Driving Diversity and Equality at ai

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Why diversity and equality is important by Mark Goldspink, CEO

Creating diversity and equality in any team is so important. I grew up with an academic Father who worked with postgraduate students from all over the world. At 7 or 8 years old, I had my first homemade curry and remembered (too) fondly the Indian sweets that were served after dinner.  I learnt to play football with Luke, a Nigerian student from Lagos, and Majid, a Kuwaiti student from Kuwait City, who took my Father flying in a light aircraft over East Riding – what a great experience! Many of these brave, young students that came from around the world to Yorkshire in the 1960s,` ended up becoming part of our family. 

Even though my Father grew up in Hull, which was not at all cosmopolitan at the time, for some reason he instinctively knew that internationalism was critical. I have never asked him why, but I am sure he would reinforce my view that “innovation and out of the box thinking” does not come from surrounding yourself with people with the same background and beliefs as you. As Einstein said: “insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”. This is probably why he ended up working in the US, Africa, and the Middle East. The academic world has never had boundaries, so why should a business be any different?  

As a Father of three daughters and a son, I am eager to ensure that my daughters are given equal opportunities and are treated fairly in the workplace; why shouldn’t they? I remember once, I was speaking to one of my colleagues about how we should manage a particular situation in a sensitive way, and she said: “You would never have this type of conversation with a male counterpart.” She was right and I am grateful to her for pointing it out.  I am sure you can understand that I cannot give the specific details, but we acted on her recommendations and everything worked out well. We can all learn from each other.

Our approach to being more inclusive by Natasha Rubin, HR Manager

As ai continues to grow, we remain focused on ensuring that we promote and maintain a diverse workforce. This starts with our recruitment process,  ensuring that hiring managers have regular training on avoiding unconscious bias during the interview selection process. While looking at the way we word job descriptions, to help ensure that words we use aren’t typically “gendered”, unintentionally discouraging some candidates from applying. We also work with candidates throughout the recruitment process and beyond to make sure we can accommodate the working hours required to maintain childcare arrangements, religious attendance, and hobbies.

Maintaining diversity is a case of continuous improvement, and we are keen to ensure that we maintain momentum on diversity right through our employee’s lifecycles. Our diverse team will not have a chance to shape our culture unless everyone feels like they have a voice. We have worked on our employee feedback forums over the past 18 months and offer monthly “skip” meetings for all employees to have a chance to raise their concerns directly with our CEO. We hold annual Q&A sessions, where questions can be anonymously asked to our Executive Committee, as well as via suggestion boxes and to our Staff Council covering various departments throughout the business. We also have a Diversity policy circulated annually to remind all employees of their obligations to uphold our diverse and inclusive atmosphere across areas such as recruitment, training, and career development. HR attends appraisals for each employee across the year to ensure that our appraisals are being completed consistently, regardless of the manager or group of employees being reviewed.

As well as acquiring and maintaining a diverse workforce, we aim to go beyond that and actively celebrate our differences. We believe that diversity goes hand-in-hand with one of our core values – innovation. By challenging each other and coming at things from different perspectives, we believe that ai will better identify with our global client base and become a more innovative and inclusive business. Before the pandemic, we were keen to host celebrations of our employees’ various cultures in the office, learning more about each other’s backgrounds with the incentives of trying new types of office snacks.

The relationship between diversity and employee retention

We believe that there is a relationship between diversity and retention – employees who feel that they can contribute, progress, and be rewarded equally will want to be part of the team for longer. We also encourage external secondment opportunities, which can be a great way to see how other companies operate. We have implemented several new initiatives based on those learnings that we otherwise would not have had.

We have recently made changes to our Management Leadership Team and have appointed two women, which should continue to push us to challenge each other and try new ways of thinking.

As we continue to champion diversity at ai, our plans include creating a new initiative to help those returning to work after a long period of sickness or maternity leave. We will offer a thorough reintroduction to the workplace and increasing our use of employee data to track our diversity levels throughout the employee life cycle and target improving those initiatives accordingly.

We all have a part to play in improving the ways we develop together. At the end of the day, we are all the same and are all driven by the same security needs, a clear purpose and being part of something. Therefore, if this foundation is consistent, then diversity and equality provide another opportunity level of learning, which is not only exciting but should not be missed by any organisation.  The payments marketplace is global, and it is imperative we reflect that within our teams.

We are proud that we have over 18 nationalities and 30% of our workforce are women – a statistic we will continue to improve upon.