Deloitte NZ Head of HR: ‘Don’t be afraid to challenge the business’

HRD finds out Deloitte's secret to a successful D&I program

Deloitte NZ Head of HR: ‘Don’t be afraid to challenge the business’

Deloitte New Zealand has been focussed on gender diversity for the better part of a decade, however the progression of women to senior roles has been consistently seen by the company as under par.

Identifying multiple issues in need of addressing, Deloitte implemented a series of initiatives under a strategy called ALL IN. The changes meant altering the parental leave policy to recognise the significance of shared care, which was supported by a flexible working policy. Additionally, eight weeks paid partner leave is available for up to two years after birth or adoption.

The problems Deloitte were facing were those typical of firms in professional services. This included issues such as women leaving the company and being replaced by men at manager level and above.

However, the company rose to the challenge. Sally Smyth, head of people and performance at Deloitte New Zealand, told HRD she is most proud of the fact that 14 women who have been on the programme over the last three years have risen to the level of Partnership.

“Many of the participants have told us that the programme has changed the way they think about their career and what’s possible for them,” said Smyth. 

She added that removing barriers to both parents looking after their children and encouraging greater shared care has allowed the company to both achieve results for women and foster a more inclusive workplace.

This included making starting salaries gender neutral and creating recruitment shortlists that are gender balanced, to prioritise pay equity at all levels of the professional services organisation.

Read more: Adidas addresses diversity issues

Words to the wise
In order to create a successful gender diversity strategy, Smyth said that first and foremost it’s important to have the buy-in and support of the senior leadership team.

That’s because it doesn’t matter how good the strategy is, “without buy-in you won’t get any traction”. 

Smyth singled out Deloitte NZ CEO Thomas Pippos in particular as someone who has been instrumental in fronting all communications for the ALL IN Strategy.

“When you have that support, don’t be afraid to challenge the business and implement some bold initiatives,” said Smyth.

Furthermore, the ALL IN recruitment strategy identified key ways to improve outcomes for recruiting women to Deloitte.

This included quarterly reporting to the Management Group and Board on gender hiring progress, along with identifying the hiring partner and the shortlist composition. This allowed the business to remain focused on the goal of achieving greater gender parity at senior levels.

Sonia Breeze, partner at Deloitte New Zealand, added that it’s important to make the shift from performing the “back-office HR activities to actually moving the groundswell”.

“This involves getting all of the people leaders to drive and own D&I across your organisation,” Breeze told HRD.

In fact, Deloitte achieved this so successfully that they were recently the 2020 Empowerment Winner at the 2020 Diversity Awards.

Breeze also noted that she is extremely proud of the connections that the women in the programme have built between themselves.

Read more: Why the misfit may be the best fit

“We now have a much broader support network made up of people from different offices and different parts of the business who may have never even met but have formed lasting connections and relationships,” said Breeze.

“They keep in touch, they refer client work, and they support and take care of each other. This has been a really powerful tool in encouraging diversity in the business, as well as giving the women in the programme more exposure with our leaders and vice versa.”

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