Pioneers of diversity and equality, such as Emmeline Pankhurst in the early 20th century and Martin Luther King in the 1960s, called for change based on moral principles. The impact of their campaigns over subsequent generations has created an accepted moral imperative for diversity. Today, business has gone beyond simple morality, and it is now clear that there is also a financial case for diverse organisations.
At the Lloyd’s sponsored Dive-in festival in September, the Asta HR team attended a number of thought provoking events and we are adding the lessons learnt to our thinking, as we seek to deliver meaningful diversity across our business.
Productivity and improving performance are at the heart of diversity for Asta. For us this means expanding the pool of people that we hire and work with to ensure that we recruit and retain the best people. We want to give our staff every opportunity to reach their full potential which in turn allows us to deliver an excellent service for our clients. An interesting feature of the Dive-in festival was the call for us to look beyond diversity in terms of gender or race, where we, like many professional businesses operate a simple merit based approach, to consider how we may be unwittingly excluding people from our recruitment process.
If we are to hire the best staff, it is important first to have the right pool of people come through the door and apply.
Inclusive recruitment sessions at Dive-in encouraged us to think about how we may be unconsciously recruiting in our own image. In the past this meant for example moving away from only hiring white middle aged men. But today, we are increasingly required to think beyond, recruiting only from certain educational and professional backgrounds, which is often the initial filter applied when screening applicants.
If we are to attract a more diverse workforce we need to start at the selection process. This can be as simple as looking at the wording of job profiles. Just recruiting people with specific sector and industry experience, may limit our ability to find candidates from wider financial services or beyond who may be better suited to deliver for the business. We also need to consider training our managers in avoiding unconscious bias in the interview process.
By engaging with high quality individuals of different socio-economic backgrounds we can enrich the culture and creativity of the organisation, and have a significant impact on its effectiveness both today and in the future.
Apprenticeships are one way we are beginning to do this at Asta. To date, we have actively participated in the Lloyd’s Apprenticeship scheme providing work experience for two individuals and we will continue to support this worthwhile initiative in the future. As apprenticeships grow in popularity, we believe we will source many additional prime candidates that may have previously slipped through the net.
We believe taking a diverse approach to recruitment will make us a more competitive business. In a static environment where we only meet the same type of person it is harder for new ideas to emerge or take hold. It makes clear business sense to us to recruit in as diverse a manner, and from as wide a section of society, as possible to help improve Asta’s ability to evolve, develop and respond to new technological and business innovations.
Ann Bearwish has worked in the HR team of Asta for over 20 years and was appointed HR Director in 2006.
Ann has a breadth of HR experience, advising Asta and a number of other managing agencies on all aspects of HR. This includes assisting start-ups with contracts and policy development, benefit structures as well as advising on employee relations issues, terminations and managing TUPE transfers.
Ann is a Chartered Member of the CIPD and a director of Asta Management Services Ltd.