Ahead of our inaugural Talent Acquisition and Retention Summit on March 23rd, DiversityQ asked Nabila Salem how companies can use the pandemic as an opportunity to revolutionise their recruitment processes, hopefully for the better.
What have been your biggest challenges over the past year?
COVID-19 has undoubtedly been the biggest challenge of the last year, both professionally and personally. When the pandemic and first lockdown hit, the challenge of remote working immediately became apparent. Specifically, how to ensure the wellbeing of our employees during this time.
We often talk about COVID as something we’re all going through together, but, in truth, we are all experiencing it differently. It’s a hard situation for everyone, but it can be much harder for some than others, depending on the context. As a leader, this is something that concerned me a lot.
While it has been incredibly tough, I am a firm believer that from adversity, there is often opportunity. For us, that meant a year of innovation that I’m not sure would have happened had it not been for COVID, as we were forced to try new ways of working and consider new approaches. As a company, we feel lucky that we still managed to grow our business during this time and are coming out of it stronger than ever.
How can companies revolutionise some of their outdated hiring processes?
First and foremost, don’t hire for a culture fit. Looking for a culture fit goes against the very idea of diversity and is a classic sign of an outdated hiring process. Make sure your entire recruitment process – from marketing through to onboarding – has been designed with diversity and inclusion at the centre.
It’s also really important to measure how well you’re performing regarding supporting your staff, paying particular attention to any underrepresented groups. This can be through surveys, feedback sessions, and looking at your retention data, attrition data, and progression stats within your company. If the feedback shows that you’re ineffective at attracting certain groups, you can look into ways to improve this, but unless you measure it, how will you know.
Another big part of this is thinking about the options you have for hiring talent. Companies that only use traditional hiring methods through recruitment agencies or their in-house teams will struggle to fill their skills gaps, especially in tech, where the demand for candidates outstrips supply.
A better way is to diversify your talent strategies and to use a blended approach, complementing traditional hiring methods with new ways of finding emerging talent. This could be through graduate schemes, return to work programmes, apprenticeship programmes or engaging with talent creation companies like Revolent who, cross-train existing techies and place them with companies as a consultant – with the option for companies to add them to their talent pipeline permanently after a period of time.
What are the top three ways to attract the best talent?
It’s important to realise that people aren’t looking for any old job at any company anymore. People want something with value, with meaning – a job that gives them a purpose. They want to work for a company and with people who share a common set of goals and values. While this can vary depending on the market you’re in, I’d recommend the following steps:
- Showcase your values and what matters to you as a company. Of course, this has to be authentic; people will see straight through falseness in advertising (we’re pretty much trained for it from birth at this point). By showing potential talent what you care about, you attract talent that cares too.
- Be clear in what you stand for and have a strong employer brand. Employees are your best brand advocates; a happy workforce is one of your best recruitment tools. But companies should also remember to focus on the candidate experience too. Even if someone is unsuccessful at the interview stage, they should leave feeling as though they had a good experience with your company and your brand.
- Cast a wider net in your recruitment and be more inclusive. Don’t be prescriptive about how or where candidates got their skills; online learning, free courses, and independent certifications are all valid development methods. Don’t discount the at-home upskilled and career changers. The best talent can come from diverse channels; not every hire has to be a computer science graduate from a prestigious university.
- Become an ‘academy’ employer. If you’re having trouble finding candidates with the right skills, don’t be afraid to create them yourself. Partner with non-traditional learning programmes, support and invest in bodies that provide training, or create your own internal schemes to allow candidates to upskill on the job.
What are the best ways to create an inclusive culture?
We work hard to ensure all employees feel included, no matter their background or context.
Of course, each employee is different, and no two workplaces are the same, so the best way to create an inclusive culture may vary depending on your company. However, I would strongly recommend that all companies focus on sourcing regular, meaningful feedback from their employees through frequent and open communication. At Revolent, we do three simple things: We ask our staff, we listen to them, and we act on what they’re saying, wherever possible. We also encourage all Revols to celebrate each other’s differences, highlighting that it is indeed these differences that make us stronger as a team. This is embedded in our values as a business.
Another thing we’ve launched is a ‘Buddy up with the Board’ initiative, which enables anyone in the business to have one-to-one time with a board member each week. This initiative has been hugely successful and has fostered an additional layer of collaboration, communication, and support. Giving your employees a voice is incredibly important if you wish to build a more inclusive environment.
And finally, who have been your most influential D&I champions throughout your career?
There are so many people doing great work in this space, but for me, I’ve found that the people who I’ve learnt the most from are not the industry speakers or heads of diversity and inclusion at big tech firms but our employees. These are people who are so passionate about advocating for underrepresented groups, not only draw from their own experiences and share them but actively promote and support others. It’s inspiring.
There are two Revols in the business in particular that I’d mention here, Akasia Perran and Reed Badman. Akasia has been registered blind for many years now, but she turns what some would see as a disadvantage into a strength. She talks about how having a disability can give you extra resilience, determination and a whole host of other qualities that actually are crucial for business success.
Reed is a passionate advocate for LGBTQ+ rights and shares his experience and story with others, and really is helping to shine a light on the issues that many people in the community face, even today. I’ve learnt a lot from both of them and feel incredibly proud to lead one of the most diverse companies in our industry.
Someone who has influenced me in my career and is an incredible ED&I champion is Larry Hirst, the former IBM EMEA Chairman. Many years ago, when I worked there, he declared everyone’s job flexible (including his own) not to single out working mothers. At the time, flexible working wasn’t common and most certainly wasn’t inclusive – so this was an excellent way to level the playing field and do things differently.