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[Webinar] Building a Truly Diverse Senior Leadership Team

Published 08/09/2021

By Armstrong Craven Team

Talent Research Specialists

Quick Summary Catch up on all the action from our DE&I Webinar.


Companies often apply a diversity lens to an inherently anti-diverse list of requirements, in an effort to try and increase diversity in their organisations. This webinar will look at how this "similar but different" approach is damaging diversity and what business leaders should be doing better.

Too many companies still think of diversity as the search for a candidate who apart from gender or ethnicity, otherwise fits the mould of how they have hired previously. It's time to turn the dial from “how can we find more diverse candidates that meet our usual criteria” to “which of our criteria is prohibiting diversity?”.

Join this webinar to hear from our expert panel on the crucial elements in any diversity planning strategy, including lessons learnt and success stories.

What’s discussed

  • Enabling DE&I goals to be reached without compromising the quality of leadership talent
  • How to use external labour market data to build a representative leadership team for the future
  • Using data to assess leadership roles to find the most representative talent pool
    …and much more!

Guest Speakers

For more actionable insight and DE&I resources, visit our Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Resource Hub


Webinar Transcript

Guest Speaker Introductions

Catherine Neville [00:00:08] Good morning, everybody, thank you very much for joining us. I, as you probably are aware by now, I'm Katherine Neville. I am a senior global client partner with Armstrong Craven. I've been with business for four and a half years now. However, I've worked in the recruitment industry for well over 20 years, predominantly providing RPO search and bespoke projects to clients across the engineering, industrial and consumer sectors. Historically, many of the organisations and clients that I have worked for have been very traditional engineering businesses, whether they be the new place sector, aerospace and defence or traditional engineering and because of that have been very male-dominated. So, it's great to see over recent years how this has been shifting - there's more talent and there's a greater focus on hiring diverse talent. Initially, perhaps looking at where talent has personal characteristics - gender and ethnicity, but looking at diversity of thought more and more these days. Now these organisations are looking to achieve diversity of thought, which can only be achieved when companies have inclusive cultures and this is something that inclusion week is very much focussed on. It's not just looking at diverse talent, it’s looking at how that diverse talent can be and feel included. Every member of every team can be themselves when they come to work to know that they're respected, supported and their ideas and listened to. So it's great to be holding this webinar today, building a truly diverse senior leadership team, during the National Inclusion Week. It provides us with the opportunity to think about, learn and identify what we can do to be better and to celebrate inclusion in all its forms. So to build a truly diverse senior leadership team, organisations must have a structure and a culture that enables inclusion and their leaders are also inclusive leaders. Now, moving to a more inclusive culture won't happen overnight. It takes time and the right people to create that systemic change. And this is where I'd like to introduce our first speaker Sami Ben-Ali.

[00:02:23] Now, Sammi is the vice president of inclusion and diversity at Wood. He is a highly motivated H.R. Professional with extensive experience in H.R. from business partnering to leading on inclusion and diversity. Sammi is globally responsible for helping to drive change in behaviours and cultures around inclusion and diversity at Wood. Sami, thank you very much for joining us today. It would be great to hear more about how you are helping to build the inclusive culture at Wood, particularly given that many people are working from home and have been for the last 12 months. So thank you very much and over to you.

Sami Ben-Ali [00:03:01] No problem. And thank you. Thank you for the introduction. Thanks for inviting me and happy inclusion week, everyone. Yes. So, I'm Sami, Sami Ben-Ali. As you might have gathered from my accent, I'm from the North West, North West of England and a bit about myself; I grew up in a bit of a small town in the North West of England and grew up with a father who's from Tunisia, North Africa, and my mother is from Liverpool. So my father is a practising Muslim. My mum is an Irish Catholic. My Mum's a Liverpool fan, my Dad's a United fan- believe or not, they're still married after 40+ years. But my point is really inclusion and diversity was very much part and parcel of my life growing up. And as no doubt many people on this call, it's probably sometimes either looked different or felt different in that type of environment, and I'm lucky and fortunate enough to find myself in a role now where something that I didn't necessarily consider a strength in terms of being different. Now very much is. And so, I look to promote all while I can around inclusion and diversity and what we do here, here at Wood. And what I try and do and try and get across is to get people to remember that diversity and inclusion are separate, but related topics. You know diversity is very much around the mountain range of visible and invisible differences that make people the individuals that we all are, and the inclusion element is about appreciating and leveraging those differences.

[00:04:22] So Wood are very much on the conscious inclusion journey. We call it inclusion and diversity for a reason. We have the ‘I’ first, because very much we can look to be as diverse as we want. If we haven't got an inclusive environment that encapsulates all, then we won't truly harness and be successful with that diversity. So things around diversity of thought, such as Catherine, mentioned ways of thinking and perspectives, approaches each individual has, but can only be realised if we have the range of visible, invisible differences in our teams and our organisations for the environment and culture to harness that and bring that out. And really that sense of belonging and people being themselves and bringing the whole selves to work as many people talk about, that's not necessarily an easy thing to do and one that companies do need to work hard on and how to approach it all the way from attraction, whether it be from content and what we look to do with our adverts in terms of the descriptions of those in terms of what we're looking for, the imagery that we use to our websites all the way through, to even how our recruiters look to engage people out there in the marketplace. Do we give that sense of belonging and inclusion, that company that we want to work for? And then we look to harness that throughout the employee lifecycle from assessment - whatever that might be- to interviews, even to the pre-boarding, so, you know, the boring bit, per-say where you read around the policies and procedures. We very much start to introduce inclusion at that point as well. Well, in terms of accessibility, how people can do that all the way through to onboarding. So really it's not something like "well, I'll be be a bit inclusive today". You know, it's something that we want to we want to live and breathe through our values all the way through to what we do every single day. And you know, when we're looking at senior leadership teams and any any team to be precise, it's about understanding, OK, what's the not necessarily the best person for the role sometimes, but also what's the best person for the team? And that could be around harnessing will there be more creativity and innovation? Will they be better at problem-solving and decision making? You know, can they bring in a higher employee engagement, better reputation? So really, it's about understanding what you've got in the teams currently. So we look to understand, OK, you know what the people bring to a team? You know, everyone is different, but to be able to see that difference is about being authentic is about being able to be vulnerable. It's about not necessarily having all the answers all the time as well. So it's about having that culture where it's OK to say, You know what? I don't necessarily know the answer to that or this isn't this isn't really my area of expertise. And some good and books I've been reading at the moment, in terms of rebel ideas and the power of diverse thinking, can I certainly recommend that as a book where he talks about organisations such as the FBI, CIA, Aerospace Industries, where they've started to introduce more diverse talent to bring that diversity of thought to the forefront is actually a very good exercise where they take a medical issue around the tumour. But then they get you to read a military document and then by reading the military document, you actually look to then solve the medical issue there. And what we're doing within Wood is that we're running conscious inclusion, awareness training and learning almost, it's not you're stamped and off you go already. It's very much around those behavioural nudges to say OK, well, might not be important to you might be important to somebody else.

[00:07:42] And so that learning we're rolling out to all our employees is one of our sustainability goals, so very much we've announced that to the marketplace. So, we have a gender balance goal that we're after, as well as all our people being 100 percent inclusive every day. And what we talk through, there is the usual in terms of unconscious biases. Also talk about how you can engage in conversations, how you can be a true ally and also about being action orientated. It doesn't matter if you ask a stupid question, just ask the question. And sometimes that in itself can bring people to the forefront. And with leadership teams, sometimes that can be difficult because you're possibly thinking you're in there to know all the answers. But if you have a culture or a team that enables people to bring something to either a meeting or then again, our meetings as conducive, so we're starting to look at things. And how can you have a meeting where hierarchy, for example, may interrupt w