Raj Tulsiani is CEO and Co-Founder of Green Park, which has been part of the InterSearch Network since 2020. Raj is one of the UK’s leading figures in executive search, workforce planning and diversification. He has over 20 years of experience moving the dial on leadership, talent and diversity, and is the author of ‘Diversity and Inclusion for Leaders: Making a Difference with the Diversity Headhunter.’ We talked to him about the importance of diversity and inclusion in today’s workforce.
What does diversity and inclusion mean for you?
As Verna Myers, founder and president of Verna Myers Consulting Group, once put it: ‘Diversity is being asked to a party, and inclusion is being asked to dance.’ Diversity is a reality, while inclusion is a choice. It involves the idea that people are engaged because they can contribute their best work at the company, or at least there are no institutional barriers against them. For leaders to embark on a journey where their own style or culture becomes more inclusive, and, ultimately, to increase productivity and retention by creating environments that better engage all people, represents the most cost-effective approach to closing the European productivity gap.
Why has progress in increasing diversity on boards been so slow in some countries?
In my opinion, there are three major reasons. Particularly in European countries, there is still the assumption that any increase in diversity comes hand in hand with an increase in risk. This assumption is perpetuated largely by internal human resources personnel and external headhunters who have grown accustomed to stating that ‘talent isn’t out there.’ However, statistically, the talent is indeed available. The challenge lies in recruiting top-quality diverse talent, which is more difficult compared to individuals who are familiar with changing jobs and comfortable with headhunters.
The second reason is also related to those responsible for providing choices when it comes to appointable candidates. There is often a lack of diversity within their own business, especially at C-level. Lastly, we have a candidate market that is used to being approached, but these approaches very rarely align. The headhunting mindset persists that every company needs a particular type of dominant executive culture, overlooking the existence of different types of executives. In essence, we are attempting to play the same song on a different instrument.
What role do headhunters play in increasing diversity and to what extent are they responsible for the lack of it?
It is not rocket science. Firstly, you need diversity within your own business – real lived experience. It’s not always advisable for an older, male design team to be creating clothes for teenage women. We have intelligent, experienced individuals who were accustomed to certain ways of thinking now facing different market conditions and diverse candidate profiles.
For instance, there might be a candidate who doesn’t naturally exhibit the same behavioural patterns, yet the attempt is made to force the same process through. Expecting diverse results by following the same approach is unrealistic. You cannot build the same bridge to connect with these candidate pools as you would with candidates who are content working with you due to multiple successful placements and a personal affinity.
Headhunters often operate on a time and material model. If it takes longer to find a candidate and to keep people in the process, your price is fixed, but your costs may vary. Consequently, you’re essentially asking the headhunting business to undertake something not aligned with their financial interests.
How did you and your team manage so set the benchmark for inclusive, fair and transparent recruitment practices?
We are not perfect, but we’ve had more women than men in the company, and we’ve maintained a board placement levels with at least 30% percent ethnic minorities. We’ve been learning from our mistakes, publishing white papers, and tracking candidate journeys since 2006. While it’s widely acknowledged that diversity is crucial now, it’s not something you can achieve in just six weeks. You need to provide evidence that your candidate journey is different, which, in turn, demonstrates your commitment to offering a broader non tokenistic choice.
What does a fair recruitment look like?
It should be transparent; there should be accountability regarding how decisions are made, and an independent scoring matrix should be in place. By the way, none of these measures should act as a barrier for any company or headhunter that genuinely wants to implement them.
What do you think about quotas?
In the history of developed countries, societal progress has often been driven by government regulations. If an organization or a country genuinely values research and papers, they should recognize that diverse teams statistically outperform monocultures. This strong argument supports the case for diverse leadership, justifying the implementation of quotas.
The challenge arises when people believe that “talent isn’t out there.” This belief leads to the appointment of individuals who may not be fully prepared, rather than putting in the effort to secure individuals who are 100 percent ready but may not express immediate enthusiasm for joining a listed board. This situation is particularly common in the UK. If genuine progress is desired, quotas and regulations become necessary, even if they are not widely popular.
How can you encourage diversity in a company? What are the benefits?
I believe people should adopt a liberal approach when hiring. Providing themselves with the broadest range of choices in appointing candidates allows them to make the best decision for their needs. Ultimately, the most suitable person will invariably get the job. I don’t think our role is to convince our clients; I won’t preach to anybody.
We need to remove the notion of diversity and inclusion from the realm of charity or mere altruism, even though it can certainly encompass acts of human kindness. In a business setting, the paramount factor is results, and embracing diversity and inclusion provides a direct path to achieving those results efficiently. I think there are a lot of business leaders out there who think diversity and inclusion is somewhere between a waste of time and rubbish. And it’s precisely this group that needs to be motivated by their own self-interest.
Enhancing our workforce, fostering a sense of inclusion, and establishing conducive structures not only align with business goals but also contribute to increased efficiency and effectiveness at a lower unit cost. Creating an inclusive environment leads to a noticeable uptick in engagement and productivity.
Looking ahead, especially with new generations of leaders, the ‘S’ in ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance) will increasingly be interpreted as the sustainability of people. The gap between diversity, inclusion and ESG will narrow, eventually sharing budgets, resources, and expertise.