“Having a diverse and inclusive work environment has huge benefits.”

  • The Sync NI team chatted to Carole CallenderPeople Experience and Recruiting Manager at ESO’s hub in Belfast, to discuss why encouraging a diverse and inclusive workforce is pivotal when it comes to creating a successful company.  

    Carole started her journey at ESO in August 2019 and says that from the beginning it was obvious that it wasn't just a faceless company driven only by profit, but one created by, and still led by, someone who was a first responder, knows the challenges the emergency sectors face and wanted to make a real difference.  

    ESO supports first responders to better collect, share and analyse information to improve community health and safety. The Belfast office is home to 65 staff across engineering and operations, who support the ESO platform globally.  

    Carole, also based at the Belfast office, is part of the People Team who are focused on promoting diversity and inclusion company wide.  

    In the last 12-18 months, ESO has rolled out several initiatives to promote diversity and inclusion. The first point of contact most people have with ESO is when they are looking for a new job. Carole said: “It made sense to look at our hiring process first. We want to ensure we are actively integrating diversity into our hiring process.”  

    Of late, ESO has created an unbiased job description toolkit for managers, taking a more proactive approach to diversity by sourcing and aiming to have diverse interview panels. Carole tells us that this is just the start and the Talent Acquisition Team has more ideas in the works.

    Company holiday policy recognises and embraces that employees have diverse personal needs, beliefs and interests. Carole explains: “When we looked at the days we designated to company holidays, the pattern told us we were focused on particular religious or cultural beliefs that may not be important to everyone.”  

    Instead of enforcing days off, ESO instead encouraged staff to take days that were meaningful to them. Carole also adds: “The new holiday policy is entirely inclusive so whether staff want to celebrate Easter, Diwali, Chinese New Year, Pride or Autism Awareness – the list goes on – they are encouraged to do so. We want our people to pick days that are significant to them and represent who they are as individuals.”  

    Carole also tells us that the company engaged a leading DIB (Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging) consultancy firm to gain additional qualitative and quantitative insight. She says: “We did this to better understand what our employees’ views and experiences are of diversity within ESO.” The team of consultants conducted a global survey and lead focus groups representative of the overall across the company to better inform diversity inclusion and belonging initiatives throughout ESO.  

    Carole also adds: “While the findings were incredibly positive, the process certainly gave us lots of new ideas on how to make ESO an even more inclusive workplace to belong to and left the team excited about what we could achieve in 2022 and beyond.” 

    Carole explains that accessibility is another huge area of focus that the company is proactively transforming. She tells us: “We want our products to be accessible to everybody, including users with both physical and mental disabilities. There are still a lot of barriers in making technology systems accessible across the board and we want to break through them.” 

    ESO has recently appointed a new Chief People Officer, Lorraine Vargas Townsend, who will focus on different aspects of diversity and inclusion within the company. Lorraine is from a Latino background and part of the LGBTQ+ community. Her experience growing up in a small town in America, and the prejudices she had to face, has directly impacted her drive to promote diversity and inclusion for all. Carole tells us that Lorraine is a dynamic speaker and thought leader on diversity, inclusion and culture, regularly appearing on podcasts to discuss these areas.  

    Carole feels strongly that: “Having a diverse and inclusive environment increases productivity and profits, while also improving creativity and employee engagement. All of this helps to reduce the turnover of staff, allowing us to invest in a wider range of skills. Our team benefit from gaining deeper cultural understandings, which is important when it comes to removing racism, homophobia and sexism in the workplace. 

    Carole concludes: “If everybody comes from the same cultural background and have experienced more or less the same things, then our people would think in the same way. We value cultural diversity and welcome our team to share their experiences to drive acceptance, understanding and foster an environment that is creative.”  

    This article first appeared in the Winter 2021/22 edition of the Sync NI magazine. You can download your FREE copy and sign up to receive future digital editions here.

    About the author

    Aoife is a Sync NI writer with a previous background working in print, online and broadcast media. She has a keen interest in all things tech related. To connect with Aoife feel free to send her an email or connect on LinkedIn.

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