I will be honest, when I first joined Adept Group in 2013, like many start-ups, diversity was not front of mind for us. Things we focussed on included; where were our new clients going to come from, how were we ever going to find enough consultants to deliver our work in a very skills-short market, and where were we going to hold our next social engagement – Takapuna or Ponsonby?! (over the bridge!) Diversity in our small team was mostly evident in our preference for Takapuna or Ponsonby and Microsoft or Google.
As the People & Culture Manager, it isn’t easy to admit that our journey to embracing diversity and being mindful about how we nurture and grow it, was largely accidental in our formative years. Let me explain why. We are a Consultancy that specialises in Salesforce, Cloud and Solutions Architecture / Development and Business Agility. You don’t need to know much about the technology industry in NZ to know that these are some of the scarcest skill-sets around (particularly Salesforce). There are so many pitfalls to this – not least of which is that recruitment is time-consuming and expensive and our ability to take on new clients and grow the business is impeded. But the silver-lining is this. When faced with an abundant candidate market and a plethora of options, it is all too easy to fall into the trap of hiring someone familiar. The person with a wealth of local experience. The one you develop a rapport with because they have the same interests and a similar background. When recruiting in a tight market, this is not generally an option. You have to keep an open mind and look off-shore. You don’t get to choose between the live action role-player, the movie buff and the exceptional baker. Or the mother of three, the mid-twenties careerist and the baby-boomer. Your only option is the ultra-marathon runner. And, looking at where we are today as a result of that, thank goodness!
Adept Group now boasts 13 nationalities (only 6 of our team members are from New Zealand), women in leadership roles and a 38 year age gap between our oldest and youngest employees. This year we became an accredited employer so that we could continue to recruit from all corners of the planet. But there is still a lot of work to be done because the uncomfortable truth is that if we don’t keep diversity front of mind, we may still fall into the trap of hiring and promoting people who are familiar and think like us. So what next?
First, we need to make sure that we keep our gender diversity on track. Whilst we have fabulous cultural diversity, technology is a male dominated field and maintaining gender diversity can be more difficult. Sometimes diversity finds you through a skills-short market (as in our case stated above), but the flip side is that when you are seeking diversity, it can also elude you in the very same market. With a considerably smaller percentage of our applicants being women, we need to ensure that we are attracting the few around.
We also need to try and get good representation of our diversity at all levels of the business. And it goes without saying that we need to continue to nurture a culture of inclusion and support.
Finally, something I am increasingly passionate about here at Adept is embracing cognitive diversity and recognising it in our recruitment process. It isn’t always as easy to identify as gender or cultural diversity, but according to research, can wield greater influence on how a team performs. Cognitive diversity is used to describe differences in problem solving and information processing. Cognitive diversity (surprisingly) isn’t predicted by gender, ethnicity and age.
I haven’t even mentioned people with disabilities, diversity of sexual orientation or gender variance, but these are also all important things that we need to be thinking about as we continue to grow a successful business at a rapid pace.
In 2019, Adept is a very different company to work for. Whilst we lucked out in building a diverse team through a skills-short market in the early years, we are now very much intentional in maintaining and improving it. We still have some ways to go. But thanks to our amazing team, we are better able to understand our clients. We have better decision-making, greater creativity and stronger problem-solving ability. We also have a lot more fun and a broader world-view. Who wouldn’t want all of that?! So we will keep making it better.