Driving Equity In The Workplace
Shanaaz Parker, Regional Head of HR Middle East & Africa at Apex Group
The diversity of our people is one of our greatest assets as a business, providing a variety of perspectives, experiences and ultimately, a competitive advantage. Here, I share a few things we’ve learnt about building, growing and promoting high-performing and diverse individuals and teams.
Attracting diverse talent
Speak to any HR leader this year, and it will become clear that managers are facing fierce competition to attract the skills and talent that they need. Of course, time in these hiring processes is of the essence. But don’t let these external pressures force you to make unnecessary compromises – especially when it comes to diverse hiring practices. Recruitment and talent acquisition plays an important role for all businesses in ensuring that diverse candidates are considered for role. It must be taken seriously. Companies should be reviewing a diverse candidate list for each role, and it is important not to use time pressure as an excuse to rush, or even skip, this important step. Our practices at Apex Group in South Africa are to ensure that we have diversity at the forefront of our thinking at the very start of our recruitment process, which includes ensuring that we look at our internal pipeline as well as external pipeline. To build our internal pipeline, we work from the bottom up, building a large pool of interns from diverse backgrounds who we train up to be able to take on roles in the organisation and the wider financial services industry.
Retaining the best
Recruitment of diverse individuals is just the beginning. You may be able to talk the talk by hiring from diverse shortlists, but to retain diverse talents, you need walk the walk, by embedding principles into your business which reflect those shared by your employees and colleagues. At Apex Group, inclusivity is a theme that runs through both our values and our DNA and is reflected in everything we do.
Our Equity, Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Council plays a vital role in ensuring employees are educated around EEDI topics and that we are promoting initiatives that enhance the employee experience. This group of colleagues has come together to introduce numerous initiatives to ensure our diverse workforce feels recognised, accepted and celebrated.
The ability to offer exposure to new and different career experiences is another useful tool to keep your high performing and diverse individuals. Our JUMP (“Jurisdictional Unique Mobility Program”) initiative is an employee mobility program that offers our employees the ability to benefit from the global footprint through working in different Apex Group locations on either short- or long-term secondment. We believe employee mobility exposes individuals to different perspectives and helps in developing empathy and inclusive mindset.
Equity of progression
We’ve all heard the phrase “you can’t be what you can’t see”, and the importance of diversity at the highest profile levels of an organization cannot be underestimated. For example, based on recent research, for every woman added to the C-suite in an organization, three women rise to senior leadership roles – known as the multiplier effect. Therefore, it is equally, if not more, important to focus on diversity at senior levels to drive progress and improve the overall pipeline of diverse talent
Apex Group’s Shadow ExCo initiative in 2020 was designed to achieve this – a new team of leaders from around the world that were given the experience of being involved in C-suite discussions and business strategies. They brought diversity into every decision and represented a diverse set of future senior leaders, able to bring different perspectives, challenge the status quo and demonstrate how diversity can help improve business decisions and drive innovation. As a result of the experience they gained, two women were promoted to join our Executive Committee. This successful initiative laid the groundwork for the evolution of our broader focus – on gender equity in particular – across the organisation, which led to the Women’s Accelerator Program.
Women are still underrepresented at management and senior leadership levels within financial services and although this is not an issue unique to our business, it is important to us that we lead the charge in driving positive change. The Women’s Accelerator Program is a development initiative designed to drive equity for female progression and diversity at all levels within the Group. By providing program members with new tools and skills to advance professionally and reach their full potential – the goal is to elevate already high performing female talent we have in our business. The program is not about quotas, or promoting women over men, it’s about nurturing our existing female talent and driving equity in progression.
I remain cautiously optimistic about the direction of travel for the next generation of diverse leaders. Now is the time for HR leaders to recommit to be driving positive change and begin reaping the benefits of the higher performance that having a more diverse workplace undoubtedly delivers.