Is it time to ditch the resume? How are you holding leaders to account for diversity success? And have you created a succession plan for your D&I initiative? AHRI’s Diversity and Inclusion Conference posed interesting questions for HR.
Delegates flocked to Sydney yesterday to attend AHRI’s annual Diversity and Inclusion Conference, and others tuned in virtually, to hear from a range of experts on all manner of topics, including how to elevate women in the workplace and increase visibility for Indigenous candidates and those living with disability.
However, a question that was on everyone’s lips was, ‘Are we actually making progress? Or are we simply preaching to the converted and will we continue struggling to get cut through with these important issues?’
As AHRI’s CEO Sarah McCann-Bartlett noted in her opening address, change is happening, even if it appears to be at a glacial pace.
For example, she referred to the keynote address from last year’s conference, where refugee advocate and former Socceroos Captain Craig Foster addressed many of the atrocities Australia has committed towards refugees.
“Since this time last year, we’ve seen the release of the Park Hotel detainees in Melbourne, as well as nearly 5000 Australian visas granted to Ukrainian refugees fleeing the ongoing war,” says McCann-Bartlett.
She pointed to other incremental changes that have happened in terms of public responses to damning failures at an institutional and government level, but said there’s far more work to do.
“Simply removing barriers and actively avoiding discriminatory behaviour is not enough. We also have to do the work to question our own behaviour at times, and think about how our privilege impacts our experience of the world. That requires intentional effort, introspection and a willingness to be challenged. It’s not always easy or comfortable work – and it requires a lifetime of effort – but it’s the only way we’ll see true progress.”
The Conference was packed with helpful insights to help people do just that. Here’s just a taste of what was discussed on the day:
This is longer than our usual articles as we’re wrapping up an entire day of thought-provoking conversation. And this is only the tip of the ice-berg. You can skip to the part that interests you most.
- Re-thinking the use of resumes. Do we need to shake up our job interview processes to attract diverse talent?
- How to hold leaders accountable for targets.
- Create a succession plan for your own projects and spread your passion for the work to create more champions in your workplace.
- Visible diversity isn’t the only type you should be across.
- Create opportunities for people to practice curiosity and learn from those who are different to them.
- Final quick wrap-up of insightful tips.
1. Is it time to ditch the resume?
HRM has previously written about creating more inclusive hiring and onboarding experiences for employees, and Scarlett McDermott, Chief Technology Officer, and Lara Yaager, Vice President of Employees Success, at WithYouWithMe, an organisation that specialises in inclusive hiring (namely for veterans and neurodiverse candidates), offer more helpful tips.
Firstly, they shared the results of their recent research into diverse hiring practices, which surveyed over 500 hiring managers across Australia. They found that seven in 10 organisations were making interview offers based on resumes alone.
“You may or may not know that the resume was invented by Leonardo da Vinci back in the day, and that is considered the cutting edge [approach] for some organisations today,” says McDermott. “I’m not the biggest fan of resumes. They are riddled with bias.”
She says it was “disheartening” to find out that only a third of the people were using psychometric testing to assess someone’s aptitude and potential.
“That’s a really important metric. We like to [use] psychometric assessments as a forward-facing look at what somebody can achieve. When you look at a resume, that’s about someone’s past performance, and there’s certainly a place for that in terms of appropriate qualifications, but in terms of attracting diverse talent we need to look through other lenses.”
Photo: Kampus Production. Source by Pexels
McDermott also suggests changing up your interview processes to suit diverse candidates. For example, WithYouWithMe takes an innovative approach in interviews to make candidates with autism feel comfortable.
“We have some autistic candidates who simply are not going to present their best selves in a face-to-face situation where they’ve got to be under intense social scrutiny,” says McDermott. “So we conduct some of our interviews while playing e-sports. There’s no reason we can’t ask the same questions while playing Call of Duty, or something like that.”
It’s not uncommon for candidates to worry about discussing their disability with a potential employer, says Dr Lisa Chaffey, Senior Consultant, Get Skilled Access.
“Fear of disclosure is real, but there are ways to open the door in a positive way.”
Chaffey advises that employers ask candidates at the end of an interview: “Is there anything you think is important for us to know about working with you as a person with disability?”
If the candidate’s disability isn’t visible, or if they haven’t yet disclosed, you can invite them to do so by asking them directly if there are any mental or physical conditions you should be aware of.
To attract diverse candidates, employers should think carefully about the signs and symbols that are publicly available.
“Does your website include images of people with disability?” asks Chaffey. “Show that you are an open employee. Show off your inclusive culture and put those signs and symbols out there.”
Job ad requirements can also inadvertently preclude people with disability from applying.
“A big one is having a driver’s license,” says Chaffey, who encourages organisations to think about whether this is an inherent requirement of the job before including it in a job ad.
“Simple barriers can stop people from applying.”
Read HRM’s article on five ways to make your recruitment processes more accessible.
2. Make leaders accountable for change
Amy Wild CAHRI, Group Executive, Head of Corporate Operations at Investa, spoke about an initiative they put in place to elevate more women in their business, which won them an AHRI Award for gender equality.
Investa discovered it was underutilising female talent by not having enough women working in revenue generating functions.
“One of the most important things was creating ‘targets with teeth’, [meaning] we tied it to bonuses and compensation. Every single manager, from the CEO down, was to set targets to have a 40 per cent female, 40 per cent male and a 20 per cent variable gender balance.”
“People’s vulnerabilities are at stake… so we all have a duty to stay on top of that.” – Julie Moss MAHRI, Diversity, Inclusion and Wellbeing Manager, Transgrid
They did this not only to achieve gender balance in the short-term, but to ensure that the talent pipeline was also diverse – they were thinking long-term too.
“We had a weighting in everyone’s KPIs and that was felt in our bonuses as a result.
“Initially there was a little bit of push back from some who didn’t really understand it. They’d say, how can I contribute to meeting this? I don’t have a big team; I’m not making hiring decisions.’
“So it was really about helping people understand that what you say and what you do every day impacts the culture we create. And how inclusive we make this culture impacts on whether people of any gender identity want to come and work with us … there’s not a single person in the organisation that doesn’t have a really important role to play in that.”
Watch HRM’s video of Graeme Innes AM and Sam Turner CPHR unpacking the value of diversity targets here.
Investa also removed tenure as a requirement for eligibility for parental leave.
“That was really critical for us to get mobility of mid-career talent across the sector. [The existing policy] was a big barrier to attracting women of a particular age and stage of their career. But we’re also increasingly seeing a lot more men take up parental leave, which was really important for us to drive some policy change… it made it okay for people of any gender to take parental leave and to embrace that important stage of their life.”
3. Create a succession plan for your program
Another important lesson for Wild was that not everyone will be as passionate about your project as you are. Most people take on certain D&I projects because it has touched their lives in some way.
So before embarking on your project, it’s important to find other people to be champions of it – not only to spread the enthusiasm among the organisation, but to ensure continuity if you were to leave the organisation.
This is why Julie Moss MAHRI, Diversity, Inclusion and Wellbeing Manager at Transgrid, suggests putting plans in place to account for program sustainability.
“If you just have one person who’s passionate, then the whole program will fall over if that person leaves. There has to be succession planning, there has to be at least a few people who are running this particular program who can step up and keep it going.”
Store all your information in an easy-to-access, centralised place and bring employees along on the journey. If you get them excited about what you’re doing, they’re more likely to want to be advocates for it in the future.
You might also consider creating how-to guides, project onboarding docs and cheat sheets as you go, so you have all the materials needed to get a new facilitator up to speed quickly.
4. Consider cognitive diversity
Maud Lindley, founding director of leadership consultancy Serendis ran an illuminating session that looked into the differences between cognitive and identity diversity.
She said if you stopped someone on the street and asked them to tell you about diversity, they’d list factors such as age, gender and race (identity diversity metrics).
“It’s unlikely that I will get people telling me about the importance of having diversity of expertise, knowledge, experiences, thinking patterns or ethical frameworks (cognitive diversity).”
You want people who bring different thinking styles and experiences in your team. In many respects, that’s just as important as visible diversity (and often the two go hand in hand).
However, just because you have cognitive diversity, that doesn’t mean you can tick diversity off your agenda. In fact, Lindley points to research which has found that having groups that are only cognitively diverse (i.e. no visible diversity) leads to groupthink.
“The lack of visible [diversity] made them want to belong to a group. It made them act in a tribal way. It was more appealing for that group to agree with one another, than present their own perspective on the topic,” she says.
“The visibly diverse groups outperformed the homogeneous groups… because they were able to debunk some of the wrong hypotheses and assumptions that they made at the beginning. And they made less mistakes and were more creative.”
Seeing someone who looks different from you can act as a circuit breaker, she says. If you belong to the dominant group, having people who look different to you can be an important reminder to consider a situation from all angles.
5. Create opportunities for people to practice curiosity
Anoop Chaudhuri FCPHR, Vice President HR at Ford Australia and New Zealand, spoke about a six-week program that he and other Ford employees are undergoing. They are paired with a colleague who is different to them, from any Ford company across the globe, and spend 20 minutes each week having “discovery dialogue” with them.
“It’s about getting to know them as an individual, getting to know their differences and building this notion of recognising and celebrating difference,” says Chaudhuri.
“It’s not always easy or comfortable work – and it requires a lifetime of effort – but it’s the only way we’ll see true progress.” – Sarah McCann-Bartlett, CEO, AHRI
Wild also shared an interesting anecdote of an LGBTQIA+ initiative run at Investa.
“We’re very blessed to have a very strong group of LGBTQIA+ staff that are very happy to share their own stories and journeys. We had a great initiative that one of our employee network champions started called ‘Gay Q&A’. They collected [anonymous] questions from people in the organisation in a ‘You Can’t Ask That’ style… it opened the doors to a conversation and created a safe place where people talk and learn.”
Final food for thought
While meaningful change in the D&I space requires broader organisational initiatives, action can also happen at the individual level.
In a panel discussion on Breaking down barriers to intersectional leadership, panelists shared their advice for becoming a better ally to diverse employees, candidates and stakeholders. Their advice included:
- Context is king, so don’t make assumptions about how you should interact with a diverse person.
Miriam Silva, Chair at InTouch Multicultural Centre Against Family Violence, and Julie Chai CAHRI, Founder and CEO, Asian Leadership Project, both indicated that they were generally taken aback when asked: ‘Where are you from?’However, Shelley Cable, CEO of Generation One, Minderoo Foundation, says in Indigenous communities, this question is often a sign of respect and a genuine desire to form meaningful connections.“For me it’s rude not to ask, ‘Who is your mob and where are you from?’ If you don’t ask that you don’t get to know the person that well. In Indigenous circles, it’s quite shallow just to ask, ‘Where do you work?’ It’s not getting to know who that person is as an individual.”
- Don’t always refer to leaders with reference to their diversity marker – e.g, ‘female leader’, ‘Black CEO’ or ‘young manager’.
“It’s been a long time since anyone has referred to me as a leader without a diversity tag,” says Silva.
- Approach conversations with diverse employees with empathy and curiosity.“Take the time to listen, show empathy through understanding our challenges and what we’ve had to endure. For some of us, challenges may include a level of trauma that remains unspoken,” says Chai. “You need a trusting team environment and collegial support. Curiosity and patience are also important.”
- There is strength in numbers, so facilitate change with the support of your team.
“The worst thing you can do is try to do it by yourself,” says Cable. “Seek advice from people who know that space better than you do.”
- Context is king, so don’t make assumptions about how you should interact with a diverse person.
And to sign off for the day, we’ll leave you with advice from Julie Moss, who was asked by MC Catherine Fox: ‘Are you hopeful about progress for the future?’
While Moss said ‘yes’, she also raised a pertinent point.
“Never assume it’s done. Your culture is changing and evolving over time. Never stop. Keep on reviewing, tweaking, staying up to date and getting more people involved. People’s vulnerabilities are at stake… so we all have a duty to stay on top of that.”