Black talent isn’t hard to find: It’s just you

If you want to attract the widest range of applicants, you need to think about what you're really offering, says this agency co-founder.

by Shanice Mears
Last Updated: 30 Jul 2020

I often hear people talk about how hard it is to attract talent - particularly black or non-white talent. 

It seems lately that a lot of people want to ask me what they can do better or where they can look, which is fine, but it won’t solve the long-term issue - that people just aren’t applying for your jobs.

Firstly stop and think. Some organisations have a real sense of entitlement (particularly in the creative industry, where I work), thinking that good people are supposed to just find you, and apply for that job you are advertising because of who you are. But that’s not good enough.

The talent you claim you can’t find is not finding you, for that exact reason. When looking for the best that’s out there, you have to search and understand the spaces you want to be in, that will bring you a diverse range of individuals to best match the job. 

There is a lack of effort and drive to do so, but there’s also an element of privilege layered into that thinking that affects how supported people feel even when they’re inside your organisation. 

I can only speak from my experience, but although I am the co-founder of an agency I’m also many things apart from that. Everything I do, I feel empowered to do so and I know I’m supported.

Does your organisation embrace and empower your people - all your people - to be more than one thing, rather than just your employee? Are you transparent about your values and what you want from your culture? Are you open about the different experiences that people face based on society’s values? 

For a long time young black talent has been neglected and now they are tired and want to create their own lane, of ownership and acceptance. There is a generation of young people who are self-starters and have a new lens on how they view the world. For them, your job offer just isn’t good enough. 

They want honesty at all levels of leadership, support for their personal development, autonomy with their creativity, collaboration with their peers. 

This mentality shift has occurred over the past few years, but recent events in 2020 have made it apparent that - even if we still have to push five times harder to be heard, seen and valued - black people will continue to try, continue to excel, continue to fight and achieve.

If you want that to happen in your organisation and not outside of it, you need to start thinking about how you support and empower diverse talent, as well as where you look for it. 

As a friend once said to me: “The colour of our skin is seen as a personality type. We’re boxed before we speak.” That’s where we need to start.

Shanice Mears is co-founder and head of talent at The Elephant Room

Image courtesy of Shanice Mears


Find this article useful?

Get more great articles like this in your inbox every lunchtime

How to host a virtual work Xmas party

It’s beginning to look at a lot like a video call Christmas.

Should you bin your frequent flyer card?

Management Today asks leaders if business trip culture is gone for good.

3 reasons your team isn’t innovating

Your ‘big idea’ cupboard is empty. Here’s how to fix it.

5 questions left unanswered by Sunak's spending review

Business leaders still need answers from the chancellor.

The CEO’s bookshelf: Maya Angelou, Mary Portas and Russell Brand

Neuro-Insight CEO Shazia Ginai shares her book and podcast recommendations for leaders.

Dominic Cummings & the importance of belonging

The PM's departed special adviser presents certain business lessons, whether he intended to or not,...