IMAGE: GETTY IMAGES; ADDITIONAL DESIGN: TINA TILLER

Moving past psychometrics: How inclusive employment works in practice

Inclusivity in the workplace is changing – and for many employers and workers, it’s become a critical pillar of business. Here’s what it looks like in action. 

Ever aced a job interview then bombed when confronted with a psychometric test?

Designed by psychologists, the standardised tests are used regularly by a range of organisations and industries to assist in measuring mental performance for potential employees.

One of the big selling points is their ability to help determine whether someone is suitable for a particular role. Not far behind is how they assist with identifying personality traits and potential in a candidate.

But they don’t work for everyone. Particularly if English isn’t your first language, or your background and perspective don’t match how problems are portrayed in questions.

It’s a shift in recruitment practices which recently changed how things are done at Trade Me. About two months ago, the company decided to do away with psychometric testing for job candidates. Jenna Langdon, the company’s head of business partnering, says the decision was part of a larger piece of work around Trade Me’s inclusivity and diversity practices.

“Psychometric testing is really developed for people who have English as their first language,” Langdon says.

“We were finding it was really discriminating against a lot of our tech people, because predominantly our tech workforce is really diverse. Naturally, English isn’t always the first language.”

Jenna Langdon, Trade Me Head of Business Partnering (Image: supplied)

Interestingly, understanding why the tests didn’t work was its own process. First, the company had to break down where things were getting skewed in the recruitment process. Then, interviews were used to understand what was going wrong.

“The testing that we used to do would look at things like cognitive reasoning and logic,” Langdon says. “It was testing abilities, but not in a fair way. It often wasn’t reflective of someone’s understanding of a question, and therefore the answer.”

Across Trade Me, diversity and inclusion has become a core responsibility this year. Formal systems are being rolled out to ensure its success, and a dedicated diversity and inclusion committee has been set up. In addition to reviewing recruitment practices, employee development is also under the spotlight. Specifically, looking at efforts around hiring and retaining women.

Underrepresentation of women is a well-known problem in the wider tech and engineering industries. Langdon says while Trade Me prides itself on having women in two of its three senior head of engineering positions, the company understands that’s a rare setup. Ensuring an environment where this isn’t the case, and there’s representation of women at all levels and areas is important, Langdon says.

“We’ve been incredibly lucky, but we really want to make sure things in this area are very purposeful rather than down to luck.”

“Basically, women in tech are such a limited resource that we really think carefully about who our people are and how they fit into our bigger plan,” Langdon says. “We want to get them not just at that junior level, but ensure they come through the ranks and we build their careers at Trade Me.”

Linked to its work around diversity and inclusion is the company’s progress in making Trade Me a safe place for all employees. Langdon says that from the outset, that’s meant making sure people are comfortable in “bringing their whole selves” to work and ensuring the workplace is a collective environment where everyone feels valued.

Navigating the practicalities of this, and how it looks across Trade Me, falls under the remit of Langdon and her team. There’s been a key focus on valuing different types of communities and having events which acknowledge the diversity of Trade Me’s workforce, she says.

Examples include an ice cream drop in Wellington during Pride month, special lunches during Diwali and family days celebrating Matariki. While they are largely fun and celebratory, these events visibly demonstrate how the business values and welcomes the range of communities which make up its workforce, Langdon says.

“We are looking at things like rituals and events and thinking about how having them helps create a safe environment for people. The more spaces we have where we celebrate diversity, the more it shows what we’re about and show what we value.”

Meanwhile, point of sale software company Vend, another leading New Zealand tech company, is also upping the stakes around its inclusivity and diversity work.

Shirvani Mudaly, chief people officer, says while Vend has always had a diverse and inclusive culture, it decided two years ago that an official framework would really cement those values throughout the organisation, particularly as its workforce spans five countries.

“In my experience, unless you are structured about it and take specific actions to move something, it just gets busy,” she says. “Other things get prioritised that become company goals and then you don’t see movement that you need because it’s hard – hard to change recruitment practises, hard to spend money on things. But with this framework, it’s justified and everyone knows exactly what it is, right from the level of the CEO.”

Shirvani Mudaly, Vend chief people officer (Image: supplied)

The Vend framework is split into five streams: policy, recruitment, education, culture and corporate social responsibility. Within each of those areas, specific initiatives and systems are set up to drive the company’s overarching diversity and inclusion goal.

Mudaly highlights the culture stream as most powerful because it’s led by employees themselves. To begin with, extensive consultation throughout the company identified three areas of focus – culture, ethnicity and “Vend Pride” – as part of the culture stream. Each of these became an internal network, run by a group of employees who have volunteered to participate. As with the formation of Vend’s wider diversity and inclusion framework, an external consultant helps in finding the right mix of people for each network.

“When we asked for recommendations for who wanted to be part of the committees, we asked them for their application in writing and then used our third-party consultant to choose people,” Mudaly says.

“We wanted to remove any bias that we may have had internally.”

Notably, one of the key planks underpinning Vend’s ongoing diversity and inclusivity work is data. Mudaly says the formal framework essentially facilitates targeted information surveys which constantly inform how well inclusion policies and practises are working. An annual survey introduced two years ago and completed by everyone in the business has been particularly insightful, Mudaly says.

“We’re in five different countries: New Zealand, Australia, London, Canada, the US and the UK. Even within individual offices, there’s a lot of representation, let alone across five countries. But it’s really important to have all those voices. We want to know our data, know what kind of representation we’ve got, what the mix of genders and ethnicities are, and what that looks like in different spaces.”

That workforce insight also helps the company provide inclusive and safe spaces for events and movements that impact different communities globally. Every three months, a company-wide meeting takes places where the inclusion and diversity committee profiles a relevant topic. At the height of the Black Lives Matter movement, it was an important discussion space, and eventually led to more events being organised by employees.

Vend chief executive Ana Wight summarises the motivation for ongoing development of diversity and inclusion work.

“We really want people to bring their best self to work, and to feel that they can do that. [Because] even if you don’t think it is the right thing to do, the data is really clear that high-performing organisations need diverse thinking and diverse viewpoints. You can only get that if you have a diverse group of people who are thinking about your customer, your market and your opportunities.

“At a human level, it’s the right thing to do.” 




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