Tech Industry Alliance Board member Laura Hughes from Cloudera captures the key takeaways and insights from the talent focused event held in MTU on 21st February 2023.
With talent firmly on the minds of Tech Industry Alliance members and the wider business community, the latest event at MTU’s Kerry Sports Academy, kindly sponsored by VMware, focused on “Developing, Retaining, Promoting and Progressing Talent of the Future”. MC, Sarah Flaherty, Munster Technological University facilitated a thought-provoking conversation on making the workplaces of today and tomorrow accessible to all by acknowledging, accepting and embracing diversity as an essential foundation to an organisation’s success.
Expert panelists, Marion Walker-Rogers (VMware), Teresa O Shea,(Individual Placement & Support – HSE) and Gearoid Kearney ( myAccessHub.io | Center for Smart Ageing) each shared their personal journeys and their insights on how organisations can ensure equal access to opportunities throughout the talent lifecycle. Discussions focused on what the working environment is like for under-represented groups, the types of support needed and most importantly, the honest and sometimes tough conversations needed at a personal and organisational level about whether we are genuinely accepting of all people irrespective of background and differences.
Here we’ve gathered some of the highlights to help our community create diverse and inclusive work environments:
Ranging from different industries and sectors, all our panelists shared one thing in common – a passion for people.
Marion, hailing from Perth Western Australia, personally experienced and witnessed a lot of discrimination and wanted to make a difference – e.g., knowing about the inequities for indigenous Australians and the terrible history associated with the stolen generation. She believes everyone deserves the opportunity to bring the best of themselves to work and wants to actively be an ally and create a safe space for all.
Gearoid spoke of his experience from a neurodiversity perspective and how he now works closely with companies to enhance their understanding of neurodiversity and implement strategies to create a more accommodating environment for neurodivergent employees.
Teresa, is an employment specialist who supports people with enduring mental health difficulties and helps them on their journey back to paid competitive employment. She believes that everyone, no matter what their background/race/gender/ capabilities, has something great to offer and IPS allows for a strength based, person-centred approach, which brings out the best in people to support them on their employment journey.
The panel talked about the ‘untapped’ workforce that exists and how employers need to learn how to reach out more effectively to attract the wealth of talent that’s available. A more diverse workforce can inspire creativity, encourage varied perspectives, and create a culture of openness and accepting difference. It can support innovation, enhance strategic planning, and promote effective decision-making. When we are talking about Talent of the Future this means being inclusive and finding ways to consider all talent available regardless of circumstances.
Speaking about bias, Marion explained that similarity bias, where people are drawn to or prefer people who are similar to themselves, is a huge problem in recruiting. For example, when managers are looking to promote of fill roles, a lot of the time they may already have someone in mind and this person may be very similar to them or might just be the person who has the loudest voice at meetings. Organisations need to be aware of this and ensure that people are given equitable ways to contribute and showcase their skills. Making sure leaders and everyone in the organisation is aware of bias is the first critical step in addressing it!
Discussing the need for basic human connection, both Gearoid and Teresa discussed the need to change our thinking around talent and bring a more person-centred approach to our workplaces. For example, instead of focusing on general qualifications and narrow skillsets, we need to look at what the person’s key strengths are and how they can be best utilised in the workplace. So instead of focusing on qualifications and generalised traits we need to look at a person’s characteristics and job fit. This includes looking at personal qualities that are too often ignored but can really add significant value to an organisation such as risk-taking, innovation, creativity and good decision-making skills. In addition, simple interventions in how we design our workplaces or a flexible approach to the working day can really help individuals thrive in an organisation. Having a conversation with your teams about how you can make the workplace a better place for them is the first step!
Small Actions, Big Changes
Closing out the session, Sarah asked everyone what actions we can all takeaway to make a difference in our personal and professional lives and we couldn’t agree more with the advice given:
Challenge biases and assumptions. Be a good citizen and don’t let your assumptions hold you back from being a good leader – Gearoid
build connections, talk to people and build a culture of openness and acceptance. Speak to current employees, draw from their experiences to date and ask them what they feel would help attract the talent of the future – Teresa
be an ally through actions like adding your pronouns to your email signature, LinkedIn and online profiles as this is a great way to signal that you accept all gender identities and are a safe place for people in the LGBTQ+ community. Also take a moment to look at your LinkedIn connections and do a quick check to see if everyone similar to yourself and if so start joining a diverse range of groups and make connections with people outside your usual circle – Marion
So here’s to us all taking the next steps towards creating cultures of openness in all our organisations which will benefit everyone.