Eimear Noelle O’Reilly, Programme Officer for Diversity Champions at the Gay and Lesbian Equality Network (GLEN), looks at what being an inclusive company really means and how diversity and inclusion can benefit both employees and companies.
Starting your career is an exciting time. The workplace is a new environment for you to develop your potential and take on new challenges. It is where you spend most of your time and where you become financially independent. It makes sense to choose an inclusive employer where you can bring your whole self to work. When looking for a job, we usually ask ourselves how can I best present my skills and attributes to potential employers and what can I bring to the organisation? But how do good employers present themselves to you?
Today in Ireland, the best employers ensure that their workplaces are diverse and inclusive. But this article isn’t just about diversity and inclusion being ‘the right thing to do’ or a ‘nice-to-have’, this is also the smart thing to do and it makes good business sense. “Staff’s performance and profit was markedly better in offices where employees could be themselves. In fact the profit difference of staff in revenue terms was $100,000 per employee per annum;” that’s according to Liz Bingham, EY’s Managing Partner for People and Ambassador for Diversity and Inclusion UK & Ireland, at the Diversity Champions Seminar on Executive Leaders Supporting LGBT* Inclusion. Employers recognise that a diverse workforce reflects and better understands a diverse customer base. Inclusive companies that value diversity can respond more effectively to the needs and demands of a diverse society.
How to spot a good employer
Spotting a good employer is easier than you think! An inclusive workplace culture will have a really positive impact on your experience of work and your career. In fact, the ultimate diversity and inclusion litmus test for any company is often whether it has lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender diversity and inclusion as a core part of its organisational and workplace culture. Organisations that are inclusive of their LGBT employees are generally inclusive of everyone. Joining LGBT inclusive companies means working for a company that values the ideas, skills and experiences that come from having a diverse workforce. GLEN’s Diversity Champions programme works with a wide range of employers who are committed to ensuring their lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) employees can be comfortable at work, and are fully valued for their skills and talents. Diversity Champion employers and all good employers distinguish themselves in terms of their values, culture, policies and procedures. Here are some things to look out for when deciding if your employer or perspective employer is LGBT inclusive.
Policies, practice, culture
Diversity Champions employers don’t just talk the talk, here are some of the concrete things they are doing across their organisations:
- Inclusive human resource policies. With the introduction of Civil Partnership pension schemes and partner benefits for opposite sex couples, these must now be offered by law to same-sex couples. Inclusive companies have made the relevant changes to all their policies and communicate these to their employees. These companies also offer paternity leave to employees who have become non-biological parents.
- Inclusive companies have visible LGBT employees at all levels of their organisations. Diversity Champion members use the Diversity Champions logo on their websites and recruitment material to promote their values and culture. Many inclusive employers have senior leaders who have a formal role to lead on LGBT diversity.
- LGBT diversity events. More and more employers and trade unions are “coming out” at Pride by showing their support for LGBT equality. Some have been shortlisted in the annual Gala LGBT awards. Others have LGBT events within their own organisations on topics from civil marriage to practical supports for parents of LGBT children.
- Do they have an LGBT employee network? A growing number of larger employers have LGBT employee networks. Networks organise social events, support employee career development and help companies connect with the LGBT community.
- Some companies are reaching out to LGBT consumers on commercial grounds to communicate how they value their business and how they understand their needs. There are plenty of examples in financial services, hotels and catering, car hire and public services.
Take the opportunity during the recruitment process to enquire about the company’s culture and commitment to equality, diversity and inclusion. It will be interesting to see just how fluently they can communicate their values and culture. If you are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender, knowing that an employer takes a supportive and proactive approach towards ensuring the workplace is LGBT inclusive can make a huge difference to your workplace experience and career. Whether you are a member of the LGBT community or straight, finding a workplace where you can be yourself will hugely benefit your performance and your creativity at work.
Look up LGBT inclusive companies in our Diversity Champions Graduate Careers Guide 2013/2014
Also, visit www.diversitychampions.glen.ie
For more on the broader issue of workplace diversity and inclusion, read our gradireland article on how importantly KPMG and IBM rate diversity in the workplace.
*Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender
Alvina Lim, Communications Intern at Habitat for Humanity Ireland, provides an inside look at what an internship at a non-profit organisation can involve and how to make the most of the experience.
I knew it was not going to be easy to find a job once I returned to Dublin after spending a year working abroad, especially in the area of development. With many non-profit organisations feeling the pinch, employment opportunities in the sector were far from abundant and so I decided that the best way to get some hands-on experience, and my foot in the door, was to apply for an internship.
When Habitat for Humanity Ireland offered me a position as Communications Intern, I was thrilled. I was eager to get started and my internship commenced in May this year.
Habitat for Humanity Ireland has been working to address the inadequate housing situation in Ireland and abroad for over a decade. Its work is based on the conviction that access to simple, decent housing provides a ‘hand-up’ for families to lift themselves out of poverty and create a brighter future for their children. Habitat Ireland is part of a global family that works in 80 countries around the world and together has served more than 600,000 families.
It is great to be part of a global organisation and to have access to a number of resources and support. The role is well structured and because the organisation has domestic programmes, I have been fortunate to get my hands dirty, volunteering onsite here in Dublin. Internships are steadily gaining popularity here in Ireland, and rightly so. Given a healthy learning environment and supervised role, the skills developed during an internship greatly improves a jobseeker’s CV and future employability.
Importance of Interning
I have been an intern at Habitat for Humanity Ireland for five months, working in the communications department. I have acquired and developed many new skills and have been entrusted with a range of responsibilities. The Irish office is small which means I have been exposed to most operational areas and as a result now have a far better understanding of the inner workings of a development organisation. Furthermore, my experience has not been limited to the office, having had the opportunity to attend seminars and other discussions.
Habitat for Humanity Ireland’s vision is a world where everyone has a decent place to live. It engages all sections of society in its work, from volunteers and donors to future homeowner families and local communities. Volunteers range from young professionals and school students to those who have retired. These volunteers work onsite here in Dublin, travel overseas to build alongside local communities and donate their time and specific skills to helping in the office. In this regard, I have witnessed the positive impact that voluntary work has on the volunteers themselves, as well as for the Habitat homeowner families.
An internship is beneficial for both the host organisation and the intern. My experience at Habitat for Humanity Ireland has so far been challenging and rewarding. In a highly competitive employment market, where good grades do not seem to be quite enough anymore, the hands-on experience, as either an intern or a volunteer, is increasingly appealing for employers. I view this opportunity as a stepping stone on my career path and would highly recommend it to anyone considering this option.
For more information on interning at Habitat Ireland contact email@example.com
For more information on how to get the most from your internship or work experience programme, click here
It’s generally a good idea to consider all alternatives before making important decisions. And deciding where to start your career after college is, for many of you reading this, the most pressing first step in what I hope will be a long, productive and happy working life.
Career choice is partly about looking at your own needs, values and skills and matching these with careers and employers that meet your demands, develop your employability and make you happy (and them too of course). But it’s also about understanding what’s available to someone like you, with your educational qualifications, practical experience and life-skills. And that’s everything that’s available. Everything, everywhere.
While it’s statistically fairly likely that you will start your career in Ireland, there is the rest of Europe to consider (and the rest of the world – although that’s not quite so easy, what with complicated legal and visa stuff and all). I’m going to talk today about the UK because a) it’s only over the water, b) it’s a well-trod path and c) UK employers are very happy to consider Irish graduates alongside those from UK universities. You also don’t need a work permit of course.
The UK job market is huge but there are many more UK graduates chasing jobs so it’s as competitive as you would expect, especially in an improving, but still challenging, jobs market. But it is a level playing field where you, as an Irish national, will be considered fairly alongside all the other applicants. It’s also an international job market, especially in London, where many global recruiters have their bases. Naturally, they want to build international teams at work and so there is an expectation that they will take on many other European nationals. So the first task is to see which organisations are looking for graduates to start next summer. The best place to start is http://targetjobs.co.uk/ where you can search for employers and jobs in well over 20 different sectors of work. There’s also advice on applications and interviews.
But what makes TARGETjobs special is the Employer Hub section, where there are unique insights into getting hired with leading recruiters.
See AstraZeneca’s entry as an example: http://targetjobs.co.uk/employer-hubs/astrazeneca
Our independent editors have researched over a hundred employers and interviewed their recruitment departments to create a body of knowledge that you won’t find elsewhere. This is not ‘employer hype’ nor is it a repeat of what you’ll find in a recruitment brochure or website. This is objective advice written by sector experts to do one simple thing: give you an edge when it comes to getting hired. So read it carefully before applying for jobs!
There are a couple of practical issues to consider when applying for a graduate job in the UK. You will have to make yourself available for interview in the UK as the employer might not be visiting your campus. They generally pay expenses, at least for the final selection centre. Also you will need to explain clearly why this is a positive career choice for you, in other words the specific reasons why you want to start your career in the UK. It should never come across as a second choice, or because the Irish market is too competitive. They will want to know all about your special skills and experience (of course) but they will also want to be sure that you are sure about it all.
Irish graduates can be found all round the world, adding value to employers of all types. It might not be right for you to begin your career outside Ireland but it never does any harm to consider the alternatives.
An increasingly common contract for students and job-seeking graduates, the zero hour contract may seem stacked in favour of the employer, but you have more rights than you may think and it’s important that you’re aware of them.
In August this year, the Irish Independent published the experiences of two Irish college graduates working in a global fast food outlet, on what is known as a ‘zero hour’ contract. Both employees said that this method of working, which requires employees to be available for work but are not given guaranteed hours of work, means that the so-called flexibility works vastly in the favour of the employer, with cutbacks in hours allegedly used as a form of punishment. While the current economic climate means that employers often have to change the practicalities of how they work, the increasing prevalence of systems like this mean that a worker, who may need to have employment so they can pay their living expenses while studying, is at the mercy of a contract which guarantees no hours, has no sick pay and limited holiday pay. In the UK it is estimated that as many as one million employees are working on zero hour contracts, many of them college graduates, or students.
But, those subject to zero hour contracts in Ireland have far more backup legally when it comes to what the employer is liable for, should the company be unable to provide the contracted hours. In the UK an employer can ask an employee to make themselves available for work for a determined number of hours but there is no issue from the employer’s point of view if they cannot then provide that number of hours. It is somewhat different in Ireland. The principle remains the same; that an employer can ask the employee to be available for a set number of hours, but if the employer cannot provide those hours, they are required to pay the employee at least 25 per cent of the contracted hours, or else for 15 hours, whichever is the lesser amount.
This requirement is legislated for in Section 18 of the Organisation of Working Time Act, 1997.
It’s very important you know what contact you’re working under. The above applies to the zero hours contract, but not to another common practice; the Casual Hours contract. Under this arrangement, hours vary each week according to the needs of the particular business but when no work is available, the employee is effectively laid off on a temporary basis.
gradireland talks to Ryan Smith, the founder of Qualtrics, one of the world’s fastest growing technology companies, about his company opening their European headquarters in Dublin. Ryan also talks about the importance of ‘trajectory’, the significance of ‘betting on yourself’ and the difference between ‘confidence’ and ‘competence’.
“Tomorrow is a big day for me,” says Qualtrics CEO and founder Ryan Smith, on the eve of the official opening of the company’s new office, off Leeson Street in Dublin. “It’s also a huge day for Qualtrics. This is our first international operation and we’re super excited about this,” says the obviously enthused 34 year old.
The following day (27th September), with An Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Richard Bruton in attendance, Qualtrics officially opened its European Headquarters. With 50 jobs imminent and another 100 in the pipeline, Qualtrics wants to move fast to grow its presence in Europe. Having literally built the business from the basement of his father’s house, Ryan is in the mood to seize the rapid growth of his company and roll it out across Europe and further afield. “We’ve nailed it,” he says of his global leading online research platform, “now it’s time to scale it.”
Qualtrics’ spacious, relaxed new premises has space for 50 immediate hires and as Dermot Costello, who spearheads the Irish operation, explains; they’re looking to recruit aggressively for the right sort of people. “We’re looking for graduates and jobseekers with motivation, ambition and a desire to learn. We’re looking to expand considerably as the opportunities are there.” As a company, Qualtrics experienced triple digit growth in 2012 and has more than doubled its workforce in the past year.
When gradireland visits Qualtrics, Ryan Smith and fellow founder Stuart Orgill are relaxed as they talk about using Ireland as a European springboard for the further expansion of the Qualtrics platform. “Listen, Dublin is easy. Coming to Ireland is easy. Honestly, New York sometimes feels more foreign,” says Ryan. “It took us three weeks to move from initial discussions about making a move to Ireland to actually deciding to make that move. It’s a business friendly environment. People might ask me about the level of tax which Qualtrics will pay in Ireland. To that I say, I don’t have a tax-problem, I have a people problem and I know I can find the people in Ireland to help solve that problem and continue to expand the business.”
What is Qualtrics?
Qualtrics started in Provo, Utah as the brainchild of Scott Smith, Ryan’s father, a college professor who developed the idea of a system which would make it easier for academics to conduct research themselves. Along with Ryan, and later with Ryan’s brother Jared, they began to develop the product initially with the sole target of recruiting 250 Business Schools throughout the US. “That was the number we aimed for, and it was hard work to get it. But we weren’t attracting the interest from the corporate world in the early days so we focused on the academic world.” The genesis of Qualtrics was slow, but Ryan was determined to keep the business growing only at the rate at which it could pay for itself, ‘bootstrapping’ as it’s known. “You have to eat what you kill, earn your money, use it to develop your business and the people that can help you grow your business.” One of the people instrumental in the continued growth of the company was Stuart Orgill, a college friend of Ryan’s, who eschewed a $60,000 a year job to take a plunge with Qualtrics, for $8,000 a year. “I made the move because I felt that I could be looking my whole life for an opportunity as good as this one and I wanted to be in on it from the start, to be a founder of something,” Stuart tells gradireland. “Stuart bet on himself,” says Ryan, “he saw what this could be and he went for it.” The self-sufficiency which Qualtrics built itself with in those early days, as the product slowly, sometimes tortuously, acquired customers, is something which both Ryan and Scott feel equipped them with skills which they may not otherwise have known they had.
“We never sat there thinking about what we could do if we had this and we had that, we did what we could with what we had. We found these gears which we never knew we had. It was an experience that I wouldn’t trade for anything,” adds Ryan.
By 2006, Qualtrics had established itself on a firm footing and had moved out of the basement, growing steadily over the following years, for instance landing 1000 new customers between 2009-2010. “That was when our business really began to grow, because we had put the platform in place for it to click. We had nailed it.” With the success and growth of Qualtrics, which has shown high double digit or triple digit growth year on year, there was huge interest from investors but it was only last year that Qualtrics announced their first investment deal, with Accel Partners and Sequoia, for a massive $70 million.
With over 5,000 organisations signed up, in addition to 96 of America’s top 100 Business Schools, the future for Qualtrics is secure. But simple security and stability is never something that Ryan Smith would seem to be happy with. He is hungry for pushing Qualtrics further, reaching out across to world to those who need to research their audiences or customers. Because that’s what Qualtrics does. “Research is often thought of as an academic exercise. But research is essentially the gathering of insights. So who needs insights? Everybody needs insights. The most important data is the data that you don’t have, so what we’re finding is that there are insight seekers everywhere, in any company. Qualtrics is not just for researchers, it’s for anyone who needs insights. We’ve noticed the demand for our services grow throughout the downturn because companies needed to start caring what their customers think. Ultimately Qualtrics helps companies be right, data is at the centre of everything and it’s affordable. It’s getting easier too, mobile and social media have made reaching out to audiences and customers so much more straightforward,” he says. Qualtrics has also just announced the launch of an employee assessment tool, Qualtrics 360.
Qualtrics & people
For graduates looking at the Qualtrics story, Ryan has words of encouragement. “I was that graduate, looking for my opportunity, trying to find out what it was I wanted to do. Graduates are the lifeblood of Qualtrics. One of the things that we create within Qualtrics is an experience for graduates that is entrepreneurial. Some companies, actually a lot of companies, don’t provide that experience. It’s important for entrepreneurs to be with a company with a high trajectory, that’s going places fast and in which you will be given the opportunity learn at a pace well beyond your years. We give graduates those opportunities. Like with Stuart, we want people to feel that they can go and create new ideas, new products within Qualtrics and really take ownership of them.”
So what can graduate employees expect at Qualtrics? “Opportunities,” says Stuart Orgill. “Look at this space here and the leaders we’re going to need to grow the business in Europe. With technology companies, you can ride a wave and when there is rapid growth like we’re experiencing you can really grow with the company.” And what’s the most important thing to have on your CV? “Trajectory,” Stuart adds. “That you’re growing and you’re moving forward. That your best years are in front of you and not behind you. We’re not hiring people to come in here to do the job they’re hired for; we’re looking for them to scale up.”
Qualtrics employs a system of ‘radical transparency’; a ‘glass ceiling’ and ‘glass bottom’ methodology of total accountability and transparency which Ryan Smith says helps people do their jobs better, because it provides them with all the information. There are no job titles in Qualtrics apart from CEO. Ryan explains: “When you came in here today, you saw us finishing our weekly company ‘all hands’ meeting. We changed this to Thursday instead of Friday so the Dublin office could plug into it with me and Stuart here. This meeting allows everyone in the company to explain what’s happening in their area and what they’re doing, and we do it all in 30 minutes. Everyone needs to have all the information in order to work better, if they don’t have that then how good can they really be? We’re hiring people for their brains and what they can do for us. If they have all the information on what’s going on within the organisation, then they can focus externally on the problems we face. What we’re trying to do is create a meritocracy, people who are good working with other people who are good,” he explains.
He also highlights difference between people who are ‘confident’ and those who are ‘competent.’ The founders of Qualtrics say it’s easy to find the ‘confident’ people, but what about the ‘competent’ ones who excel at getting things done? “We’re looking for competence, those ‘silent assassins’ who excel at getting things done, who can hold the whole organisation together. It’s easier to find those people with transparency. These people are brilliant at what they do and they just need an opportunity. We want to reward on the basis of what people are getting done. So at Qualtrics, people don’t feel left behind once they can perform.”
Smith was named as one of Forbes Magazine’s top CEO’s under 35 last year, Qualtrics most named one of ‘America’s Most Promising Companies’, but he’s showing no signs of slowing down. “We’ve had our frustrations, plenty of them. Sitting in that basement, no money, no clients, wanting to grow but not being able to. I can stand here and open the office and people can say how Qualtrics just ‘exploded’ and grew. Well it didn’t happen that way. We worked damn hard. The evolution of Qualtrics has to change for the better with every single hire. Every move we make needs to be better. We’re just getting started. I want to create so much more with Qualtrics. We’re going full speed now, pedal to the metal.”
There are plenty of options available to non-business graduates looking for a career in accounting and it’s never too late to change career paths, writes Emma Butler of Accounting Technicians Ireland.
Many students in their leaving cert year, having sifted through college prospectuses, attended university open days and researched courses, have a very clear vision of their future career path and know exactly what they want to get from their degree. Similarly, many students feel overwhelmed by the wide range of choices before them and pick courses based on CAO points, what their friends are applying for, or what parents or teachers suggest they should do.
Making such significant life decisions so early can put students under substantial pressure to make the “right” choice; however, the years following secondary school play a huge role in shaping people’s skills, likes and talents. By the time of graduation, the choice made by students in leaving cert may not be the right one for them.
Regardless of how certain you may have felt embarking on your first year of college that you had chosen the right course, it is common for graduates to finish their degree feeling lost and wanting to change discipline. Some degree programmes can be quite broad, leaving graduates unsure of what to do with the skills they have learned. On the other hand, some degrees have a very narrow career path, which the graduate may no longer wish to pursue. It is important for graduates who feel this way to know that there are options open to them, and that changing direction does not mean going back to scratch.
A conversion programme is usually a one or two year intensive course that provides students with skills in a discipline outside of their primary degree. These courses can often be studied on a part-time basis allowing students to find work, both to support themselves financially throughout the course and gain experience while they study. While conversion courses are not directly related to the degree studies of the student, there will often be transferable skills taken from the primary degree on which the student can build. For example, if a science or engineering graduate converts to a business discipline, their analytical skills will prove valuable. Likewise, a history graduate has a perspective on trends of events and could help a company to see “the big picture” in a business context.
Career options in accountancy
In an uncertain economic environment, accountancy can offer a stable and rewarding career. Often described as “recession proof”, those working in accounting and finance rarely have trouble finding work. Accounting isn’t just all debits and credits either – it can open up a vast range of career paths and provides versatile business skills.
Accounting Technicians Ireland offers a two year professional accounting qualification which can be studied at over 70 different colleges around Ireland. You do not need a business degree to enrol and graduates may even be eligible for exemptions from some of the first year subjects, depending on the modules studied in your degree.
The Accounting Technicians Ireland programme is focused on building practical skills and is highly respected by employers. Qualified accounting technicians work in a vast range of industries and many describe their accounting studies as being the foundation of their career. Having a strong knowledge of financial information can be invaluable in business, even if it is not your primary function. Understanding financial information is crucial in making effective business decisions.
Many qualified accounting technicians move into other functional areas as their careers progress and can be found in senior functions in some of Ireland top companies. In fact the CEO of Microsoft Ireland began her career as an accounting technician. Furthermore, for those with an entrepreneurial spirit, understanding financial issues is highly valuable in setting up and running your own business.
While some areas such as taxation may vary significantly from country to country, most aspects of accountancy travel very well, so if you decide you want to work abroad, an accountancy qualification will help greatly in finding a job.
Having completed the Accounting Technician qualification, graduates may choose to pursue any number of routes, whether in accounting and finance or beyond. Those who wish to become a fully qualified accountant can gain generous exemptions from the examinations of professional accountancy bodies. An accounting qualification offers skills that will transfer to many sectors.
The availability of conversion programmes, such as the accounting technician qualification, means that it is never too late to pursue a new career path.
Emotional intelligence (EI) is defined as the ability to identify, assess and control the emotions of oneself, of others and of groups. The concept of emotional intelligence began to emerge in the 1990s, with the publication of Daniel Goleman’s book ‘Emotional Intelligence’ in 1995 based on the work of psychologists Howard Gardner (Harvard), Peter Salovey (Yale) and John Mayer (New Hampshire) in the 1970s.
Unlike intellectual intelligence (IQ), emotional intelligence (EI) is a skill which can be cultivated and one that tends to be best demonstrated among experienced and top-ranking professionals. Emotional intelligence is extremely important in any workplace, especially for those in managerial positions. Studies by psychologist and New York Times science journalist Daniel Goleman suggest that EQ is actually more important than IQ in terms of career success, assuming the individual in question is adequately qualified to have got the job in the first place.
(Daniel Goleman – TedTalk)
How can I improve my EI?
Being aware of and being able to manage your emotions is key to the development of emotional intelligence, as this will lead to a wider understanding of other people’s emotional responses and will allow you to empathise with them. Emotional intelligence spans skills such as influence, persuasion, self-management and initiative. In terms of employers recruiting for graduate level roles, increasingly they are looking for more than just academic ability, even more desirable are soft skills such as ability to learn on the job, listening and verbal communication, creative responses to set backs and a motivation to progress in one’s career. Furthermore, studies indicate that students who have had a well rounded academic career through balancing study with sports or social activities and societies stand to score well in terms of emotional intelligence.
How will EI help me to succeed?
Within career sectors such as engineering, law and medicine as well as postgraduate programmes such as MBAs, emotional intelligence appears to have more of an impact than IQ in terms of those people who will emerge as leaders. In these turbulent times of technological change, globalisation and economic uncertainty, the job market is truly in flux and we must constantly be aware of the need to adapt our skills accordingly. According to www.talentsmart.com – a leading provider of emotional intelligence – training, over 75% of the Fortune 500 companies use emotional intelligence training tools and 90% of top performers have high emotional intelligence.
The concept of emotional intelligence is open to misinterpretation however, and it is essential to realise that it is not just about being pleasant all the time, or letting your emotions run wild. It is important to know how to deal with confronting colleagues – sometimes bluntly – on an issue. The main outcomes for an emotionally intelligent workplace or team should be stability, decreased conflict, more cohesive relationships and increased productivity. An emotionally intelligent workplace aims to promote emotionally intelligent growth, whereby irrational and impulsive behaviours are reduced and teams cooperate in the pursuit of goals and achievements that will serve to benefit themselves and their organisation. Ultimately this leads to better efficiency and productivity for the organisation, and improved career prospects for the individual.