As a HR leader whose influence creates social change, what do you feel has been your most impactful action to date?
There are two key areas that we have focused on at Sage which I feel have been most impactful. Firstly, encouraging every employee to be their whole self at work, be that conversations around our families, our children, our partners, our hobbies – being able to be authentic about our world. We had made huge strides with this and in a sense the pandemic has cemented a lot of that, embracing authenticity, through the window we’ve had into each other’s home life. We’ve an employee who is a great artist, they have set up zoom art lessons for the children of colleagues – it’s been a brilliant sharing of the journey.
The second area is our Gender Pay Gap work. We are now down to an 8% median gender pay gap, more work is still to be done but our progress is something we are proud of especially as a tech company since the technology Industry Median Gender Pay Gap is 20%. We have really focused in on our make up and gender balance; our CEO has led from the front in terms of promoting women, enabling greater flexibility at all levels of seniority right through to how we recruit. We have challenged ourselves to always have a 50/50 intake of males and females despite often receiving a greater percentage of male applicants. The applicant pool is shifting now which I think reflects the overall shift in perception of women in tech.
These two points are amongst a list of things that have helped us improve our employee engagement score over the last two years and why Glassdoor named Sage as a great place to work in six different countries this year.
At the moment, in your industry, what do you think is the most exciting opportunity for HR to change the world?
The future of work is being talked about a lot but that does not lessen how exciting it is. We have collectively had a steep learning curve on fluid home working, its pros and cons. Now we have a chance to embrace flexibility, job shares and agile working at a whole new level. We must do this with vigour and not lose the footing we have gained.
Which particular areas of social and environmental injustice are you most passionate about, and see that your role gives you the chance to create change?
My passion lies in empowering those children and young people without the obvious route to job opportunities; to access education and opportunity to give themselves a brighter future. Social mobility should not be a barrier. At Sage one way that we are making that happen is our investment in apprenticeship schemes; to offer opportunity and gather talent that we wouldn’t access through graduate schemes. Once apprentices are within the organisation, we have several mentoring and coaching schemes which are not just about learning a role. They are about helping these young people mature and grow during their journey with us and enable them to maximise the opportunity we can provide.
Sage also runs a FutureMakers programme which provides free, interactive workshops for young people, teaching them how to use AI to solve real world problems. This programme helps 13–17-year-olds embrace digital transformation and get ready for jobs that don’t exist today. So far, we’ve run workshops in 5 countries: USA, UK, South Africa, France and Spain and we have reached over 500 young people across these regions.
How have you best used your position to create a more equitable and inclusive environment in ways that deliver your business goals?
Definitely culture and our strive for gender balance in tech. As we see our diversity increase, our talent and experience pools widen, and our success increases. When we analysed where we lost women from the business, we found the tracking looked a lot like a ski slope – women would join us, rise proportionately to men, then as they hit team leader, VP and Director level the ratio dropped off. We recognised that this often linked to becoming a parent. We have approached this challenge in different ways. We looked at our Executive Committee and challenged the male members to lead from the front, to go to sports day, to not schedule big events for school holidays and so on. We recognise that until men equally share the mental and practical load of being a parent, women cannot achieve equality.
We also have our brilliant Sage Foundation, which as part of its focus looks to support vulnerable women. One project championed by them this year was called Pathways, reaching out to women who’ve been out of work for long periods – we used local parenting networks, Facebook and so on to attract those who were out of the usual professional networks. Workshops were held for these women providing up-skilling and training. We supported them to find roles within Sage and other organisations. This scheme was a wonderful success and we are now seeking to expand into more countries.
What is the one specific action you would like to see all HR Leaders take to make a positive change for the world?
Remove the barriers to change. For example, stop looking in the obvious places to hire people. So many unconscious decisions we make are based on appearance, industry knowledge, network etc but these things alone do not make a great employee and don’t break the social cycle of opportunity. I’m encouraging my recruitment teams to focus on the outlying trends. We listen to the Sage Foundation's feedback about where untapped potential lies amongst those they support in the youth field and have established an early careers talent hiring team who specialise in hiring diverse talent. Their knowledge has helped us develop our apprentice scheme to attract young people who have potential but need opportunity. As HR leaders we can impact social mobility, especially for the young, which is a much-needed positive change.
Beyond recruitment, it's about creating a culture that embraces difference. We've recently appointed a VP of Diversity and Inclusion who will be looking at both our internal and external operations and strategy. Internally our Sage Belong team has set up Colleague Success Networks, including Pride@Sage and BUILD (Blacks United in Leadership & Development), which are voluntary, colleague-led groups providing safe spaces to reflect, support one another and unite to provide ideas back to the business that leads to meaningful change.
As leaders we have a responsibility to make a difference and that's a responsibility that we all need to work hard to fulfil.