Rebecca Campbell Burns
Please indicate if your Initiative is an Established Initiative.
Team - who worked on the project/initaitve
D.A.R.E is the Diversity & Inclusion initiative being led by the founding Escient executive leadership team, consisting of the Chairman, CEO, Regional Managing Directors and National Talent Acquisition Manager. It supports and engages the entire Escient team in developing and sustaining the required behaviours and policies to support and realise the value of diversity and inclusion as the company continues to rapidly grow.
Managing Director, Victoria
Overview - Provide a summary to introduce the project or initiative
Escient is coming up to its second birthday. Established in Adelaide in August of 2016, the company was founded on a set of core values and the principles of diversity and inclusion. We now employ more than 80 people across three regions (SA, NSW and VIC). This initial growth has come predominantly through existing networks and word-of-mouth with new starters subscribing to the vision, strategy and goals of Escient, which are built on the company values of Creativity, Courage and Selflessness.
Diversity of thought is at the core of our organisation, supporting our values-driven culture, and our ability to provide high quality client outcomes. We have a highly diverse team across many facets of diversity, with equal (50:50) gender balance, a broad age demographic (from 25 to 63 years old) and employees with a wide range of careers and backgrounds from all around the world. Our team includes economists, accountants, engineers, scientists, marketing specialists, psychologists, lawyers, medical practitioners and talent management specialists with skills in strategy, business analysis, architecture, data and analytics, cyber security, program and project management, and change management.
D.A.R.E (Diversity Achieves Results and Equality) is Escient’s newly established Diversity & Inclusion program. D.A.R.E has been established to ensure that the current levels of diversity are at least maintained, but preferably improved, as we continue to grow within our existing regions and into new markets and geographies.
How would you say diversity is embraced within your organisation or sector? Are there diversity initiatives in place or are diversity approaches new to your sector?
Escient fully embraces diversity at all levels in our organisation, and our numbers and progress to date support this. Our company has been founded on the fundamental belief that diversity delivers results and provides the basis for creativity, innovation and thought leadership. Not only do we have a balanced team in terms of gender, women make up more than 38% of our two most senior levels within the organisation (excluding the Non-Executive Board Members), holding both P&L and key people/team management responsibilities.
For Escient, diversity and inclusion is about more than gender. We celebrate our individual differences and the value they bring in how we approach solving problems for our clients. This extends to aspects such as age, ability and cultural and linguistic diversity, as well as diversity of profession or careers. For example many of our consultants had previous careers as doctors, podiatrists, nurses, teachers, accountants, lawyers and engineers before they entered the technology or consulting sectors.
Sadly, we do not see this being embraced with tangible results across our affiliated sectors, not the technology services sector, nor the more business-related professional/advisory services sector. In both these people-driven industries, it appears the value of diversity is well understood, though improvement is glacially slow. Industry bodies, government, associations and advocate groups all have developed diversity approaches to address the lack of equality within the industry but to date, the impact has been minimal. We believe in the need for greater coordination, collaboration and individual accountability to implement practical and pragmatic solutions that have an impact.
Detail the approach that was taken to implement the project or initiative, what actions were taken and why?
We have identified that as we move out of the start-up phase, and the responsibility to attract and retain a highly capable workforce becomes more dispersed, we require a formal program to ensure we meet our company’s objectives. We know we will become what we measure. Our D.A.R.E Program will measure the progress of initiatives against our goals, ensure our leaders continue to lead by example and outline the policies and behaviours that allow our diverse workforce to meet its collective full potential.
In January of 2018, Escient invested in a permanent national Talent Acquisition Team. This was an action taken resulting from a strategic planning session where the acquisition and retention of high calibre people had the potential to release or throttle the growth of the company.
Up until that point, regional Managing Directors had managed the recruitment process in each State. As part of our overall growth strategy, the D.A.R.E program was developed to ensure our diversity objectives are achieved.
What is D.A.R.E? – Diversity Achieves Results and Equality
The D.A.R.E program is a formalisation of a set of policies, principles and activities that have up until recently been undocumented and delivered through shared values, vision and behaviours of the existing team.
Through the D.A.R.E program Escient will continue to drive for equality in all aspects of our business and support and encourage all our people to grow and flourish.
D.A.R.E outlines the company policies and actions that support diversity and identifies the following core principles:
Attract the very best people who share our values and who are energised and excited by our culture and behaviours.
• Develop advertising that uses inclusive, gender neutral language
• Ensure diversity (gender, age, ethnicity etc) across the recruitment process
Retain our talent through life-stage changes.
• Offer flexible work options (part time, work from home, multi-city) to all
• Offer social experiences for employees and their family/partner
• Rotate meeting times to be as ‘family-friendly’ as possible
Encourage our people to the best versions of themselves.
• Provide a safe, nurturing environment and opportunities to grow
• Give everyone a voice regardless of role or position
• Encourage the whole person to come to work
Celebrate our differences because it’s what makes us stronger.
• Celebrate individual stories and backgrounds and share through our ‘storybank’
• Acknowledge events (eg. religious festivals, cultural days or festivals, holidays, international women’s day)
• Learn and acknowledge our unconscious biases to address them through conscious decision-making
Measure what you want to become.
• Set targets and measure progress
• Open and honestly share KPIs and measures with all employees
• Refresh the targets and goals every year
Demonstrate the leadership shown in driving the initiative and fostering behavioural and organisational change.
Selfless leadership is a core value that is demonstrated by the leaders across our business and is displayed at all times. The unwavering support for providing a diverse and inclusive workplace has been part of the Escient narrative since it was established and is driven from the top through our CEO, Stephen Mabbs. From the outset, supporting part time employment or flexible work options combined with an inherent ability to see beyond the surface, are all examples of the behaviours demonstrated by Escient’s leaders.
Stephen Mabbs, is the greatest advocate of the D.A.R.E Program and its benefits. His own personal Why statement has been shared with the entire Escient team and is centred around developing high performing teams, in order for people to reach their full potential. Steve has also posted publicly on social platforms such as LinkedIn reflecting these beliefs and celebrating Flexible Working Day and International Women’s Day to name a couple (see attached for image and links below).
Understanding the uniqueness of Escient’s culture and behaviours within our industry, goes to the heart of why the D.A.R.E program was established. For Escient, D.A.R.E is not about daring to be different as individuals, but more about daring to be a different company within our industry and having the courage to act.
Was there organisational/industry or other resistance to the initiative? If so, detail the actions taken to overcome resistance to the project or initiative.
There was no organisational resistance to the D.A.R.E program. In fact, the program was initiated as a mitigation strategy for the key risk relating to sustaining a highly diverse workforce as the company continues to grow and expand.
Detail the follow up or response to the project or initiative by the organisation /industry /sector. For example has it been extended for a further year, or has the scope been expanded?
The D.A.R.E program is in its first year. However, there is desire and support for this program to be refreshed and enhanced every year with updated KPIs, targets and objectives included to match the stage and maturity level of the organisation.
Please provide 2 references being the beneficiaries or people that experienced the change (as a result of the initiative). Details to be provided should include:
4. Phone number
6. Short description (up to 250 words) of association with the nominated diversity initiative eg as a beneficiary, experiencing the outcome, etc.
As this is a new Program, there are no direct beneficiaries that have experienced change as a result of the initiative. However, below are two employee testimonials that provide insight into the value Escient places on diversity and how it improves the culture and work environment for all at Escient.
Kellie Furey - Principal Consultant, now Director
Escient has provided me with an environment where I have not only been able to personally grow, but I have been able to see those around me grow and flourish in my specific area of expertise which is business readiness and change management. I joined Escient as one of the first consultants in Adelaide. I had worked with the founders earlier in my career, and had been working on my own for many years. The feeling I had when I joined was that I had found somewhere I belonged. The company was able to cater to all my needs, I wanted to work part time, develop and hone my professional skills and be a mentor to younger, less experienced consultants who wanted to hone their craft. In just under two years since joining, I have been privileged to work with some amazing clients and an incredible Escient team that brings creativity, courage and selflessness to everything we do. Personally, I have recently been promoted to a Director within the company. The leadership style and values of Steve Mabbs and Tin Tran in Adelaide were key reasons why I chose to join Escient. Steve and Tin are both committed to building a diverse team, because it makes us stronger, and it’s great to see us now moving this the next level.
Saif Haque – Consultant
I joined Escient as the youngest consultant in the company and one of the first few consultants to join in NSW Office. Through my previous relationship with the Regional MD in NSW, I came on board even though I had a lot less experience than some of my peers. Meeting the CEO, other Regional MDs, and the Chairman gave me the confidence to take the step away from a larger firm to join a start-up. Escient promised to deliver a fair, equitable, inclusive workplace where I could build a successful career, get the client-facing experience I needed and work with great people. In just over a year, I have worked on some major client engagements, building new skills in more senior project management roles and have felt fully supported by the organisations, it’s policies and values at every stage. I feel very fortunate that due to the diversity in our team, both locally in NSW and across the country, we are able to surface different perspectives, look at challenges and opportunities from different angles and find the best solution, for ourselves and for our clients. Diversity in every form is celebrated at Escient and I feel I am very much part of that success.
What outcomes have been achieved against overall program or organisational performance? Using metrics specify these outcomes, for example financial, growth, policy achievement, performance or capabciltiy uplift?
As this is a new program, we are unable to report achievements against plan. However, we have benchmarked our current performance against key metrics which will form the baseline for future objective measurement and tracking. One key aim of our program is to address the industry challenge of developing and retaining a gender balance in the most senior roles. Given Escient is ahead of the curve in this aspect, our targets and goals will not be set through external benchmarking but by challenging ourselves to continue to build the organisation we want to be in the future.
For example, our overall gender statistics tell a good story with equal numbers (50% women) of male and female employees however, the percentage drops to 38% (still well above industry average) for the two most senior levels in the consultant ranks where there is still work to do. We will do this by mentoring our future leaders, providing opportunities (eg. interim leave cover, coaching and mentoring, defined career pathways and client opportunities) that level the playing field and ensure solid pathways exist for all employees.
As a business, we are constantly measuring individual and group performance. For the last quarter of FY17/18, 13 women were amongst the top 25 performers in our business demonstrating the success women are having in our business, and the value of diversity to the bottom line.
Whilst we have focussed on gender metrics in the section above, Escient values all aspects of diversity and have gathered data and statistics for cultural and linguistic (CALD), professional training and disciplines and age diversity.
What do you consider your significant achievement with this Initiative and why?
With the D.A.R.E Program, Escient is institutionalising diversity and inclusion as part of our formal, structured Company-DNA. The program builds on the foundational work done by the founding Escient group in building a new company that values diversity at its core, and ensures the appropriate policies, procedures and structure is put in place to allow growth rates to continue.
We are most excited about the foundations D.A.R.E provides for future leaders of our business and for younger consultants entering the market and joining our organisation.
Who inspires you from a diversity perspective? Who provides leadership in diversity and why?
There is a lot of discussion around diversity today. Whilst we commend many organisations for putting in place structure, policies and leadership to assist with developing and promoting the value of diversity, primarily our inspiration comes from within, through Escient’s people and their individual stories.
Everyone has a story to tell.
Whether it be of how their family came to live in this country, or why they took one career path over another, or the adversity or setback that in hindsight made them stronger, or simply it’s the story behind an area of interest or passion outside of work. Gathering these stories and sharing them amongst the team, is what builds the patchwork fabric of our organisation and provides the inspiration to continue our goal of a diverse and inclusive organisation.
Escient is inspired to lead by example and make a difference to our industry. Humans are not born with prejudice or bias, these are things we learn from societal norms, our environment and community as we mature, and therefore they are things we can change. As a progressive, forward thinking company, we acknowledge our future is in the hands of the next generations, our children and grandchildren.
The policies and frameworks that we establish now will form a key part of attracting and retaining the next generations, as well as advancing the social agenda we all believe in, of a truly fair, equitable and inclusive society, both at home and at work.