Skip to main content
Due to maintenance, some parts of the ACEVO website won’t be available on Wednesday 27 March, from 7–9am.
For urgent requests please email

Intentionally inclusive

Is your organisation really committed to becoming more inclusive? How can you go beyond developing an inclusive recruitment process and actually become an inclusive workspace? Kai Adams, managing partner at Green Park, shares some advice.

A narrated version of this blog is available at the bottom of the page

Creating an inclusive recruitment process is a laudable aim in and of itself. One we should aim to deliver every time. But an inclusive recruitment process isn’t a shortcut to being authentically, lastingly inclusive. It isn’t a fig leaf to hide behind or a silver bullet to shoot. A process doesn’t solve a problem, though properly conducted it could facilitate a solution. A process should be the instrument, not the end game.

Inclusion – an inclusive culture – takes hard work. Ongoing work. Ongoing listening and ongoing learning. It’s not box ticking. It’s not decoration. You can’t just outsource it to someone else.

Being inclusive is an active decision. A way of being. It’s a congruence between words and actions, a closing of the gap between what you say and what you actually do. It’s shuffling up to allow space for others, sharing your place, sharing your power. It’s bringing other voices into the discussion. It’s about actively listening to opinions and experiences other than your own. About being open – genuinely open – to changing your mind. Recognising you might need to do things differently. Being challenged. Getting uncomfortable.

You can’t just want the process. You have to want the result.

Don’t get me wrong. I applaud anyone who wants to create a recruitment process that is transparent, equitable, and inclusive. I celebrate anyone who believes in the benefits of a more diverse team. The process is critical.

But it must be underpinned by one crucial ingredient: intentionality – the fact of being deliberate and purposeful.

Process is important. Rigour is important. Consistency is important. The truth is, though, that even with all of this, I’ve seen too many “inclusive” processes be anything but. 

As those processes progressed, so the language changed, the hesitation crept in, the decisions narrowed. What started as an invitation to everyone arrived at a shortlist identifying people as “left-field” or “interesting as a wildcard”, and ended with explicit concerns about things like “scale”, “gravitas”, “networks” and, most deadly of all, “fit”.

The process, on the surface, looked right. So how come things didn’t change?

Because there wasn’t real commitment. Real intent.

The real, deep thinking didn’t happen up front. The right words got said but the actions didn’t support them. The right actions were put in place but the decisions subverted them. Not enough time was taken to consider and assimilate what those thoughts, words, actions and decisions to be more inclusive really meant.

Too much thought went into the idea – the beautiful, abstract concept – that “we, the organisation” need to be different. That someone else – someone diverse – would make that happen.

Not enough time was taken to think about how “we, the individual” need to be different. That the change has to start – deliberately, purposefully – with each of us.

Here are some thoughts on what those changes could be:

  • Take time. Yes, you’re often under pressure but that’s nothing compared to getting it wrong. Plan ahead. Think about what you need. About what is additive, not what fits. About how different you’re willing to feel on the other side.
  • Do it for the right reasons. You should be looking to ask better questions and gain fresh perspectives. Not to look diverse.
  • Define your end goal. You want a more diverse, inclusive organisation. Discuss what that really means. Get ready for it. Don’t just say it and not mean it. Be honest. Be brave. Tackle your fears.
  • Think whole, not role. Every time you make an appointment to your team or Board, that team or Board is changed. How will you adapt? What are you prepared to do differently? What happens if everyone shuffles up a bit or steps forward in different ways? Don’t just think about the gap. Think about the whole team.
  • Provide a mandate. No, not “help us be more diverse”. People want to get stuck into something, to bring their skills and experiences to bear for something they believe in. They want to be relevant. 
  • Tell your story. Identification of talent isn’t the problem. Attraction is. Have an authentic narrative for what you’re already doing to become a diverse and inclusive organisation, even if you’ve got a long way to go. Show you’re thinking. Show you’re acting.
  • Think about the person not in the room. The candidate. They’re deciding whether you’re right for them just as much as you’re deciding if they’re right for you. What might they want to know about you? What’s relevant to them? What might turn them off?
  • Remove barriers. Avoid dusting down the old candidate packs. They’re almost certainly full of boilerplate terminology, bias and barriers. Focus on what you really want to achieve – structurally, culturally, in terms of mission, impact, relevance, and purpose – and write the brief to match.
  • Create shared purpose. Do away with supporting statements and instead ask people to address values-based questions, which gives candidates some insight into what matters to you and makes them think about their response
  • Get out there. People aren’t hard to reach. You’re just not reaching them in the right way. Use a variety of platforms and channels – the talent you’re after doesn’t necessarily inhabit the same space as you. Proactively seek them out. You never know who you might meet if you’re willing to go down a different path.

If you are looking for recruitment support and would like to become a more inclusive organisation, you can get in touch directly with Green Park.

Narrated by a member of the ACEVO staff

Share this

Not an ACEVO member?

If you have any queries please email
or call 020 7014 4600.

This website uses cookies to improve your experience. Privacy & cookie policy

The cookie settings on this website are set to "allow cookies" to give you the best browsing experience possible. If you continue to use this website without changing your cookie settings or you click "Accept" below then you are consenting to this.