Diversity, Equity & Inclusion in Staffing: An Initial Look at the 2020 Data

In June 2020, we committed to using ClearlyRated’s resources and platform to help address the systemic injustices that came to a more collective national awareness as a result of the George Floyd protests.

While we’ve been collaborating with other organizations in the staffing industry to more deeply understand the world of staffing professionals (i.e. internal employees of staffing and recruiting firms) since 2008, this is the first year we’ve collected demographic data and DEI sentiment from survey respondents.

While the full findings from the 2020 State of the Staffing Professional report, conducted in partnership with CareerBuilder and the American Staffing Association, are yet to be released, we’re sharing our initial DEI findings now with the hope that the increased insight will be of service while we collectively continue to examine our organizations for systemic inequality and work to correct it.

There’s #goodnews: Overall, industry satisfaction is higher than ever before.

We’re happy to announce that the majority of staffing professionals who took our survey indicate they are satisfied with their jobs, proud of their firm, and feel well-represented by their leadership.

  • The overall NPS for staffing professionals this year is 56%, up from 38% last year. It’s the highest industry NPS we’ve seen in twelve years of industry benchmarking.
  • 86% of our survey respondents feel that their firm did everything possible to ensure their well-being during the COVID-19 outbreak.
  • And the majority of every demographic subset we examined feel as though leadership at their company encourages diversity.

Overall, the findings from this year’s 2020 Staffing Professionals Study indicate that we have a lot to be proud of, even in the context of this unprecedented year.

That being said, this year’s look into the demographics of staffing professionals and their perspectives, their compensation, and their sense of belonging show us that we still have a lot of work to do if we want the staffing industry to accommodate all subgroups of the population in an equitable way.

Understanding and improving everyone’s experience is not just an opportunity to impact the well-documented, industry-wide trend of losing 25% of our workforce to turnover every year. It’s also an opportunity for each of us to contribute to the effort to address bias, eliminate compensation gaps, and reduce discrimination in the U.S.—both within our organizations, and outside of them.

Women are much more likely to be dissatisfied with their firm than men.

While the overall industry NPS is the highest we’ve ever seen, the segmented data indicates that this sentiment is most strongly held by men of all races, with women in general—and white women in particular—among the least satisfied.

In fact, female respondents are 10x more likely to be Detractors than their male counterparts, and the NPS of white women is a mere 46%, a far cry from the 68% NPS of white men.

Overall, the majority of women would still recommend their experience at their firm, but we need to ask ourselves why our female colleagues are less willing to recommend their workplaces than their male counterparts.

Some findings that could answer this question include:

  • Discrimination: Women are 7x more likely than men to agree with the statement “I have been the victim of discrimination at this company.”
  • Compensation: The vast majority of female respondents indicated that an increase in base pay (73%) or bonuses (75%) would positively impact their productivity. Women are 1.5x more likely than men to feel this way.
  • Poor perception of career growth: Women are more than 2x more likely than men to strongly disagree with the statement “my firm offers a clear path forward in my career and opportunities for promotion,” and female respondents who are looking to leave their current position are over twice as likely as men to cite “poor career growth” as a reason to leave their firm or the industry as a whole.
  • Recognition: Women are 1.7x more likely than men to say that increasing the recognition they receive in their positions would increase their career growth, and overall less likely than men to agree that they receive recognition for a job well done.
  • Skills Growth / Resources: Women are nearly 8x more likely than men to say that they want to leave their firm because they’re lacking the tools or technology they need to do their job and nearly 6x more likely to cite poor skills growth as a reason to leave.
Women are at highest risk for internal turnover, and concerns about compensation are a strong motivating factor.

Almost half of female survey-takers report that they are actively looking or open to leaving their firm in the next year, and women are nearly twice as likely to be open to new employment opportunities than men.

When asked why they are considering leaving their firm, female respondents are 1.5x more likely than men to choose compensation as a motivating factor. For white women who are open to leaving or actively looking to leave their firm, this was the most-cited reason—a shocking 81% indicated this was a factor.

But it’s not just women who are considering a new position who cite compensation as a concern.

Overall, women are less likely than men to perceive they are fairly paid for similar work, less likely to find that their company’s benefits meet their needs, less likely to say compensation attracted them to their current job, and less likely to cite compensation as a factor in why they choose to stay.

Self-reported median income is lower for all female respondents, while women of color are virtually unrepresented at highest tiers of compensation.

While it’s outside the scope of this study to determine whether or not women’s perceptions about their compensation are truly representative of the trends within the staffing industry at large, our findings do suggest women are more likely to make less money in the staffing profession than men.

Across all segments, and accounting for leadership, women reported making less than their male colleagues.

  • Of the cohort of respondents who completed our study, women of all races were most likely to report making between 40 – 59k a year. For men of all races, median reported earnings were 100 – 119k.
  • When we look at highly compensated earners, 48% of all male respondents reported making 100K or more in 2019, compared to just 23% of female respondents.
  • This inequitable distribution of compensation is further compounded by race, especially at the highest levels: Only 4% of our non-white female respondents made 120k or more, compared to 11% of non-white men, 18% of white women, and 34% of white men.

As a result, it’s not surprising that women of all races who completed the survey are less likely to agree with the statement “I am paid fairly compared to people who do similar work at other companies,” with female BIPOC least likely of all subgroups to agree.

Whether the staffing industry is reflecting another instance of the well-known and well-documented gender pay gap is yet unclear—according to the most recent research, women nationwide still make 78.3 cents on the dollar.

What we do know is that perception is reality in the eye of the beholder. These findings suggest that female staffing firm employees are unlikely to perceive themselves as being paid fairly compared to their male counterparts.

When considering how to respond to this information, it may be helpful to walk through your two options: either women’s perceptions about their compensation are true, and staffing firms need to do a compensation study to determine if they’re true and adjust accordingly—or their perceptions are not true, and we need to find a way to demonstrate the truth to our employees in a way that is compelling and believable.

In the meantime, it would be a mistake to assume that this perception is not influencing women’s long-term prospects in our industry.

BIPOC employees are less likely to see themselves making a career in the staffing industry, more likely to experience & witness discrimination

While analyzing the findings from this study, it became clear that sentiment didn’t always fall neatly into gender or racial binaries. We often needed to examine responses by gender and racial background in order to illuminate the full nuance of our survey-takers’ experience.

However, there were several instances within the findings where it was clear racial background was the primary influence for respondents’ experience in staffing, and many of these discrepancies are cause for concern.

For example, BIPOC of both genders are much less likely to indicate they planned to make a career in staffing than their white counterparts.

While non-white respondents are only 5 percentage points less likely to see themselves in staffing for the next five years, they are 23 percentage points less likely to see themselves in staffing for the rest of their career.

Other trends: white employees are 1.5x more likely to see themselves working in staffing for the rest of their career, while non-white employees are 2.6x more likely to be respond neutrally about their future in staffing.

This pattern is reflected in perceptions of job security as well: while 81% of white men agreed with the statement “I feel I have job security,” only 50% of non-white men felt the same.

One possible cause for this discrepancy in career sentiment may be discrimination experienced in the workforce.

We found that a total of 14% of our non-white survey respondents across all genders indicated that they have personally been the victim of discrimination at their firms.

Furthermore, an alarming 1 out of 4 female BIPOC respondents (26%) indicated that they have personally witnessed discrimination at their firms, the highest percentage of any segmented demographic.

While male BIPOC didn’t express the same level of agreement with statements regarding overt discrimination, they were over 3x as likely to express neutrality as non-white women.

This neutral perspective was a pattern reflected in non-white male responses across the survey.
Combined with the fact that male BIPOC are least likely to think that their firm encourages diversity and have a similar lack of optimism about their opportunities as their female BIPOC counterparts, it is possible that this trend towards responding neutrally is a reflection of ambivalence or sentiments that are difficult to express more directly.

Other findings that may explain non-white survey takers’ disparity in sentiment when it comes to their careers in staffing include:

A decreased sense of belonging. Non-white respondents are significantly less likely to agree with the statement that they feel like they belong at their firm.

While fewer than 5% of BIPOC respondents disagree with the statement “I feel I belong at my firm” outright, BIPOC of both genders are much more likely than their white counterparts to be ambivalent about their status within the organization, and non-white males report the lowest perception of belonging among any demographic subgroup.

Patterns in personal belief. Our results show that women and non-white people of all genders are less likely to believe that there are opportunities for advancement at their firm than white males.

BIPOC of both genders are also less likely to be optimistic about what the next year holds for them, and much less likely to perceive that their firm offers a clear path forward for promotion. In fact, white respondents of both genders are 1.8x more likely to agree this is true.

Whether or not survey respondents’ are accurately representing larger-scale, industry-wide trends in career opportunities for BIPOC, perception is again reality in the eye of the beholder, and this belief may keep non-white staffing professionals from self-electing for leadership opportunities or other career advancement opportunities.

Discrepancies in compensation between white and non-white populations. As noted above, it seems as though self-reported compensation patterns are impacted by race and gender simultaneously—women of all races are likely to report lower earnings than their male counterparts, and female BIPOC report lowest median earnings of all.

Other notable findings:

  • Among respondents, 35% of non-white men reported making 59k a year or less. Only 16% of white men reported the same.
  • Among non-white women, the discrepancy was similar: 61% of female BIPOC reported earning 59k a year or less, while only 48% of white women reported the same.

A similar pattern emerged among those who reported higher earnings.

  • Virtually no female BIPOC participants in the study reported making more than 120k.
  • White respondents of all genders were 3x as likely to report earning 120k or more a year than our non-white participants.
  • And white men in particular were nearly 5x as likely as men of color to report making more than 200k a year.

Intentionally addressing some (or all) of these disparities and perceptions—including committing to establishing and enforcing meaningful anti-discrimination policies—has a lot of potential to help your non-white employees and colleagues feel as though they have opportunity to find long-term success in your firm.

Secondary benefits are disproportionately desired by women & BIPOC employees; may be one big key to retention.

As a whole, 64% of non-white respondents looking to leave their firms desired to leave the staffing industry altogether, and women are 1.3x more likely than men to indicate they desired a career outside of staffing.

Respondents looking to leave their jobs or the staffing industry as a whole are universally motivated by compensation-related issues, including insufficient compensation, possible reduction in pay, fear of being laid off, and perceived lack of career growth.

Where some interesting differences between white men and the rest of our participants began to emerge was concerning non-compensation-related sentiments.

Some interesting takeaways concerning our respondents who indicated they are open to new employment opportunities in the coming year:

  • Close to 20% (or more, depending on the concern) of women who indicated they are open to leaving their current position indicated a non-compensation or career-related concern as a contributing factor.
  • Compared to men, women are 7.8x as likely to feel they didn’t have the tools or technology they needed to feel successful, 5.9x as likely to be concerned about poor skills growth, 3.5x as likely to feel they didn’t have a flexible enough schedule, and 3.4x as likely to be concerned about their ability to work remotely.
  • Burnout was a problem for both genders, but this is particularly true of men who are open to considering other employment opportunities, as they are 1.6x as likely as women to report feeling burned out. This may be due to the fact that men report working more hours: 73% of men indicated they worked more than 40 hours per week, compared to 62% of women.
  • While both genders reported problems with their immediate manager as a concern, men are 4.7x more likely to indicate this is an issue.

Concerns about schedule flexibility and remote work were not limited to staffing professionals who were dissatisfied with their current place of employment, however.

Among the broader survey population (both those who are open to new opportunities and those who are committed to their firm), we found these trends:

  • Women in general are less likely to agree that their work schedule allows sufficient flexibility to meet their personal/family needs, but BIPOC men are least likely to agree across all demographics.
  • BIPOC employees are 1.25x more likely than white participants to say schedule flexibility is a reason they stay at their firm (46%), second only to their perception of job security (48%).
  • White women and non-white men are equally likely to indicate remote work as a reason they stay at their firms (37%). Women in general are 1.5x more likely to value remote work than men.

When asked directly about preferences for remote work, 82% of all women indicate that they’d like to work remotely at least some of the time, and 40% of non-white women say they’d like to work remotely most of the time, the highest of any segmented demographic.

While some of these benefits might be appreciated by all employees, examining and improving your employees’ access to flexible scheduling, remote work, resources, upskilling opportunities, and benefits may be the difference between keeping and not keeping strong future leaders who are women or people of color.

Diversity Data: More Industry Insight to Come

We are so grateful for CareerBuilder and American Staffing Association’s support and sponsorship of this critical research, and we’re very excited to have taken the first step to better represent the perspective of underrepresented minorities within staffing.

If anything is clear from the results of this year’s study, it’s that the perceptions, reactions, and desires of white men are not necessarily representative of the feelings and perspectives of women and BIPOC—and that there is significant disparity within those populations as well.

This affirms our perception that we need to be more intentional about seeking out, segmenting, and sharing the perspectives of all of the different kinds of people who commit their lives to and power the staffing industry, as reported averages may be obscuring some significant differences in sentiment.

If you take one thing away from these findings, it should be this: It is more important than ever to seek out and respond to the diverse perspectives of the people who belong to your organization.

And this is just the first step.

Our newly launched Internal Employee Survey Program will give us access to thousands of responses from staffing professionals across the country, allowing us to understand with even more certainty the perspective of underrepresented minorities.

Introducing ClearlyRated’s Internal Employee Survey Program >>

Access to this data will give us the opportunity to be even more prescriptive about what diversity, equity, and inclusion could look like in staffing.

With a larger body of respondents, we’ll also be able to more confidently describe the demographics within our industry, helping us ensure our workforce is representative at all levels of compensation and leadership.

If you’d like to survey your internal employees at your firm in order to contribute to our data generation efforts—and to learn more about how your employees feel about working at your firm in particular—we’d love to invite you to learn more about our Internal Employee Survey Program.

Next Steps

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