The first steps: improving Inclusivity and Diversity at Onfido

First published on Onfido blog "Improving Inclusivity and Diversity at Onfido" Jan 25, 2018 by Zeshaan Shamsi

Where do you start?

Diverse companies are successful companies. I’ve seen the value of having a diverse workforce whilst previously employed at the BBC and GDS. But diversity is a huge area and there’s so much to do — so where do you start?

Trying to find the answer to that question resulted in me delaying ever really pushing initiatives at Onfido. I convinced myself there was always something much more urgent and important to do first.

Then, in October 2017, I went to HR Tech World in Amsterdam. One of the talks I went to see was Unruly’s CEO and Cofounder Sarah Wood. She spoke about diversity in the workforce and one the key takeaways was:

‘There are thousands of things you could do for diversity…just start by doing one. Just get on with it. Don’t wait.’

Very wise words — thank you Sarah!

What’s the one thing we started with?

Data. I started on our diversity data because if you can measure it, you can improve it.

We didn’t have readily available diversity data on the following two groups:

  1. Onfido employees
  2. Applicants to Onfido jobs

We created an internal opt-in diversity questionnaire for the first and worked with GapJumpers to help us analyse the second.

Both were interesting. They showed that our diversity of nationalities and languages are impressive but gender and BAME representation, particularly in our Technology Group, are a problem.

What did we do next?

We decided to focus on one diversity group to start with. We chose gender as it was one of our biggest problems.

In a previous blog about People-related KPIs at Onfido, I mentioned that Technology is one of our four Groups. A tier below that are our Functions. In the Tech Group these consist of Product, Design, Engineering, Research, Automation, Infrastructure, Security and Support.

Currently only 11% of Onfido Tech workers are women. Though that’s low, only 17% of Tech/ICT workers in the UK are women, and most global tech giants have between 15–19% women engineers. While Facebook’s intake was an impressive 27% last year, only 1 in 10 women are currently taking A-Level computer studies, despite the looming digital skills gap the UK needs one million more tech workers by 2020 (source: Tech Talent Charter, 2017).

What’s our plan of action?

There is no silver bullet, and we know we need to run multiple initiatives to reach our desired outcome. We’re starting with:

  1. 18% Women in Tech at Onfido. We’ve set a company milestone that’s slightly above the 17% target of Tech/ICT workers in the UK are women stat. That’s just the start.
  2. Signing the Tech Talent Charter (TTC).The TTC bring together industries and organisations to drive diversity and address gender imbalance in technology roles. Together we can create solutions, take action and share best practice. Husayn, our awesome CEO, is the senior signatory and we’ve pledged to:
    1. support attraction, recruitment and retention practices that are designed to increase the diversity of our workforce;
    2. define our own timetable for change and implement the strategy that is right for us;
    3. measure the diversity profile of our UK employees and to share this data for (anonymous) collective publication.
  3. Q1 OKR: To start improving Inclusivity and Diversity at Onfido. Laura Wilkinson, Employee Engagement Manager, and I are sharing the lead on this OKR, which will have impact across the company. We’ve set 4 key results or outcomes and all have numerous actions contributing towards them. I’ve given a flavour of how we’re currently thinking to approach this below:

Outcome 1: A standard platform for measuring diversity data of applicants and employees.

Measured by: 100% of Onfido diversity for Applicants and Employees is able to be tracked by the end of Q1.

Mindful that the questionnaires are always opt-in, the ‘able to be tracked’ rather than ‘is tracked’ was a deliberate choice.

Workable isn’t currently considering creating a Diversity Questionnaire for UK applicants. That’s because not many people apart from me have asked for it (please do contact them to ask for it if you think it’s a good idea). So I’m going to create one and use a tool like Zapier or IFTTT, plus Google Forms or TypeForm, to help with this (if anyone has already created something that works for them, I’d love to hear from you!).

Outcome 2: Improve D&I for women in the Technology Group at Onfido

Measured by: 100% agree that actions taken in Q1 have had a positive impact on life at Onfido for women in the Technology Group.

We’re going to create a focus group for the current women in our Technology Group. We’ll follow that up with an inclusive Diversity Squad where together we suggest, agree and commit to impactful actions that will work towards making Onfido a more inclusive environment than it already is.

Outcome 3: Improve D&I for Women in Tech Recruitment at Onfido

Measured by: More women at the top of the funnel

There aren’t enough. The data showed us that clearly. All candidates will be continue to be assessed objectively and meritocratically.

We’ve already committed to a number of actions that may directly and indirectly help:

  1. Ensure that the wording on our job adverts is inclusive;
  2. Ensure that wherever possible we have a diverse interview panel;
  3. Redesign our application and interview process, starting with Engineering;
  4. Learn things, share them and teach others. As part of the TTC we’ll share data and ideas with companies of what works;

Actions we’re exploring:

  1. Engaging with diverse communities to sponsor events, host events and advertise jobs;
  2. A structured Graduate Software Engineering training scheme;
  3. Unconscious bias training for hiring managers;
  4. Outreach and education (only 3% of school girls consider a career in tech. Gap starts here and widens throughout a woman’s career);
  5. Using the TTC to network to schools and have visible role models at schools to inform, educate and inspire:
  • Show how creative you can be in the Tech industry;
  • Educate parents on tech careers so they can also encourage;
  • Increase access to the tech sector and mentors by engaging with schools and universities to break down barriers and align the pathway between and education and employment — it’s hard to change a syllabus, but it’s relatively easy to give access.

Outcome 4: Introduce a Code of Conduct

Measured by: 100% of employees have signed up to the Code of Conduct by the end of Q1.

This Code of Conduct will encapsulate our inherent culture at Onfido. It will be a commitment from the team member to their colleagues and from their colleagues to the team member to behave in a way which is inclusive and supportive.

What might that include? The incredible Giles Turnbull wrote this piece at GDS on ‘It’s ok to say what’s ok’.

There’s a lot to do but we’ve started with one thing and now are building momentum. This is our current thinking and naturally it will evolve. Whenever you try to change things, especially systemic problems, you’ll face criticism and we value that diversity of perspective — it will help us innovate quicker and therefore result in success sooner.

Your thoughts and feedback are definitely welcome, so comment below please!