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In 2020 Co-op made some important commitments to racial equality and inclusion. These commitments provided us with something we’d never had before – specific and challenging targets to increase the representation of minority groups in our colleague population. 

In the resourcing team, diversity and inclusion have always been part of our strategy, but the commitments were a catalyst for us to look at how we can continue to improve our service and take action to help build a Co-op that truly reflects the communities we serve. 

Benchmarking 

In the past, we've never had a clear idea of the demographics of our colleagues. To measure progress against the commitments, we’re mapping colleague diversity data across all our businesses. This is an ongoing process, but we now have data for 63% of colleagues, helping us to understand where we need to make progress, and how far we have to go before we meet our goals. 

We’ve also spent more time analysing our applicant data at each stage of the recruitment process. We can see from the data that overall, we attract a diverse group of candidates to apply for jobs, but that diversity generally dwindles during the recruitment process. That isn’t true for all business areas though, and we also see big variations in the data when we look at specific geographical locations. 

Talent attraction 

By analysing the data, we could see that in some business areas and in some places, we were attracting a diverse pool of candidates. But there are areas where we need to do better. Examples of these include our technology talent pools – where we have gender balance issues, and in our Funeralcare pipeline, where we have challenges around Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic representation. 

We decided the best way to attract a diverse pool of candidates was to build awareness of our culture and showcase diverse role models to make clear that Co-op is a place where people from all backgrounds can thrive. We've done this through our careers blog, and through partnerships with organisations like BYP (the Black Young Professionals network) and WISE (Women in Science and Engineering) externally, and our colleague networks internally. 

The recruitment process  

We're constantly reviewing our resourcing processes and trying to improve the candidate experience. Over the past year we've prioritised fairness, transparency and innovation to try and include more candidates in our assessment processes.  

We've trained all our recruiters in inclusive recruitment, ensuring they’re educated and able to proactively address challenges before they impact candidates.  

Business partnering 

One of the main goals of the inclusive recruitment training was to enable our recruiters to support hiring managers. We're lucky to have a population of managers who typically have the right intentions when it comes to diversity and inclusion. But even with a culture that emphasises equality and inclusion, we've suffered the consequences of unconscious bias. We've now equipped our recruiters to tackle these issues with their stakeholders in a positive way, producing fairer outcomes for candidates.  

We often talk about our teams representing the communities they serve. And to bring that to life for their stakeholders, our business partners have been taking population demographic data to operational teams across the UK to help them understand what representing the diversity of their community really means in their part of the world. 

Apprenticeships and community resourcing  

Since announcing our commitments we’ve continued to increase our investment in apprenticeships and community resourcing. We’ve made a conscious decision to focus on apprenticeship schemes rather than grad schemes, because we believe that makes our careers accessible for more people. We know that organisations with a wide range of perspectives in their leadership teams perform better, and through our apprenticeship schemes we offer a route into leadership for people from a wider range of ages, backgrounds and academic abilities.  

Our Co-op vision is to ‘co-operate for a fairer world’. And one of the biggest ways we contribute to that vision as recruiters is by supporting social mobility through our community resourcing proposition. Partnerships with our Co-op Academy schools, all of which are situated in economically deprived areas, and with organisations like the Prince’s Trust and Catch 22, have allowed us to provide career opportunities to people who might otherwise have struggled to find work.  

Looking to the future 

We've made real progress since we announced our commitments, but there's still plenty to do. Our priorities for the next 12 months include delivering inclusive recruitment training to managers in the field, establishing more partnerships that help us engage minority groups and deprived communities, and giving even more of our colleagues the opportunity to tell stories about their Co-op journey.  

We're recruiting in the toughest marketplace I've ever known right now, and that makes it more important than ever to make our processes as inclusive as possible, and build a workforce that feels a strong sense of belonging to Co-op. 

Yvonne Foster, 

Head of Resourcing 

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