Making boards more diverse

The Commissioner is committed to encouraging candidates from a diverse range of backgrounds to consider applying for a public appointment.

The Commissioner works with departments and the Public Appointments Policy Team in Cabinet Office to help achieve greater diversity on the boards of public bodies. Below are some tips and case studies intended as a prompt to encourage appointing departments to think more creatively about how to attract a strong and diverse field of candidates for public appointments.

Generating interest in public appointments

  • Consider whether any of your bodies can offer shadowing or mentoring opportunities for potential board members and applicants – often the biggest challenge is helping people understand what public appointments are and giving them the confidence to apply for them.
  • Think about whether you have disabled people who are role models from those you have appointed to public boards; they may be willing to mentor prospective candidates or become case studies that can be used to promote public appointments.
  • Retain names of applicants (with their permission) who may not have been successful at interview but who might be appropriate/ interested in other appointments. Actively promote opportunities to them.
  • Some candidates with an impairment or long term health condition, both appointment holders and those who were unsuccessful, may be willing to provide their views or experiences on your recruitment and provide useful feedback.
  • Make use of social media to raise the profile of public appointments, promote positive news stories and case studies, and advertise vacancies.

Planning and advertising

  • If using recruitment consultants, make the requirement to search for a diverse field of candidates clear from the outset and include it as part of the deliverables. Consider which consultants offer value for money and reliable results in this area and share your feedback with other Departments. Request that diversity data is supplied throughout the competition.
  • Think creatively about where you can advertise and which organisation or networks you can advertise with to encourage a diverse field of applicants. There are specialist publications, Disability networks, champions within the Civil Service, and contacts within Trade Unions who might be able to promote the vacancy to a wider audience (note that there may be a charge involved for some organisations).
  • Think about asking people from these networks etc. to ‘quality check’ the language used in the advert and the candidate pack – how will prospective candidates view and react to your recruitment material?
  • Your advert and specification are your first point of contact and crucial to attracting the right field of candidates. Consider your person specification and don’t make it too exclusive (e.g. requiring board level experience within the last x years), restricting the potential field of applicants.
  • If using a PDF format, do not scan as a picture, but as text accessible, this is compatible with specially adapted PCs and can be read more easily by people with a visual impairment.

Encouraging and managing applications

  • Using the Disability Confident Scheme sends a really positive signal and should be proactively considered and clearly advertised.
  • Make your message about reasonable special adjustments visible and positive. Be clear that adjustments will be considered if requested (give examples if possible) and ensure that there is someone to contact to discuss any questions about adjustments. Ensure that all staff involved in recruitment from the Department, recruitment consultants and the NDPB are confident about adjustments and can reinforce this positive message.
  • Think about including a practical description of what is involved in the public appointment you are recruiting to in the candidate pack. This gives people a chance to think themselves into the role – don’t assume people know what the role entails.
  • Consider publishing the interview date in the candidate pack to provide early warning and allow candidates to plan in advance.
  • Ensure interview candidates are given interview dates at least a few weeks in advance, in case they need to book travel assistance, or require support at the interview. (Interpreters, etc).
  • Consider publishing the dates of planned board meetings, giving applicants the chance to consider if they can accommodate meetings with their other commitments etc. Be clear about the location and timings of meetings, consider if disabled people can get there in time, and if there are possibilities for them to join via a conference call etc.
  • Consider the format of forms. Online applications in particular might not be accessible – be prepared to be flexible (for example, whether the pack/form can be offered in Braille etc.)  Always provide a contact telephone number for any candidate that cannot access the forms.
  • Examine diversity data throughout the process (not just at the end) to see if you are reaching a diverse field of candidates and consider where else you can place the advert to ensure greater exposure.

Sifting and interviewing

  • Consider if your interview location is accessible. Does it have parking and step-free access? Will staff be able to assist escorting people into the building and out again if there is an emergency? Is the timing of the interview convenient for a disabled candidate?
  • When arranging the interview, ask if there are any requirements at this stage. Consider making these arrangements by telephone – people react more positively to personal contact.
  • Consider how you can ensure that those sifting know their obligations under the Guaranteed Interview or Two Ticks schemes (if offered), and under equalities legislation (a briefing note, for example, can be useful).
  • Discuss accessibility with the NDPB being appointed to and making adjustments for potential board members.
    Visit the DWP website for advice on recruiting people with disabilities
  • Assistance to attend interviews and take up employment can be provided for people with disabilities.
    Find out more about Access to Work on the GOV.UK website

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