Can start-ups lead the way with diversity?

Happy New Year to everyone, I start 2019 really optimistic about the future of Talent International and the work we are doing around diversity and engagement. I have been reflecting on a number of great events I was involved in during 2018. Talent Rise and the chance to engage with young people from Brixton, London was really inspiring but also our tech trends event and how we can set strategies to engage a more diverse workforce.

One of the questions posed at our tech trends event in Berlin, which I was delighted to be a panel member was, “how can start ups ensure diversity when they have so many other priorities such as funding, product development and growth to worry about”?

I think that it’s actually easier for start ups to set the scene for diversity in their organisations. They have the opportunity to set their principles and approach from the very beginning. Building an EVP which appeals to a diverse workforce, create language in JDs and policies that is unbiased, building an attraction strategy that sources talent from a more diverse audience. These strategies are notoriously difficult to change in large corporate companies. In a start-up there are no entrenched routines and rituals already within the organisation to break. Organisations who don’t have these strategies are essentially fishing in a very small pool for talent. It’s pointless for the start-up community to compete. There is a real opportunity for the start-up community to redefine how and where they advertise to attract a much broader range of candidates. There is hidden talent out there and casting the net wider will provide a greater variety of skills and experience. Start-ups have the opportunity to tap into this.

Resourcing the organisation from a grassroots level can be a really effective strategy in an SME. SMEs require agile people who are willing to take risks. People that are creative and able to make something out of nothing. They need courageous people that can design processes rather than follow them. People who have worked in large stable corporate companies struggle to deal with such uncertainty and risk. Diversity can often come with adversity and thus there are many transferable skills such as; resilience, tenacity and opportunism that make them perfect candidates for a start-up company. SMEs create unique roles because they are smaller than corporate organisations, the roles are diverse and cross functional. It is therefore a huge opportunity to take a more junior person who you can develop and grow as your business grows. They can gain valuable experience by working with very senior figures in the business who are willing to share their expertise and provide exposure and the opportunity to grow. This is a unique opportunity that doesn't exist in large corporate companies. A junior person will get greater exposure and responsibility in an SME. The development of tacit knowledge as well as skills are of huge value to SMEs as the organisation and individual grows. 

Tech start ups are renowned for being hugely creative, forward thinking and smart – I believe it's just a matter of applying that thinking to your talent attraction strategies and it’s hugely exciting where it will take you.