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HS2 contracts ‘not possible’ to win without improving diversity

Companies hoping to win contracts with HS2 have this week been warned that it will be impossible to do so without improving their organisation’s record for diversity and inclusion.

The message was sent by Mark Lomas, head of equality, diversity and inclusion at HS2, talking at Railtex 2017 yesterday in Birmingham about the organisation’s commitment to diversifying its workforce, as well as the workforces of the wider supply chain working on the project.

During his speech, Lomas emphasised why diversity was important to allow the industry to change and adapt going into the future.

“HS2 is a long-term programme that enables us to make long-term change and if we look critically at the rail sector it has been one of the worst at adapting to change – it’s 20 years behind and we need to hurry up and fix it,” he said.

“And HS2 is going to be one of the catalysts that moves the industry forward at a very fast pace.”

He also explained how HS2 had made efforts to improve the equality, diversity and inclusion, or EDI, of the company’s recruiting process.

By using blind auditioning, which takes only the core competence of a candidate before looking at a their CV, HS2 was able to improve the number of women, BME and disabled applicants getting through to the next round of interviews.

Lomas also said this applied to companies in HS2’s supply chain, adding that it would be close to impossible for them to win a contract with the company without showing how they were making efforts to up EDI in their organisation.

“Here’s a clear message to those hard-edged business people,” he stated. “You cannot win a contract with HS2 without improving your performance in this area. It’s just not possible.”

Improvement for companies, Lomas stated, included them showing they had websites that were accessible for visually impaired people, using blind auditioning and making sure that 100% of people in their company had training in EDI relative to their role.

“We also expect you to tell us how much money you are spending with diverse suppliers and SMEs, and tier one organisations will have to achieve an externally accredited EDI standard, which will make our supply chain a world first,” Lomas continued.

“We expect our supply chain to remove barriers to inclusion to capacity build and widen access, and we will help anyone that is trying to change and innovate.”

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Jimbo   12/05/2017 at 11:14

and people wonder why HS2 has become so expensive. Personally, I prefer to recruit people who are capable of doing the job, rather than ones that will fill some arbitrary quota. I have no problem with increasing diversity, but we should be recruiting people based on ability, not skin colour, gender or religion.

VERCIDA   12/05/2017 at 12:02

Jimbo, there are plenty of reasons why people don't get jobs, for instance because of their name, or the fact they disclose a disability or due to unconscious bias. They have the ability but are overlooked at the selection stage by recruiters that are not trained properly. Lomas isn't saying this for the sake of it, it's well documented that diverse organisations are stronger.

Mark   12/05/2017 at 12:55

Well Jimbo I doubt I would see many non white, non christian, female, gay, disabled people in your place of work ( and if I did it will be clearly be by a happy accident and not by design and undoubtedly not in numbers that would reflect the population at large) and that is why initiatives being suggested here by HS2 are needed to bring the rail industry kicking and screaming into the 21st century by ensuring that its work force represents the people it serves. Tell me if a Niqab wearing woman came for an interview, what would you do or say to her? If someone divulged they had long term depression at an interview, where would they appear on your shortlist? If an interviewee asked where the prayer room was and where could they wash their feet and have you got a squat toilet, what would you say? What about the candidate who told you they were just starting hormone therapy to start transitioning from male to female , what is your company policy on whether they can use the female toilet? Unconscious bias is one thing, fully conscious bias and in built prejudice and a simple lack of awareness of how the facilities at your location or your company policies (or lack of them) may be sending out a message about you and your company is why this kind of action is needed to make change This isnt a personal attack on you but you need to see that your ' but I always choose on ability' is a flawed strategy and you need to reexamine all this in your organisation - look out for diversity training from a reputable company and your eyes will start to be opened, and your company will start to benefit from ensuring they are choosing from the widest possible base for their employees.

Jimbo   12/05/2017 at 13:36

Typically, my comments have been read as anti-diversity, which is what happens when there is any kind of push back against these sorts of policies. As it happens, my team has 1 black person, 3 asians, 2 eastern-european white people and 3 english white people. It has 2 women and 7 men (unfortunately typical for IT), but I don't know their gender preferences. I have at least one practising muslim and the rest I don't know. I have no obvious transgender or disabled people, but I have had transgender people working for me in the past and until recently had someone in a wheelchair. So don't preach to me about diversity. My point is that I do not care about any of this labelling of people and actively dislike categorising people like this. I also do not have policies forcing me to have a diverse team. I have a reasonably diverse team because those were the best people for the roles I have. Putting in active policies to force diversity is not the way forward because it means you have to pick people based on their categorisation not their skills. Forcing you to recruit an asian person to fill your quota is racist against the better candidate. Forcing you to recruit a woman to fill your gender quota is sexist against men. This kind of diversity checklist recruitment is increasing the problems of diversity not fixing them. I know there are attitudes to change but forcing diversity is not the answer.

Jimbo   12/05/2017 at 14:03

@Mark - and if a niqab wearing women came into an interview with me, I would request that she remove it because I need to see facial expressions during my interview. It is also sexist as it is an instrument of the repression of women in a male-dominated culture, and sexism is not allowed by law.

Tony   13/05/2017 at 02:00

Diversity? What does this really have to do with anything? Seems hs2 want to force their diversity on everyone like they've forced thier satanic rail project that the taxpayers will be forced to fund!.

Harish   13/05/2017 at 10:42

I applaud the open and frank discussion around this. If diversity needs one thing it's open discussion. Linked to this, another thing I have learned working as a diversity consultant and trainer for 15 years is that we all need to try to keep an open mind. Over time, as individuals our world views become embedded and fixed. So we need to maintain objectivity by looking at the data and research. That tells us that diverse people in the workplace are typically underrepresented and overlooked. Unconscious bias research tells us that if you have a brain, you have unconscious biases. HS2 is not talking about quotas or selecting based on diversity; that's actually illegal in this country anyway and quite possibly counterproductive for other reasons too. In practice there are many, many barriers to selecting on merit. And yes a categorisation approach can have negative consequences...but to be objective we need to use data and to use data we need to categorise. Categorisation is not the solution but a stepping stone to the solution. So, plenty of challenges! The good news is that there are solutions to all these things and that's what HS2 is saying (they are a client). We just need to bring an open mind.

Jennifer   16/05/2017 at 10:57

Personally I would much rather be judged on my ability than given a job because the company was trying to increase the female quota. And what about small businesses that cannot improve their diversity due to the sheer cost? Are you saying, Mr Lomas, that despite HS2 saying they will work with SME's you actually won't?

Graham Nalty   16/05/2017 at 12:37

Looking at some of the reasons behind the selection of stations sites on HS2, there does not appear to be much about the convenience of passengers in relation to their decisions. It is well known in business that a company that does not serve its customers is more likely to fail. Surely they should get their core business right and provide stations in locations that are convenient for passengers. Diversity in the workplace does need to be championed by a company that already has an excellent record in dealing with people and a company that needs to evict people from their homes to succeed can never have that reputation. I wonder if HS2 has a bullying policy in their workplace that extends to people outside. Telling people they have to improve their record in diversity to obtain work when HS2 hold so much power of offer high value contracts has to be a from of bullying. but if I wanted to be a supplier to HS2, I would be more interested in the Prompt Payment Policy to suppliers.

Lol   31/10/2017 at 14:13

Your kinda missing the point - no-one is given the job. The best person gets the job - its just that more people who would not normally apply are encouraged to. The person with the best ability still gets the job.

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