack ethnic-minority representation. As employers have a growing responsibility to improve upon diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI), it’s key that professional services employers set specific DEI goals. 

Progress in DEI in professional services has a long way to go. Our studies show that 24% of employees feel their organizations have done nothing to improve DEI, and just 25% of employees in these industries feel DEI plays somewhat of an important role in their organizations. Meanwhile, 23% of employees who work in these industries say they were introduced to their company’s DEI initiatives during the hiring process, and 40% of candidates interviewing with professional services organizations have received no communication about their DEI efforts during the recruitment process. 

Additionally, only 23% of employees feel their employers share DEI strategies across their entire organization, and just 21% believe their employers are actively working towards a DEI strategy for their company. In contrast, 43% of professional services employers view improving DEI as a top priority for this year. The COVID-19 pandemic, however, has exacerbated some initiatives—only 34% of professional services employers feel their DEI efforts have increased in the last 12 months. 

At the same time, just 28% of employers in professional services are proactively sourcing candidates from nontraditional backgrounds, confirming employees’ sentiments about representation, where 21% of professional services employees would like to see more diverse hiring practices in their companies. 

With 36% of professional services employers aiming to achieve their DEI goals within the next 2 years, there are actionable steps employers can take to consistently improve upon DEI in their sectors. 

Source: The State of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Efforts: Progress, Priorities, and Opportunities

Communicate your DEI goals and initiatives

Your DEI strategy and any changes or improvements to it should be communicated not only to everyone across your organization but also to hiring candidates. When employees understand the organization-wide reach of your DEI objectives, they’re in a better position to help you achieve those goals, especially your recruiting teams. Ensure that DEI policies, strategy updates, and resources are accessible to all and that they’re integrated into your recruiting program. 

  • Fifty-four percent of professional services employers are establishing internal alignment around what DEI means to their organization and for their employees. Meanwhile, just 37% are communicating ongoing and future plans for DEI initiatives, despite 55% feeling this area offers the largest opportunity for improvement.
  • Thirty-five percent of professional services employers surveyed in our 2021 DEI Report say they’re providing employees with more resources to create ERGs and other advocacy programs for DEI, while 46% are offering supportive and educational DEI resources and 27% are introducing mandatory training around DEI. 
  • Forty-one percent of professional services employers say candidates request information about their DEI efforts, and 71% of these employers say existing employees request the same. 
  • While 27% of professional services employers feel they still have a long way to go in progressing DEI, only 18% feel they’ll reach their DEI goals this year. 

An overwhelming 40% of professional services employees we surveyed said they received no communication about their company’s DEI initiatives during their recruitment process. On top of this, just 25% of employees believe DEI plays an important role in their company’s hiring efforts, and 40% have requested resources or insights into their company’s DEI efforts in the last 12 months. 

Clearly communicating your organization’s DEI policies, initiatives, and efforts is key to ensuring more employees and stakeholders support and act as ambassadors for DEI across your company—in turn help you better communicate DEI efforts through your recruiting. 

Measure the success of your DEI initiatives 

Tracking the progress of your DEI initiatives is key to understanding both the success of your DEI strategy and the gaps or areas in need of improvement. Though many employers and recruitment professionals recognize the need for measuring DEI goals, our 2021 Report shows that just 39% of employers plan to measure the success of ongoing DEI objectives. Start by identifying a few key areas where DEI can be improved in your organization, then create goals your team can work towards over a set period and measure the progress of those goals as you go. 

  • Twenty-nine percent of professional services employers plan to collect feedback from employees on DEI initiatives, while 42% plan on beginning to measure the success of their DEI efforts.
  • Of the employers we surveyed who are measuring DEI efforts, 62% are leveraging hiring results to measure their DEI efforts, 48% are using employee demographics, 51% are using employee experience surveys, 41% are leveraging retention rates, and 37% are analyzing promotion rates and compensation to measure the efficacy of their DEI efforts.
  • Forty-six percent of professional services employers believe measuring the efficiency of their DEI efforts offers the most room for improvement, and yet, 53% are planning on setting internal goals around DEI before they can measure efficacy. 
  • Just 5% of professional services employees believe their employers are leveraging data to uncover and mitigate potential biases in their hiring process, while only 32% are encouraged to give feedback around DEI to managers. 
  • Twenty-two percent of professional services employees say their employers also conduct additional employee surveys to measure inclusion across their organization in the last 12 months.
Source: The State of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Efforts: Progress, Priorities, and Opportunities

Audit your existing recruitment practices

In recruiting, DEI matters. And, in professional services, ensuring that you integrate DEI practices into your hiring processes is crucial. One of the first steps you can take towards improving DEI in your organization is to audit your existing recruitment practices and determine any gaps in your hiring practices so you can ensure they’re both fair and inclusive. To perform a baseline audit, look first at each element of your recruiting process—including job descriptions, candidate outreach, employee experience surveys, and more—and note any gaps or inconsistencies where DEI may be lacking. Having this foundational understanding of your existing practices will help you choose the right areas to improve or work on to achieve DEI initiatives.

  • While 77% of professional services employers are actively recruiting for new roles, only 43% are prioritizing DEI in recruiting, while 27% are sourcing from untraditional backgrounds, 31% are posting new roles in nontraditional outlets, and 40% are ensuring those job postings use inclusive language. 
  • Twenty-six percent of professional services employers are using anonymized resume reviews, 37% are standardizing interview questions and rubrics, and 27% are involving diverse stakeholders to help make hiring decisions.
  • Just 27% of professional services employers plan to use data and insights to uncover bias in their recruiting.
  • Forty-six percent of professional services employers are planning on making actionable changes for DEI in their recruiting processes, 51% of employers have created or updated DEI policies, and 50% are working to formalize DEI policies to aid recruiting and retention. 

From an employee perspective, many employees in professional services feel there is much progress to be made with DEI and recruiting. Only 5% feel their employers are using insights to help mitigate bias in their hiring processes, while a mere 16% say employers are offering DEI training to recruiting and talent teams. Moreover, only 23% of employees claim their employers are offering consistent DEI training across the board, and just 20% believe their employers are making actionable changes to their hiring strategy for DEI. 

Make your recruiting process a foundation for change 

At Lever, we’re committed to providing you with the tools you need to attract, nurture, and retain diverse talent in your organization. We surveyed over 500 HR decision-makers and 1,000 employees to determine the state of DEI in 2021—and we break down the results in our latest Report. Explore new strategies for improving DEI in your organization today and beyond with our 2021 State of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Report. 

Download the Report