Acast’s Becky Celestina elected to The Podcast Academy’s Board of Governors
There are no two ways about it: representation matters.
As well as simply being the right thing to do morally, today’s most forward-thinking leaders also understand the business advantages of hiring talent from underrepresented groups — and that inclusive hiring practices can positively impact everything from innovation and creativity to revenue and staff retention.
Despite gains across some intersections in more recent years, past actions have generated a legacy of underrepresentation for minority groups — meaning that, while progress is being made, sustainable change across our industries will take time.
At Acast, we’ve always strived to be a home for voices everywhere. Initiatives like Aclass — an ongoing successful free event series we launched as a space for underrepresented communities in podcasting to meet, share experiences, and learn from one another — and signing the Equality in Audio pact have shown our commitment to diversifying the podcasting industry.
But, as one of the world’s foremost podcast companies, we’re acutely aware that the ways we choose to shape our own internal teams will impact podcasting for years to come.
Becoming a publicly listed company earlier this year means there’s more scrutiny than ever on us as a business, and more people than ever looking to us for leadership. However, we had been making positive and proactive changes even before the spotlight was on us — not least in the ways we’re finding and hiring new talent.
We defined a sustainable diversity and inclusion (D&I) talent strategy, and examined how our own workplace culture will shape the next generation of podcasting talent, as well as reworking our strategic hiring practices to ensure they’re fit for a progressive and inclusive global scaleup.
We also recognised that, for the next generation of talent to thrive, being proactive in identifying and removing potential barriers of entry to the workplace is key.
This is uncharted territory for so many businesses around the world, so I thought it would be helpful to share four of the biggest lessons we’ve learned on our inclusive hiring mission.
It all starts with transformational leadership. As with almost all company-wide strategies, success is heavily influenced by the level of dedication from senior leaders — and much of the progress made at Acast can be attributed to transparency and accountability among senior leadership. They’ve embraced D&I talent strategies and inclusive hiring — not as well-meaning, empty gestures, but as a powerful and deliberate commitment to meaningful change. One of the first strategic decisions was to appoint DE&I consultancy Belovd, setting a crucial tone that a diverse and inclusive culture at Acast is a priority. While there’s still some way to go, we’ve intentionally set ambitious inclusive hiring objectives, meaning we’re here for the long game and not the quick fix.
As a global business hiring in multiple markets — with offices in locations as varied as Stockholm, Sydney, Paris, New York and Mexico City — we’ve faced some unique challenges. Yet having an open and flexible approach to intersectionality, and defining what diversity means for each local market, then measuring our inclusive hiring efforts accordingly, has been critical in building strong and inclusive talent pipelines. In the UK, for example, Acast has partnered with a number of social enterprises and charities who are committed to improving workplace diversity. Organisations such as Creative Access, Access Aspiration and Leadership Through Sport and Business support junior talent from underrepresented groups that typically face more barriers to employment. These strong community networks have been invaluable, enabling us to attract and build far more diverse talent pipelines than before. Our local talent partnerships have also enabled us to be more creative in how we engage with diverse talent at a variety of entry points into the business — and, in addition to offering permanent opportunities, we’ve created more paid internship opportunities, mentoring programs, and work experience schemes.
Investing in specialized learning practices and having more thoughtful conversations about diversity and inclusion in the workplace has been another key step along our inclusive hiring journey. Whether a seasoned hiring manager with a large team, a first-time manager with one or more direct reports, or a non-manager who may be asked to attend interviews from time to time in an influential capacity, all attend training in Acast Hiring Excellence before meeting candidates. Participants learn about recruiting best practices, and the importance of standardized and competency-based interviewing techniques as an effective way to challenge personal biases. In an open and judgement-free environment, they also explore topics relating to the most common forms of unconscious bias — and how to both identify and challenge our own biases that may manifest when recruiting. The feedback we’ve received shows that participants tend to leave with a much greater awareness of their own implicit biases, and also recognise the importance of personal accountability and D&I when hiring.
Technology has also played a central role and provided some pivotal, real-time solutions throughout our inclusive recruiting mission. There are a number of effective tools designed to elevate hiring practices, such as Textio — an AI tool helping to create unbiased job postings — and Gender Decoder, which helps understand the hidden implications of gender-coded language in job descriptions. Other helpful tools include the Rare Contextual Recruitment Software, which levels the playing field for talent from disadvantaged backgrounds by using big data to help companies identify candidates with the greatest potential to outperform their peers. And Mevitae, a CV anonymization tool which removes bias parameters such as gender or academic institution. New D&I talent tools and software are constantly emerging, and we’re exploring these technologies to understand how they can support our inclusive hiring strategies in the future.
Acast continues to evolve, and we know we’re closer to the start of our journey than the end — with plenty of lessons still to learn. We’ll continue to build talent strategies that embrace inclusive hiring practices, delivering meaningful change for the whole podcasting industry.