Q&A : Diversity Hiring and Head Hunting with Yashi Saksena

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This week we’re in conversation with Yashi Saksena, Chief of Staff & DEI Lead, Laksh Human Resources India Pvt Ltd. We talk about Diversity Hiring and Head Hunting.

The interview is edited for length and clarity.

Q- Let's start with what you do and what challenges have you faced in diversity hiring?

As a firm that mainly hires across industries, we have recently started actively reaching out to industry leaders, including HR leaders and CXO levels, to hire for diversity. Our agenda is to ensure that clients looking to hire for diversity in their organization are able to connect with the right talent. We are focusing on LGBTQ+ and PwD candidates and have faced challenges finding candidates who are comfortable sharing or discussing their sexuality and gender. On the other hand, companies also find it challenging to tap into the right candidate.

Fortunately, our efforts met with a positive response from industry leaders. People from the community are eager to be a part of something like this because they want an equal chance at getting the positions that are meant for them. We are targeting mid-senior and senior associate fellows in senior CXO-level positions & positions with high pay budgets to do away with tokenism in terms of hiring. It is slightly more tactical to look at queer people per se in the whole segment of different industries and just target in terms of gender and sexuality given the social situation, but that's where we step in to add value.

Q- How does the whole sourcing thing go with people not wanting to come out and wanting to protect their privacy at different stages of hiring?

When it comes to sourcing diverse candidates, there are two types of people to consider: those who are out and those who are not. As a recruiter, I recently put out a post asking people from the community who are interested in switching jobs to share their details. While many people interacted with me on the post, the group of people who actually responded were very different from those who interacted. This suggests that there are many closeted individuals who are desperate for a workspace that is inclusive but are not comfortable sharing their identity.

  • Ensuring Privacy for Closeted Candidates

As a recruiter and a person from the community, I understand the need to ensure privacy for closeted candidates. When we receive information about candidates, we make sure that their privacy is paramount and only share it with a few people on our team who are well-equipped to have those conversations. We keep our database private, and only once we have the go-ahead from the candidate do we reach out to them through their preferred means of communication. It's essential to protect their identity, particularly if they're closeted, and understand their pronouns /sexual identity to avoid any misgendering.

  • Mindful Hiring for Diverse Candidates

In our work, we deal with people who may not be out and want to protect their privacy throughout the hiring process and beyond. It's important for us to be mindful of people who have deadnames and legal documents that still use them, so we work with organizations to ensure a smooth hiring process. It's vital to make sure that all candidates feel safe throughout the hiring process.

  • Database Privacy and Client Interaction

We keep our database extremely private, even from our clients, but once we have the go-ahead from a candidate, we ask if they are comfortable being contacted via email or phone. As a recruiter, it's important to understand the intricacies of talking to someone from the community, such as using correct pronouns and being sensitive to their needs. We make sure that this information is passed on to the recruiters from the organizations we work with to ensure that all processes are routed with privacy and safety.

Q- Have you seen any instances where people have negative or inappropriate reactions to your pitches and the topics you mentioned?

Our organization has recently started focusing on diversity hiring, we have set up DI-HiRE, a dedicated vertical for LGBTQ+ hiring . Initially, this was not something that was common, but we have begun to address this issue. However, there have been some negative reactions from some employees who don't understand why we are doing this.

I believe that this will continue to happen, which is why it is important to hire for diversity and undo past harm. We want to equip ourselves to ensure that negative reactions from employees do not reach potential candidates, so we target organizations that are already committed to diversity hiring.

It's also interesting to note that an HR leader from a prominent company in the industry was not familiar with diversity hiring. They thought it was just women. Even so-called experts in diversity hiring may lack understanding about certain groups.

It's crucial for organizations to educate themselves and make sure they have a comprehensive understanding of different groups. However, our organization targets specific audiences who are already aware of the importance of diversity hiring, so we haven't faced any major issues with reactions. There may be some ups and downs, but overall things are looking positive.

Q- There are companies that are just starting out diversity initiatives. Where do you think they can start off and set the policies that are inclusive from the very start?

Companies need to be intentional in their diversity hiring efforts and not just hire for the sake of it. It's important to have a clear position or level for the person being hired and to hire someone at a senior or leadership position who can help with strategizing to ensure a safe and inclusive environment. Infrastructure is also important to consider so that the new hire doesn't leave after a few months. Overall, having a structured approach to diversity hiring is key.

Q- What steps should companies take to ensure diversity, inclusion, and growth opportunities for employees from diverse backgrounds, while also considering intersectionality? How can smaller and larger companies address unique challenges in maintaining an inclusive culture?

It is not only important to focus on diversity but also on inclusion. And this includes creating a safe and supportive environment for employees from diverse backgrounds. Additionally, companies should not just aim to hire diverse candidates but also provide them with opportunities for growth and development within the organization. It's also important to consider intersectionality, meaning that individuals may belong to multiple marginalized groups, and ensure that all policies and practices are inclusive of all identities.

As companies scale, it becomes harder to maintain a personal touch with candidates and ensure that the infrastructure is accommodating for everyone. Smaller companies face different challenges, including having fewer employees thus creating an inclusive workspace becomes even more important and tricky. Aditya Birla is an example of a company doing something unique to create an inclusive culture by taking care of intersectionality. However, it takes time and effort to establish a truly inclusive culture.

Q- What are some similar initiatives that you've seen? Which ones can other companies also look out for and adopt?

  • Insurance Policies

Some insurance companies such as LIC, certain banks, and even Accenture and AXA have started providing services like life insurance and healthcare coverage to same-sex couples. This is a significant step towards creating a more inclusive environment for employees from diverse backgrounds.

  • Policies around language and communication:

Companies should adopt policies that promote inclusivity in language and communication. For example, starting off conversations by introducing one's pronouns is a small but important step towards creating a safe and supportive environment for individuals who identify with the queer community.

  • Legal policies for marginalized communities:

It is crucial to ensure that legal policies are inclusive of all identities, including transgender people. For instance, the workplace harassment policy should be written in a way that addresses the unique challenges faced by individuals from marginalized communities.

  • Importance of Inclusive Culture:

Creating an inclusive culture is as important as having policies that promote diversity and inclusion. It is essential to create a safe space where individuals from diverse backgrounds can thrive and grow. Companies can achieve this by encouraging open communication, valuing diverse perspectives, and promoting equity and fairness in the workplace.

  • Double referral Bonus

Springworks has a higher referral bonus for queer, women and specially-abled employees. This is a small step toward getting diversity in the organisation.

To end this, I remember in my recent conversations with industry professionals, I've been reflecting on the progress made towards equity and inclusion in the workplace. While there has been improvement, we still have a long way to go to create a strong foundation of equality. According to a report, in the coming years, younger populations will make up a significant portion of the workforce, and they won't stay in places that aren't equitable or inclusive for long. This poses an important question for companies: how can they make their workplaces more inclusive and retain their workforce?

Do you work in HR or Want us to cover how something in an organization is working? Email janhavi.jain@springworks.in or DM @janwhyy on Twitter.