Laura Lefeuvre is Head of Recruitment at AEG. Having worked for 15 years in this area at organisations as varied as The Royal Household, The Football Association and now AEG she has a huge amount of experience of working closely with businesses and their hiring managers to improve the recruitment process and increase the diversity of the talent they attract. Since joining AEG in 2016 she has, amongst other things, helped them develop a recruitment strategy to attract and retain diverse talent from all walks of life and encourage their inclusive culture to thrive.
What does #BreakTheBias mean to you in regards to your role and responsibilities as Head of Recruitment?
As Head of Recruitment, I want women to feel like they can apply for any roles with us and they shouldn’t feel there are any barriers, and I want our existing female employees to feel they can develop a career with us. We want to make sure that all applications are treated equitably and on merit.
How have you gone about creating and maintaining gender diversity within AEG – and are there specific areas of the business where it’s more challenging to achieve that?
Last year we promoted more females than males at AEG which was amazing. We also launched our Diverse Recruitment Charter and talked to our employees about it. We wanted them to know we really want to make a drive towards diversity and inclusion and ensure they feel they can be their authentic selves at work and from a candidate perspective they can apply for any job they want to apply for.
We use gender neutral language in our recruitment advertising and make sure we don’t use language that would put women off from applying. We also make sure we use salary bandings on job adverts so that applicants have a better understanding of the level of role before they apply.
We anonymize application forms and what’s been really interesting for hiring managers is that it’s made them look more closely at what people are writing rather than having preconceptions after reading the first part of that application. A lot of the time they can be surprised when the person arrives for the (face to face) interview and I think that’s really helped because no matter how much unconscious bias training you do with people once someone sees a name they will automatically start having some preconceptions about that person.
AEG have done a lot of work around flexible working and introduced Workwise – which is a flexible working policy. We no longer have start and finish times, and offer flexible and agile working. So if you’re a working mother you can do the school run in the morning and then log back on for work.
We also have a Women at AEG employee network group which champions women within the business and puts on a lot of panels and talks around career development at work.
Areas where we struggle to increase diversity are IT and Engineering. When we brought out our Diverse Recruitment Charter we spoke to the recruitment agencies on our PSL and asked them what diverse and inclusivity initiatives they were running within their agencies before we continued working with them and then we asked for them to send us anonymized CVs as well which has really helped. However at times they’ve come back to let us know that the pool of talent for some IT roles is 95% male. Obviously in those areas there’s more work to do. I feel there’s slightly more improvement in the field of engineering and at Uber Boat by Thames Clippers we have a female engineer and I’m seeing an increase in females applying for engineering apprenticeships.
We are planning to send employees into schools to talk about the types of roles there are at The O2 and Uber Boat by Thames Clippers and we’re working with an organisation called Not Going To Uni to attract young women into the business. Hopefully this will attract more women into the areas in the long term that we struggle to achieve diversity in at the moment.
We have a lot to offer as a major employer in our industries and we need to get people to recognise that rather than see The O2 just as a destination to go to at the weekend. For example, our Head of Guest Relations at The O2 started as a zero hour employee and is now managing 250 people. At Uber Boat by Thames Clippers, we have a 4 year career path where you start in customer services role and you work your way up to drive the boat and you are fully trained over that period. We can offer young women fantastic career opportunities.
Bias is often unconscious and many people don’t realise how much this guides them in their decision making. How can talent teams work with the wider business to help hiring managers overcome this?
We did a lot of work around this before the pandemic. We carried out unconscious bias training across the business to start the conversation and that led to us requesting diverse recruitment panels when interviewing. So we ask the hiring manager to try and partner with someone who is a different gender, sexuality or ethnicity to them. We want to bring someone else into the room that may challenge that manager’s thinking. On some levels that has worked for us more than the unconscious bias training itself because hiring managers are working with their peers and hearing different points of view about the interviewee rather than sitting in a training room and being told their bias.
While businesses like AEG may have been working to overcome hiring bias and increase the diversity of their workforce for some time, others will just be beginning the journey. Where do you suggest they start?
Speaking to your employees is the best starting point. Speak to your new employees about how they found the hiring process; speak to employees who have been with you a while about whether they feel they can bring their authentic self to work and feel they belong. Then you will have an idea about where you are and map out where you want to get to.
We have eight Employee Network Groups based around our four core values. For We Will Make a Difference we have five ENGs which are Embrace Group ( focused on ethnic diversity), Women at AEG, Families at AEG, Mental Health & Wellbeing and Pride. One of their objectives is to drive change and improvement in the culture at AEG and each group has an executive sponsor. When I was setting up the Diverse Recruitment Charter I sat down with the heads of all the Employee Network Groups and said “this is what we want to do” and asked them whether they thought it went far enough and got their feedback.
Unless you ask your employees you’re not going to know exactly where you are or get the true voice of your company.
What are you doing for IWD this year?
We have lots of things happening across the business including a virtual panel The Bias Breakers – How to be a role model organised by our Women@AEG employee network group which will bring together female employees from the U.S and UK, together with an external speaker. We are also running a networking event at the AEG Head Office and The O2 to celebrate IWD and bring colleagues together to explore how we are breaking down bias on a daily basis.