Inclusive Growth Show

The Diversity and Inclusion Evolution of Reed Talent Solutions

October 24, 2023 Toby Mildon Episode 115
Inclusive Growth Show
The Diversity and Inclusion Evolution of Reed Talent Solutions
Show Notes Transcript

This episode features Lee Gudgeon the Managing Director of Reed Talent Solutions talking about the evolution of the diversity and inclusion journey that Reed Talent Solutions is on. The conversation covers what he has learned along the way and the part that he's played in his role as an executive sponsor.

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Intro: Welcome to the Inclusive Growth Show with Toby Mildon, future-proofing your business by creating a diverse workplace.

Toby Mildon: Hey there, thank you ever so much for tuning into this episode of the inclusive growth podcast. I am Toby Mildon. And today I'm joined by Lee Gudgeon and Lee is the managing director of Reed Talent Solutions. And we're going to be talking to Lee about the diversity and inclusion journey that Reed Talent Solutions has been on, what he has learned along the way and particularly his role as an executive sponsor and the part that he's played, what he's learned and why we need to be encouraging more exec sponsors within the working world. So Lee, lovely to see you today. Thanks for joining me. Could you just let us know a bit more about who you are, what you do and your background? 

Lee Gudgeon: Sure, sure. Thank you for having me, I should say, Toby, in the first instance. So pleasure to be here. First of all, I am a husband and a father of three. That's probably my primary role, Toby. Second half of that, I've become a father for the 600 people that work for me in Reed Talent Solutions. There's a slight joke within that, but hopefully we've got an inclusive enough culture and belonging, sense of belonging that's how I am here for them to support them in their growth is probably the message I'm trying to give there. Reed Talent Solutions, we are a business of contingent and permanent programs as well as consulting within human capital in some way, shape or form is produced is the way I describe it. So, Reed has a number of businesses, the online business, the agency business, but the Reed Talent Solutions business provides talent solutions, be they, as I say, contingent, permanent, consulting right across the talent ecosystem. I've been in the staffing industry for 25 years, worked in New Zealand for seven or eight years, in the UK now for, can I say near 19, maybe even 20, 19, 'cause I've been at Reed for 14 years.

Lee Gudgeon: So having the international experience, having probably been exposed to some discrimination myself down there I would say, having seen how many organizations approach diversity. It leaves us really well placed to run our own programs within our own business but also of course within the permanent solutions and particular in consulting. We're well equipped now to support clients both from a learned and experienced perspective but also looking forward.

Toby Mildon: Brilliant. So Reed Talent Solutions has been on a divesting and inclusion journey and I know that you've broken it down into different phases or stages. And you say that you're currently at the evolution phase. What were the earlier phases? What did you do in those phases and what did you learn in those previous stages? 

Lee Gudgeon: Yeah, okay. So the earlier phases and then learn and then evolution. So the earlier phases, I think probably the earliest rather than earlier, the earliest was women in leadership. I think if we look back, women in leadership was the original focus that was, was really public in the press and that probably most, most people were focused on, which was part equity, part of the gender inclusive characteristic. And I think that was probably the earliest one. And it set a bit of a model for how we might then bring into focus the challenges that different, protected characteristics have, but an early model of how you might drive success. So what did we do? We went external for advice. We participated in many, many external and internal sessions and webinars.

Lee Gudgeon: But internally we then set up working groups with leaders and ambassadors from the senior leaders, from the female groups to really promote, what would I say? My early learns were, having... You need a whole population on those groups. So, if you've got a board sponsor and then some champions and a whole lot of allies in a particular characteristic and you're looking to educate people and take them on a journey about what people from certain characteristics go through, you need a breadth of people on that team.

Lee Gudgeon: So there's no point just women being on the women in leadership team that you need to have men on the women in leadership team to ensure they understand, they learn and they promote that within their business and just ensure that it is part of the everyday conversation would be an early learn. What did we do after that? We did originally set some targets, which I think was a mistake. And it's a mistake because you're either looking to force people out of positions, but particularly in where we classified senior leader's role, even your senior leader's role, you haven't typically got as much attrition as you might have in some of the more entry level roles. And I know that's typical, rather than every, but we don't have a high turnover in that population. So if you set yourself a target to have a percentage of people [chuckle] in place in 12 months time, but not one person leaves to increase that percentage, it's quite a challenge.

Toby Mildon: Yeah.

Lee Gudgeon: And there was also, there was nothing about quotas. And we definitely, the female population did not want quotas. They didn't want percentages, they wanted to earn a job through their own merits and age. We saw some of our clients force situations on us where a percentage of people on the shortlist need to be female. Kind of the integrity went away a little bit. I think, you've gotta make the attraction, the attraction, right to get that. So I think one of the other early learn is quotas and numbers are kind of forced what you actually need to do when you're talking about those types of programs and ensure that the mechanisms that achieve the results are in place to ensure we can achieve that. So how do you get there? 

Toby Mildon: Yeah.

Lee Gudgeon: So they were the early learns and what did we do? We had, as I say, we did a lot of webinars, we had the various board sponsors, we had champions, we had allies and we made it an everyday conversation. We made it an everyday conversation. And then from there, we then walked into all of the other protective characteristics. We had a really strong focus. I'm going back sort of probably, maybe seven years now, Toby, but then we started with a much stronger focus on the race and ethnicity population, which was commonly mistaken from all sorts of companies as diversity, actually diversity is much more than race and ethnicity, but it had such a high profile compared to the other characteristics that that kind of dominated a diversity agenda for a period of time.

Toby Mildon: Yeah.

Lee Gudgeon: So there was probably a learn there and that we had to make sure that this is probably where diversity and inclusion became, but then it became equity, diversion, inclusion, or equality, diversion, inclusion and then belonging came. And then yesterday, or this was just... Yeah, yesterday, I heard my first JEDI, justice, equity, diversity, inclusion. So it continues to evolve, but from D&I, I think those early stages where diversity was almost really about race and ethnicity. And so I think it's evolved in some way, shape, or form there for that continued education. But the model that we set up for women in leadership, we then started to replicate for all of the other characteristic groups.

Lee Gudgeon: And then we had it in two forms, because I guess I would be talking today to you about one, what we do for our own working population and then what we do for our clients. So it's quite good. But bear in mind that we are in a position where we have to advise and drive programs for our clients. We have to have our own house in order.

Toby Mildon: Yeah.

Lee Gudgeon: So I'm kind of pleased and I can say with authenticity to you that we were early adopters. I'm not saying that, I wouldn't claim that we were pioneers, but we were very early adopters of all of the programs that are needed from, as I say, the board sponsors, allies, champions and the shadow board as well, to make sure that effectively we are driving EDI&B, which is our term, I know there's some others, EDI&B within not only our own population, but also that of our clients.

Toby Mildon: That sounds really good. And what's your focus right now, as you're in the evolution phase of your journey? 

Lee Gudgeon: Yeah, the evolution phase. So why am I saying that we're at the evolution phase? I know now, so if I talk for ourselves first and then I'll talk generally about what we do for our clients.  But as an evolution phase, we have a diverse workforce. So what I'm saying now is we have a diverse workforce. So that's good. And we've got over a third of our population comes from an ethnic background. We've got greater percentages than all of the national averages in all the inclusive characteristics. So what I would say, evolution is one, some of the original programs, so women in leadership, maybe even race and ethnicity, we almost had to reflect, okay, we've been doing that for seven years now.

Lee Gudgeon: Things need to change. Everything evolves, right? If nothing changes, nothing changes. But also, what is constant is change. Or, the only thing that's constant is change. And so probably it's a bit of a refresher of some of those programs, which I will guess is why I say we have to evolve and improve what we're doing. So that's evolutionary. But I think the other major learn, I think is probably a bit more transformational and potentially more complex is we now have a diverse workforce. So if we've worked on our employee value proposition, which we have, if we worked on our ability to attract, engage and onboard a diverse team, how do you then get the best of the diverse team? 

Lee Gudgeon: And we'll talk about inclusive people growth later on. But one of the major benefits of inclusivity is you should be able to grow your business more. Apart from the equity program and the social governance that corporates have to have as responsibility, there is a lot of evidence just that a diverse team drives growth within your business. So if you've got this team, how do you drive growth? How do you maximize that team to drive growth? So where are then think the biggest part we need to evolve is the ability of our leadership team to foster a multi-generational, multi-race, multi-sexual orientation, gender balance, et cetera, et cetera, all the communities. How do you get the very best out of them? And I'll just give you some practical examples. You're 25-years-old and you're a relatively new leader and you've got someone at 77 working for you. How does that work? 

Lee Gudgeon: Are you skilled to do that? Because their life experience and all their scenarios they're going to bring to the table, you want to draw that out without being intimidated, in an authentic manner, without feeling intimidated. How does a leadership team take on, let's just say for argument's sake, six different opinions and then bring that team together with one collective journey. And that's going to be a challenge. So I guess we've done the recruitment, we've done the branding and it's now how do we equip our leadership team to make sure that they are able to grow the business but that everybody feels like they belong, they can voice their opinion, but they're also in line with the strategy. And I think this is probably the other thing I'd say about evolution is whilst we're on a journey for evolving, I think the general population needs to come some way to evolve as well. So I think if we take diversity as a fact, as in, we have a diverse population, so ultimately that's a fact. Equity is a bit of a choice.

Lee Gudgeon: Inclusion is an action, but I think one will be bold enough to say is inclusion is an action for everybody. I think typically the responsibilities sort of sat on the white middle-aged male, typically to make sure they are more inclusive. If we've gone through the recruitment phase, then we've got a diverse team. I think that inclusiveness now has to fall upon everybody to make sure that they are also inclusive and that they are taking ownership of becoming part of the strategy and also taking on everybody else's opinion. So I think it's sort of the shift in responsibility from a certain population and the employer to people to also take ownership of being included. And then if everybody can do that and if we've got the right leadership team, we've got the diverse team, you'd like to think the outcome is a strong sense of belonging, which then drives growth.

Toby Mildon: Absolutely. So I know that you've been an executive sponsor for various groups over the last few years. What have you personally learned from being an exec sponsor and why do you think businesses should be enabling exec sponsors to support different groups of people within the workplace? 

Lee Gudgeon: What have I learned and why? So I have been an exec sponsor and I have been a mentor. So I've been an exec sponsor for the race and ethnicity group. I've been an exec sponsor for ability group. And I'm now an exec sponsor for the aged. And I don't just mean the 50 plus what we will might be considered the age workforce. I think we now try and say age is something for everybody we know. Don't discriminate against somebody who's 19 going into leadership role based on experience. You're looking at all sorts age. So what have I learned or been doing this for a while now, Toby so. [chuckle] How long have we got? But if I was to summarize it, I think to compliment the learning, you have as an exec sponsor go through the reverse mentoring too.

Lee Gudgeon: So I currently have reverse mentoring through with a gentleman name Ian McLeod. He's our champion for our LGBTQIA+ population. And he's an expert in EDI&B. So the reverse mentoring and the board sponsorship, I suppose it just opens up your eyes to people's perceptions and perceptions of the reality, it also opens your eyes to some really basic things. So one of my good colleagues who's from the LGBTQIA+ community, he won't always go on the same holiday destinations that I would pick because of the response he would get from some of the locals. 'Cause obviously we actually, the UK is a very progressive country. If you compare us to some of the Asian or Middle Eastern or African continents, diversity inclusions, we are far more progressed.

Lee Gudgeon: So you'd have to pick a holiday choice, which is not something I would typically have had to consider because of my sexual orientation. Maybe from a safety perspective, but not for that reason. Right through to history and history does shape people's thinking. If you look at the the Black Lives Matter group, when I was early sponsoring the race and ethnicity characteristic I learned an awful lot about black history and the Black Lives Matter cause and that emotion is really strong and it was really powerful at the period of time when I was doing it as well. And so you learn a lot. You have to channel some of that emotion into the right areas, but it's really, it's to put yourself in other people's shoes from time to time gives you a real sense for some of the challenges that we have faced with the how people feel. And then in turn, what we need to do to make sure that everybody's given the same tools and options.

Toby Mildon: So in a way it's really developing your empathy skills, which we know is one of the key traits of being an inclusive leader.

Lee Gudgeon: Yeah, I think so. Yeah. Through understanding comes empathy. Yeah. I think that's a really good summary.

Intro: So you are currently at the evolution phase. What's happening next for Reed? What's the next phase of activity for you? 

Lee Gudgeon: So the next phase I think as I said earlier we are equipping our leaders to get the best out of teams. It's a different leadership trait. So aside from the fact that we expect them to be experts in AI and consumption of data and RPA. [chuckle] All of the technology that's available and then there is a shift to the humanity that's expected from leaders and the workplace now in terms of facing into mental health and wellness programs. And then you take the values and the ESG agenda that you have to have and you should have. But taking into incorporation that leadership has changed an awful lot in terms of what we expect from a leader now and the skills that are needed. The EDI&B program is big.

Lee Gudgeon: And I think you talk about inclusivity growth, there's good reason for it. I think what we want to do is ensure that we remain authentic and we are authentic. You probably know that ranging from 20% of our profits goes to charities. Our chairman got a CBE for charitable causes this week, right through to our own purpose is to improve lives through work. 'Cause Obviously a lot of what we do is work in some way, shape, or form for people. So maintaining authenticity and I hope then the outcome is that we drive a sense of belonging and that we equip people, everybody with the same amount of tools, therefore it's upon them to drive equity. But I think what we'd really like to do is become educators and really help other organizations. So and I think we have I say that help more. We are delivering some fantastic results. Some of our clients, we did win awards last year for the impact we've had on some of our clients for EDI&B, got short-listed this year, didn't win it. But we have been short-listed and we have won awards for it. We've got women in engineering programs. We've got women in tech programs specifically for our clients. We consult and we drive for the, turn that EVP from that attraction stage through to onboarding. So I think we'd like to be known for really championing this course and become educators and trusted amongst our clients is probably that other next phase I'd like us to be focused on.

Toby Mildon: That sounds brilliant. And really being trailblazers and leading the charge and inspiring other businesses to follow in your suit is really good. You've mentioned already a couple of times how diversity and inclusion drives growth, but I'm really interested to hear your perspective on this. What does inclusive growth mean for you? 

Lee Gudgeon: Yeah. Okay. So, I'll start with my own business and then I think that can translate to others, but within our own business there is very little of our income that is written through an individual's expertise. So the need to collaborate is really strong. And of course, if you have the skills and the culture to drive collaboration from multiple points. Now I know that sometimes it comes hard to make a decision. But if you've got an efficient way where you're empathetic, people can voice their ideas in a collaborative fashion, your product range, it should appeal to the masses. Okay.

Lee Gudgeon: So, if there is a, what we know is fact is we have a diverse population. So, your product range needs to appeal to a diverse community or global population, but in our case country's population or United Kingdom population. So I think if you don't have a diverse team or an inclusive, that's inclusivity is part of, how do you make sure that you're appealing to the entire general public to retail or sale or whatever that means and however your consumers consume information, your products, how do you make sure you get that mass appeal? So I guess I would say collaboration, make sure that we've got inclusivity, so we've got the right range of products and the right appeals to as many people as possible. And through that, we share the right products to as many people as possible. Therefore we grow our business.

Toby Mildon: Brilliant. If the person listening to us right now wants to learn more about what you do at Reed Talent Solutions, how you can support them and help them, how should they go about that? 

Lee Gudgeon: I'll visit our website. It's probably the easiest one to say now. So that's obviously www.reedtalentsolutions.com. If you're interested in particular around consultancy or EDI&B or EVP, you go to our talent advisory section, is probably the easiest way to do it. You can make contact through there. Or I'll give you two names, Steve Dilley and Ian McLeod. You can link in with them and go directly, but the website is probably the easiest route to do that and we'd be delighted to help.

Toby Mildon: Brilliant. Well, Lee thanks so so much for taking time out of your busy day to sit down with me and share your experiences over at Reed. It's been really interesting to understand the journey that you've been going on, the phases. I like how you've kind of broken it down into those phases and what your plans are for the going forwards. And also it's really great to hear what you've personally learned being an exec sponsor. And I hope that the person listening to us right now takes some hints and tips back to their organization and maybe encourages some of their most senior leaders to be exec sponsors in their own business as well, because it is a hugely powerful thing to do for really developing your skills and ability as a leader, but also helping to shape the right culture for your business. So Lee, it's been lovely to sit down with you. Thanks very much.

Lee Gudgeon: Toby, thanks for having me. I appreciate all the work that you're doing as well, driving this as a topic. And yeah, let's hope we've helped somebody today.

Toby Mildon: I'm sure we have. And thank you for tuning into this episode of the Inclusive Growth Podcast. Hopefully you've taken away some great knowledge and new ideas that you can take back to your own organization. As Lee said, if Reed Talent and Solutions can support you in any way, please do reach out to him and his team through their website. And if me and my team can support you on your own diversity and inclusion journey, then get in touch with us through our own website. So until next time, take good care of yourself and I'll see you on the next episode of the Inclusive Growth Podcast, which will be coming out very soon. Take care. Bye-bye.

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Outro: Thank you for listening to the Inclusive Growth Show. For further information and resources from Toby and his team, head on over to our website at mildon.co.uk.