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'As TA professionals, you harness incredible power to build a truly inclusive culture'

An inclusive and successful culture — something any TA professional desires. But here’s the good news: you harness the power to create it, says Julie Sowash, the executive director for Disability Solutions. “With every automation put in place, and every resume reviewed, YOU have the power to create — or take away — opportunities, careers and stability.”

Jasper Spanjaart on March 12, 2021 Average reading time: 3 min
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'As TA professionals, you harness incredible power to build a truly inclusive culture'

While many organisations seek change — building a successful, inclusive culture is an undeniably hard task. Julie Sowash, a leader at the front of the fight against inequality and uniformity in the workforce, sees one common denominator in where it has gone wrong for some organisations. “Plainly: it’s a lack of true commitment and investment. I do not mean organisations (and their people) do not have an earnest desire to create an inclusive culture — they do. The missing component is the strategy and business measures which should accompany any business driven objective a company wants to accomplish.”

“Too often, diversity, equity and inclusion is not treated as a business imperative, but a passion from a group of leaders or individuals within a workforce.”

So the willingness for change is there — but strategy is where it goes awry. “Too often, diversity, equity and inclusion is not treated as a business imperative, but a passion from a group of leaders or individuals within a workforce”, Sowash says. “Not a top down directive to drive organisational inclusion. You can’t achieve a truly inclusive culture, if you haven’t built the strategy, hired AND empowered the staff or consultants to execute. And you’ve determined appropriate measures for success. For a company to be successful, all the paddles must be propelling us forward with clear leadership to steer the organisation forward.”

Refresh your world

With their motto “Changing Minds and Changing Lives”, Julie Sowash and her team at Disability Solutions work together with leadership groups of some of the biggest companies such as Pepsi and Frito, in an attempt to create a truly inclusive hiring strategy. And with success, Sowash adds. “Over the past few years, Pepsi has hired thousands of people with disabilities and has been recognised at a local, state and federal level for their commitment to creating opportunity in my community.”

“I believe they have worked through a lot of their challenges and continue to focus on how to grow and how to create greater impact which is so true to who they are as an organisation.”

But before Pepsi ACT (Achieving Change Together) fully came off the ground, the company faced its fair share of challenges. “I believe they have worked through a lot of their challenges and continue to focus on how to grow and how to create greater impact which is so true to who they are as an organisation”, Sowash says. “They have truly shown their commitment and it is reaping benefits for them and for lots of jobseekers who needed an opportunity.”

‘No quick fix’

There is, however, no quick fix for creating an inclusive and successful workforce, Sowash says. “The journey requires persistence and consistency: it is a lifelong journey for leaders. If you stop evolving, you are failing. Your data will tell you everything you need to know. For TA and HR leaders, we have all of the critical data we need in our TA and HRIS systems, but we don’t spend the time there to learn what our opportunities and our strengths really are.”

Finally, Sowash notes that leaders should be prepared for a workforce who demands more of them — and perhaps rightly so. “We give our entire adult lives to making money and profit for an organisation, so as workers we should be reaping the benefits of our labour much more than our current systems provide. We support and stand alongside Black Lives Matter. Following the murder of George Floyd, we must harness our voices and our power to create meaningful and systemic change in our world.”

Empathy and trust

So the onus is on talent leaders to create an impact — and to make diversity and inclusion a business imperative. Sowash sees three distinct skillsets the talent leader of the future must have in order to be successful. “Two of which are inherent, and one which can be taught”, she says. “The inherent skills are empathy and trust. We must care about our workforce as leaders, in a personal way.”

“We also must trust the people we bring into our organisations to execute the mission.”

“As employees, we have to be more than a cog in the machine, we have to be seen and valued as full human beings”, she says. “At the same time, we also must trust the people we bring into our organisations to execute the mission. We may not always achieve those aims in the same way, but trust we are all aligned on a common vision and mission.”

Talent leaders of the future

“The leader of the future should be able to engage their teams where they are in terms of development and growth”, Sowash says. “People learn and grow in very different ways, as leaders we should provide the environment and tools for success in not just a single format, but multiple formats. The best leaders can meet their teams where they are and coach them to tackle the next step in their professional and personal growth.”

“With every click of the apply button, with every automation put in place, and every resume reviewed, YOU have the power to create — or take away — opportunities, careers, stability some people may have never known.”

“As TA professionals, whatever your level within an organisation, you harness incredible power”, Sowash adds. “With every click of the apply button, with every automation put in place, and every resume reviewed, YOU have the power to create — or take away — opportunities, careers, stability some people may have never known, for people to be able to create a life they are proud of by joining your organisation. TA should always be about achieving greater humanity and creating opportunity for people to thrive in your organisation. Your work matters, more than you will ever know, I promise. You not only change lives, but you also save lives.”

Want to hear more from Julie Sowash?

On March 23rd, 24th and 25th, we’re hosting ToTalent Live 2021, the first ever European Recruitment Leadership Event. Julie Sowash will take the virtual floor on the penultimate day of our three-day event. Don’t miss her incredible insights and sign up now. 

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Jasper Spanjaart

Jasper Spanjaart

Writer and editor at ToTalent

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