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    Max Armbruster
    Max Armbruster
    CEO Talkpush

    Cultural Transformation: Gender Balance, Diversity and Inclusion with Dorothy Dalton

    Episode 59 full cover

    Dorothy Dalton, Talent Management Strategist, talks about “radical empathy” with candidates, opening the campaign way for rich and honest conversations with potential talent. She also goes into differences between the U.S and Europe when it comes to equality in the workplace and the recruiting process. 



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    Don't feel like listening? You can read the entire transcript right here. 👇


    Max: Hello, and welcome back to the recruitment hackers podcast. I'm your host, Max Armbruster. And today I'm delighted to welcome to the show, Dorothy Dalton. Hello, Dorothy. Welcome to the show.


    Dorothy: Hi!


    Max: So Dorothy is a talent management strategist who focuses on diversity inclusion and gender balance, and it's very visible on LinkedIn and has a practice over more than a decade, I believe in talent management strategies. How did you end up in this space?


    Dorothy: Well, it was fortuitous in the sense that I'd like to say it was a strategy, but it wasn't that I have a background in corporate HR. I then did a stint in sales and marketing completely divided from HR.


    And then I came to Brussels in the mid-nineties and set up an executive search consultancy. I was approached to do that and over the years, it's just sort of like topsy, it's just grown. So I'm a certified coach and trainer from my earlier corporate career and I've just expanded my range.


    So I do more career coaching and the next active coaching. I do two corporate training, but I very much support organizations who want to make a cultural transformation, especially around, as you said gender balance, diversity, and inclusion.


    Max: Right. And is Brussels a good place for you to be based in it's world, famous as the think tank or Europe for policies. Are you finding that there is an AP center too? you know, the HR world in Europe, or really, it's more of every country fighting for their own piece of land.


    Dorothy: I love being in Belgium, so I'm now half of, because of Brexit. I now have dual nationality. And it's what I love about it.


    It's very international. There are lots of different cultures, people from all over the world. In terms of HR, there were a lot of Amir headquarters located here, but it's also a hub in sense of its geographical location. So between Paris, Amsterdam at one time, London that's fast important now, but all the other major cities in Europe and internationally, so absolutely love it.


    Max: Now I love visiting as well. I have family there and I know it's very welcoming very, as you said, the international city, but you know, in your answer was also the other answer, which is no, there's no real capital of Europe when it comes to HR best practices. And we were saying before we started recording, you were sharing how this puts Europe at a disadvantage sometimes against the loud voices and HR practitioners from North America, which is the biggest market and headcount and budgets and access to media.  And it can drown out some of the voices in Europe.  Did I summarize your position well?


    Dorothy: Well, It's sort of, I mean think, cause you say is that particularly terms of HR practices and access to social media that the US is a world leader. But that is kind of changing a lot now over time. And one of the things that I'm perpetually chipping away at is that I would like to see some diversity included in the type of advice we see coming from the US and I gave you before the show, that one example of some career advice that one of my clients heard on pub house and they went away and did it, and it was about integrating straight to the hiring manager. And so bypassing HR goes straight to the hiring manager and trying to double your salary from the figure you first started and the person got past, I mean, so in an organization, which does not respect and value individualism, the way the US does instead not fly at all.


    So what I would like to see is just some nuance and recognition that not everyone does the same thing everywhere. And in Europe, 99% of businesses, the resumes. So they're not all these big global us Anglo-American types of realization. So just let's factor in and say, this applies where we are and you have to be cautious about testing it in other locations, it's not rocket science, right?


    Max: No but particularly for younger audiences who, some of them, they haven't even seen an office. And so they get most of their content from thought leaders like Gary V and other loud you know, go-getters. Of course, they're going to think coming into the workplace that this is how it's going to be.


    It's not going to play out that way in a lot of cultures dialing in from Asia where I think hierarchy are even more rigid than in Europe than many companies, you know? So applying to the field of well gender equality would you say that there's different sensibilities between the European continents and North America is there one geography that's more advanced than the other?


    Dorothy: Well, I mean you're probably aware of what's been going on in the states recently. And Europe is streets ahead of the states in terms of protection of women's rights, women in the workplace. I think the US in terms of access to parental leave, I think it's right. I mean, of the developed countries, it's the lowest, I think in the world, there are only a few like Pacific islands that worse than US.


    And with the recent changes that are coming about, about abortion rights. And I think that we're seeing quite a dramatic shift and obviously, even in Europe there are differences with the Nordics are very advanced in terms of gender balance and inclusion and parental leave that sort of.


    Max: Yeah. I guess if an American company in North America came out and said, we're giving away three weeks maternity leave, and maybe it'd be kind of a nice perk by local standards, but actually don't know what the baseline is, but it wouldn't look too good on the international scene


    Dorothy: No, and you know I think this is a cultural thing but that commitment to what I call the sacrifice culture you probably saw for example, that Goldman Sachs were exhorting their employees, that analyst work hundred-hour weeks. And there are just certain things around time off and vacation time. You know, I have American colleagues to just say, well, you know this because, you know, France.


    You know, the whole of France closed down in August, you know, how is that possible? But it does. And mainly, you know, but I suppose it's just things that we've got used to. We have a different approach to well-being and work-life balance, I think.


    Max: Yeah. I know culturally there's, there's a big gap and for some of the Europeans who don't feel at home with their native culture and who do want to put in super long hours and hustle harder. I see a lot of them on the international scene, right? There's a lot of Europeans who go abroad go to London and go to the US go to, you know, to Asia seeking for that extra work rush. Because it's just to chill at home.


    Dorothy: Yeah. And I think don't get me wrong. I'm not saying that people in Europe are less committed to their jobs or anything like that, they're not, but I think there's a sense of roundedness. And I work a lot with executives, particularly in a pre-retirement situation.


    And honestly, they never say, I wish I spent more time in the office. Never not once. So I think everybody has to find the balance that works for them. And there are some people, and there are international companies that appreciate that work ethic and that commitment. But I don't think that those who want a more balanced life should be penalized.


    And we're seeing this particularly in the hybrid situation and what happened in confinement where people find themselves working much longer hours than they did before and suffering psychologically because of that, in terms of wellbeing and health.


    Max: And actually thinking about the fact that more people are spending time at home, would you say that the recent crisis has to some degree benefited the female workforce by allowing them to spend more time at home?


    Dorothy: No! Quite reverse.  I mean I think cool that all the research suggests that women left the workplace. I mean they call it the She session that women because they work in frontline jobs and jobs that are impacted by the pandemic, they were laid off.


    Max: Yes, I've read that. So they work in healthcare and retail hospitality. There's more women there.


    Dorothy: So there was more, yeah. Yeah. So that was massively impacted when they were working at home, they were assuming a greater load of homeschooling and domestic responsibilities that the number of hours increased to over 30 a week. And. So, what we need to see is in it, man sharing the load.


    I mean, it's quite often couched in these passive terms in the media that women assumed greater responsibility. In fact much more proactive in that they assumed it because the partners were not doing it. I mean, it's that simple. And so it's about getting them back into the workplace and then not getting back into the workplace at the same pace as their male colleagues


    Max: Okay. Okay. I'm glad I was able to elicit a strong reaction from you


    Dorothy: There's a stereotype on my head because, you know, and I think there are all sorts of things about women being encouraged to work from home so they can spend more time with their kids.


    Max: And, yeah. Sounds like a great idea.


    Dorothy: That's just sounds like more deeply embedded sexism and stereotyping. I think what we need to do is to open it up so that people can be flexible because women don't want to be removed from the decision-making process.


    Max: Well, look, I'm with your Dorothy.  My wife is at the office right now and I'm at home you know chilling with the dogs. So I encourage her to spend more time at home because I miss her. So my intentions are absolutely not what's it called? Patronizing or paternalistic


    Dorothy: Sexist! Sexist.


    Max: That's the word you use? That's great. So let's get a little practical for our listeners or, you know, a lot of talent acquisition professionals and what are some of the common pitfalls that company should avoid when it comes to. accidentally excluding half of the workforce and making your work environment less attractive, less welcoming to the female workforce.


    Dorothy: Well I think we need to just overhaul a whole approach to work and particularly to recruitment to the way we measure success. I've heard a lot of chat and noise on social media about four day week, but no one ever specifies how many hours are in that four-day week. I think we really need to start shifting to a presence not a presence culture, but a result culture.


    And that needs to be reflected in our recruitment processes. And this is obviously going to be important to you. And I think we need to stop penalizing people for taking a career gap. Particularly if it's parental leave, we need to encourage people to work flexibly, but to work optimally, you know, to produce the best results.


    I think that we need to make sure that we debias our recruitment processes. So we manage them correctly. I think we just have to overhaul our approach to talent acquisition


    Max: So offering more flexible work arrangements so that people can balance multiple responsibilities and more family-related work. One strategy.


    Another strategy I hear is two. Yeah, you said there was a bias against people who've taken a break, and yeah, I mean from the perspective of the employer, of course, you can see how that might be but of course what you gain in return is if a more inclusive workplace and probably a very, very focused workforce, because I have found that nobody is more productive with their time at the office than a working mother. Sorry for falling into stereotypes again, but that's been my experience.


    Dorothy: Well I just want to dial back that you talked about employment gap is a problem for the organization. So I would just go back to the basic premise because that is a bias. Why? And I think what I'm hearing about is the people being penalized because they had a break during COVID.


    I mean, seriously, I mean, that is absolutely bad. And particularly in the US like there was a report that came out from Accenture and HBO. I think it was last week about what they're now calling the hidden worker. And that is because the skill sets that are being demanded by employers and the skill set of the individuals are just not jiving.


    So then missing masses of talent. And one of the reasons is that they are cutting people who had career breaks. We just got to get over that because if we do competency-based recruitment, then that should not happen.


    Max: Arguably somebody who's been away from the action for a couple of years may not have seen the latest technology in so many professions are changing so fast.


    Yes. For maybe 80% of the jobs is the same, but that other 20% can change very rapidly some times. And, you know you could argue, you could make an argument that for some positions that are more technical, two years is a huge amount of time. You could argue.


    Dorothy: I think there are a number of factors.


    That almost, I mean, if you take, for example, an engineering graduate, that qualification will be almost out of date by the time they qualify. So it's about also integrating talent development into the recruitment process. That is something we don't do. And it's also about testing.


    So does that person have the test, the potential to absorb those development, that those new innovations or they might've already have done it on their own. You can't make an assumption that because someone had a year off because of COVID that they aren't necessarily up to date, you have to test them to find out.


    And then if they're ticking 90% of the box boxes and they're missing one little thing, train them.


    Max: Yeah. Way is easier. And there's enough assessment tools available on the market today, where you can create tests that are not jargon-y where you don't need to know exactly the latest version of software to demonstrate your ability to get the work done. So I agree. Those are bad excuses.


    Dorothy: And if I can just jump in, if you have a couple we'll do economic forum says about the 10 skills that you needed for 2025, 8 of them are soft skills.


    Max: Yeah, for sure. The gender gaps should the page and their gaps should be the other way around. All those soft skills are the ones that are in high demand and are skills where often women outperform men. So yeah I think as a free-market guy, myself, I believe that the market will adjust and you know, a hundred years from now, it will be men asking for equal pay.


    Dorothy: Well I think the projections are horrible. I mean I've seen the women will have to wait for equal pay and basically there's too long. And I mean, I thought very naively that I would see that in my day, but I don't even think I'll say it from my grandkids, you know, and that makes me want to cry with rage and frustration because it's so unfair.


    Max: Okay. I will not let you cry on this show


    Dorothy: I won't cry on the show.


    Max: And thinking about the people who've been locked up for the last year and a half. And the type of support that they need coming back into the workplace today, you were telling me you're advising some companies on how to create an inclusive environment for people with different new concerns have come up in the workplace or amongst job seekers. Could you share more?


    Dorothy: Well, I think what we're seeing is that there's a discrepancy to the way employees perceive situations and the way executives see situations. And Gardner did a study on that. And I think that a lot of organizations are just hoping to dial the clock back and just carry on a business as usual.


    But I mean, I think things are profoundly changed. People have been profoundly changed by lockdown, not lock up. So even if the people have been isolated, we have to practice what's called radical empathy. So understand what's going on for every individual and trying to accommodate them and wellness and psychological safety and physical safety are going to have to be top priorities for most businesses radical.


    Max: Radical, no. Radical empathy applied in the recruitment process.  I'm going to imagine what that means. Is it making room inside the recruitment process to ask what someone's emotionally been through for a year and a half, or an open your own frailties and difficulties and kind of create that trust environment by talking about the shared pain that people have been through.


    Dorothy: Well, I think it's about trying to understand what's going on for people. I mean, you know, I think in the early days and somebody posted a tweet that basically that if you haven't learned a second language or got an MBA, you're a complete loser. And I think it's about finding out what's been going on for people they've had homeschooling they've had childcare.


    They may have had been sick with COVID, but they might have had long COVID. Maybe they haven't seen their parents or they've lost a parent or said goodbye to a parent on the night pack. Can you imagine? So it's about understanding what's going on for them and making provision for that. So rather than taking what you know, you could have learned a second language, but you didn't.


    So that's really not good enough. It's finding out because people will judge organizations, but how they respond. And you probably read about the great resignation. And I can see that is that people are much more open to talk to opportunities than they were pre-COVID. So basically if organizations don't get up to speed on this they will lose talent and they will not be able to track the best talent


    Max: Yeah, I'm going to try to summarize that advice to all the employers out there to soften their hard armor their businessmen suit.  And accept to share their weakness, their softer side because it will allow for the candidates to open up, to share and allow you to make better hires because we've created a good environment of trust so that they can talk about the job.


    Dorothy: Yeah. And what's called psychological safety. It's now a prime driver for candidates. They want to feel secure in the organization and recognized and valued, and they want to feel physically safe as well.


    Max: Well, I think a lot for us to digest and I probably have to rethink about our process, our internal process after this conversation. I mean we just haven't thought about making time to talk about, you know, safety and personal history that much, because it wasn't part of our DNA.


    I'm sure other listeners we'll have something to think about and if they want to ask you more about how to prepare a more inclusive workplace and talent acquisition practice. Where can they get a hold of you? Where can they reach you, Dorothy? Should they do like me and connect with you on LinkedIn


    Dorothy: Yeah, connect with me on LinkedIn.


    So just say that you've listened to this, but that would be great. I'm a bit of a Twitter. So you can follow me @DorothyDalton on Twitter, where you can email me and that's


    Max: Thank you, Dorothy, three plus com. Yeah, that's the number three. And then plus spelled out.


    Dorothy: Yeah. And three plus is quite long ago. Hey, Dalton, LinkedIn, and Twitter. Great. Thanks a lot, Dorothy.


    Dorothy: Thank you, everyone. Bye.


    Max: That was Dorothy Dalton. Then reminding us that people have been through a lot in the last year and a half. And if you exercise radical empathy to use her words, you could allow the candidates to open up and to trust you better. That's mission number one for a recruiter to create a trusting environment where the candidates will open up so that you can have a rich conversation.


    So a good reminder, and. I hope you enjoyed it that you'll sign up to listen to more of our interviews, which will alternate between debates on best practices and practical advice.


     Don't forget to subscribe on your favorite platform for new episodes weeklySUBSCRIBE


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