Building more diverse and inclusive leadership teams with market mapping

British boardrooms still have a lot of ground to catch up when it comes to diversity. In FTSE 250 companies, less than a third of directors are women and 69 per cent have no non-white board members. With the issue quite rightly in the spotlight, businesses need to actively plan to recruit senior female and BAME executives. Market mapping can help, by researching and identifying potential candidates before a vacancy arises, enabling you to move quickly when the time comes.

Market mapping usually kicks off the executive search process; it will give you a list of qualifying individuals, their current positions, and salaries, all carefully checked and screened by professional search consultants. The best-fit candidates will have been interviewed in person, to get an idea of their compatibility, what they’re looking for in their next move, and interest in changing jobs. (According to Business in the Community, 52 per cent of BAME employees believe they will have to leave their current organisation to progress in their career.)

It’s a labour and time-intensive process – up to eight weeks is not unusual to produce a first list. There’s a large amount of trust involved. Because search consultants are independent, candidates tend to trust us; a corporate HR team would be unlikely to get the same level of candour.

Competitive insight and fresh thinking

The beauty of this approach is that the starting point doesn’t have to be a specific vacancy but broader objectives. As well as increasing diversity and inclusion, you might want to build a more agile supply chain, embed digital transformation or accelerate growth internationally. Market mapping will help you understand how other companies are tackling these challenges – how they organise, what kind of senior roles and salaries they have. You might find you have fresh ideas when you see what sort of talent is out there.

Whatever skills, capabilities and profile you are looking for, market mapping can reveal strong candidates from left of field, individuals you might never otherwise have considered. And it’s not uncommon for companies to discover a candidate who is so good that a role is created just to have them on board.

Fallout from the coronavirus crisis will mean many more senior people moving – and thinking about moving – to a new position. Not just through redundancy but because their circumstances have changed (working from home has been an eye opener for many), or they’ve been disappointed with their employer’s response to the emergency. Market mapping will give you a head start on identifying good people who are not yet active in the job market.

On your marks, get set

Of course, in the short term, lots of businesses have put recruitment plans on hold; they’re not ready to make key appointments or commit to a retained search. The market map is a halfway house, a lower risk and more affordable way to progress, and will reduce the length of time it takes to fill a position when you’re ready to progress. It’s especially powerful when fishing in a relatively small leadership pool, such as senior female and BAME executives, or for locating rare fish with scarce skill sets.

Investors are already taking a hard look at corporate diversity performance. Lloyds’ programme to promote black employees was recently described as credit positive’ by Moody’s, the first time a rating agency has openly linked assessment and diversity. The political and public focus on increasing boardroom diversity will further intensify. Good intentions are not enough. Market mapping turns intent into action.

The coronavirus has overturned many old assumptions and created opportunities to do things differently. Leadership planning should be one of them. We all know that filling senior appointments takes time, and mistakes are costly. Start with a market map now and you’ll be prepared, able to act quickly when the time is right to move forward.

Shalina Poulter

Associate Partner
Sales & Marketing Senior Leadership


Specialising in Executive Search within senior leadership and Board level positions, Shalina’s extensive leadership, commercial and people management experience enable her to guide and support both senior clients and candidates to ensure the best possible outcomes.