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DEI is often touted as a major concern for organizations. And with good reason – society is becoming less and less tolerant of companies who don’t live and breathe these ideals. Talent will actively select equitable workplaces where they can thrive. And customers, too, quickly turn their backs on organizations that aren’t striving for inclusivity. Driving diversity, equity, and inclusion is not a tick-box exercise. But many struggle when it comes to the practical things they can do to ensure DEI is embedded into their hiring and work practices.
We recently spoke with the incredible Christabelle Feeney, Director at Employers For Change, on The Shortlist podcast. Christabelle has over 10 years of experience creating DEI strategies, campaigns, and change management structures so she was the perfect person to dig in to this topic!
In this episode:
- Practical insights on building an inclusive hiring process.
- The dangers of culture fit.
- Creating inclusive cultures.
- The importance of feedback for driving success.
1. Is DEI still a priority for organizations?
Given the tumultuous environment of economic uncertainty, it wouldn’t be stretch to imagine that DEI could fall down the pecking order of importance. But according to Christabelle, “it’s a huge priority for organizations, and it’s grown over the last three years.” Companies are truly beginning to understand the positive impact that diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging can have. For employees specifically, they’re no longer seeking out jobs with a pension or good pay-check – they want to know what you stand for. They want to know that your organization will value them. And the research backs this up. Christabelle pointed towards a recent Deloitte report that found organizations who were truly inclusive and had a true desire to drive DEI were actually eight times more likely to achieve better outcomes.
2. Practical tips to bolster inclusive hiring practices
One of the issues when it comes to discussions on DEI is they’re just that – discussions. To make real change, it requires actionable steps, and Christabelle came with an abundance.
- Stock imagery: Companies will often use diverse, stock imagery in their job advertisements. This can be incredibly frustrating and tokenistic if this is not actually reflective of the work environment and should be avoided.
- Job requirements: Be very clear about this. Don’t just throw in things like ‘strong communication skills’ if it’s not actually part of the role – it can quickly alienate a lot of underrepresented talent.
- Language: Avoid gendering your language and using too much jargon. You don’t want the job ad to build a perception of the individual you think is going to fit the organization.
- Show your DEI commitment early: Provide opportunity for people to request reasonable accommodations if they have a disability, for example. Or add the line “if you don’t fulfil all of the requirements of the above role, we still encourage you to apply” – this helps prevent people from deselecting themselves from the application process.
- Interviews: Ask competency based questions and avoid two-pronged questions – these can be very difficult for neurodiverse people or if English isn’t a first language, especially in a high-pressure situation like an interview.
3. The importance of feedback
Asking uncomfortable questions and being open to receiving uncomfortable answers in return is the only way to truly grow your understanding of how DEI is progressing in your workplace. And it’s something Christabelle believes a lot of organizations aren’t actually doing. Feedback is an opportunity to grow – it’s not criticism for the sake of it. It has to happen early too, to catch as much feedback as possible in the hopes of removing barriers. Whether it’s questionnaires around the application process or the interview, both internally and externally, capture everything and learn from it.
Our guest’s final piece of advice:
“Listen. Listen and engage with people in your organization. Be there for people to give honest feedback and feel part of the process.“
- [2.37] Introduction
- [5.20] Is DEI still a priority for organizations?
- [10.26] What does good inclusive hiring look like?
- [16.08] Screening in vs. screening out
- [18.45] Value and culture fit
- [22.47] Practices to create more inclusive environments
- [27.53] Diversity vs. Equity vs. Inclusion – reconciling each
- [32.28] Inclusive internal hiring processes
- [37.45] Building workplace awareness
- [40.50] Importance of feedback
You’re very welcome to The Shortlist. My name’s Johnny Campbell. I’m your host of today’s episode. I’m the CEO and Co-founder of SocialTalent. I’m also the father of four boys, husband to Jill, dog owner to Maggie who’s sitting under me, who hopefully won’t bark during the show. If you’re joining us live, you’re very welcome. We welcome your comments, your discussion, your questions during the episode. You can join us on YouTube or LinkedIn if you’re listening to a recording of this anytime you want to join the live show. If this is your first time on social SocialTalent, you’re very welcome. You can find more about our previous 136 episodes by going to socialtalent.com/theshortlist or checking our back catalog in your Spotify or Apple app or wherever you find your podcasts. Today’s show is going to be talking all around what LinkedIn learning posted as the number two priority for L&D programs around the world in 2023. That is diversity, equity, and inclusion.
It may seem surprising that in 2023, the year is so far turning out to be that DEI would still remain such a high priority for organizations all around the world, but it is. We’re going to be digging into that this week, talking about inclusive hiring, inclusive work practices, how it’s evolved, how it’s come along, how to build diversity, equity, and inclusion into every step of your hiring process and also into building it into your workplace practices. To help us unpack these topics, I’m delighted to be joined by a guest we had on, gosh, 18 months ago I think, on the show. That’s Christabelle Feeney. She’s the director of Employers for Change and she’s joining us also from Ireland. Nice to have another Irish guest joining us this week. Christabelle, so glad to have you back. I’m wondering if you might start by just reminding our audience a little bit about who you are, about Employers for Change and Open Doors, what the initiative it does, and who you work with, and what your day-to-day is, and why you end up doing this job, why this is your passion.
Great. Yeah, thanks so much, Johnny. It’s lovely to be back. I really can’t believe it’s been a year and a half since we spoke last, and we had a good laugh at the fact that my life has changed dramatically since we spoke. In the meantime, I had a baby. Yeah, who am I? As you mentioned, I’m the director of Employees for Change. Employers for Change is a program that really supports employers in the area of disability inclusion specifically, and I work within the Open Doors Initiative. Open Doors works much broader. We support participants from a variety of marginalized backgrounds, and we do that with our member companies driving DEI initiatives within the organizations and creating impactful changes that result in diversified hiring processes and ensuring that people within the organization are supported and have that sense of belonging.
I myself am really passionate about all things DEI. I’m very passionate about disability in particular because that’s often an element within the DEI structures that gets totally lost or left behind. Prior to this, I had a colorful background. I actually worked in politics, but again, with very much an emphasis and focus on equality and driving social change and social justice. It’s great to be here today. I think this is a really timely and topical discussion. There’s huge interest in the area of DEI more and more. Anybody who’s on LinkedIn, every second post on there is talking about diversity, equity, and inclusion, and what that means for different organizations, and how people can actually bring it to life within their organizations.
The summer of 2020 arguably reignited or sparked the renewed interest and focus in diversity, equity, and inclusion with the murder of George Floyd and a lot of social unrest that happened that summer, and many people were nervous, even feared that it would just disappear after a year or two when normality returned, when people begun to forget about the horrendous injustices that were carried out that summer or were highlighted that summer at the very least, but to see DEI as the number two objective offer L&D programs for 2023 above digital fluency, above compliance, above hybrid working, above employee well-being, above large scale upskilling and reskilling, may seem a surprise to some of our listeners, but talk to me about what you’re seeing and hearing. Does that kind of priority focus resonate with you? Is that similar to what you feel out in the market working with employers that it remains a priority and still is a top priority for organizations?
It’s a huge priority for organizations. As you said there, it’s grown, I would say, over the last three years. I think there’s a few reasons for that, like you mentioned there, about the impact of certain events actually on people and hearing the stories, like what happened with George Floyd in America, it was really horrific, but I think for companies, as time has moved on, they’re growing more and more in their understanding of the impact for them as a business as well as an employer. For a long time, we’ve talked about equality. That was the driving force, and equality was very much based on, “Let’s treat everybody the same.” “Let’s follow our legal obligations,” was the key focus for a lot of employers. Now, we’re moving more towards seeing the value actually in diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging. I think we’re seeing a lot more about belonging recently as well. A lot of that comes down to the fact that companies realize that their employees and the potential employees are no longer looking for a job with a pension just or just concerned with what’s the paycheck going to be.
People actually want to know what your company stands for. They want to know what’s your value there. They want to know that when they actually sign up to your organization that they’re going to be valued, that individual sense of value for people within an organization. There’s been lots of research as well which, I think, is another driving factor in this. There was a Deloitte report done in 2020, and again, that found that organizations that were truly inclusive had a true desire to create DEI within their organizations, that they were actually eight times more likely to achieve better outcomes. We’ve also seen from other research that actually where you have good DEI strategies and there’s a sense of belonging within an organization, you’re going to reduce your turnover by about 50%. That is huge for any employer and organization. The job performance increases right up to 56%. There are now multiple drivers in this and multiple reasons for companies to say, “Actually, this has to be. It’s not that we even want it to be anymore. It actually has to be a key driver for us to be successful and to retain talent.”
Yeah, I think you’re right. I remember reading an article last year from Harvard Business Review that talked about leadership and its evolution over the years, and the role of a CEO. It highlighted that 30 years ago, 20 years ago, a CEO was measured by her financial performance. Was she able to deliver the results of the business? Was the stock price able to rise, et cetera, et cetera? Today, you might nail that, but these days, the CEO is being asked what her political beliefs, where does she stand on social justice issues, what has she had done in her past, what history does she have? You might be nailing them financial metrics, but if you don’t have a comfortable background outlook and opinion that the directors and the customers and the employees respect, you’re gone. That just never happened before. That piece you mentioned around the employee value, but even the shareholder value they place on where you stand on these issues, what you’re doing to try and combat these issues, it’s never been more important.
Probably, you look at the correlation and the causation piece, but you will attract better people. You’re more likely to attract people because, as you said, the surveys are showing increasingly in the last three years that employees are being more and more attracted to companies who are clear in their stance on these issues, who are doing the right thing to try and drive more equity across their workplace and also the societies that they serve and work. This has become a hot issue, often in many cases, a hotter issue in certain demographics than salary would be in terms of a motivator to move jobs. Talk to me about the meat of it. We progressed. Before we went online, we were briefly discussing how the world has changed in the last five, 10 years. We had a meeting last week, discussed this when we looked at the curriculum that we have on our platform around diversity, equity, inclusion.
In the early days that we started developing curriculum eight years ago, nine years ago on this topic, a lot of it was about what we could do. There was a lot of aspiration why you should do it, and it was lacking in the how. There aren’t a whole lot of brilliant examples of how you build an inclusive workforce. We all agreed you needed one. We all agreed diversity was important, but it was lacking. I feel that that’s changed. There’s so many more concrete examples of how companies have done it, what works, what doesn’t work, what they’ve tried, what they’ve experimented in. We chose the topic of inclusive hiring to start us off today. Can you walk me through today, Christabelle, from a 2023 perspective, what is good inclusive hiring? What does it look like? What does it not look like?
Yeah, so what’s interesting, I suppose, is we actually, Open Doors and Employers for Change, we carried out research last year. It was with the Atlantic Technological University in Sligo, what used to be Sligo IT. It was specifically on this. Our driving focus was to create a toolkit that would enable employers to put practical steps in place to create an inclusive hiring and recruitment process. That looked to the nine protective grounds under the equality acts from an Irish perspective, but the steps there include in it. They’re relevant to any organization anywhere, I would say. It looks the key in the core parts of any recruitment process. The first element is your advertisement. The first time somebody is going to think about applying to for a role, they’re going to look at your job advertisement. For a lot of people, when they go, first of all, to the hiring insight, it’s not accessible. That’s the first thing.
The second thing that came up from people was the stock imagery, the use of stock imagery, how frustrating and how tokenistic that actually is. A lot of organizations, they have their careers page, they have these lovely images of people who all look different and very diverse, and then the person goes into the organization and it’s not like that at all. I’d encourage organizations and employers to stop doing that, and ensuring that when you’re putting those advertisements out there, that they’re very much competency based, you’re being very clear about what the requirements are. Gone are the days when we’re just going to copy and paste standard information into every job advertisement. We’ve all seen it. Strong communication skills. Maybe you don’t actually have to talk to anybody else at the organization. Maybe it’s email, maybe it’s presentation, whatever it is. Just being very, very clear on that.
Ensuring the language that you’re using as well. Gender-neutral language is really important. Avoiding jargon too. I’d also say being clear that actually your advertising roles for your organization, you’re not meant to advertise a perception of the individual you think is going to fit it because we do that as well sometimes. There’s lots that can be done in that. Also, when we’re talking about the application side of things, how people can apply for those roles, looking at that, given options as to how a person can make that application if somebody needs it in an alternative format for example. I’d also say it’s important that you’re stating your commitment and you should be doing that even at the advertisement stage. We should be stating our commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion. We should be providing opportunities for people to request reasonable accommodations if they have a disability for example.
We very much want to ensure that we’re given all candidates from diverse backgrounds, the very best opportunity to put themselves forward for those roles and encourage those applications. Actually, you’ll see more and more now on different job applications a line that says, “If you don’t fulfill all of the requirements of the above role, what you would like to apply, we would encourage you,” because sometimes we know that people from different backgrounds will actually deselect themselves from that application even though they could be a great candidate, so as much encouragement as you can give as possible. Then I’d say around the interviews, the interviews are so important. Again, diversity of your interview panel, making sure that your interview panel are properly educated around DEI and your company’s policies and DEI as well before they start those interview processes, ask them people competency based questions, avoiding things like two-pronged questions.
People are under pressure. If you have somebody who’s neurodiverse, for example, if you have somebody for whom English isn’t their first language, it can be very, very difficult to process those two-pronged questions in that high pressure kind of scenario. Again, offering the accommodations. Similarly, when you’re bringing somebody in and you’re onboarding them, when you’re even getting to that stage of the process, what are you doing then? How are you ensuring that that transition period is fluid for the individual and that you’re providing the same standard of supports that you provided right through the hiring process? Because you don’t want that to end. What happens is companies put huge effort into these hiring end drives. They’ll do all the things right around their DEI for those. The person is taken on. If there’s no follow through, you’re going to end up with having conversations about performance when actually it’s about the person not being adequately supported as opposed to it being a performance problem.
A few weeks ago, we had Stacy Gordon speak at the ERF conference here in Dublin, a recruiting conference talking about inclusive hiring. She made an excellent point of thought, which talked about this style of interview that you actually have, and she pointed the fact that the majority of organizations still have a screening out approach to interviewing where you’re looking for reasons why so would not be suitable, trying to find the problems, the errors, the gaps, et cetera, and that to be more inclusive and also to be more skills based, even dropping the whole DEI conversation for a second, focusing on trying to find skills to do the job rather than experience, which most of us have to do for most professions these days because there aren’t enough people with the experience out there, that you have to have a more screening in approach. Is that something you’ve talked to employers about? For you, what does screening in versus screening out mean?
Yeah, I think it’s a really good point. When we’re talking about screening in, I think we’re looking at understanding the diversity of applications, actually appreciating that not every application is going to look the same, reducing our expectation, maybe even removing our expectation, that applications are going to fit into this little box of our perception of what a success in a role is going to look like, and really open up our mindsets to the fact that you could have two individuals who have very different qualifications. That doesn’t necessarily decipher which person is going to be better qualified to actually do the job because skills, as you said, are so important.
For people from marginalized backgrounds in particular, if they haven’t had the opportunity to actually gain experience, then it’s very, very difficult to enter the jobs market at all, so really looking at CVs from the perspective of look at the value, the diversity of this individual, their skillset, how they’ve obtained those skills, look at the value that’s going to add to our organization, not looking at, “This is our organization. They need to fit into it.” That falls into that similarity bias. This is an interesting one because I’ve had conversations with companies where we talk actually about culture fit because culture fit is a big one, Johnny, in I think being a blocker for people getting into organizations. When the organizations talk about culture fit, they often say, “Oh, well, the person needs to be very good culture fit,” and that’s a strong criteria for selecting them.
When you try to drill down into what that actually means, different people have different attitudes or different responses, but it all comes back to the idea that people actually are looking for somebody who’s like them. If we all are the same and think the same and look the same, you’re losing that diversity of thought, diversity of what people can bring to your organization. For any organization that’s got a customer focus as well, you’re not going to interact very well with your customers because you’re not going to represent them. People are different. We’re all different. I think really removing that similarity bias even from CVs and all of that, again, some people without even realizing it could look at a CV and they might say, “Oh, that person has attended the same university as me,” or “They did the same degree as me. They’d be a great fit for the role,” it’s not a good criteria for getting the right person job fit.
I totally agree. It’s funny, we hate the phrase culture fit, but we use values fit, but values fit on its own doesn’t begin to tell the story because companies I find still have, if you don’t mind me saying, BS values. Erin Meyer wrote a great book about this when she was talking about Netflix’s culture, and she talks about their definition of values, and she gives great examples of a good value and a bad value. For example, she talks about how a bad value will be something like we value respect. You might say, “Why is that a bad value, Johnny?”, but she argues it’s a bad value because who doesn’t value respect? It’s like you’re going to meet someone, oh no, I’m big into disrespect, that’s my personal thing, so will I be a fit?
Of course, no one’s out there, no company’s out there looking for people who value disrespect for point being a value should be something that in the moment allows someone to make a decision. For example, one of Amazon’s values and Netflix’s values has been frugality where you go in faced with a decision, we opt for frugal, that’s our company’s value. If that’s your company’s value, it is fair to assess for that value because you look for people who have experienced decision making in that environment where there are two forks in the road at least you can go and you want people who are more aligned to the decision making process in your organization. They can come from any sort of background, they can have various different universities, they come from non-university, different cultures, et cetera, but it’s more the decision making and the value alignment.
You can build great assessments for that, but I think when people say culture fit, you’re dead. They talk about familiarity and similarity bias, but even there’s a danger if you just say, “Well, it’s value fit.” They just replace the word value for cultures and it still means the same thing. I think there’s not enough work done to really dig into what are the values and are they actually going to help us make better decisions around hiring or is it just something that we use as a proxy for culture? Do you find that’s still a challenge that even if you change the name, they’re missing the point around what you’re assessing for?
I think you have to do a lot of work with companies and with teams that there’s self-reflection. I think you need, I suppose, to work with people to bring them on their own path to actually understand where they’re going a little bit wrong. We, in Open Doors, have actually done that. We’ve done that kind of inclusive recruitment training with companies where we’ve done things like walk-in debates, which are really great because it gets people to really delve into what their thought process is and see as well the diversity on teams of people agreeing or disagreeing. I think you need to do that because awareness raising and awareness build and one-way conversations are not actually going to do it. They’re just not.
Human nature is that we have to feel like we’ve really come to this decision to some degree by ourselves or on our own accord in order for real change, I think, to happen. I do think organizations are very open to all of this. As you said at the very start, there’s a huge appetite within organizations around DEI, and I think there’s a huge understanding that this has added value for their organization, but it’s really important that it’s not all simply, “Oh, let’s just raise awareness,” because awareness and understanding aren’t the same, and you just need a lot more self-reflection and deep thought on it.
We’ve talked a bit about in inclusive hiring, which is the front door, so it’s saying how do you make sure that your front door policies are the most inclusive so you can arguably create more diversity in your organization, but what about once you’re in? Talk to me about the work practices that you see employers focusing on or that you recommend they focus on first to drive more inclusive environments and to create that sense of belonging.
Yes, so this is interesting because actually, only last week, I had a conversation with an organization, and it came about in the conversation that diversity had happened organically right within the organization. That’s the case for a lot of organizations. Depends on the type of roles that they have and where they’re based, diversity can just happen, but that inclusion and equity piece, it is an active decision you have to make within the organization and it is something that you have to build for once a person is actually hired. I would always say to organizations, “What are your policies? Do you have a DEI policy? Who actually knows about it? How are you sharing it?” When somebody starts with an organization, what type of information is shared with them? Do you have things like your internal networks? Again, and we spoke about this before the start of the podcast, Johnny, about you’ve got lots of organizations that have ERGs and internal networks, and they’re a huge asset to create that deeper sense of equity and belonging within the organization, but they have to be utilized properly.
For a long time, there was onus is being placed on your DEI, your ERGs internally to really drive inclusion within the organization. The companies who are doing it well are actually involving their ERGs in the core policies and processes. What’s our hiring process like? Well, let’s talk to our ERGs. Let’s actually talk to our people. Let’s get them involved because people want to be involved in the decisions that are happening that are actually going to impact them. The organizations that are creating that true sense of inclusion and belonging, they’re doing that. They were involved in people from the get-go. That’s really important. Value. Every person wants to be valued in the organization. Last week, I was on this course where people were talking about inclusion and belonging, and what does that mean, and we see all of these quotes on LinkedIn where people try to basically summarize what DEI means in about six words. I think you really lose the depth of what it means when you try to do that, but I was saying to them, when I think about inclusion and belonging, I think about how you actually make somebody feel.
How does somebody feel when they actually start in your organization? Do they feel that there’s somebody they can reach out to? Do you have a buddy system within the organization for your employees? Do you have very clear reasonable accommodation policies that an individual with a disability knows about? Maybe you could go further than that. I know, for example, I was at an event this morning in Wicklow with a representative of Mr. Price. Mr. Price has won multiple awards over the last 18 months for work that they’ve been doing. They were talking about the reasonable accommodation passport. This is something that’s been utilized by Bank of Ireland, lots of other organizations to accommodate predominantly employees with disabilities, but they’ve actually broadened it out to all employees where a person can actually come to their manager using this process, talk to the manager about an adjustment that they need in their work because of a personal circumstance. Maybe it’s got care in facilities, maybe somebody in your family has become ill, whatever it might be.
Again, it’s creating a safe space for an individual to actually talk to their manager or somebody in work and get work to actually fit in with their lives as much as anything else. That’s positive for your staff turnover as well because you’re much more likely, if something changes for you in your life or if there’s a barrier that you’re facing, you’re much more likely to go and speak to your manager in that scenario. Whereas if you don’t have something like that built in, if people aren’t aware of your policies, if they don’t feel like they’re included and they belong, they’re much more likely to go and look to another organization where they will.
Agree. Just for our audience outside Ireland, Mr. Price is a large retailer discount retailer, has a significant presence here in Ireland. Just to give some context to our audience in case they’re wondering. Is this one person who employs a lot of person? Mr. Price is doing a wonderful job. I want to talk to you about a dilemma that a recent guest raised on the podcast and that was really interesting. This guest brought up the fact that you can have an extremely diverse organization, but no sense of inclusion or belonging. Equally, you can have a very inclusive organization where everyone feels like they belong, but there’s no diversity. How do you reconcile that dilemma that one does not equal the other? First of all, do you agree that one does not necessarily equal the other? How do you reconcile those things?
Yeah. Of course, one doesn’t equal the other. I think there’s a dual approach. It’s funny. Again, I was having the exact same conversation with somebody last week. I think one can compliment the other and the ability of an organization to both create a sense of belonging and to create a diverse workforce. For example, in some industries, you see quotas being introduced. The idea of the quota is to get a much more immediate reaction and immediate result. Whereas if you are putting policies in place in your organization, you are more likely to attract talent. It’s a softer approach and it probably has much more long-term value. Similarly, you might have a diverse organization, and as a result of that, you’re starting to see changes in your policies that are going to create a sense of belonging. I don’t necessarily…
It’s like the whole chicken and egg thing. It’s very much that one will impact the other and it can go either way. Sometimes, it’s that companies put a huge emphasis on creating those kinds of internal policies to drive DEI, and as a result, that’s the driver for people to actually join the organization, but it can be the other way around either. I don’t think it’s a black and white you need to do one first. I think it depends on the starting point. Every organization is going to be totally different, and it’s going to be totally different for a small or medium enterprise compared to a multinational and the approach that they’re going to take that’s going to work for them.
I like that because I think people often lose the fact that you have to perhaps do different things to create diversity, then you would have to create inclusion, that doing all your work for diversity won’t mean you get inclusion, doing all the work for inclusion won’t mean you get diversity. You have to look at different tactics that are going to achieve those different names. There’s a lot of overlap, don’t get me wrong. I find, personally, that looking more at equity tends to drive both objectives, diversity, and inclusion because if you build more equitable process and more equitable workforce, it will come from that because you will generally attract people who gravitate themselves towards your organization because you are being more equitable than others, and that will create a much more inclusive environment. Again, not exclusively on its own, but we’ve had that argument put to us in the past.
I want to come back though full circle, if you don’t mind, to the inclusive hiring piece because obviously, you can bring in a diverse workforce by having an inclusive hiring process. It doesn’t mean you have an inclusive work environment, but let’s say it’s a step towards it. A big issue that we’re hearing this year is the development of more mobility opportunities for talent to move around their own company. This is a big thing to progress people who’ve come into the business, whether they’re marginalized or not marginalized, but to try and attract talent after 18, 24 months when they get to that point where they feel the itch to move on. Companies are doing a lot more in the last couple of years to drive more career mobility in their own organization. It hit me recently when I was interviewing for a role that we had, and I had an internal applicant, that the process is typically not very equitable in that an external candidate has a huge number of advantages over an internal candidate.
They typically are interviewing for many roles, and therefore, they’ll develop more practice. They may be represented by a third party agency or expert that’s giving them coaching advice, how to prepare for that. The internal candidate who may have been very loyal, done a great job for the organization, done fantastic stuff, they haven’t written a CV or resume in years, they’ve no interview prep for years, they’re not being coached to the same degree as the external applicant. Have you come across that issue where you’re trying to drive more equity internally for hiring because there seems to be a lot of focus on making it more inclusive for different types of marginalized people, but they’re all external? We forget this huge audience of hopefully, people we hired last year, two years ago, that maybe were quite diverse from different backgrounds and we’re not providing them with the same equity required to give them an opportunity for these roles. Has that come up in your conversations with employers? Do you see it yourself as something you think about?
I wouldn’t say that that particular scenario that you’re talking about really has come up. I have seen organizations where they’ve had a focus maybe on their clients, their service users, their focus has been on DEI in that area. I’m even thinking about third level institutions where they’re very much focused on the inclusivity and the policies that they have for students, but actually, it had never occurred to them maybe that they should be doing this internally for their own staff, for their own employees, and how are they supporting them built at the higher end stage or promotion or whatever it might be, but I think it’s a really interesting point that you’re making. The only thing I suppose that I would say about that is that you also have the other side where internally, your internal employees will probably have a much better understanding of the organization’s values.
They’ll have a much better understanding of the expectations of different roles than the organization because I think when you work internally in an organization, you do have much better knowledge and understanding of the expectations of any specific role than what you can ever try to outwardly explain to a new person. There’s probably a little bit of an up and down in terms of balancing on that, but it is an interesting point and it isn’t, being honest, something specifically that I have seen or that I have been asked about, but I think that the scope there certainly for companies to ensure that they’re given the same time, effort, and value to progress in their existing employees as they are to actually hire a new talent because that comes back to longevity and staff turnover again, and that’s a big expense for companies.
It is. I think the danger of not doing that is that we see attrition for marginalized individuals is higher. You have this challenge of you’re being perhaps successful in your hiring efforts to bring in a more inclusive, a more diverse workforce, but then within your organization, you are churning more of the marginalized staff members because they just feel like they’re, not marginalized, but they feel like they’re just not represented in the organization as much, and then as they leave on a faster rate, the problem gets worse for people who are left because they feel even more alone and not part of the same community, so you have this vicious circle. I know that a lot of companies who have gone to great efforts to reverse this with big initiatives.
Again, big multinationals have bigger budgets to do this, and you hear the stories where they’re particularly taking, let’s say, underrepresented groups which tend to be in, let’s say, their hourly staff or their manufacturing or delivery kind of staff, and they’re trying to upscale those talents to work in, let’s say, more the corporate roles or software engineering roles or whatever they might be, so providing the initiatives, which is brilliant, I think, deliberately putting the training in place. I’ve used it several times in this podcast, but Amazon have an initiative where they’re upskilling employees to be software developers, and 60% of the people who’ve taken that program are their hourly workers in their warehouses. For someone like that, you end up doubling your salary at the end of it. The significance is unbelievable, and so they end up solving a DEI problem in the software engineering space by moving staff from warehouse where they have the opposite.
They typically only get people from underrepresented communities applying for the jobs, but they’re able to make it more equitable across the workforce by saying, “Well, let’s make sure that the average salary is improving by upskilling people from this team to move them over to this team.” I think there’s a gap there in the human side where having the skills is only one part of it. Are you networked? Do people know who you are to get the position? Do you have the skills to pass the internal interview and get the job? Are you going to be successful in your first six months? Do you have the confidence? Do you maybe suffer from imposter syndrome coming in there because you’ve never had that opportunity? I think we do focus on the skilling, which is fantastic, but I just see myself, the real story is a little bit more complex when you look on the ground of an individual person who perhaps is an hourly worker who’s doing online training to your software developer.
That by itself won’t necessarily make her a software engineer, make her a successful software engineer. I think sometimes we forget about the resources there. Again, from an equity perspective, maybe the person who’s doing the hiring in software engineering would never imagine the life that this person leads and the challenges that they have because they’re perhaps quite different to their own. What are you seeing around opening up more perspectives to show that so more people can understand different communities, different backgrounds beyond the tactical stuff around making it more inclusive processes as well? What about the awareness side to just better understand that not everyone is the same as you whoever you is and that people come from different backgrounds of different family circumstances, different things going on, different abilities, different strengths, different weaknesses, but what’s happening in the workplace around that?
I think that there’s a few different things happening. Actually, based on what you said, there’s just two quick points I’d make. One is there’s every opportunity for organizations to provide a chance for applicants, internal and external, to give feedback on the process. I don’t think enough organizations actually do that. We may not like the answers, we may not be comfortable with asking the questions on the basis that we don’t really want to hear the answers, but actually, if you want to create real change, you need to give people an opportunity to give feedback on how they found the application and the interview process, and ask people internally and externally, really important. The other thing that occurred to me there as well was we do a lot of job shadow days.
There’s no reason why there can’t be something like that done internally within an organization to give people a better understanding of the expectations of different departments, the type of roles that are being advertised, what the process really is for selection because at the end of the day, when people have all of the information, they’re going to be much better equipped to actually put themselves forward and put themselves forward for promotion and all of that, and give people a much more equitable opportunity to gain those promotions. They’re just the few things that I would say on that. In terms then of giving people that understanding of different life experiences of other individuals, I think mentoring is a great thing. We do that in Open Doors. We’ve got a mentorship program, and it means that member companies, their staff can get paired up with participants from marginalized backgrounds, and they support those individuals with their career progression, looking for interviews, all of that, but it really gives you a much better understanding of the challenges that people face, the barriers that people can face because of their background.
I don’t think you’ll beat that actually, that real life one-to-one engagement with a person, so I’d really encourage people to get involved in that and give time to it. I also think doing placements and working with different organizations, if we’re constantly putting our opportunities up on the same boards at the same places, we’re going to get the same result. I think really directly engaging with organizations who support people from marginalized backgrounds is really important and it builds that awareness piece, and it’s a two-way education piece where the organization is learning and you’re also giving an opportunity to somebody who just needs the experience, who just needs to get their foot in the door. While it’s really important that all of this stuff is being done in the mainstream, I think organizations really need to be going beyond that as well and doing very specific programs and partnerships to ensure that they’re getting that in-depth knowledge and understanding.
I love that last point we had about a year ago, Nick Mailey, who’s VP of TA from Equinix in the US joined us, and he talked about how he solved the hiring challenges of his organization by hiring from underrepresented communities. The tactic he used was to work with organizations like Open Doors to say, “Well, I don’t have the expertise. I don’t have the understanding of this community’s needs, where they hang out, how I can basically attract them, any raises I need to provide in my process or in the job for them.” He said his success was solely down to identifying new organizations to work with and leaning on their expertise. He was the employer, he had the jobs, but they had access to the talent, they understood that community, and were able to make that transition. As somebody who used to teach people how to search and attract talent, people come to me looking for the magic words to search for to find diverse talent. Time and time again, the real stories are partner with organizations who understand these communities, ask them for advice, lean into them.
It’s not about just sending your jobs back to Open Doors. It’s understanding those communities. Leaning into organizations like Open Doors to learn more about those communities was not just about the advertising process, but then on your first two points, I love that the first point you made around getting feedback. If I can add to that, I talk to organizations who go, “We do get feedback,” and you go, “Well, when do you survey people?” They might only survey people after they do an interview, but there might be a whole problem in the application process they’ll never uncover because you don’t actually survey people until they get to a point. What if they can’t get to that point? You’re missing. I think surveying is so right, but I think surveying as early in the process as possible capture as much feedback because you could miss the really important information because nobody can get to that point. The people who really struggle never get to the point where you survey them, which is really, really important, so I think you brought up some excellent points there, Christabelle.
Thanks. Yeah, and that’s a really great point. I’m delighted that you said that because it’s so true. If somebody never gets to that point and their feedback is as valuable as anybody else’s because they didn’t get there, actually these are the people we need to find out what was the barrier because a lot of the time, it’s barriers that the organization unknowingly is placed in front of individuals. I think as well, Johnny, we talked a little bit earlier about what companies should be doing when they’ve taken people on and when they’re in the organization, and it occurred to me there, we see a lot of posts online and very well-intentioned, and employers are celebrating different holidays, different culture, and religious holidays, but I think it’s really important that they’re making sure that that’s drilled through their whole organization.
I know it’s been great, we’ve seen lots of posts around Ramadan and all of that, but I think it’s important that employers are thinking about, “Well, actually, what are we doing in the organization? Have we thought about during this period, we’re not expecting people to come in and do an interview at 3:00 PM in the day or we’re not making it Pizza Friday at 2:00 and that’s our only social interaction with our employees?” There’s actually so much that companies need to do. It’s not enough to be just putting a post online to tell people, “Well, we’re inclusive.” It has to be more than that. What are you actually doing? How do people feel when they go into work and how do they feel when they’re leaving at half five to go home?
I love those really specific examples. They’re things that don’t immediately jump to mind. You think you’re doing the right thing, but you’re missing the whole point and step into someone’s shoes who actually has to do an interview or avoid the staff session for a couple of months because it doesn’t suit them, and again, you’re less likely to feel like you belong. You’re not going to feel like you’re included in that situation. Christabelle, I’m super conscious of time. I’ve got so much advice and knowledge and insight from you, and I’m really thank you for that, but I’m going to push just a little bit further and ask you for the second time ever on the show to leave our audience with one piece of advice that you feel will help anyone listening, whether it’s something from your own career that you’ve garnered through your own experience or passed onto you by somebody wiser who had a great bit of experience to pass to you. What’s the piece of advice you’d like to leave our audience with today?
I think probably the best advice is very simple, and it’s listen. Listen and engage with people in your organization. Actually, be there for people to give honest feedback, and don’t see that feedback as a criticism, but understand it’s there actually to improve your organization for more people, for you to have more diverse talent, and for people to actually feel valued when they come to work. So, really giving people that opportunity to support you and give you feedback, and really feel like they’re part of every process within your organization and they’re not just being used maybe for the diversity of your career site and all of that, but give people a real voice and real listen to them.
I love that. It’s brilliant advice. I know from my experience, again, back to the pushing it one step further, get the feedback, but make sure that be respectful of the feedback. What has been said to me by wiser people than me is to say feedback is precious, don’t just take it and run, you got to come back to people and explain what did you do with their feedback. I think people give you feedback, but if they keep giving you feedback and they don’t see anything happening, they don’t know what’s been done with this feedback, they’ll stop giving you the feedback, but you want to say, “I listened and here’s what I did.” It might be, “I’m doing nothing for these reasons because we can’t right now,” but that’s enough to do go, “Okay, I do value it and actually I thought about it and we have made a decision on what we’re going to do with that feedback.” I think that’s equally important to close that loop out.
Christabelle, it’s been great to have you back on the show. Hopefully, it won’t be so long to have you back, but you’ve had good reasons to be off the air for the last 18 months and so we leave it to your additional responsibilities. Thanks for joining us again. Great insights, super practical, and I hope to see you soon.