HomeEmployee ExperienceCultureHow to cultivate diversity of talent: Insights from Jenna Cotton

How to cultivate diversity of talent: Insights from Jenna Cotton

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Dexory, a growing AI and robotics company, tackled diversity challenges by focusing on inclusive hiring practices, fostering a sense of belonging, and leadership training to combat unconscious bias. This commitment to diversity starts at the top and permeates the company culture.

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Jenna Cotton,
Head of Culture, People, and Talent at Dexory

As the Head of Culture, People, and Talent at Dexory, a leading robotics and AI company headquartered in the UK, my role involves shaping a culture that attracts and supports top talent while fostering an environment of high performance. I’m dedicated to creating an empowering, engaging and enjoyable workplace. Moreover, it’s my responsibility to ensure that we not only attract exceptional talent but also create a sense of belonging from day one. This involves assessing our organizational culture, defining the ideal candidates, sourcing from diverse talent pools and establishing an effective onboarding process.

While bringing talented individuals on board is crucial, it’s equally important to engage and retain them, creating an environment where everyone can be themselves and embrace their unique backgrounds and perspectives, whilst also enabling them to be top performers.

Quality and quantity of candidates has been a challenge for us at Dexory to overcome like many businesses that are going from start-up to scale-up. We’ve built our team from 14 individuals when I first joined to just over 110 (and ever-growing) and implemented many strategies to support this growth, as well as a robust structure to allow for our next stage of growth.

Here, I share strategies for maintaining the diversity of talent, spanning from the C-Suite down to our newest members in a fast-growing scale-up.

Nurturing diversity, equity and inclusion

A commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion starts from the top. I was lucky enough to have been inspired by each of the founders, particularly Oana, a successful and ambitious woman in this space. Dexory and its founders clearly understood the need to push diversity – women in tech being one – but diversity across many different backgrounds and understanding the value that it brings to a company.

Dexory functioning in both the Tech and logistics space means the general population of employees in these industries are heavily male-dominated. As a woman entering this space, it can feel intimidating and there is a sense that we have to prove ourselves more than our male counterparts. That’s why setting the right tone with the company culture from the top down is vital to creating that sense of belonging for everyone. It’s not only the right thing to do, but underrepresented voices are integral to innovation and there is ample evidence that more diverse companies can outperform less diverse organizations.

Maintaining a unified culture while scaling – Hiring

Making recruitment more inclusive starts from the very beginning. You must think about your plan, recruitment strategy and where you’re going to look for candidates. It’s important to consider the language in job listings and on your website. If the language isn’t inclusive, you might be missing a whole group of people because of that. Many recruitment agencies help to drive the women in tech piece forward, but there are a lot that also blanket advertise. However, it isn’t just about getting more women through the door, but them advancing within the company. We must be equal across the board in recruitment as well as retention and employee growth.

Scaling Dexory from 14 people to 110 was a challenging task, particularly in preserving the company’s culture which initially attracted me. We needed to ensure the right talent aligned with our values and was dedicated to driving the business forward. Additionally, when recruiting, it’s important to maintain diversity and provide equal opportunities to candidates from different walks of life. One of the key things businesses, especially rapid growth businesses, need to instill is a sense of belonging to the company. This is especially vital in an environment with various departments, from office-based teams to those involved in the build and assembly side. Each member’s contribution is equally important and everyone’s voice should be heard.

In any organization, your employees are your best advocates. Listen to their needs, and their issues and over communicate with them, ensuring total clarity in your purpose and organization’s goals. This not only means that you have a happy workforce who enjoy the work they do, but it also helps to attract new like-minded talent, promoting the business as a whole, especially as it’s scaling. 

Management training is integral to supporting and retaining diverse talent. Educating around unconscious bias, making people aware of the challenges that people face, and how as a manager you can unblock those barriers that are stopping diverse talent from being successful. It’s more than just being aware, it’s about putting this into action and wanting to make a difference for the better.

Be the change you want to see

Mentorship is a great way to pass on your knowledge and expertise to the next generation of talent. For underrepresented groups, it’s important to see people who look like you, speak like you or have the same lived experience. 

I recently joined a tech mentoring platform that not only helps me as a mentor but also offers advice on how to encourage greater diversity, especially among women in the tech industry. It’s amazing to see how just one hour of your time can contribute to someone feeling more confident and opening doors to tech opportunities they never thought possible. As leaders, it’s our responsibility to support others in their journey to success.

I’m often asked about role models or people that inspire me, and recently, was lucky to attend the International Women’s Day event in association with the FC and Google. There, I met Karen Carney, a former England footballer who has taken incredible steps in establishing world-leading standards for everyone involved in the women’s game, from grassroots to professional players. Her efforts are paving the way for future generations to find success and equal opportunities in sports, irrespective of their backgrounds. She is a true inspiration to me, especially when you hear the blood, sweat and tears that have gone into getting this far.

To conclude, in any business that I work in, I try not only to commit to diversity myself but to get the company onboard with equity and inclusion and to see and treat it as so much more than just a checkbox; it’s about enabling it to underpin our culture. From the dynamic founders who recognize the importance of pushing diversity, especially for women in tech, to the challenges of scaling our team while preserving a welcoming culture, we’ve aimed to set a tone that resonates from the C-Suite to our newest members.

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