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Diversity of Thought in Recruiting

By May 19, 20169 Comments

I’m enjoying the newly emerging trend of more interesting, fresh-thinking press releases from the global corporates of our recruitment community.  After years of pithy proclamations re-hashing the same old stories of skills shortages and talent shortages and “oh how about using us to help you recruit?” it seems the PR departments of the bigger end of town are finally learning that people like engaging, future-focused content nowadays.

Randstad have been drip-feeding us a range of articles around flexible working trends, and then this week Hays put something out there about “diversity of thought”.  We’ve heard plenty about the benefits of a more physically and ethnically diverse workplace over recent years, but this is the first I’ve heard about thought diversity.  And I like it.  As the article explains:

“Diversity of thought is starting to gain a lot of attention since a workplace that respects and encourages different ways of thinking works more innovatively to bring new ideas to the table,” says Jason Walker, Managing Director of Hays in New Zealand.

However, whereas Randstad seem to be following their own advice (I’m frequently talking to hiring managers there who are working from home for some reason or other, for instance), Hays must have shifted their company culture a long way from when I was there 9 years ago to be following their own mantra around thought diversity.  Don’t get me wrong, I thoroughly enjoyed my time there, but the corporate culture of “fitting in” and “toeing the company line” was ever-present there, and voicing opinions of doing things differently was positively scowled upon.

But Hays wouldn’t have been alone, in those times, where most large recruitment environments operated within a culture akin to a Kim Jong Un conference:

In fact only recently I was speaking to another senior recruiter while he was on his way out of a similarly large corporate recruitment brand where the in-joke quietly whispered among consultants was that the company culture was like the recruitment equivalent of Gloriavale, a place where diversity of thought is likely considered something akin to witchcraft.

Hopefully things have changed there, though, and there now exists an environment where new ideas and opinions can be aired free of retribution. I remember reading a comment on a different thread about the “uber-isation” of recruitment a few weeks ago, from someone who works at Aquent in Australia, and where they had spent half a day discussing how they could disrupt their very own jobs in the future.

A brave move, not just for the time taken away from making all those cold calls, but also for the scary truths it might reveal.  I’m sure it was an exercise that gave birth to a range of new ideas about how they could keep evolving their offering, but I’m pretty sure it is still an exercise that most recruitment firms here in New Zealand will continue to evade for a while longer yet.

For the more forward-thinking, and braver, of you recruitment leaders out there: give it a go. Recruitment companies are necessarily fluid, agile, unpredictable places to be, more so now than ever, and encouraging thought diversity is quite simply the only way you can continue to evolve your offering and remain relevant in the future.

This article provides further reading and contains the killer tip:

“Create a culture that is open to new ideas, and start with yourself.”

Let’s see what we can do with this recruitment thing, shall we?


Jonathan Rice

Director of New Zealand rec-to-rec firm Rice & Co, co-founder of freelance recruiter platform JOYN, and people-centric technology firm superHUMAN Software. Recruitment innovator, agitator and frustrated idealist, father of two, husband of one, and lover of all things Arsenal and crafty beer.


  • Nathan Bradley says:

    Relevant post Jon – certainly from the internal recruiters view all aspects of diversity (including thought) play a large part of our roles as we look to best align our employees with our customer base plus remaining agile/innovative and all those other buzz words… Agencies often talk about how they can best understand our business, so walking the walk around this stuff, and remaining relevant to the businesses you support would be a good step towards achieving that.

  • David says:

    Awesome Dilbert cartoon and couldn’t be more accurate. It’s not enough to just talk about diversity (in its entirety)… If you hire differently, expect different ideas and expect to deal with them differently. Diversity isnt just about bringing them in the door.

  • Jason Walker says:

    Jonathan. Ross Clennett’s link “Hays A top performing Australian business across all sectors” bought this blog to my attention. And as you have quoted me directly, I felt was fairly reasonable for me to respond considering the comment “Hays must have shifted their company culture a long way from when I was there 9 years ago to be following their own mantra around thought diversity”.

    You are correct. The Hays business has moved on a great deal in terms of diversity. From a gender perspective, it’s always been 65%/35% in favour on women in the Hays workforce, that hasn’t changed, but we have expanded the ethnicity quota significantly since the days of “let’s get an English bloke in from good old Blighty” days. Don’t get me wrong, that was an important part of our growth phase, and you played a role in that success, albeit from the UK via Australia.

    If I could post a photo on your “Whiteboard” (You may want to re-think that name by the way, considering the topic). of the Hays employees, more so in Auckland, you would witness the extreme diversity, 19 different cultures and religions to be precise. We also employ members of CanTeen who are going through the cancer recovery process, and those currently undergoing treatment or with minor disabilities. We all contribute to the melting pot of ideas and innovation – I ask them every quarter in as part of an “Askyourteam” engagement survey.

    You may have forgotten, by I am Maori, and proud of it. I support all forms of diversity. I own the initiatives, and I drive them proactively, internally and in my own time externally. Hays have signed up to ‘Youth Pledge” in Auckland to help NEET’s (not in employment, education or training) to support ATEEDS initiatives (27500 unemployed Pacifica and Maori Youth). I am a member of CEO Champions for Change – A group of 50 NZ CEO’s working with “Global Woman” actively implementing initiatives to increase the numbers the number of Executive Opportunities to woman and individuals from ethnic groups across NZ. And rather than “stick it” to the RSCA, I’ve decided to get off my butt and do something about it, I joined the committee to support a lobby process to penalize Recruitment Agencies that exploit migrant and at risk workers (Now that’s a worthy topic I’d like to see you sink your teeth into). Today we were privileged to have Jo Crib, CE of Dept. for Women, present on “Bridging the Gender Pay Gap” to a room of fully engaged clients, and how we, as Recruitment Agencies can support this, so yes, to give you some level of solace and reassurance, we walk the talk. This month we donate more than $25,000 to CanTeen from staff fundraising activities Hays have supported dollar for dollar, so it may surprise you to know that we are also community conscious!

    Jonathan, I don’t expect you to know any of this, because I’ve never seen you at any of these events, or witnessed you having any involved in these types of initiatives, and that’s Ok, because we all have make choices. It’s been 9 years since you’ve worked for Hays. You don’t call, you don’t write, not even a postcard….We’ve moved on, maybe you should too?

    • Jonathan Rice says:

      Hi Jason, I’m glad you’ve taken the opportunity to expand on Hays’ specific areas of improved diversity of thought. It all sounds fantastic and I applaud you for it. I don’t really understand your last comments though, and think you’ve possibly lessened the impact of what you’ve said above by taking things personally at the end. However, the suggestion of sticking my teeth into the topic of agencies exploiting migrant and at risk workers is a great idea, and I’d like to understand more so I can do that. Can we meet to discuss? I’ll give you a call…