Vodafone's Antony Welton reckons diverse candidates with the potential to contribute in "out of the box" ways aren't always caught by traditional recruitment methods.

"It's not that candidates don't exist," says Welton, who is HR director at Vodafone. "There are fantastically capable Maori people and women for example who would be ideal additions. It's just that we're not necessarily finding them through traditional routes and channels, and we have to put that extra effort in."

Welton says incorporating diversity into the culture at Vodafone has been about implementing processes to drive long-term organisational change, taking a gradual approach instead of making wholesale changes. "We've been trying this for many years and there is a lot of talk about targets, but we've found if you're trying to enact change in a predominantly male organisation and the culture is more masculine, then the best way to respond is in a masculine way.

"One way we've achieved this is by setting all of our executive team a plus-one target in their direct reports, which is a goal to add one more female into their team each year until they hit the 50-50 mark. It's trackable, it's clear and the men get it. As a result, we've seen real gains and shifts since we introduced the targets.

Advertisement

"I'm sure as we gain a stronger gender balance within the organisation, we won't need that as much because we'll have a different environment. To get momentum going however, it's been really valuable."

Vodafone now boasts a 38 per cent female workforce across the business; up from 33 per cent five years ago.

The executive team is now 30 per cent female and all shortlists for new senior roles are required to have an even split of male and female candidates.

That same effort is also being applied across a broader range of groups, with a particular focus on Maori - where a number of targeted initiatives and alternative pathways into technology are being implemented by Vodafone.

"Vodafone is a global company and wherever we are operating we become a long-term investor of infrastructure so it's really important to us to have strong communities where we work so that we have a strong customer base and for us to reflect that customer base so we can serve them better."

Increased diversity has opened new business opportunities

One of the company's more prominent business opportunities has been the development of unique ethnic offerings to target niche customers.

"One of our managers at Vodafone is Indian and she's come to us straight from India. She's brought that thinking and knowledge from her community and come to us with an idea and proposition which she thinks will fill a real need," explained Kirstin Te Wao, diversity lead at Vodafone.

"After a lot of research, advice from our business partners from within the communities and talking to a number of staff members within Vodafone, we designed three bespoke prepay plans customised for the unique calling needs of these communities."

Advertisement

The result was Mera Mobile - a Hindi-based offering targeted at the Indian community.

This was was followed by China Plan for the Asian community and Pasifika Mobile for the Pacific Island community.

Says Te Wao: "It's all about serving our customers better and a big part about how we can do that is to connect with them at a level that embraces and celebrates an individual's identity."

Each plan takes into account the specific needs of the community which it targets - tailoring the service, prices and overall offering to better suit those unique needs.

Staff had also suggested a number of internal and community led diversity programmes which Vodafone has incorporated into their business.

"Our Technology Director, Sandra Pickering started the Inspiring Women in Technology programme which all came about when she got a group of women within the business together and challenged them about how to support women working in technology and grow that talent pipeline.