Inclusive recruitment and development: how to use data to improve your practice

Get tips on how to collect and use data to help you determine where your HR practices could be more inclusive. Find out what steps to take to improve equality for your staff.

Last reviewed on 11 September 2020
School types: All · School phases: All
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  1. Start small: collect data in a particular area, like recruitment or retention
  2. Data can’t give you all the answers, but it can help diagnose problems
  3. What to record, and what the data might mean
  4. What to report to your governors
  5. BAME – a note on terminology
Note: while this article discusses inclusivity in terms of race, you can apply the same principles to improving inclusivity in terms of gender and sexual orientation, too.

Start small: collect data in a particular area, like recruitment or retention

It'll be easier to make a difference in your HR practices if you start small and focus on one area before expanding your attention. (How small you start will depend on your school's capacity.)

For example, if you think you're struggling to attract Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) job applicants, start by looking at data on your pool of applicants ('attraction data', see more about this in the section on recruitment below). After this, you can move on to looking at data from the rest of your recruitment process.

If you haven't yet been recording data in an area you want to look at (like the drop-off in applicants in your recruitment process), now is a good time to start. You might be able look back and find some other data, too (like how far BAME staff have progressed in their careers in the past 5 years, compared to white staff).

Data can’t give you all the answers, but it can help diagnose problems

Data can certainly give you an idea about where your problems might be in your HR practices and processes. However, you'll need to supplement that with your own reading, and speak to members of staff to get a more complete picture.

Get insights from BAME staff

You can speak to BAME staff about their perspectives on your HR practices, and what they think the problems might be. This might not only give you an idea of what to start collecting data on first, but will offer additional insights beyond what your data tells you.

If you plan on doing this, consider starting an anti-racism working group. This group might be able to help you get a fuller picture of the problems in your HR practices.

Read up about anti-racism and racial justice

Your own reading on anti-racism and racial justice will help you decide further on the best way to solve the problems in your HR practices. If you're not sure where to start, take a look at our anti-racist reading lists for staff.

Ask if you have enough data

You should base any judgements about problems in your recruitment process on as much data as possible. For example, you should use data from multiple recruitment rounds to determine whether or not unconscious bias is at play. 

Not all schools will have employed enough BAME staff to get a useful idea of the problems in all of their HR practices. Even if this applies to your school, it's still worth getting in the practice of recording some data, in case there's a big shift in your applicants' demographics.

What to record, and what the data might mean


You might already be doing this, but if not, you could start recording the ethnic background of applicants. (Note that this is special category data under the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), so you'll have to protect this information as part of your data protection responsibilities.)
Someone who isn't part of the recruitment process should keep track of each applicant's ethnic background, and then monitor the percentage of BAME applicants progressing through each stage of the process.
You can then measure where the 'drop-off' is in the recruitment process - e.g. 30% of applicants at the CV stage might be BAME, but only 5% might be BAME at the first interview stage. If this pattern tends to repeats itself, you could amend your recruitment practices:
  • If there's a drop-off at the CV stage, you can anonymise CVs. Someone who isn't on the interview panel can remove names, addresses, and anything else which might give a hint to applicants' gender, age, or ethnicity
    • That person could replace each applicant's name with a number, so you can keep track of how far BAME applicants progress beyond the CV stage
    • If you use an online application system for recruitment, you might be able to redact name, gender, ethnicity and other personal information automatically
  • A drop-off at the interview stage might point to unconscious or conscious bias in the interview panel. Look at who's on your interview panel, and whether you can make the panel more diverse. You might also want to consider unconscious bias or inclusivity training for staff who are part of the recruitment process
    • You should also avoid judging candidates on 'team/culture fit' - this is subjective and can lead to unconscious bias
Compare your school's data on ethnicity to that of your local area
You can compare the BAME demographics in your area to the proportion of BAME staff in your school, as well as among job applicants. Download this census data to view demographics by local authority (under "8. Download the data").
If the proportion of your job applicants is significantly lower than the BAME population in your area (e.g. 5% of your applicants were BAME in the last recruitment round, but 30% of people in your local authority are BAME), this might mean you have a difficulties attracting BAME applicants.
If this is the case, consider where you post vacancies:
  • Are they all on one website?
  • Are there places in your areas where you could also advertise roles (like places of worship)?
Bear in mind that you'll need to record data from multiple recruitment rounds to build up a picture of the issue. For example, just because there's a significant drop-off at the CV stage in one round doesn't necessarily mean that you have a problem with unconscious bias.

Career development, pay, and progression

Start by measuring how far your BAME staff progress at your school in a given time frame (like 5 years) compared to your white staff. You could:
  1. Take the start dates and roles of BAME staff, and measure these against where they are after the time frame you set to see how far they've progressed
  2. Compare this to how far your white staff progress

If your white staff tend to progress further in the same amount of time, examine who the decision-makers are in staff members' progression. Ask if there might be unconscious bias at play, and if so, consider unconscious bias training.

You can also do this to measure how many BAME staff progress into your senior leadership team compared to white staff.

If you use performance ratings, compare BAME staff's ratings to that of white staff. If there's a significant difference in performance ratings, this could point towards unconscious or conscious bias in this process.

Staff retention

Start by comparing the annual turnover of BAME staff to that of white staff. If turnover is much higher for BAME staff, it might suggest that BAME staff are less satisfied with their opportunities for progression.
You can also compare how many BAME staff leave within a year of starting their role, to the number of white staff who leave within a year. 
Remember: data might be misleading
Such data might give you a rough idea of a problem, but it won't give you the full picture. For example, turnover for white staff might be higher because they've found new jobs more easily than BAME staff.
Exit interviews might provide insight
If your school isn't already doing exit interviews or surveys, consider introducing these.
It could help you get a better idea about why BAME staff leave. However, bear in mind that there's no guarantee that staff will want to talk about their negative experiences, such as of racism. You shouldn't ask staff to share these experiences in an exit interview, but make a note these if they comes up naturally.

Prioritise the changes you want to make based on what your data tells you

Approaches like anonymising CVs and conducting exit interviews are good practice. If you've got the capacity, you should implement them regardless of what your data tells you.

However, if this isn't feasible straight away, you could start by approaching the areas which have the biggest gaps, based on what your data tells you.

What to report to your governors

You should focus your reports to governors on:

  1. What your data suggests about your recruitment, development, and retention practices (e.g. low numbers of BAME applicants for roles compared to the number of BAME people in your area suggests a problem with attraction)
  2. What you're doing to improve your practices (e.g. advertise your roles in more places)
  3. Your targets by the end of the term or year (e.g. double the number of BAME applicants to roles by the end of the year)

Your governing board can decide on the scope and format of your reports, so they might ask for more data than what you give them (see page 22 of the governance handbook).

You can make an anti-racism action plan to keep track of any perspectives you've heard from a working group or from exit interviews. You can include any areas of HR that you want to improve on (including action steps and milestones), and then present this to governors.

BAME – a note on terminology

We use BAME (Black, Asian or minority ethnic) throughout this article as a succinct way to refer to the many ethnic minority groups in England. However, we recognise that some people are not comfortable with the term.

When talking about this topic in your school, we'd encourage you to think about what terms will work best in your own context (other widely used terms include "ethnic minorities" and "people of colour") – and note that individuals should always be referred to according to their own ethnicity, rather than grouped in this way.


Amundeep Dhanoa, director of people and culture at The Key.

Sufian Sadiq, director of teaching school at Chiltern Learning Trust, who spoke to us about anonymising CVs, and that some online recruitment systems will do this automatically.

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