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Member Spotlight: Pooja Sachdev, D&I Consultant

Pooja works flexibly while working on projects she's passionate about. Hear from a D&I specialist

Pooja Sachdev is a consultant in the areas of organisational culture, diversity and inclusion.

Can you summarise your career history in a couple of sentences?

I started my career in market and consumer research, but very quickly developed a strong interest in the ‘employee’ side – the people that make up companies – and what makes us tick, what makes us engaged and what makes us happy! I did my Masters in Occupational Psychology and transitioned into employee research and organisational development (OD). I’ve been working broadly in ‘OD’ now for about 15 years, in various forms – in consultancy and then on the client side. I’m doing a mix of projects at the moment: some training, some coaching, some consultancy – mostly focussed on culture and diversity.

From working in Diversity and Inclusion, what have you found to be the biggest hurdles for employers when increasing diversity in their recruitment?

There is such a huge range of factors that come into play when it comes to recruiting diverse candidates, and different companies are at different places in terms of how evolved their thinking and processes are. It’s everything from where roles are advertised, how they are advertised, what specific words are used in the job specs, and sometimes even whether they are advertised at all. A lot of it is down to ensuring the process is inclusive at every stage, but the biggest hurdle, I would say, is actually mindset. As human beings we are a lot less rational and objective than we think we are. Even the most rigorous assessment templates ultimately require subjective evaluations and we are prone to all kinds of biases when we make recruitment decisions.

Particularly for senior roles, we subconsciously gravitate towards candidates who appear to ‘fit’ and ‘look the part’ and that doesn’t always result in the greatest diversity at the top.

What advice would you give to women seeking flexible senior roles?

The biggest one would be to be patient. I’ve seen a real boom in terms of flexible roles in the last few years – so the jobs are out there. A lot of people will tell you that such roles don’t exist or you can’t progress if you don’t work a traditional full-time pattern. I don’t believe that to be the case any more – there may be some companies where it’s still like that, but they are probably not places you will want to spend your life anyway. So it’s worth waiting and holding out for the right one.

Have you personally searched for flexible work and if so, what was your experience of looking for flexible opportunities?

I’ve always worked flexibly to some extent – even if it was just the ability to work remotely. I’ve been lucky in that sense, I guess, because I haven’t had to seek it out. It was something I took for granted before, but now that I have kids, it’s critical. I’ve often been told (and I can understand) that when you first start a new role, you might need to be ‘present’ more to get to know the place and people but ultimately, I wouldn’t consider a role that was not flexible. Not only because of the logistics and childcare, but because a company that has a narrow definition of what ‘work’ and ‘success’ looks like isn’t likely to be a good match for me culturally.

What advice would you give to other parents that are looking to balance career progression with parenthood?

There’s no one best way to do it – you’ve got to figure out what is right for you and your family, without falling into the ‘trap’ of trying to live up to other peoples’ ideas or expectations – or even your own old ones! Kids are much more adaptive and resilient than we realise and I believe that being healthy, happy and fulfilled makes you a much better parent.

What is your message to employers that may be hesitant to embrace flexible working?

Work isn’t a place and it isn’t a length of time, it’s what we do. And our concern as organisations should be on the quality of what we do, not on the ‘inputs’ like when and where people clock in. People who work flexibly are more likely to be happier, more engaged and more productive – lots of research out there shows this.

But the bottom line is that if you don’t trust your employees to work when they are not ‘in sight’ then why would you hire them in the first place?

Connect with Pooja on LinkedIn

Pooja is the author of "Rewire: A Radical Approach to Tackling Diversity and Difference" described by The Financial Times as "the most refreshing approach to diversity I have read" (Nov 4, 2015). elcome to your blog post. Use this space to connect with your readers and potential customers in a way that’s current and interesting. Think of it as an ongoing conversation where you can share updates about business, trends, news, and more.

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