145: Diversity and Inclusion with Vanessa Subramaniam

145: Diversity and Inclusion with Vanessa Subramaniam

Vanessa Subramaniam talks about the kind of things she might look for when considering whether she’d be successful at a potential future employer’s organisation.


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Charlotte Ward 0:13
Hello, and welcome to Episode 145 of the customer support leaders podcast. I’m Charlotte Ward. This week we’re talking about diversity and inclusion. So stay tuned for five leaders talking about that very topic. I’d like to welcome back to the podcast today. Vanessa Subramaniam. Vanessa, lovely to have you join me after what seems like an age. But I’m sure that’s just 2020 talking in my head somewhere. And thank you so much for joining me this week on a topic that as I was telling you, before we hit record, I have had on my list to talk about for I think all of this year. And then 2020 became 2020. And I kind of put it off, not knowing quite how to begin these conversations. But I think it’s time as Tony was saying, These aren’t conversations we should put off. These aren’t conversations we should ignore. So thank you for joining me and looking forward to another one of these types of conversations with you. Welcome back.

Vanessa Subramaniam 1:21
Thank you. I really appreciate you having me back. On the podcast and what a year it’s been. I’m glad that we’re back to some normalcy here.

Charlotte Ward 1:30
Yeah, yeah. Getting there getting there. Increasingly, day by day, hopefully, fingers crossed for 2021. That’s all I can say. Yeah, absolutely. big, deep breath in. I heard that a big. Okay. Um, so where would you like to begin this conversation today?

Vanessa Subramaniam 1:49
Maybe let’s start from the beginning, let’s go into hiring potentially. I think it’s something that I’m extremely passionate about in terms of and tackle your previous guests, looking at my hiring funnel, and making sure that the source or I should say, when you look at your hiring funnel, making sure that you are bringing in a diverse selection of applicants coming in, I can share for my particular company, I hire travel agents. And so we would usually recruit from the travel, tourism and hospitality schools. And when they came in, it was all white women that the programme was. And it was always something where I thought, okay, but part of being really interesting. or part of being a team that caters to a global audience. And selling travel requires their sea of experienced diversity of self. So what I suggested to my recruiter is that this is something that was important to our team, and to perhaps post the jobs in different areas that might attract people of different sorts of groups. And then the hiring practices flowed from from that point to make sure that all folks who were coming in, we tried to do blind hiring, for the most part, removing names from resumes, and creating an environment that was comfortable and inclusive for everyone, but also made a point to demonstrate our diversity as a team. In terms of the people you spoke with. I think it made quite a bit of a difference to our makeup, it, it really set people up to understand that diversity, equity and inclusion is very much a value of ours, even if we didn’t talk about it upfront in the job description. But I think it it was a good place for us to to make a bit of change.

Charlotte Ward 4:02
Yeah, yeah. I was curious about the blind hiring because I think there is, as you said, that there are the simple first steps you can take around moving names, removing photos, those kind of things. How far can you take it, though, realistically?

Vanessa Subramaniam 4:21
Yeah, you know, it’s it’s challenging, because ultimately, it comes down to training your hiring managers and training the people on the panel to educate them on the benefits of diversity and inclusion and belonging and equity amongst a team. So in that sense, you can’t eliminate it totally. But you want to at least give everyone an opportunity to be a part of the team. And part of that is educating your existing hiring managers about what biases may exist out there. Totally prevented from from that aspect.

Charlotte Ward 5:02
Yeah, I get what you’re saying. And I think I think if nothing else, the the getting a greater anonymity in that. And through hopefully that first hiring staff that first resume screen is quite a big stride towards giving greater opportunity to everyone, isn’t it?

Vanessa Subramaniam 5:28
Yeah, absolutely. I think, you know, on my team of travel agents, I have people who’ve lived all around the world, I have people who’ve had a, you know, variety of different experiences. And that’s the kind of team I want to call in, to, to buy travel from, I want you to be able to point me in the direction of a person who’s had a specific experience, and if everyone’s had the same set of experiences, they’re less likely to be educated on what could happen in a given country, for example. And I think, just strengthening your team with being able to have that, as part of the team and Google naturally share with each other, their experiences, I think it’s quite powerful. For the customer, ultimately.

Charlotte Ward 6:16
Yeah, that makes total sense. The final part for this, of this, then for me, on the hiring front is thinking about it from the other side is thinking about it from the point of view of a potential applicant. And, you know, you talked a little bit there about some of the biases that you hope to, to kind of raise awareness of to train out, I don’t like to alter people’s kind of perceptions, I guess, and and raise people’s awareness of their own biases, even if you can’t necessarily entirely erase the buyer CDs themselves, although we can but hope but but I think one thing that I think from a potential applicants point of view that’s worth discussing, I’d love your thoughts on is that, that, I think, if I was to approach a company, one of the things I would do would be to look at the kind of people that are already there. And as a potential applicant, I obviously draw judgments about the kind of pictures I’m looking at the kind of, you know, team, team away day pictures, and the kinds of things they talk about on values pages, and I’m trying to get a sense of what it’s like to work there about the makeup of the people about the values of the people that work there, as far as research any potential employer. What what are your experiences there and thoughts there in terms of what companies could do or should do, to project themselves as a potential employer to to an applicant?

Vanessa Subramaniam 7:54
I think the first thing is, if you have a strong Diversity and Equity and Inclusion culture, then it’s easier to put that out there. If you don’t, then you’re going to struggle with putting that on your website. And you can kind of tell us an applicant, I can tell you as a female minority applicant, who, you know, I have looked for positions in the past, I usually will look at the different benefits that a company provides in their job posting. So look, while I might not need not leave, it doesn’t signal to me something if you don’t have my leave at a company. And I think if I look at the leadership team, if they’re homogeneous, then that signals something to me too, I think it’s always a good sign when you see some representation on the senior leadership team. First and foremost, because I think a lot of companies will share stats about male and female split, or these kind of very simplistic points, which is still important, I don’t want to take away from it. But I think hiring equal numbers of women to men is a 1999 problem. This is we’re beyond that. So let me look at your representation of visible minorities and women on your leadership team. And let me look at who you’re able to attract at that level. And let me see who you’ve been able to promote to that level. That to me signal something, and it signals that I will be probably successful at this company, it might make you feel more comfortable that I’ll be safe at this company. It’s not always true. But I think it’s it’s part of the signalling that you want to put out there. And if you do have a good programme, and you do have a culture of not just a small group of people saying that this is important to us, whereas the whole company, it will naturally be part of your marketing campaigns. It will naturally come out in your tone of voice. It will be easy for you to put on the website. You don’t really have to think about it because it’s part of your

Unknown Speaker 10:01
Yeah, and I think, yeah,

Vanessa Subramaniam 10:05
when you’re a prospective employee for a company, you ought to be looking for these things. I know even for me, some of my my friends who are, are not minorities will also look for these features because they don’t want to be in a, you know, homogeneous group they want diversity in, in their team, and they think there’ll be better engineers, or they’ll be better financial analysts, if there’s people of all kinds of different backgrounds who are doing the job and maybe attacking it from different angles. So I think the signalling is quite important. And if you don’t have your signalling, right, it might indicate something about your actual programme, because you can’t put it out there very easily.

Charlotte Ward 10:51
Yeah, that’s, that’s very true. And that’s kind of just were just exactly what I was going to ask you. Is that, or maybe maybe reinforced is just that, it’s really hard to fabricate, isn’t it? It’s really hard to fabricate that kind of culture. If it doesn’t exist, you can’t pretend to be something you’re not. Whereas you can fail, as you were saying to signal the things that you truly are, or, or at least aspire to be.

Unknown Speaker 11:20
Yeah, I think

Vanessa Subramaniam 11:23
there are a lot of companies where they’re founded by people from the same backgrounds, because that’s who they knew. And if your company have to, it’s hard to be diverse. It’s not impossible, but it’s hard to be diverse, let’s you know, but part of it is the intention and the impact that you could have with your team. And bringing in a diversity and equity inclusion specialists from the beginning or a consultant to help you is a good sign, but even reading about it and trying your best to attract your first couple of employees, being from different backgrounds, sets you up for this being part of the culture. It’s it’s never too late, but it’s always easier to start from the beginning.

Charlotte Ward 12:12
That’s it for today. Go to customersupportleaders.com/145 for the show notes, and I’ll see you next time.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

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