Diversity is a Business Imperative

CEO Phil Barron reflects on March’s Business Webinar: ‘Diversifying Your Recruitment’

This week we held our first business webinar of 2022. Our most recent event builds on YWF’s webinar series of 2021 where we focused on the future of work for young people in Westminster supported by mentoring and coaching.

Oyin Olaoshun from 2-3 Degrees shared an update about the Mastering My Future Programme, and a successful week of delivery during the recent half term. Young people demanded a complete face-to-face model of delivery with 20 young people attending every day and an exciting group of businesses hosting from the Royal Albert Hall, Cos, Derwent London to HSBC.

Oyin introduced and facilitated our panel which had a focus on businesses and social enterprises working in innovative ways to support under-represented groups and diversify recruitment. As always, this was an engaging discussion with five experts sharing their insights.

Some of the emerging themes included the importance of increasing diversity of thought in organisations, inclusivity, role models and businesses amending their structures to adapt to allow different groups to enter and sustain employment.

Claudia Roehlen from the Drive Forward Foundation talked about ensuring young people are “seen and heard” and providing training for employees so they can meet young people “eye-to-eye” and appreciate diversity as bringing a “wealth of knowledge”.

Drive Forward Foundation are a charity that works with Care Experienced people to enable and support them to find fulfilling education, employment, or training. Any Care Experienced person aged 16 to 26 with the right to work in the UK is eligible for the service.

We were also joined by Paulette Jackson from the Bounce Back Foundation, a social enterprise focused on training and employment of people in and leaving prison. Paulette also spoke about the importance of meeting clients “where they are at”. Bounce Back’s approach includes working with ambassadors who have lived experience and can act as role models to new clients. Advocacy is also key with employers and changing mindsets so that new experiences of their clients can be valued rather than just being viewed negatively.

Susie Stirling built on this, suggesting employers, rather than thinking of a “cultural fit” of new employees, should think about a “cultural add”. Susie works for the House of St Barnabas, a social enterprise members’ club and Employment Academy based in the heart of Soho which exists to break the cycle of homelessness. Susie described their model focusing on helping clients into employment but also through their probation to sustain work and progress.

Sarah Gashier from Westminster City Council spoke about the importance of work being flexible with mentors and autonomy for individuals to help satisfaction and structures such as sick pay. Sarah works as part of the 2035 Programme which aims to reduce life expectancy and improve quality of life for communities in deprived areas of Westminster.

Mahadi Manyokole was our final panellist who joined with two perspectives: from Social Fixt a 5000+ strong community fixing the employment gap for black talent in the creative industry and her job as a Strategist at Anomaly. Mahadi talked about the need to dismantle and re-think cultural norms in the workplace and moving “from micro-aggressions to micro-progressions” and provide more psychological safety for employees. She suggested that diverse teams are not just nice to have, diverse teams are more effective and “diversity is a business imperative”.

Thank you to all panellists for their fantastic contributions. It was incredibly positive to hear first-hand about the work of their organisations, all of whom are advocating for greater access to opportunities and support in employment. I hope that businesses and partners in Westminster continue to challenge themselves to find new ways of ensuring that their workplaces are open to everybody.

If you want to join the conversation and get involved with our work at Young Westminster Foundation, then please write to me.

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