To celebrate the UN's International Day of The Girl, we sat down for a chat with three members of InnovateHer to discuss their visions for workplaces of the future.
Liverpool Football Club is a gold partner of InnovateHer, which equips girls aged 12 to 16 with the self-belief, confidence and skills to pursue a career in technology through their educational programme, and also works with companies to create inclusive workplaces for them to work within.
InnovateHer and LFC work together on best practice in the workplace, including promoting inclusivity and gender diversity.
This year’s International Day of The Girl theme is GirlForce: Unscripted and Unstoppable – supporting all girls to amplify their voices and stand up for their rights.
To mark the occasion, we spoke to Jess, Beth and Sara, each members of InnovateHer, for their takes on the development of the workplace as well as their expectations and ambitions.
What do you want a workplace culture to be?
I want to be able to learn something new every day at my future workplace. I want to be kept on my toes and continue to get better and better at my role, otherwise I’ll become bored and complacent.
What type of environment do you want to work in?
Definitely a collaborative one; I believe that combining ideas leads to the highest productivity and learning rates.
Small, medium or large employer?
Medium. I want to be able to know and interact with all of my colleagues, but without feeling confined by them.
What’s most important to you about your future employer?
That they challenge me to achieve my full potential and even go beyond it; without challenges, I think I would quickly start to find any type of job unfulfilling.
How much time would you want to spend on a job application?
One hour maximum. People are likely applying to multiple jobs in a small time period, which needs to be strongly considered.
Should the people you work with be colleagues, mates or both?
There needs to be a healthy balance between the two, in order to achieve a good work-life balance.
What barriers, if any, do you think employers need to remove to get more women and girls to work for them?
Introduce a mentoring scheme, which can be featured when advertising the position. Women often see progressing through roles in a company as more intimidating than men do, so it is important to make it clear that it is definitely possible by having role models.
What do you think the benefits should be in addition to pay?
A certain amount of paid leave is appealing, particularly with additional flexibility for those who have a specific need for it, for example those suffering with an extended illness or new parents. Flexibility is also an attractive benefit, including the ability to work remotely some of the time or to have more flexible hours some weeks, even if just the ability to start early and finish early on particular days where that is more convenient.
Work to live or live to work?
For the vast majority, work is an essential part of life, and so in order to feel the most fulfilled we can, we need to enjoy work; it takes up a significant amount of time and effort regardless of our opinions of it. That said, there are many aspects of life outside of work and living solely to work means you can miss out on fully appreciating these other experiences. Work is a big part of most people’s lives but it isn’t everything, so I would choose working to live.
What would be the one thing that a potential employer needs to have in place to get you to apply and encourage you to work for them?
There is no one thing that would encourage applicants. However, one of the most important things is a strong and positive online presence. This helps to build a brand that people want to work for – if someone wants to learn more about an employer, they go online, and if that employer is seen to be active and involved with its community (both internally, its employees, and externally, its customers) then it makes them much more appealing. A potential applicant wants to feel like employers care about them and about their work.
What do you think people your age would not want to see in an employer?
Young people tend to dislike employers which aren’t ‘socially conscious’, meaning that they should be aware of current movements like environmentally friendliness and avoid, for example, insensitive Tweets which don’t fully understand the background of what they are Tweeting about.
Another thing that employers tend to underestimate is their website and/or social media profile. A poorly designed website is surprisingly off-putting, and an inactive social media means that it’s a lot harder to feel connected to a brand and want to work for them. As in the previous answer, in a digital age, an active online presence is crucial.
How can an employer make work enjoyable/fun?
People don’t want to be doing the same thing over and over – a job with dynamic and diverse work to do will be more enjoyable than one where the day-to-day tasks are largely the same. For most people, to keep work fun there needs to be variation – the amount of which will vary for individuals but even those who are satisfied with repetitive work will get bored eventually.
A sense of community within work also makes work more enjoyable as the people you work with are just as important as the work itself; if one falls short, the other will be affected. An employer can help to build this through team-building events and encouraging workers to be social within the workplace (as well as working hard, of course!).
Job for life or change regularly?
Although sometimes a change is necessary just for the sake of having new experiences, it greatly depends on the opportunity provided by an employer and the nature of the career. A job which is always varied, availability for training courses so you can continue to learn new skills, and the possibility of career progression, either through promotions or jobs in other internal departments/areas, could mean that a job would be able to provide these new experiences without needing to look elsewhere.
What would you want to know about a prospective employer to help you decide if you want to apply?
The most important thing I would want to know is what kind of relationship an employer has with its employees. I want a job where those who work there are treated as individuals and the employer works to build a strong community rather than feeling as if I am working for a faceless corporation. Of course, it is much harder for a big business to make a workplace feel as connected and intimate as a small business, but there are definitely ways that even multinational offices can create an atmosphere of community and pride.
What type of selection process do you think is best for you as the candidate and the employer?
If there is some form of test, either practical or written, the candidate would expect it to test for skills which are directly relevant to the job – for example, a whiteboard interview for a coder isn’t how coders are going to be working in reality, because the use of the internet is a hugely important part of coding, so it feels like a pointless exercise for those who are being interviewed.
In general, a selection process will be good for a candidate if they stay actively informed throughout each stage, regardless of the actual process itself. Not hearing at all from an employer for a while can make them seem like they don’t care about their employees/potential employees, even if it is just a notification that applications are still being considered.
What do you think are the bad bits about the UK’s current work culture?
I think the bad part about some work cultures is that they don’t always offer some form of flexibility to their employees.
What do you think are the good bits about the UK’s current work culture?
In my experience, the best part of the work culture would be the openness in communication.
If you were launching a start-up what would your business values be?
I would build the start-up on these values:
1. Promote team member growth
2. Embrace different viewpoints
3. Champion diversity
4. Deliver quality products/services to clients.
Do you think businesses need to be socially responsible? What should they prioritise?
Yes, I think that they should prioritise their relations with employees, the protection of the environment, and their contributions to the community.
Smart or casual?
What does flexible work mean to you?
Working in a way that allows you to fit work around other aspects of your life.
What does good leadership look like to you?
Good leadership is shown by people who have great organisational and communication skills. They would also be committed to their employee’s personal development.