When implementing equality and diversity strategies in the workplace, employees often focus on the short term gains or legal requirements. Google has adopted a different strategy – using diversity to create pools of talent that can drive the business forward.
HR Magazine’s Katie Jacobs recently attended a Google launch event for the company’s diversity programmes. Here, Mark Palmer Edgecumbe, head of Google’s diversity and inclusion EMEA, indicated that helping talents taking the next step in their careers is more important whether than they will stay at Google or not.
Palmer Edgecumbe: ‘We’re creating a talent pipeline and taking the long view. By building long-term relationships, we are ensuring diverse talent thinks of Google as a great place to work. It makes us proud when we see people get jobs at other organisations. We’re enriching the talent pool for everyone.’
The company’s diversity programmes are supported by a number of other companies. In order to to stimulate female, black and disabled students to opt for a career in technology, Google has joined forces an agency called Rare that is specialised in diverse graduate recruitment, the African Caribbean Society Company, and EmployAbility, an organisation that is involved in employing disabled students. If a student is accepted, he or she is assigned a mentor and can take an internship at Google (with the possibility of a full-time job afterwards).
Google wants to break away from the stereotype of the ‘geeky white boy’ that surrounds the field of computer science. ‘We work from kindergarten right through to PhD level to try and change that,’ says Palmer Edgecumbe. ‘We are a global company and we need to reflect the diversity of our users, and we need diverse teams to be as creative and innovative as possible.’
He continues: ‘Unless you’re an organisation that has totally homogenous customers, you need to tackle diversity. Even if you only operate in the UK, you need a workforce that reflects and understands our diverse population. At Google, we don’t just hire diverse staff and think we are ‘fixed’. It’s also about creating an environment where people can bring their whole selves to work and allows diversity to thrive.’
The managing director of EmployAbility, Tab Ahmed, says students with autism, for example, can perfectly function in companies involved in technology. However, he does believe that in the application process, many employers unconsciously create barriers that are hard to evade by disabled applicants. When these are broken down, every single Chinese girl or an American boy in a wheelchair has equal opportunities to unfold his or her full potential.
At Kwintessential we deal with a lot of work in the fields of cultural diversity in the workplace. The vast majority of our clients come to us in reaction to something – i.e. the legal demands on employers to cover equality and diversity laws, tribunals, poor staff retention, etc. We usually come in to “fix” issues. However, this approach espoused above is the ideal HR and employers should be moving towards – i.e. how does a business use and capitalise upon the opportunities presented by a diverse recruitment strategy? We need to be working with diversity, not seeing it as some legal obligation. Food for thought…