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Ep 524: Keeping The Needle Moving On DE&I


Many employers have been publically committing to making DE&I their most important focus for several years now. However, as the economy becomes more challenging and some companies roll back from flexible working, is the needle still moving on diversity, and is it still the business priority that we were promised it would be?

My guest this week is Michael Barrington-Hibbert, CEO of Barrington-Hibbert Associates and Co-Founder of 10,000 black interns. Michael is an active influencer in driving better diversity and inclusion within the finance sector and instilling a belief in the importance of social mobility. He has essential advice on how employers can keep diversity front and centre by closely aligning DE&I strategies to critical business goals.

In the interview, we discuss:

Talent market challenges

Wage inflation and overhiring.

How the pandemic diversified the workforce

The relationship between flexibility and diversity

Advice to employers on how not the lose the progress they have made as the market changes

Diversity of thought and creativity

Reducing bias in recruiting

The role of technology

The importance of brave organizations

Aligning DE&I with business strategies

What will the future look like?

Listen to this podcast in Apple Podcasts


Matt Alder (0s):
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Matt Alder (43s):

Matt Alder (Intro) (1m 2s):
Hi, there This is Matt Alder. Welcome to Episode 524 of The Recruiting Future Podcast. Many employers have been publically committing to making DE&I their most important focus for several years now. However, as the economy becomes more challenging and some companies roll back from flexible working, is the needle still moving on diversity, and is it still the business priority that we were promised it would be? My guest this week is Michael Barrington-Hibbert, CEO of Barrington-Hibbert Associates and Co-Founder of 10,000 black interns.

Matt Alder (Intro) (1m 42s):
Michael is an active influencer in driving better diversity and inclusion within the finance sector and instilling a belief in the importance of social mobility. He has essential advice on how employers can keep diversity front and centre by closely aligning DE&I strategies to critical business goals.

Matt Alder (2m 5s):
Hi Michael and welcome to the podcast.

Michael Barrington-Hibbert (2m 8s):
Hello Matt. Thank you very much for having me. It’s a real honor.

Matt Alder (2m 12s):
An absolute pleasure to have you on the show. Please, could you introduce yourself and tell us what you do?

Michael Barrington-Hibbert (2m 17s):
Well, this thank you so much. My name is Michael Barrington-Hibbert. I am the Founder and CEO of Barrington-Hibbert Associates and there are three components to our business, Matt. So we have executive search, so we work with global organizations across financial professional services, private equity family offices to find underrepresented talents. So, you may think what is underrepresented talent? Well, we work with females, we work with people from lower social economic backgrounds, but we also work with ethnic minorities to place them into leadership roles. So, that’s the cornerstone of our business.

Michael Barrington-Hibbert (2m 60s):
The second aspect of our business is leadership and development, Matt. So, we work with not only leaders of these organizations in terms of coaching and development. We’ve also done an incredible amount of work in terms of coaching that next generation of going into that next role. And the final component of our business is good old cultural transformation. And that’s looking at diversity, equity, inclusion, and more importantly, belonging.

Matt Alder (3m 32s):
Fantastic stuff. So, asking everyone who comes on the show at the moment, the same question. I think that you’ll have a really interesting perspective on this. The talent market is pretty unique at the moment. What are you seeing from your perspective? What are the challenges that your clients are facing in particular?

Michael Barrington-Hibbert (3m 50s):
So what is keeping CEOs up at night outside of the geopolitics of the US, the war in Ukraine is one wage inflation. We’ve seen the greatest war for talent over the last two and a half years since the pandemic, and it’s been the biggest change in labor market since the industrial revolution. And we’ve seen a number of organizations Matt over-hire over the last two and a half years, and then the market now pivoting. So, organizations are really looking at their workforce in terms of hybrid working.

Michael Barrington-Hibbert (4m 32s):
So, statistics which I think is absolutely incredible. At the start of the pandemic with hybrid and flexible working. The labor market became more diverse. We saw more home carers coming in back into the workforce. We saw more females coming back into the workforce and we actually saw more ethnic minorities coming into the workforce because of flexible working. Now, the market has now changed. Organizations are now saying, we want you back into work 3, 4, 5 days a week.

Michael Barrington-Hibbert (5m 12s):
And what we’ve now seen this year alone, Matt, we’ve lost 500,000 people out of the economy who sit within those underrepresented groups. So, CEOs right now are really looking at how can we be agile, how can we be flexible, but how can we also maintain a diverse workforce at the moment? So, I think at the moment, diversity of workforce. I think around wage inflation is another aspect, as I mentioned before, but also statistically the labor market is still active.

Michael Barrington-Hibbert (5m 53s):
It’s not as hot as it was 12 months ago, but there is a recognition that there are two candidates for one open vacancy. So I think it is a case of organizations really understanding how they can attract and retain talent in a really tight labor market.

Matt Alder (6m 13s):
I think that’s really interesting statistics there. And round the DE&I aspect of that. I mean, it’s something that employers have been citing as their key priority for a very long time, particularly for the last sort of two or three years. But it seems that actually some of the things that they’re doing are working against that. I mean, is the needle still moving, or is progress stalling, or is nothing moving forward?

Michael Barrington-Hibbert (6m 38s):
Look, first things first. I was speaking to a CEO about this last night. So, I think it’s really important to recognize that. I believe there has been some very good work done over the last three or four years. So, I’m the co-founder of 10,000 black interns. That was founded in the summer of 2020. In order to diversify the, initially the investment management industry. Because after the murder of George Floyd, myself and my colleagues, my other co-founders wanted to organize a breakfast meeting with black portfolio managers who run money.

Michael Barrington-Hibbert (7m 21s):
And to provide some context to your listeners, those are pension funds. So, when you are working, your pension is deployed to portfolio managers to make sure there’s a return. So, when you retire, you can be able to receive that on a monthly basis. So, out of thousands, and I mean thousands of portfolio managers across the United Kingdom, I think statistically circuit 9,000, we couldn’t find more than 12 black portfolio managers running money in the United Kingdom. And that is a frightening statistic, Matt. So as a consequence, we realized that what we needed to do is create pipeline.

Michael Barrington-Hibbert (8m 2s):
So, that was the genesis of 10,000 black interns. And initially, it was called 100 black interns is grown to 10,000. And the initiative is very much focused around opportunities, but also given interns paid opportunities because we’ve seen statistically over the last 10 years in some sectors like media advertising, sometimes even the law profession, internships sometimes will be unpaid. And for people from lower social economic backgrounds, that’s just too far out of reach. So, I think it’s a case of organizations and the United Kingdom have done a really good job of diversifying their graduate intake.

Michael Barrington-Hibbert (8m 48s):
Now, that’s great, but what else is happening from a lateral point of view? Are there role models? Because the challenge that we’ve seen over the last five to 10 years, Matt, is organizations are doing a great job of attracting people from low social economic backgrounds, diverse talent. However, the statistics are that people from ethnic minority backgrounds, and this is maybe within financial services, so it’s not broadly across the United Kingdom. By and large, 40% fall out of financial and professional services firms within three years. By five years, that number is close to 70%.

Michael Barrington-Hibbert (9m 29s):
So, where can you actually build that pipeline? So I think that the UK as a whole has really embraced internships. I think in terms of UK as a whole have embraced returners and worked around gender. But I think there’s also a lot of work to do. Because I think the number of your listeners will work at organizations, which over the pandemic. So, I think financial services firms, professional services law have done exceptionally well over the last two or three years and have made some big commitments to shareholders to the industry around diversifying their workforce.

Michael Barrington-Hibbert (10m 9s):
And it’s really easy to make commitments when your revenues are going through the roof and you are making profits quarter after quarter. However, with the mini-budget, which happened towards the end of last year, the volatility in the markets, the rise in interest rates, the redundancies in big tech, the other cuts taking place within financial services, it then puts a real strain, Matt. A real strain on some of the incredible work that some of these DE&I HR practitioners have done over the last two or three years because budgets are being cut.

Michael Barrington-Hibbert (10m 53s):
And a number of organizations have — and I gave you the stat earlier, Matt, around over the last two and a half years that the workforce has become more diverse because hybrid working has been cuts because we’re starting to see more redundancies. In many respects it’s last one in first one out. And the stat that I gave you is that 500,000 people from underrepresented groups have now been lost within organizations in terms of that workforce. So, I think, it’s very much a case of there’s still a lot of work to be done, but we also need to recognize that organizations have really started to lean in.

Michael Barrington-Hibbert (11m 40s):
But like anything, cultural change doesn’t happen within 24 hours or 24 weeks. It’s a gradual process. It takes time.

Matt Alder (11m 52s):
You are such a strong advocate social mobility in the work that you do. And we are obviously at this point where it’s becoming as you say, tougher for the people trying to move the needle within companies. What would your advice be to employers? How should they be thinking? What should they be doing to kind of build on the work that’s been done rather than losing all their progress?

Michael Barrington-Hibbert (12m 16s):
So, with gender, with ethnic minorities, I think organizations have listened, they’ve learned, but it’s now really a case of putting together a cohesive strategy and really drive it from the top. Because like with any cultural change, and I’m sure you’ve seen it with, I’m a massive sports family. I’m not a Man United fan. But you look at Sir Alex Ferguson when he left Man United, he drove the culture, the winning culture of that organization from the top right down to the bottom to the t-lady, they were all very clear of what their mission was.

Michael Barrington-Hibbert (13m 0s):
And then you had a period of seven or eight years since he’s retired where there’s been different philosophies. So, it really much starts from the top. But also what that leader needs to do is be able to give agency and support to their leadership team. Now, I think what’s really important, and your listeners are hugely educated around this particular topic, but we need to give agency to middle managers because it’s really easy for the top of the house mat to say, “Hey, we are going do this, okay?” And I’m sure you’ve seen that Foote CEO salary have gone up by 25%.

Michael Barrington-Hibbert (13m 45s):
So, it’s very easy for Foote CEOs who are getting paid millions of pounds to make these decisions. But what about that middle manager? What about that middle manager who doesn’t necessarily have agency and is thinking to themself, “Okay, well I’m a white man and you are going to over-index and focus on women. You are going to over-index and focus on minor minorities. What about me?” And it doesn’t mean these people are discriminating against others, but what leaders need to do is really incorporate the business case of having more of a diverse workforce.

Michael Barrington-Hibbert (14m 26s):
It’s not a zero-sum game. It doesn’t mean that white male, because they have more diverse talent in the organization is going to be preventative, is actually going to provide more of an opportunity for that person to grow. So, the business case is clear, McKinsey mentioned that more diverse teams are more profitable than non-diverse teams. So, I think leaders need to be able to empower middle management. They need to be able to give training development, but more importantly, support around the business case. So, I think really from that standpoint, it’s around advocacy, it’s around clear messaging, but it’s also around giving middle managers empowerment, education, and support in terms of why having a diverse workforce is part of the organization’s strategy to be more global or to be the number one whiskey distiller globally.

Michael Barrington-Hibbert (15m 32s):
To understand what the growing Chinese economy looks like. So, I think from that standpoint, once leaders can really articulate the business case, the social impact that it actually does and actually provides more creativity, diverse ideas, that’s where it makes it more sustainable in terms of future opportunities for that organization to change.

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Matt Alder (16m 36s):
It’s very clear that has to be the way forward. Just diving down briefly into the specifics of recruiting, when it comes to building up that diverse workforce. Bias in the recruitment process is well documented. How can employers reduce that? Is that something that technology can help with? What’s your sort of view on reducing bias, whether it’s unconscious bias or conscious bias?

Michael Barrington-Hibbert (16m 60s):
As I mentioned previously, the reason why I pause there, Matt, is it’s very much a case of everyone has bias. I’m an Iwi town fan for my sins. I know if I’m going to CV sends me when I’m looking to hire and I see another Iwi town fan or someone who lives in my area, I wan to spend the next 20 minutes talking about the glory days of the 1970s. So, I think it’s really important that people recognize that we all have biases in the process. But again, this is why I mentioned this at Alex Ferguson’s metaphor is that being super intentional in terms of the direction of the company will help reduce the bias in terms of the business case.

Michael Barrington-Hibbert (17m 48s):
Now, I think technology absolutely has a critical place to play. So, I have personally invested in a company called Equitas and they are an inclusive interview intelligent software designed for fair hiring in helping companies build diverse teams. So, let’s go back to the middle management, the frozen middle who are basically got the world on their shoulders because they are being told, you need to work more, you’ve got less resources, you’ve got to hire more diverse talent, but are organizations coaching the middle management in terms of what to do?

Michael Barrington-Hibbert (18m 30s):
So, when I look at Equitas, what it does it strips out bias from the interview process where it’s very much a case of looking at standardized questions where you have to score them. So, again, what that does, it allows organizations to hire based off the outputs which come off that report. But there’s also been some fantastic case studies. So, I was on an interview panel with the Founder of Timpson’s. I think his name’s John Timpson.

Michael Barrington-Hibbert (19m 10s):
And John has a really innovative policy when it comes to hiring. He has a longstanding relationship of actually hiring ex-offenders. And the statistics are pretty frightening in terms of 90% of ex-offenders when they come out and don’t have unemployment re-offend. And John was explaining to me that his son was doing a tour of a prison and started speaking to a gentleman called Matt, who was an inmate and really connected with him. And John’s son said, “Look, when you come out — ”

Michael Barrington-Hibbert (19m 50s):
it was a nonviolent offense. “But when you come out, give me a call and I’ll give you a job.” And what Timpson have done as a consequence of that, they’ve been able to hire, I think over 500 ex-offenders into their stores. That there’s just some really brave organizations, Matt, who have been innovative, who have, I don’t want to say taken a chance, but really sort of lent in to try and ensure that the UK economy is more inclusive by incorporating ex-offenders, incorporating people from low social economic backgrounds. So, I think just going back to your original point, it’s a combination of technology for sure, but also it’s a case of the leaders being braver in order to make decisions, which will help, again, in my view, the UK economy to be the driving force globally that it was a number of years ago.

Matt Alder (20m 55s):
Final question, looking to the future, what do you think the next few years will look like? I mean, what would you hope will happen from a talent acquisition and just sort of general talent perspective?

Michael Barrington-Hibbert (21m 7s):
The world of work is changing at pace. I mentioned at the top of the interview that — could you imagine just going back, Matt, to 2020 that people would be hired without actually meeting anyone, in terms of physically. It’s mind-blowing. It was mind-blowing for me to think that organizations would hire just based on the Zoom call. But it’s happened. It’s now become, I’m speaking to you, I’m in London, you are in Edinburgh. The development of technology has been absolutely a game changer when it comes to talent acquisition.

Michael Barrington-Hibbert (21m 51s):
I also think more importantly during this period we have had the biggest shift in the job market since the industrial revolution. We’ve had greater mobility and diversity come into the workforce. There are jobs which are going to be established in the next five years that we just didn’t fathom or going to exist. So, when I look at the future of talent acquisition, I’m excited. I think there’s going to be an increased reliant on technology, but also more importantly to your listeners, they’ve got such a critical path to play too.

Michael Barrington-Hibbert (22m 34s):
The main takeaways that I would really want your listeners to take from this podcast, Matt, are to be empowered to speak to leadership around how they can diversify their pipeline of talent is also a case of embracing technology. What is the culture of the organization? And I think what’s a really interesting statistic, LinkedIn put a stat out there, a bit of research that 90% of graduates — okay, in the United Kingdom, when they’re looking at their employers, they’re looking at culture as the main reason of joining the organization.

Michael Barrington-Hibbert (23m 22s):
And I think remuneration was the fourth least important factor. So if you work within talent acquisition and you cannot articulate the culture of the organization if you cannot provide role models around diversity, equity, and inclusion. You are going to miss out on potentially one of the most resilient groups of graduates and non-graduates by the way, coming into the workforce because a number of these young people had to do their A-levels GCSEs, and part of their degrees, a large portion of their degrees in isolation.

Michael Barrington-Hibbert (24m 12s):
So, if you haven’t got that narrative around culture, belonging, Neurodiversity, whatever it may be, you are potentially going to miss out on the best most resilient young people coming into industry. So, those for me, if you know, it’s around technology, it’s around starting from the top, but I think the most important aspect, Matt, would be around culture.

Matt Alder (24m 37s):
Michael, thank you very much for talking to me.

Michael Barrington-Hibbert (24m 41s):
My pleasure.

Matt Alder (24m 42s):
My thanks to Michael. You can subscribe to this podcast in Apple Podcasts, on Spotify, or via your podcasting app of choice. Please also follow the show on Instagram. You can find us by searching for Recruiting Future. You can search all the past episodes at On that site, you can also subscribe to our monthly newsletter, Recruiting Future Feast, and get the inside track about everything that’s coming up on the show. Thanks very much for listening. I’ll be back next time and I hope you’ll join me.

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