A D&I conversation with Jon & Lucy
We think D&I is something that should be shared. Spoken about constantly. Talked about openly. When there is the opportunity for discussion, we get to learn and change and develop and be better. Which is why we’re always talking about it, and today we caught up with Pod Founder Jon Dweck and Managing Director Lucy Morgan.
D&I is the latest buzzword that everyone is throwing around, but what does it mean to each of you?
Lucy: It means having a diverse workforce in the right way. So, putting the right people in the right roles but making sure you’re bringing in people who have different ideas, beliefs, ages, races, genders etc. For me the inclusion is a really important part because it’s important that whoever you are, you have to feel included in the workplace. You need to feel like you can be yourself and no one’s ideas, beliefs, sexuality, race, religion ostracises you in any way.
Jon: I think it started off around gender, race and age, but as we move on it’s become so much more. It’s disability and backgrounds and everything that can link you to having a conscious or unconscious bias around people when building a workforce. It’s about building a diverse and collaborative workforce that delivers strong results for the bottom line.
So how do you make sure you’re becoming inclusive and not resorting to tokenism?
Lucy: I think we genuinely don’t have tokenism and that goes back to inclusion first. Whoever walks through our door – regardless of their race, gender, sexuality, religion – they’re walking into a workplace that allows them to be whoever they are. We have the value of individuality here, so people are open and honest about who they are. That’s our workplace and it fundamentally works against tokenism.
Jon: I think we were lucky in that the first founders of Pod were two men and two women. And diversity breeds diversity. It automatically removes bias in terms of your decision making because you’ve already got a diverse combination of perspectives. But in a practical sense, we have a competency framework that we test everyone against. We’re looking for behaviours that are right for our business and the moment you start testing people on behaviours rather than what they’ve already done or what it says on their CV, you’re setting yourself up to make better decisions that are not based on someone’s bias or background. It also eliminates tokenism.
We also have a set of values that are inclusive. And I say that because the more I get into D&I the more I recognise that if you have the wrong values, then you’re already driving out diverse people.
What’s an example of a ‘wrong value’?
Jon: Well it’s not just about the word but also about how it’s implemented. For example, a value people often have is teamwork. They define it as kind of being able to get on with the people in the room. But if you want to get drunk and go down the pub every night, you might not necessarily get on with the person sitting next to you who doesn’t want to do that. So, let’s talk about individuality instead. Celebrating the individuality in everyone we deal with is our equivalent of teamwork. We think about what makes a good team working together in the future, as opposed to ‘do they fit into our existing team.’
Why do you think so many huge brands are struggling to get D&I right?
Jon: Well in supply chain there’s a specific issue which is a legacy thing. I was at the main industry supply chain conference in Europe for leaders within supply chain, and I found myself counting the number of people in the room, and then counting the number of women. It was about 18/20% female, and that actually surprised me. I didn’t see one black person in two and a half thousand people. The majority of people were 55-year-old plus white men. That’s the foundation of where we’re coming from. When we talk about D&I in this industry there’s two things going on. One, leadership need to catch up. But number two, the people responsible for recruitment are predominantly male. The recruitment industry is 75% male. So, you’ve got all these people making decisions from a place where they haven’t even realised their own bias or how they’re perpetuating things.
Who do you think is doing it well currently?
Lucy: I think Danone are good at it. There’s a lot of women in their supply chain and they’ve got a lot of senior female leaders. Coty and GSK also do it and it’s because they’re hiring on behaviours.
Jon: Agreed. It’s organisations that have a behavioural based management approach that do it best. The moment you start measuring people not on what they do, but how they do it, that automatically starts getting rid of traditional testosterone-driven old man behaviour.
How do you ensure that everyone in your office is aware of their unconscious bias?
Jon: We’re rolling out unconscious bias training in our office over the next three months. It’s about teaching people a standard approach to assessing candidates. What I mean by that is that most recruitment businesses see themselves as a sales organisation and wonder how much money they can make. So, you’re naturally going to speak to people most likely to get an interview and so you’re already building bias into the process. Also, if a client engages you first past the post, it’s nearly impossible to avoid bias. You have to rush the decision you make in order to give yourself the best change of making a fee which doesn’t allow you to stand back and look beyond the superficial. So, it starts with how you engage. Set yourself up to have a chance to succeed. Work exclusively with clients.
Lucy: We also apply this in terms of how we recruit internally. We’ve been very deliberate about moving to evidence- and behaviour-based recruitment. We’re at the point where people are scored throughout the process on behaviour and we don’t talk about ‘fit’ for teams. Sometimes the hiring manager isn’t involved and someone is hired for their team. We had an example of that recently. They matched our behaviours and competencies, so we hired them and then matched them to a team. The hiring manager didn’t meet them until after because we’re so confident in our process. It’s about a fit to Pod, not the individual team.
As a white male, who is arguably privileged, you’re surrounded by women in your business. Your MD is a queer gender fluid person who is definitely the opposite of you. The partners of Pod are female dominated as is your management team. How did you achieve that?
Jon: Lucy has just been there since I’ve started so maybe she has a better answer because it’s never been a conscious thing for me.
Lucy: I think it’s because there’s an absolute lack of ego around here. We’re brutally honest and we call each other out a lot. We have meetings where we discuss what’s not working and who’s accountable for that and we do that in front of everyone. Our value of openness means we have to be able to call things out as we see them. That means if someone isn’t pulling their weight, we call them out on it. Your ego cannot get in the way of that. And the truth is, the men we’ve hired who haven’t been successful couldn’t handle that. The men in our business don’t have that ego about them.
Jon: I agree. We just don’t have the classic locker-room alpha behaviours. It would never work in this business. And a lot of the types of men who work in the recruitment industry, and I’m in danger of talking in stereotypes here, but a lot of them either superficially or un-superficially have unacceptable behaviours which would not allow for a diverse workforce. Objectifying women. Feeling comfortable having a substantial number of casual work relationships. Those behaviours can be rife in businesses and it would never be accepted here.
Everyone has varying degrees of privilege. You’re both white and benefit from white privilege. And you’re in charge of this business and the lives of everyone who works within it. How then are you always checking your privilege?
Lucy: I support a lot of LGBTQ+ charities. I can’t always understand what people with less privilege go through – for example, it’s hard enough as a gay women, I can’t imagine what my gay friends of colour go through – so I want to give up my time and resources for those who do have it much worse.
Jon: I have a very personal reason as does Lucy. We’ve both had substantial things we’ve had to overcome in our personal and family lives and that drives us and helps us check that privilege. I know what it’s like to feel like I had no choice in the world and no money and just trying to survive day to day and overcome all the challenges. I know what it takes to try and pull yourself out of that so a lot of the charities and work we do is around social mobility. For example, we work with a charity that helps kids come out of the care system.
What’s your main bit of advice, because you have done it exceptionally well?
Lucy: I think it’s about your hiring process and recruiting for behaviours and values. Get your values right and match what you want and what your people want as a business, and then base your process on that.
Jon: The best thing I’ve heard is get comfortable with being uncomfortable. In order to change your approach to D&I, you’re going to have to have conversations that previously you’ve been uncomfortable having. Get used to it because you are opening a pandoras box.
Interview conducted by Salma Ed-Wardany, Director of Digitally Human