How to Promote Equity Within Remote Working Environments

One of the highlights of The Talent & Growth Podcast is talking to people who are truly passionate about what they do. We were recently joined by Hannah Litt, the Head of Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, Anti-racism and Resourcing at Mindweaver. She’s really open and honest about her own experiences and journey, and gives great advice for businesses who are either looking to go on that remote journey or are wanting to go back on that office-first journey. She outlines what adjustments companies need to make in order to provide an equitable workplace. 

We’re talking about equity in the workplace with remote working, why is this a topic that you’re so passionate about?

Because if I didn’t work remotely, I wouldn’t be able to do what I do. I’ve worked remotely/hybrid for the last 10 years or so, maybe a bit longer. If I couldn’t do that, then I wouldn’t be able to ever stop. There’s no way I could go into the office five days a week, and there’s no way I could work nine to five either. Having a flexible approach is something that’s really important to me. Seeing comments and posts and conversations and stuff that are taking place now that we’re ‘going back to normal’ is something that I can’t ignore because it’s really really important for me. I use my voice for people that need to have their voice represented. 

I have hidden disabilities, so if you were to look at me, you probably wouldn’t guess that I’ve got anything wrong with me. I have fibromyalgia that I’ve had since the age of 13, I’ve recently been diagnosed with ADHD and I have something called idiopathic intracranial hypotension, so I can’t sit for long periods of time. Even going into an office and sitting in a chair is agony for me. Walking more than probably 10-15 steps can be agony for me. Just sitting in my car driving is tough. I suffer from chronic migraines so I don’t know a day where I don’t wake up and have a headache. On days where I do have to go into the office I have to set my alarm for 3am to take pain relief, so I can get up and function like a human being to get into the office at 9am. 

I’m really lucky with the employer that I have now, because everything we do is centred around equity, diversity, inclusion and anti-racism. There are days where I don’t log on to attend, and that’s okay. The actual physical act of getting up and not having a headache and functioning is hard, so there were days where I would just get up and I would sit there and I would just look at a screen, I wasn’t doing anything. I would be in excruciating pain just to be there. It was pointless. I could just take my time and accept my life and identity and be a little bit more human and do what works for me. Have I ever not delivered? No. Do I just need to work in a slightly different way? Yes. Being given the flexibility to work from my sofa with my feet up or work from bed is essential for me. That’s what I need to do. I saw someone say ‘people just working in their PJs in their bed makes them lazy’, but it makes me able to do what I need to do some days. When people had long COVID and they were like, ‘Oh my God, my body hurts so much’, that’s what people with chronic pain feel like every day. For a lot of people with hidden disabilities that’s just life. Having the ability to work how I need to is so important. 

People are putting out the negatives around working from home, how does it make you feel when you see people with influence on social media talking like that?

The people that are making those comments are generally people that get to walk into rooms and feel like they belong. I don’t think that people like Malcolm Gladwell and Alan Sugar realise that they have the privilege of walking into a room – any room they want to – and feel like they belong. People from underrepresented groups, especially global majority groups, don’t have that privilege. Aside from the fact that I have hidden disabilities, I am a woman of colour, and remote working has really benefited me because I don’t have to go into an office and I don’t have to deal with microaggressions. In previous organisations that I worked in, I didn’t want to go into the office because I had to deal with microaggressions. It’s not just people with disabilities that people just don’t want to go back into the office. People just don’t want to go back. They don’t want to have to deal with the nonsense that comes with it. I don’t want to go into an office five days a week because it’s mentally and emotionally exhausting.

From a business point of view, what can the positive results be if you do promote equity using a remote first workplace?

From a cost point of view, it’s a no brainer. You don’t have to pay for travel. Your building costs go down. For anybody that’s worried about it, this isn’t an employee issue, this is a leadership issue. I never had an issue leading my team remotely, and people who have an issue because they can’t micromanage their teams either haven’t hired the right person or need to look at their own leadership style. 

There are loads of benefits from a business point of view, because you’re giving your team the opportunity to increase their wellbeing, to have more time with their family, to be able to switch off, to be able to do your household chores… All of these little things actually are a huge benefit to your employees’ well being. For me, it’s all about choice. It’s not about going, ‘we are remote’, because that isn’t for everybody. I do like to go into the office every now and again. I do like human interaction. But it’s about giving people the choice to do what works for them. It’s not about imposing an office culture or a remote culture on anybody either, it’s about asking your employees what works for them, and doing what works for them and having that balance. That’s that’s all it is, it’s about doing what’s right for your employees.

Which talent pools are we opening if we create a remote first business?

You’ve got Gen Z, disabled people, the neurodiverse population… it opens you up to everyone. I’m done giving people the benefit of the doubt. We’ve kind of gone past that. I’m here for holding people accountable. Google is free. It’s quite clear to see who we could be alienated by not doing the right thing. You can just ask questions within your own organisations to see who you would be including or excluding, because all you need to do is listen and talk to people.

What message would you like to personally send the business leaders out there who are driving back an office first culture?

Stop thinking about yourself. A lot of business leaders can walk into a room with no aids quite easily and feel like they belong. They have that privilege. There are demographics of people out there that do not have the privilege of walking into a room being physically or mentally comfortable enough to walk into a room and feel that they can belong. If I go into an office, I have to come home and sleep afterwards, and I’m unwell for days. They need to understand their privilege and recognise that privilege and understand that when they ask people to do that they are basically excluding a huge population of people and basically saying ‘you’re not welcome in my organisation’.

To hear more of Hannah’s insights into creating equitable workplaces and her tips on how to promote inclusive behaviours, listen to the full episode of The Talent & Growth Podcast here. 

On Talent & Growth we speak to talent leaders about the challenges they face and their solutions for attraction and retention. If you’re interested in hearing about how companies are building a more diverse talent pool, how you can attract top people from the big players, ways to create a more inclusive interview process or learn about the latest and greatest automation software to make your life easier, then this is the podcast for you.

How Showing Vulnerability Will Help You Build an Inclusive Culture

On Episode 72 of Talent & Growth we were joined by Gary Clarke-Strange, the Head of Inclusion and Diversity at Green King. We spoke about how to start building an inclusive culture and why it’s important to do so. Here are some of the highlights from that conversation that we hope will inspire you to build a more inclusive culture in your own workplace.  

Something Gary champions in his own workplace is building an inclusive culture in the company. We asked him why it’s crucial for businesses to build an inclusive environment, below are his insights. 

  

I think it’s important to focus on having an inclusive culture where your diverse talent can thrive. We could go out and actively work to recruit diverse talent into your organisation, there are ways and means to attract diversity into your business, and that’s great! If you’re bringing diverse talent into an organisation where the culture and the environment doesn’t support them, encourage them to grow or make them feel welcome, ultimately you’re damaging people’s careers, because you’re not enabling them to come in and be at their best.  

In my view, inclusion and diversity shouldn’t be seen as a standalone topic. It enables a business to achieve success and therefore enables its people to achieve success. What we’ve really been focused on as part of our overall cultural change at Green King is teaching how embedding inclusion as a concept and an everyday narrative helps to drive that culture change forward.  

There’s a way to focus on bringing in diverse talent at the same time as working on your inclusion culture. If you are working with recruiters or internally or externally hiring and you’re talking about bringing diverse talent into the organisation, being honest about where the company is on their diversity journey is the first step. If you go out with a message that says, ‘We’re great, we have this nailed’, and you haven’t, you’re overselling yourselves. If you can talk openly about what your intent is, where you’re aiming to be, and also how you’re going to get there, that will help build a great conversation with any new hires about what you can build together. Clear vision and strategy around the changes you want to make allow you to begin that open conversation that gets people on board that journey towards inclusion. Having open, honest communication from the start is essential to building an inclusive environment. 

I talk a lot about removing fear. I think sometimes people are scared of inclusion as a topic, and that’s because they aren’t allowed to be vulnerable, or aren’t allowed to admit that they’ve got things wrong, or that they don’t know things about certain topics. Exposure to vulnerability enables people to be more free. Starting to have the conversation across our business that says ‘It’s okay to not know everything, but it’s better to know more, so how we’ll help you grow and empower you to learn about different diverse characteristics, people and experiences’ can only ever be positive. The message is ‘Don’t be scared, it’s okay’. We could go into a whole debate about privilege and etcetera, but it’s not about being ashamed of what you don’t know, or not having lived experience in a certain area. What’s more important is you learn more, you become an ally, you become an advocate of that change. 

Inclusion isn’t the answer to everything when it comes to culture change, but it can enable it. We’ve been really pushing around the activities that we run internally, focussed around our communications about the journey, narrative and intent of our cultural change journey. We intend to be an example for people, because often in recruitment you offer false hope and there’s a lack of intent, whereas we’re really pushing for that willingness to talk openly about where companies are at. At Green King we wanted to capture diversity data to a point where we now have just under 95% of our employees profiles, and we understand our diversity profile data. That resource has enabled us to create a strategy that’s real, and it’s based on data. We wouldn’t have gotten there unless we had already started enabling a culture of trust, where people were willing to give us that data. I think that then helps us to then start to build a really strong foundation for what the future call for change will be. 

To hear more about how to improve your company’s culture, listen to the full episode of The Talent & Growth Podcast here. 

On Talent & Growth we speak to talent leaders about the challenges they face and their solutions for attraction and retention. If you’re interested in hearing about how companies are building a more diverse talent pool, how you can attract top people from the big players, ways to create a more inclusive interview process or learn about the latest and greatest automation software to make your life easier, then this is the podcast for you.

How can companies push diversity hires for the right reasons?  

On Episode 71 of the Talent and Growth Podcast we sat down with Alia Khattab, who is the Director of Talent Acquisition at ServiceNow, where she leads all of sales hiring across EMBA. She is also the diversity hiring pillar lead in the region as well. She shared valuable insights into the importance of diversity in hiring for your organisation.  

How good or bad a place do you think we’re in right now when it comes to diversity hiring, and the importance businesses are placing on this? 

I appreciate the question, but I don’t think it is a matter of how good or bad of a place we are. It’s ‘where are you on that journey?’ Because it is an ongoing journey, there is no end destination. So where are you? What’s the level of maturity and understanding? But most importantly, how committed are you on that journey? There’s no black and white answers when it comes to dismantling systemic racism or gender inequity. It’s about really planting the seeds in your organisation to hopefully create long lasting change and impact. 

Where does the responsibility lie when it comes to hiring inclusively?  

So when it comes to hiring, my philosophy, personally, hiring is the recruiter’s responsibility, but it’s the hiring manager who is accountable. There’s a slight difference, so talent acquisition cannot do it on its own. When it comes to a diversity programme, my recommendation would be to work with your HR business partner, your DNI specialist, and the business because there needs to be a common understanding and common purpose. Now, we should not underestimate the power that TA actually has in increasing representation, enabling and educating hiring managers. So in short the answer’s no, TA cannot do it on its own, but they can actually play a critical role.  

I’m going to give you some some examples, to illustrate the fact that there’s been a push since 2020 when most businesses were under pressure from employees who wanted more representation in the wake of George Floyd’s murder. When I say TA cannot do it on its own, let’s also not underestimate the power that some leaders have. One of our senior sales directors, who attends one of the biggest LGBTQ job fairs in Berlin every year. He’s made two hires out of this job fair, hiring on competencies, which shows that everyone can play a role. When there’s a will, there’s a way, but I agree there needs to be a common understanding. Leaders also have an incredible power to make change happen.  

How do businesses make sure that they’re pushing diversity hiring for the right reason? 

I’m going to be a bit controversial now. If you ask the hiring manager why they want to increase the number of women or people of colour in their team, you’ll probably still get two or three different answers. I don’t know about your experience, but in mine some leaders will say, ‘it’s the right thing to do’. Other leaders might say, ‘I need to increase representation earlier, I only have white men on my team’. Before even thinking about pushing a diversity hiring strategy you need to bring everyone around to what the hiring philosophy of your organisation is. At ServiceNow inclusive hiring is one of the core pillars of our hiring philosophy. So how do we provide a meaningful experience for everyone? How do we engage? Most importantly, how do we assess based on personas and competencies and how we try to mitigate the bias? As with anything, that purpose needs to be shared in almost every single conversation. I think there’s a rule that says if you’re leading change, you have to say the same thing at least six times, or seven times, ‘this is always going back to the hiring philosophy’. I will say 99.9% of people have the right intention, but there is a risk of falling into tokenism and saying ‘we absolutely need the woman. We absolutely need an underrepresented and untapped talent on the team.’ The risk is that you take away the long term objective, which is why you’re hiring a diverse team, which is an opportunity for you to build a high performing team that will bring different perspectives and backgrounds, and this is key to building a healthy organisation.  

How can businesses retain diverse talent once they’ve been hired? 

That’s the biggest question. For us the answer is in our strategy. We actually never look at the hiring ratio as an isolated data, we always compare it with the workforce mix and how that percentage has evolved. It goes back to having that cross functional approach when it comes to diversity hiring. As a TA team, we don’t have the power to control attrition. However, what we can do is increase representation. At ServiceNow, we’re not just increasing hiring, we are also comparing this percentage with a workforce mix. I wouldn’t say that because the attrition is spiking you shouldn’t increase representation. When it comes to attrition there might be some trends that you can identify, but there’s also the macro environment where we know that most businesses and in particular in the US where attrition for sales reps in the tech industry has reached 30 to 40%. It’s the great reshuffle. I’m hoping that we are starting to have the great stabilisation and not a recession, but there’s a lot of elements that we can’t predict. Looking at attrition without its context can also be counterproductive.  

Ultimately what we want to do through our work is increase the representation. But the North Star is to give everyone access to the same opportunities, and that goes way beyond hiring and into promotion cycles. You need to look at your internal movement as well as your hiring policies. Ask yourself ‘are we promoting the more confident one as opposed to the most competent one?’ What’s interesting at ServiceNow is that I was promoted as a first line manager last year. When I did my first performance review with the team, I had people coming up to me, warning me about biases, saying ‘are you sure about this person, are you aware of those affinity biases when you think about promotion?’ That actually made me think because yes, I do have bias, like anyone, and it did help me to be challenged like that. So for us, the question is are we building an organisation that gives everyone access to the same opportunities, regardless of their gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, and so on. We have a powerful role, and this is only the very first step on that journey. 

If we’re going to diversify our talent pipeline, how and why do businesses need to rethink their view of talent? 

Someone I’m a big fan of is Joan Williams, who studied race and gender relations in the workplace for the last 30 years. I think she actually studied over 100 organisations. There’s a lot of great findings in her research around the notion of talent, which can be highly biassed. Now what does that even mean? Talent? Let’s think about that definition. Now, the research shows that when we interview, we think that past experience is going to be a predicator to future performance. Well, it isn’t, actually, so let’s spend time to dismantle what that notion of talent is. We all always encourage leaders to challenge that notion. We’ve taken a methodical approach, actually, in our company, so we have defined personas based on job level and job role. We have a clear persona for sales and we know the type of behaviour that you need to display in order to perform in your role. Those personas are aiming at mitigating biases, because no personas says you have to work for a competitor. There’s nothing in the persona that says that you have to come from the tech industries. However, they do say that you have to be a great orchestrator and you have to work cross functionally, and you have to rally a matrix team around you. By defining those personas, we have actually embedded those in how we assess, attract and retain talent. That’s a great way to rethink how you look at talent.  

Now, another example you can give, is that if you work in the tech industry, we just have a tendency to just to hire within the industry, because we think it’s a shortcut, and we believe that people will ramp quicker. If you have an example of what I call a non conventional hire, that hire often turns out to be a top performer. Sometimes it’s also the power of storytelling.  Data will help manage everything that talent. You can say ‘X person in this team actually didn’t come from the SAS industry, but they’re one of the top performers, so let’s bring that back to the personas.’ Ask yourself what are the core behavioural competencies you want to assess? And let’s try not to focus too much on previous employers or even education. That’s how you effectively assess talent.  

To hear more about how to improve your company’s culture, listen to the full episode of The Talent & Growth Podcast here. 

On Talent & Growth we speak to talent leaders about the challenges they face and their solutions for attraction and retention. If you’re interested in hearing about how companies are building a more diverse talent pool, how you can attract top people from the big players, ways to create a more inclusive interview process or learn about the latest and greatest automation software to make your life easier, then this is the podcast for you.

How direct recruiting can impact the diversity of your hires 

The 50th episode of Talent & Growth saw Rekha Aucklah, Talent Acquisition lead at Armakuni join us to discuss how to reduce agency usage. In this episode we covered how Rekha has gone to market with direct sourcing techniques, what a positive candidate experience should look like and how direct recruiting can impact on the diversity of your hires. 

So, how can it? Read on to find out… 

I know that from when we first spoke, one of your challenges was creating a more diverse talent pool. What impact have you seen from going for the more direct approach rather than the agency approach? 

We’ve increased our diversity which is great. It’s something I’m very passionate about, regardless of whether it’s a remit that’s given to me or not. Although we’ve increased diversity. I haven’t necessarily gone about it in a conscious way. By that I mean that I haven’t gone to specific talent pools looking for a particular gender, ethnicity, neurodiversity or disability. All I’ve done is try to make the process as inclusive as possible and taken the same approach to my sourcing. 

We are getting there in terms of being able to make sure that we’re targeting wider pools. But as an agency recruiter, that’s probably one of the biggest areas where they can add a huge amount of value, but that’s not to say that they do. The focus is often on being able to fill a role as quickly as possible. Instead, recruiters should be aiming to provide an inclusive shortlist. They should be aiming to reach out to a broad spectrum of candidates, rather than the top ten people that pop up on LinkedIn, which all happen to be male. It’s just about doing the extra work. This could then be a huge area where agencies could add value.  

For us right now, we’ve definitely increased both out gender and ethnicity diversity and we’re working on some other things. I feel that if it isn’t already on the radar for agencies than it definitely will be over the next year or two. Even if it’s on the radar for agencies, they will be asked for it. So knowing how to source inclusive and diverse pools is going to add a huge amount of value.  

To hear more from Rekha click here. 

On Talent & Growth we speak to talent leaders about the challenges they face and their solutions for attraction and retention. If you’re interested in hearing about how companies are building a more diverse talent pool, how you can attract top people from the big players, ways to create a more inclusive interview process or learn about the latest and greatest automation software to make your life easier, then this is the podcast for you.

Identifying racism in your business and processes

In episode 45 of Talent & Growth Shereen Daniels Managing Director of HR Rewired joined us to discuss how businesses can start to stamp out racism. 

We covered the differences between conditional vs transformative business cultures, how businesses can start improving their culture and stamping out racism and how you can identify racism in your business and processes and we’ve outlines some of the ways you can do this below. 

What are some of the things that business owners need to look for in their business or processes to identify racism? 

I would say that the first thing is to start with yourself, which is hard. So the first thing is, be honest with yourself and ask ‘what is the relationship that I have with racism?’ Think about when someone talks to you about racism, what is your reaction? Why do you react that way? You’ve got to be curious first, because it’s very important that you then role model. Show others how to look inwards, role model vulnerability and doing the work, even if this means being uncomfortable.  

The slight differences with me is that I did this publicly. People saw me learning, they saw me learning about black history that I didn’t know. But they also saw me being tolled, being attacked, moments where I was really upset and witnessed how I dealt with that. That is leadership. So if you want to ‘uncover’ and racism, first you need to understand that you’re looking for. 

Then you can start to look at what your data tells you, both quantitative and qualitative. What are the experiences that your colleagues are telling you? If you don’t have black colleagues within your business, that’s fine, but what about your supplies or partners? What are their experiences? Ensure that these people are open so share their experiences- don’t expect to be able to mine them for information because you want to. 

Once you have started to understand the experiences of people, you can ask yourself, ‘What does my board structure look like?’ Think about how you can diversify your board, consider how you make decisions, who is in your network and where do you go when you are looking for advice or someone to collaborate with. You can start to make some really intentional decisions by starting to ask yourself better questions.  

It’s my job and the job of my team to not tell people what to do, but to help you ask questions so you can make informed and intentional decisions. We’re disrupting our patterns of behaviour because the patterns of behaviour that we all have are due to being socialised into this system. We’ve got to disrupt it somehow.  

If you want to listen to more from Shereen then click here. 

On Talent & Growth we speak to talent leaders about the challenges they face and their solutions for attraction and retention. If you’re interested in hearing about how companies are building a more diverse talent pool, how you can attract top people from the big players, ways to create a more inclusive interview process or learn about the latest and greatest automation software to make your life easier, then this is the podcast for you.

The critical foundations to make sure your business environment is inclusive 

In episode 46 of Talent & Growth we were joined by Asif Sadiq MBE, Senior Vice President, Head of Equity and Inclusion, Warner Media International. In the episode we covered how to create an inclusive culture in our businesses, the importance of active listening and how businesses can diversify their talent pipeline. 

We’ve picked out some of the critical foundation to help you make sure your business environment is inclusive, you can read them below. Enjoy! 

We’re talking about hiring diverse talent, but presumably before we do that we need to ensure that our business is an inclusive place and people want to stay within it. So for you, what are the critical foundations to getting that element right? 

It is important to hire more underrepresented, diverse talent into organisations. But it’s critical that it doesn’t stop there. We need to view it as a cycle of recruitment, retention and progression. We also need to think about ‘cultural add’ and not just ‘cultural fit’. We want people to bring different perspectives and to have different lived experiences. What we do after day one is the most critical point. Usually we talk a great game, hire diverse talent and say all the right things; show them all the right brochures; we tell them to ‘live your authentic self’ whilst also telling them how we do things here. That piece has to chance.  

We need to create an inclusive working environment that creates a sense of belonging. Employees need to feel that they can bring their true, authentic self, they don’t have to code switch or feel impostor syndrome – all those things that we know don’t help innovation. They have to come in aligned to the group thinking that they can challenge and have the psychological safety to say or give a different opinion. That’s what we need for innovation, creativity and problem solving. We need people to bring different perspectives but it’s really important that the working environments are ready for it.  

Going out and recruiting diverse talent or putting the ads out there is probably the easiest piece. But if you don’t live up to it, you’re worse off. You’ve then over promised and under delivered.  

And if you are looking to diversify that talent pipeline, what should we do or what should businesses be?  

Firstly, we know there is an equity necessarily in processes – so it’s about creating equity. It’s about levelling the playing field and giving everyone that opportunity and access to come through the recruitment process. It’s not about favouritism and tokenism, thinking that a job must be filled by someone of this diversity element and so on. It never has been and never should be. We always aim to hire the best talent but we know for a fact that they systems in place don’t allow the best talent to come through.  

We end up having time constraints around hiring because we need to fill positions quickly. Therefore, we divert to our biases of people we know. So to really identify and bring more talent in we must look deeper, we must create more equity. We need to reconsider the whole process: where we advertise, how we write job descriptions and how we put them together. Does the language we use have a gender bias or are we using words that mean something to all of us? Within the recruitment process, some organisations have psychometric tests and we need to consider how these are assembled. I know for a fact that when I was in the police service, to pass the psychometric test I had to think like a straight, white man of a certain age group in order to pass it. Their ‘good’ was based on the sample groups that they’d used for the test, which may not have matched what I thought was ‘good’.  

Then it’s looking at the hiring managers. I see many companies doing a great job of attracting talent and taking them through the process, yet when it reaches the hiring managers final decision, they hire someone that they are more comfortable with. To truly succeed you must break down the whole process from beginning to end. Look at where the gaps are, truly identify what are the touch points and what are the areas that you must focus on to adapt and drive change?  

If you want more for Asif you can listen to the full episode here. 

On Talent & Growth we speak to talent leaders about the challenges they face and their solutions for attraction and retention. If you’re interested in hearing about how companies are building a more diverse talent pool, how you can attract top people from the big players, ways to create a more inclusive interview process or learn about the latest and greatest automation software to make your life easier, then this is the podcast for you.