Alicia Riley on hiring for diversity

Alicia Riley on: Hiring for diversity

  • 40 minutes
  • Emerging Trends, Talent Acquisition
  • Ep 14

How can organisations become a better workplace and embrace diversity hiring in practice? In this episode of How We Hire, People and Talent Lead at Ben, Alicia Riley, unpacks her tips and actions for cultivating a diverse and inclusive workforce. From why diversity matters and the value of anonymising applications to measuring your DEI efforts, learn how to build a diverse workforce from the ground up.

Key takeaways

  • The value of anonymising applications and how to screen applications fairly
  • Step-by-step to making your hiring process more inclusive
  • Common mistakes to avoid when hiring diverse candidates
  • Tips and tricks on diversity and sourcing

On the show

Alicia Riley
Alicia Riley People and Talent Lead at Ben
Linnea Bywall
Linnea Bywall Head of People & Operations at Alva Labs
Tove Hernlund
Tove Hernlund Events & Community Manager at Alva Labs

Alicia Riley

  Alicia Riley is the People and Talent Lead at Ben. Alicia has a broad background within people and talent where she’s worked with recruitment as a craft but also headed the people role in several startups and scaleups. She’s very passionate about encouraging and supporting diversity in the hiring process. 

Linnea Bywall

Linnea Bywall is a former NCAA athlete turned licensed psychologist – and Head of People at Alva Labs. Linnea was recently listed as one of the most inspiring women in tech by TechRound and was featured as one of the 22 Innovative HR Leaders to follow in 2022 by AIHR Academy to Innovate HR. 

From attracting and hiring to onboarding and growing Alva's employees, Linnea's main mission is to change the world of hiring every day by challenging biases in recruitment.

Tove Hernlund

Tove Hernlund moderates and hosts weekly webinars and workshops for the public, aiming to help spread knowledge and insights on key HR and TA topics like diversity and inclusion, hiring trends, and ROI in recruitment.


Show notes

  • Introduction-1:48

  • When diversity became a topic for the boardroom-4:31

  • Where the market heading in terms of following through on DEI initiatives-6:32

  • Why diversity is so important in recruitment-8:11

  • Key ingredients to a successful DEI strategy-9:26

  • Tips on creating inclusive ads-10:47

  • How to screen applications-14:02

  • What a diversity statement actually is and how it works-15:22

  • Examples of screening questions to use in the application process-17:30

  • Why you should add a question related to reasonable adjustments to the hiring process and how it can help a diverse pool of candidates to apply-20:00

  • Benefits of anonymising applications- 21:33
    What metrics to measure to see if your diversity efforts are working-23:01

  • What companies can do to make their hiring process more diverse-25:33

  • Being upfront about what flexible work actually means-26:44

  • How to get diverse candidates to apply to your job opening- 30:12

  • Tips and tricks on diversity and sourcing-32:04

  • Can we really measure DEI?-35:14

  • Measuring women in leadership metrics and the importance of realistic expectations- 38:51

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How We Hire Podcast: Episode 14 Transcript

Alicia Riley (00:00):

At least as I see it's a problem that we are focusing only on gender because it's easy to measure. But as I see it, that's the easiest one to start with, but never settle for only that, I guess, in the long run.

Tove Hernlund (00:20):

Welcome to How We Hire a podcast by Alva Labs. With me, Tove Hernlund.

Linnea Bywell (00:25):

And me, Linnea Bywell.

Tove Hernlund (00:26):

This show is for all of you who hire or just find recruitment interesting. Every episode, we will speak the thought leaders from across the globe to learn from their experiences and best practice within hiring, building things, and growing organizations. Welcome to another episode of How We Hire With Me Tove, Events and community manager at Alva Labs.

Linnea Bywell (00:51):

And me, Linnea, Head of People Alva.

Tove Hernlund (00:53):

Our guests on today's episode is Alicia Riley. Alicia is People and Talent partner at Ben, an employee benefits platform providing flexible benefit solutions. Alicia has a broad background within People and Talent where she's both worked with recruitment as a craft, but also headed up to people role in several startups and scale ups. She's very passionate about encouraging and supporting diversity in the hiring process. So that's what we'll be focusing on in today's episode. Welcome to How we Hire, Alicia.

Alicia Riley (01:20):

Thank you so much for having me and for enabling me to talk about a topic that's very important. So really pleased to be here. Very excited.

Tove Hernlund (01:28):

We're super excited to have you too. And I mean this is a topic that truly all of us in this session today are interested in talking about, so we're bound to have a good discussion. But first things first, and this might be a very obvious question, but how come this topic of encouraging and supporting diversity and hiring is such an important one to you?

Alicia Riley (01:49):

So I think throughout my life and career, I've always worked with a wide range of people from different countries and different backgrounds. And I grew up in Asia, so I was born in Borneo and grew up, I spent my childhood there, and then my first job was actually teaching English as a foreign language. So I was always really, I just loved that interaction with people from different cultures and people who had different experiences, and I learned so much on that whole journey. And then when my career took a shift and I ended up moving into recruitment, which later became HR and recruitment, I suddenly realized on this journey that there was a lot more to diversity and equity and inclusion than what I ever could imagine there to be. And I suppose about five years ago when I was head of people at Arbor, diversity, equity and inclusion were becoming a board level topic, as it should be.


It's so important for organizations. And when I was started to put together a strategy for that, I suddenly realized that I actually didn't know very much and I felt quite naive on the topic. And so I thought to myself, okay, I've grown up in an international environment. I'm used to working with different cultures, but there's so much more to it than that. So I really started to push my own learning on the topic. And the more I learned, the more I realized I didn't know. And the more I realized how big this topic is and how important it is as well. And I just had so many eye-opening moments where people would share their experiences and stories and I was shocked and saddened, but also just amazed at some of these journeys that people have been through. And it just really opened up so many doors for me.


I found so many communities online and webinars and workshops, and obviously COVID hit and there was a lot of content going around online. But through all of this, just my passion developed even more and I became even more driven on the topic to learn more about it, but also to use my learning and to actually have a difference in my role and to really help the companies that I'm working with. Whether it was when I was head of people at Arbor or when I was consulting or now at Ben to really drive forward this subject on their agenda. I just think it is so, so important, and every organization should be looking at this as a priority.

Linnea Bywell (04:18):

You said five years ago this topic finally made it to the boardroom. What's your take on how come at that point, why not before, why not later? Why was it relevant at that point?

Alicia Riley (04:31):

I think it was always lingering. I'm not sure if that's the right word to use, but I think it was slowly growing and establishing in the background, but it wasn't at the forefront of people's agenda. And I think the Black Lives Matter movement really helped to push it and drive it forward. And I saw a really big difference actually when I was looking for content and learning in that. And it was obviously a really positive thing to see happening. Obviously it came from a terrible place, but in terms of making organizations wake up and be like, this is serious, if you're not looking at it, you need to look at it, and this is what's happening. And then suddenly I really noticed more and more people speaking up about it and sharing their experiences and raising awareness on the subject and that it's not just about race or ethnicity, it's about so much more than that as well.


So it is just such a broad topic and the more awareness was raised and the more companies, leadership teams were taking it seriously and understanding actually the value and benefits of investing in your DEI initiatives, then the more that you will learn and pick up and drive forward from it as a result. So yeah, I just think it was a combination of things that were happening politically at the time in the world with a wake-up and realization of the benefits of investing in this initiative, but also just it's the right thing to do, right? It's really important, and nobody should be excluded. At Ben, we actually have to report back on some of our diversity metrics to our investors. And I just think that's brilliant, and all organizations should be held accountable to this.

Linnea Bywell (06:10):

The trend or hopefully not a trend, but some things that have happened now is due to the financial situation in the world. There have examples of companies actually in getting rid of D&I roles. Are we getting back to where we used to be a couple of years ago? What's your take on that happening?

Alicia Riley (06:32):

Yeah, I think that's a really good question and I've definitely noticed this in the market as well. I hope not. I don't know. It's really hard to say because it's everything that's been happening recently, it's still very soon to be able to see the knock on impact and effect that this might have on organizations moving forward. But what I would say, just from my experience and what I've seen is that it's still really, really important for candidates obviously and their experience and what they look for in a company. Also, employees really care about it from what I've seen peers experience in their organization, from what I've experienced myself here at Ben, and that companies are still doing initiatives to support DEI and to continue to raise awareness of it and report back on it and track metrics on it as well. So from what I've seen in my network, I haven't seen the impact of that yet. But who knows, we might well see something in the future that could suggest potentially that companies might not be as advanced as they would've been otherwise.

Linnea Bywell (07:34):

So if there's anything we want to have the listener remember, is to keep those metrics, keep reporting back on it, keep showing that it is important because it's going to be important for the employees and the candidates, not a nice to have but a need to have going forward as well.

Alicia Riley (07:49):

Absolutely. Yeah. I would argue that the DEI initiatives are a must-have in any people team's agenda. It is that important.

Linnea Bywell (07:59):

Yeah, yeah. Okay. So if we then jump into the bucket of diversity in hiring. Why is it so important to have that focus on diversity when it comes to recruitment?

Alicia Riley (08:11):

I see recruitment as being the door to your business, and it's people coming in and out. And ultimately with diversity, equity and inclusion is your people and your workforce, your teams and recruitment can have a huge influence on that. So of course it's inevitably going to have a really big part in how well you do when it comes to your initiatives surrounding DEI. The reasons behind it are I mentioned earlier that there's ample evidence to that shows that having a diverse team and workforce improves the performance of a company and ultimately improves their revenue. So there is so much evidence behind that, that's a no-brainer, but also of course that it's the right thing to do, that nobody should be held back or restricted because of their race or disability or because they're a parent. So I do think that that's also just incredibly important and recruitment is where it all begins. So that is why I think it's a key focus point in any DEI strategy and initiative.

Linnea Bywell (09:22):

What needs to be in place for us to be successful in your mind?

Alicia Riley (09:26):

The first thing, number one thing when you're thinking about DEI in your recruitment is that it should be well thought through and planned that you should have a really structured recruitment process and you should think about it from beginning to end, from the moment you establish a need for a hire in your organization and you put that job description together right through the whole process to where you advertise it, the application process, the screening process, the interview process, the offer. You need to go through all those steps in the recruitment cycle and analyze them all with a DEI hat on, what have you done, and what can you do, and what are you doing well, and what are you maybe not doing so well?


And I think that's really important, having that structured process and pre-planned approach to recruitment. Because you just put a job ad out, you don't analyze it with your glasses on and plan it, then you are at risk of encouraging things like unconscious bias or exclusivity in the application process and that's what you want to try and avoid. So it's better to take that time up upfront and plan it and ultimately you'll have a much smoother and better hiring process as a result as well.

Linnea Bywell (10:36):

And I mean if we dissect that, like you mentioned where you post the job at, do you have any learnings that you're using now in that area?

Alicia Riley (10:47):

Yeah, we do a few things at Ben. So YSYS is one that we've used a lot. I don't know if you guys have heard that, but that basically is all about diverse hiring in the tech industry. I came across them actually a few years back when they were doing some webinars on the topic of diversity, equity and inclusion. I was so blown away with their founders and how passionate they were and with the experiences shared, I immediately went on to check them out. But I finally recommend that. I think it also depends on the type of role.


So for example, if you are recruiting in software, there are specific websites that help different profiles get into the software industry or to apply for roles related to software engineering. So I think it's looking at the type of role you're hiring for and doing your research about what job boards are available. Referrals are a really big one. This is something we're pushing hard on at Ben and we're constantly reviewing our process, what's working well, what isn't working well? You've got a team of people who have connections and it just helps increase your talent pool and ultimately will help increase your diversity within that. So that's a really good way to do it and something to think about as well.

Linnea Bywell (11:59):

So it's about finding, not just wait for the candidates to come, but to hunt down the networks that way you can use and then use the people that you have on board. I think that's really good advice. And then you mentioned the screening phase. What happens there? If you're doing things right.

Alicia Riley (12:15):

I think I'm going to jump one step back and go to please the job ad phase, because it's all part of the screening phase. But I'd say when you're putting together your job ad, when you're putting together the requirements for the role, there've been so many times in my career where manager has gone, there have to be a recent graduate or graduated with a STEM degree or they need to have five years experience in this. And I'm always like, why do they need that? And actually if you challenge more and you ask that question why, you'll actually get to a much more specific skillset or attribute or aptitude that they're actually looking for, which you can define much better than years of experience, which doesn't necessarily tell you they've got that aptitude. I think that's really, really important, get those requirements. And it also helps in the application process, because you're much clearer about what you are looking for.


And there are things you can do in the application process. So at Ben we've got a few things. We've actually got our diversity statement at the top of our job, our job ad, because we feel that a lot of people put it at the bottom and we're just like, nope, we want it at the top. It's really important. This will show we take it seriously and it is really important to us. And then as people go through and we've got our referral bonus on there as well to encourage referrals, they apply for a role and our applications are anonymous and we can do that through our ATS. So it might depend on your ATS system as to what you can and can't do. But we find that that's a really helpful way to help reduce any potential unconscious bias, which can be a very, very difficult thing to be aware of, as you may have the best intention but you may not realize that you are doing it and that's what can make it so challenging.


And then I think thinking about your application process as a whole, how are you going to screen those applications? At Ben, we have specific screening questions that we use that are relevant to the role and we use those to screen. We don't even look at the CV, we look at the screening questions first. And then if the screening questions are good, then we'll look at somebody's profile. But the screening questions are our number one way to go through the application process, and it's much, much quicker, much easier. There are also some amazing tools out there that you can use to help with this. So things like yourselves, all these tools are here to help reduce unconscious bias to help make the application process much more objective and much fairer and relevant to the role, which is a really important thing.


So there's a lot of support out there with or without a budget. There are things that you can do to help make an application process much more inclusive and a good experience for people. And I think the final thing I would add as well is just making sure that when people are applying, if they do require reasonable adjustments, that they know who they can reach out to or that they can, it's made aware to them that they can tell you that and raise it in the process so that you can speak to them about that to support them.

Linnea Bywell (15:07):

I think there's so many good concrete tips in that answer. Three things I want to dive into. The first one being the diversity statement. Can you just explain a little bit about what that is and how that's working?

Alicia Riley (15:23):

Yeah, so a diversity statement is a short statement as I mentioned earlier. Traditionally comes at the bottom of a job adverts. When you look at job adverts everywhere, and I'm not quite sure why or how society's quite funny things happen and then you just end up to following everybody else and suddenly you're like, hang on, why are we doing it like this? But your statement is basically what diversity means to you as an organization and what your stance is, ie. Like you want to encourage diverse applications and why it's important, and how are you going to do that, how are you going to support them with that? And you can really personalize that to your company and your ethos and your culture. I've seen some really, really amazing ones I just absolutely love, and I've seen some which can be quite impersonal and you don't quite get the warmth out of them and you wonder are they really serious about it or is it just a box ticking statement that they've chucked at the bottom?


So I think you really need to think about your statement and get input from the team as well and think about where that statement's going to be and what it means for you. And we've had a lot of positive feedback from candidates actually about it. They love it. The fact that we've kind of put it at the top and they say it just shows that you take it more seriously and it's the first time I've seen that and it's just really nice touch and it's really nice to hear people say that and people care about it. It's really, really important. So it's one small step that you can do, but it just helps to reiterate what you're doing as a company and to show that you do take it seriously and that it is important.

Linnea Bywell (17:02):

The second thing I would love to dive into are the topic of screening questions. Because I mean to some extent it feels like I found my hiring soulmate, this is the first time we met, because we use screening questions too, and I get a lot of feedback on that. People want to use it but they don't know how to start or what to ask. Can you share some examples of questions that you have used that you think that they work well?

Alicia Riley (17:30):

Yeah, yeah. I'll give you an example of one that we've used recently. So we always make sure, first of all, there aren't too many, because otherwise it's overwhelming for a candidate. If you are looking for a job, especially in this current market, I can imagine it's really stressful. So you want the process to be as easy as possible and not be too circumsome. So yeah, we always keep them simple and we start our questions first by ticking off the basics. So one of the things is we do hybrid working, so we always check, are you able to commute to the office two days a week? And this is something else, by the way, flexible working, which I'll touch on at some point I'm sure when it comes to supporting a diverse candidate pool. But we'll do things like that. We'll check eligibility to work, which is important.


So these are the kind of factual yes or no questions, and then we'll pick probably two or three, no more than three questions that are relevant to the role. So to give you an example, we're currently hiring a customer support executive. So one of the questions that we've done, which has been highly effective is imagine you're working at Ben and a customer contacts you on intercom and they've told you that their Ben card isn't working, how would you respond? And it's been a really amazing to see what people come back with. It gives us a sense of how people communicate in writing, because that's a key part of the role they're going to be writing to people on intercom day. It gives us a sense of what they would respond to a customer. So how would they do that interaction and what kind of questions might they ask?


We're a small startup, a lot of initiative is needed. We don't have a huge amount of training at the moment. I'm sure anybody working in a startup can relate to this. We're working on it. But yeah, so what questions might they ask to try and find what's going on? And it's been such a useful screening question to really show us how somebody would actually approach that in day-to-day in the role. So it's relevant to the role, it ticks some boxes in terms of core skillsets we're looking for and we just find it really effective in the application process, and it's not too long. It's quite quick and easy. So it's effective from that standpoint as well.

Linnea Bywell (19:41):

Thank you for sharing. It's almost like a situational judgment question that you're using. Interesting. The third thing I wanted to dig into, you've mentioned that you have a clear way to get ahold of someone if you need adjustments in the process, or how did you phrase it?

Alicia Riley (20:00):

Reasonable adjustments. Yeah. For example, I've had somebody apply for a role in a previous organization who had difficulty with their eyesight. So they needed to have a special screen basically, and we were like, yeah, absolutely fine. It's just little things like that that can make a difference that somebody might need. Or if somebody's in a wheelchair for example, and you're asking them to come to the office, you need to think about accessibility into the office. If somebody is a parent and they're looking after children, can you do the interview remotely? It depends on your interview practice as it is, but it's just making it clear to people that if they need any reasonable adjustments that you can support that and cater for that. So it is just being clear with that in the application process and making sure there's a contact there that they know who to reach out to if they need that.

Linnea Bywell (20:56):

I think that really sounds like best practice, because I think as you say, candidates do reach out and you do need to make adjustments and it's better to be upfront with how that process works.

Tove Hernlund (21:08):

You also mentioned anonymous applications and this is something that people are doing through their ATSs, but I wanted to see how long have you been doing that and have you seen any differences? Because I think the biggest challenge for companies actually starting to use this is that in theory it sounds good, but then there seems to be some mixed feelings about what the results actually are from doing this. So what have you seen so far?

Alicia Riley (21:33):

Yeah, that's a really interesting question. We've been doing it at Bens for about 10 months now, and in all honesty, I haven't been measuring the impact purely juice capacity. However, we have now started measuring the entire recruitment funnel. So from the moment somebody applies to what percentage go through following what percentage go through and what's the conversion rate. Again, it depends on your ATS system as to how easy this can be. We're having to do it quite manually at the moment. So we've just pretty much set this up so that we're going to be able to start measuring it. So I think it's going to be a really interesting experiment, having roles with anonymous setting and having roles without and seeing the impact of that.


And I was going to say diversity, equity and inclusion is an ever ongoing initiative and challenge. It never ends for me anyway. I'm always like, okay, always challenge yourself, challenge your practices, what's working, what's not working, how do you know, start to measure stuff, use your data, ask people for their expertise and advice and experiences. It's always, always ever ongoing. So I think it's going to be really interesting. I think it's a really interesting question and we'll see where it goes.

Linnea Bywell (22:53):

What will you measure? Will you measure age and gender and stuff like that to make sure that you do fair hiring?

Alicia Riley (23:01):

We don't measure any of that information in the hiring process at the moment. We measure it when we've made an offer. So we make it part of a new starter form when somebody joins that they fill in the diversity data and we let them know why and what we're using it for. We're very open about it and we make it optional. Not everybody might want to share that data. But so far I think we've had a hundred percent response rate, which has been really good and we've been doing that for the last about 9, 10 months. So that's been really good. But I think initially I think what we would start with, I'm not sure about measuring the data at the beginning and I can't really justify that right now, but I've seen a couple of horror stories where it's potentially backfired where some people are filled in that data and actually potentially have been discriminated against because of that.


So I think you just need to be very, very careful if you're collecting that data upfront, how you're collecting that data, what you're using it for and why. I'm always quite a big believer of having as little information on that as possible at the beginning and just focusing on the role. You need to hire a role, these are the skillsets, the aptitude capabilities you're looking for, how are you going to assess for those? Because ultimately that's what you're hiring for, right? Somebody to come in a bit high performer in that role. So that's kind of where I focus on myself at the moment. But yeah, I think initially we'll just measure the conversion rates and just see if it has any difference and then we can measure the diversity at the end and just see if there's any difference there. We don't have the volume of hiring at Ben, but I think you would need to see results in over a shortish period of time. I think it will be a very long ongoing process for us.

Linnea Bywell (24:44):

Yeah, I think we are, we're in the same boat following the same train of thought, but it is like, to some extent, a catch 22 because you don't want to measure it because you don't want to be impacted by it, but you also want to make sure that you aren't impacted by it. Yeah. But okay, we've talked about that you need the structure and what you can do in the different stages. And I mean there's a ton of different things that we could dive into, but I mean now that you're doing this scale up journey for the second time, what would you advise companies to do to make their hiring into these a little bit better when it comes to diversity? What's the first step they should take?

Alicia Riley (25:24):

If they haven't done anything on this subject area yet? I think the first step I would take is reviewing your job descriptions, your job adverts. That is just, it's a small step of a very, very big project. But I think that's where I would begin if I was looking at my hiring process and I was like, right, I want to look at diversity, equity, and inclusion. I don't know where to begin. I'd be like, right, start from the beginning, start from the job ads. And there are tools online that you can use to help you analyze your language and your job ad. You can have a look at some other career pages job ads, get some inspiration ideas, have a look at some networks and companies who support diversity and hiring such as YSYS, hustle crew, another really good one. They can give you advice and support or you can see what do they do. Don't be afraid to start off something small because every little bit has a knock on impact to the next stage of the life cycle. That's where I would begin if I hadn't done anything.

Linnea Bywell (26:25):

No, I think that sounds very wise. I mean given that you work at Ben, I think it would be super interesting to hear some tips and tricks on how flexible benefits can, A, help in the recruitment process in general, but also how that relates to diversity, of course.

Alicia Riley (26:44):

And this is actually going to link back to something I mentioned earlier around flexible working, being clear about that upfront, what does flexible working actually mean? And I don't know if you've heard of Flexor or any of your listeners have heard of Flexor, but they're absolutely brilliant when it comes to this, and I really recommend you check them out. And they've kind of really been huge advocates on redefining what flexibility actually means. It's not just about your working hours, it's about where you work and how you work. And there's just so much more behind it. Diversity, equity and inclusion, flexibility, it's a huge, huge topic. Every time I go down one rabbit hole I end up going down more. But it's amazing and I love it. There's just so much to learn. But yeah, in terms of flexible benefits, I think first and foremost, the benefits you offer can have a huge impact in the types of candidates that might apply for your roles.


So for example, if you offer flexible working, define what flexible working is or be clear in the process, does flexible working mean they can work remotely a hundred percent of the time or does it mean they can be a bit flexible with their days? I think you just need to give as much information as possible upfront because that can have an impact on, for example, like working parents who might have to do school pickup or nursery drop off or anything like that. It could be somebody with a disability who finds the commute challenging and finds it easier to work from home. They're also better set up from home for their needs. So if you can offer remote working, then you're more likely to get applications from something like that. So I think just being really clear about that and your benefits up front is really important.


And then also what benefits you offer on top of that. So things like, for example at Ben we do a workplace nursery scheme, so you can get up to 40% discount on your nursery fees. For a parent, that's massive. It's amazing. It's been a game changer for me with a little one in nursery and I wish I knew about it before I joined Ben. But yeah, things like that can have a huge impact on somebody thinking do I or do I not apply for a job? And so many different things, mental health supports, supporting people through various challenges that they may face, giving people more flexibility and choice in terms of their annual leave and how they want to take that. At Ben as part of our new benefits package, which I'm very, very excited and can't wait to roll out, but we're allowing employees to reallocate back holidays so that they can use those days to celebrate other days of significance for them.


So it's just little things like that that one, reiterate your stance on diversity and inclusion and also to give your employees more choice and flexibility that suit them and their situation, whatever that may be. So I think having a flexible benefits package can really play a big part in that.

Linnea Bywell (29:44):

So it's about attracting the right type of candidates, but also a wide pool of type of candidates with your benefit package. So I think that also brings us to, and we've touched upon it, but how do you get the candidates to apply to your organization and when, I mean candidates are now mean a diverse pool of candidates, so you actually can reach your D&I KPIs, how do you get them to apply

Alicia Riley (30:13):

So many different things, I would say. So first of all, making sure that your advert is on a variety of job boards. Being proactive and thinking about what other job boards there are that actually support various groups. There might also be a particular group you might want to target. For example, if you are hiring an engineering and it's 90% male, you might want to focus on a job board that supports women in coding, which of which there were some really awesome ones out there. Just being proactive with that. You could also think about where you are communicating your role. So there's so many different social media platforms to help increase the reach. I've done a couple of presentations, so I did a presentation last week to a group of recent grads just to help open up the pool there. We have so many different touchpoints at Ben.


We cast the net super, super wide in the hope that we can try and reach a really wide candidate pool basically so that they hear of Ben, they get excited by what they're doing and that they're going to apply. And of course I mentioned earlier, referrals is a really big one for us. So we had an external referral not so long ago we hired that person. It's just a great example of that working really well. We've had a few internal referrals as well, which has been great. So communicating it with your team, all the different sets, but you have to be really proactive. You can't just hit publish on a job ad and then just sit there and wait for applications to come in, because you are immediately narrowing yourself and cutting your job ad off to a wide range of people. So I think you really need to take that into account, which is really important.

Linnea Bywell (31:58):

I was just curious on diversity and sourcing, do you have any tips or tricks?

Alicia Riley (32:04):

Yeah, it's an interesting one, actually. I think for me, when I do my sourcing, I use LinkedIn recruiter. So I have my criteria, which is, I put in a wide range of job titles and there are so many job titles for every single role I've discovered. So kind of educating yourself on what those are. So again, you're casting the net a lot wider. LinkedIn is really good because you can actually really, really filter down into what you're looking for because it's such a huge, huge network. And then once I get my list of people up, I honestly don't think about it too much because I think if you go through every profile and you analyze in detail one, it takes a really long time. So if you're sourcing for one role and you're going through every single profile in detail, it's going to take you too long.


So I just look at it, do they tick the top boxes of what we're looking for, yes or no? And then I contact them and set up an initial call, and for me the call is the deep dive. So that's how I go about it. You can't source anonymously, you have to have some criteria when you source because otherwise you end up 5 million people coming up in your search and it's going to take you two years to get through that list. So I think you just need to be clear, it all comes back to your requirements for the job. What are you actually looking for and why? What are the locations? What kind of industries are you ideally are you looking at? Are there any particular companies you think, oh it'd be awesome if they came from there because they're a similar industry to us.


Get those requirements really clear upfront because that will help you narrow it down and then be open and speak to people on the phone and start your screening process from there. And I think sourcing is something you have to constantly review and look at. I find paired sourcing a really nice way to sense check how you're doing it and what kind of things you're looking for. So sitting down with somebody and doing it with them and you speak to this person, or would you contact this person? Why not? And I think it's really interesting just to sense check what kind of things you are looking at when you're looking at somebody's profile as well.

Linnea Bywell (34:20):

I think that's the first time I've heard that concept of pair sourcing. I mean, makes sense. I think one important aspect of what you're describing is casting the net really wide. I mean as I see it, the biggest problem is that we're narrowing it down to, as you mentioned in the beginning, school results or past experience that aren't really necessarily the most important aspect for a good role fit or a high performer or something like that. And we end up looking in the same little fish pond.

Tove Hernlund (34:53):

Alicia, you mentioned a little bit about me ability earlier and briefly touched upon following up on things, but I also want to ask that question from a wider perspective. So not just in hiring but diversity and inclusion overall. Should we measure it and can we measure it or will we always run into those pitfalls that you mentioned?

Alicia Riley (35:13):

Yeah, it's a good question. So I personally think you should measure it because I think you need to hold yourself accountable and I think you need to keep track, especially if you are in a growing organization, it's very, very easy to suddenly grow and lose track and then suddenly you look at the team and you're like, ah, we haven't built a very diverse team here. And I definitely have done that in a previous role as well. So when I joined Ben, I was very, very conscious of it. So one of the first things I did was start to look at how can I collect the data so I can start measuring it and hold myself accountable so I don't find myself in the same position.


Because actually it's very, very hard to change your metrics with diversity because it relies on your recruitment and growth a lot of the time. So it's a hard metric to shift and change and it takes a long time. So if you take your eye off it, it can be too little too late kind of thing. It takes a long time to get the balance right. Saying that, you know what Ben, we have various metrics, so we look at things like pay gap and percentage of women and ethnic diversity and LGBTQ percentage.


But one of the things I would say is that at no point have I been able to find what does good actually look like, what is a benchmark for this? And I've reached out to my network and several places asking people if they've got anything, and nobody can really give me anything on that. And I wonder why that is. Is it because not enough companies are publishing this data? Is it just that not enough companies are actually measuring it? I don't know, but I know there are some companies that have published it, like Monzo, who have been super clear with their metrics upfront, Permative, you go on to their job ads, super interesting, they've got, well last time I checked anyway, I think it was set up by Maria Campbell who is brilliant and she set up a commitments basically to what the company was committing to as part of their DEI. So do you check it out?


But I think that can be quite difficult is to know what does good look like. The way I do it at Ben is I measure it on a monthly basis and I just keep an eye on it. I want this number to go up or I want this number to go down. And I'm thinking, why isn't that number going down? What are we doing? What are we not doing? So I'm always analyzing each one and thinking that. And I also ask the team for advice, and to share their own experiences and stuff. So that's been really interesting. But yeah, I think you should measure it. And even if you're measuring one measurement, something is better than nothing. Micro steps for bigger gains. So don't be daunted by measuring that kind of data. And if anybody doesn't have the data and wants to start and you want some questions, let me know. I'm happy to share what we use at Ben and people can use that and tailor it to their organization.

Linnea Bywell (38:04):

That's fantastic and super generous. And I really agree with the benchmark part. The easiest one is probably gender, because I think that's where companies are more open, where you actually like, okay, I understand how the population looks, so I could either benchmark against other companies or again, like the population in general. But I guess at least in my mind, it's better than nothing. And as you say, it's better to measure something and get started, but I see it's also, or at least as I see it's a problem that we are focusing only on gender because it's easy to measure. But as I see it, that's the easiest one to start with, but never settle for only that, I guess, in the long run.

Alicia Riley (38:49):

We actually have to report back, as I mentioned earlier to our investors on some of these things, and one of them is women in leadership as well. And when you're measuring these things, those types of metrics can be really hard to change because it's not like your CEO is going to change every year, so you can see the metric develop. So I think you also have to have realistic expectations on yourself, but look at things like succession planning and mentorship. That's such a great way to help grow that. But yeah, it's a tough one. It's really, really tough. Reach out to your network and would be my advice to anybody. I've learned so much and there's so many amazing people with such good experience who are willing to help support with it.

Linnea Bywell (39:28):

And now you are offering the listeners to this podcast to reach out to you. So expand me the network that way. I think that's brilliant.

Tove Hernlund (39:35):

It is time to wrap up this really, really rewarding conversation, I would call it. This has been super interesting, but thank you so much for joining us today, Alicia. It's been such a pleasure having you with us. And me and Linnea will be back with another inspiring guest and episode of How We Hire in two weeks. Make sure to subscribe Spotify or Apple Podcast to never miss an episode. And if you think two weeks are too long, don't miss checking out our training sessions and webinars on our website as well. Bye for now.

Linnea Bywell (40:10):