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James Cooper-Jones Of Simply: How Diversity Can Increase a Company’s Bottom Line

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

People are your business, and attracting the best people is different from retaining them. Diversity can help retain talented employees to grow your businesses. More and more employees are valuing diversity in their workplace, and for some, it’s become a necessity to stay in a job. About 57% of employees want to see their company increase diversity, and 83% of Millennials are more likely to be actively engaged if their company has a diverse and inclusive culture.

As a part of our series about “How Diversity Can Increase a Company’s Bottom Line”, I had the pleasure of interviewing James Cooper-Jones, CEO of award-winning, HR technology company Simply.

James Cooper-Jones is a CEO of Simply, an award-winning HR technology company helping businesses streamline recruitment, improve employee engagement and increase diversity. James is an experienced senior executive with a global perspective, having worked for public and private companies with operations in APAC, Africa, Europe, MENA and North America.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dive into the main part of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit more. Can you share a bit of your “backstory” with us?

My backstory has quite a bit to do with my current journey with Simply. I grew up in Australia to parents who had lived around the world, so our household was full of different cultures, cuisines, and languages. Perhaps influenced by this, I left Australia for overseas almost as soon as I was old enough to do so — I have since lived and worked around the world, throughout Asia, Europe, North America, and Africa. I have been fortunate that this has included working in a variety of senior management roles and with some really great people from various diverse backgrounds.

I am also the proud father of a Japanese-Australian family, so diversity and inclusion are very close to my heart.

Finally, I have been a senior executive, CEO, and finance executive, of both private and public companies, and I have some insights on how to manage a team, what makes an effective team, and how getting those right can impact your company’s performance — from my own experiences, both good and bad, from someone that has been there and done it themselves.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you tell us a story about how that was relevant in your own life?

“If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together.” This is an African proverb that embodies the work we do at Simply. We help employers assemble best-fit teams so that businesses can better focus on their missions, drive bottom lines, and deliver long-lasting results. Long-lasting success for businesses starts with the people who show up to work every day and are engaged, which is why values-based hiring and culture alignment with HR technology can help businesses be equipped with the talent needed to grow and thrive.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are?

This is where I would like to thank the Simply team for their dedication to our goals and mission. Chief Technology Officer Oliver Fehr and the rest of our team and partners around the world uphold what Simply stands for and have created a runway to help us continue growing, improving the employee experience and diversity in the workplace.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

I would say authenticity. When founding Simply, my co-founder and I found the companies we had worked well with and respected most over our careers were those organizations that were genuine. We have brought that spirit to Simply by executing each client relationship with a ‘people-first,’ genuine approach.

Are you working on any new or exciting projects now? How do you think that might help people?

Simply’s approach to recruitment is a project I am really proud of.

Simply is an award-winning, Australian HR Technology company that has adapted methods of recruitment proven to increase team engagement, wellness, and diversity into an easy-to-use and easy-to-implement software. We’ve won awards around the world that we’re really proud of.

Essentially, Simply can help business managers and the community in two ways.

First, we have developed a turnkey way to help find the right personality for the right role. We do this using values-based recruitment. This helps the employer, of course, because the right personality type for the right role generally means a happier employee, and studies tell us happier employees are more productive — and less likely to leave an organization. So, this is good for business managers.

But this is also good for employees because they are happier, and happier employees generally have better wellness, including mental health — which is good for people and the communities we live in.

Secondly, we have developed a purposeful way to increase diversity in recruitment. We do this by combining values-based recruitment and blind hiring.

One of the main aims of any diversity recruitment process is to remove unconscious bias. The challenge with most conventional recruitment processes that rate candidates on qualifications and experience is that qualifications and experience are common unconscious bias triggers. So, focusing and rating candidates on if their values fit in the recruitment process, such as with the Simply system, allows the hiding (blinding) of unconscious bias triggers such as name, gender, age and qualifications and experience. This is great for business managers as it is an easy-to-use, easy-to-implement, diversity recruitment tool.

But it is also good for employees and communities as this levels the recruitment playing field for all sections of our communities.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

Diversity and inclusion are a passion derived from my personal life. I see Simply’s success in increasing diversity in workplaces all over the world and believe that we’re making a difference for our users and offering a blueprint for how companies can become more equitable and inclusive. Ultimately, it’s a great thing.

Ok. Thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the main part of our interview. This may be obvious to you, but it is not intuitive to many people. Can you articulate to our readers five ways that increased diversity can help a company’s bottom line? (Please share a story or example for each.)

When I get asked this question, I usually point out to business managers these key points.

  1. Diversity will help make your business be more innovative and competitive.

Studies, including one from McKinsey & Company, have shown that diverse companies are more innovative and adaptable to change.

There are many contributing factors, but one likely significant contributor is a broader repository of life experiences.

This is sometimes called epistemology or group think and deals with how we accumulate knowledge, and what we know is commonly a product of our life experiences and exposure.

For example, three engineers grew up in the same town, all went to the same university and then all worked at the same company. When presented with an engineering problem, they will likely come to present very similar solutions, as their life experiences are all largely the same. Then consider three engineers, who grew up in say three different countries or regions, went to three separate universities, and then had very different work experiences. When presented with the same engineering problem, they will likely present different solutions, drawing on their different life experiences.

Group think is only one of the many reasons why diverse companies are more innovative and adaptable to change.

There is probably not a time in our recent history where organizations needed to be more innovative and adaptable to change to survive such as in the COVID pandemic — so diversity definitely matters for your business.

2. Diversity will help you attract the best people.

Studies, including those by Josh Bersin, have found that candidates are more likely to apply for roles with companies that they feel are diverse.

Most business managers would explain that people are their business. That’s held true for me in my senior roles around the world. Most business managers would also explain that talent pools are becoming more competitive, and it is getting increasingly harder to attract the right people.

There is change occurring currently in the workforce, and I think this trend of an increasingly competitive talent pool will continue.

So, if we understand that people are your business, and having a recruitment strategy that drives diversity will help you attract the best talent — it makes sense that diversity will help improve your business.

3. Further, diversity will help you retain the best people.

People are your business, and attracting the best people is different from retaining them. Diversity can help retain talented employees to grow your businesses. More and more employees are valuing diversity in their workplace, and for some, it’s become a necessity to stay in a job. About 57% of employees want to see their company increase diversity, and 83% of Millennials are more likely to be actively engaged if their company has a diverse and inclusive culture.

Replacing employees is costly for businesses, so retention is vital to companies’ bottom lines. Research is proving that employees want and need a diverse workplace, so in order to retain top talent, businesses need to value and execute diversity and inclusion strategies.

4. Diversity will help improve your financial performance.

Again studies, including from Bersin and McKinsey & Company, have shown that diverse companies consistently, and often significantly, financially outperform their non-diverse peers.

When you consider the three previous points, this becomes a bit of a no brainer — diverse companies are more innovative, adaptable to change, and attract and retain the best talent. It makes sense that when faced with the ever-changing corporate environment, that the modern business manager is currently presented with, that diverse companies have more and better caliber human capital resources to draw on to address those challenges. They are just going to outperform — it’s a no brainer.

Some managers can see diversity and inclusion as a burden. This is disappointing to me, but on some level, I get it. The task list for the modern business manager seems to be constantly increasing. However, when the above points are considered, not only is diversity and inclusion a significant thing we can all do for the communities we live in, but it can also be something business managers can do to provide their business with a competitive edge and improve their bottom line.

5. Diversity increases efficiency and productivity.

Referring to the earlier example about the engineers, it would also make sense that the group of engineers who offer diverse backgrounds would arrive at multiple solutions faster than the group of engineers with similar backgrounds. Diverse teams have proven to make decisions faster and develop more in-depth approaches than individuals or a non-diverse team.

Especially when you have diversity across upper and lower-management positions, productivity can increase because teams hold greater creativity, multiple perspectives, and differing skill sets, heightening potential for results. Just last year, research found that diverse businesses’ productivity was 1.32 times higher than businesses that weren’t diverse. That increased productivity translates to monetary gain.

What advice would you give to other business leaders to help their employees to thrive?

The first things that come to mind are to listen and engage, and I think business managers will find that employees will then engage in return, increasing productivity and retention.

However, the challenge is to what level do you engage. Due to differences in personality type or values, the level of engagement may be welcomed by one employee but may be viewed as an annoyance to another. So, understanding your employee’s values or personality is probably the best path to helping your employees thrive, which can be done simply with Simply’s values-based hiring.

What advice would you give to other business leaders about how to manage a large team?

This is a good question, that is probably becoming more about not only managing a large team but a large team that is remote and diverse.

Most managers I know would probably describe themselves as a good judge of character and good team leaders. However, the reality of the modern working environment, and likely the workforce of the future, is that we are going to have less and less face-to-face time with our team members. This means that the tools and interactions we relied on in the past to get a feel for our team members’ personalities, strengths, weaknesses, and wellnesses, are gone.

So, in the same way that Zoom, Microsoft Teams and other technologies have become a common replacement in our workplaces for physical meeting rooms, the modern manager needs technologies that help them engage with their teams. A good judge of character and good team leadership skills are still of great value — but technological support of these skills, such as with Simply, will help business leaders manage large, remote, and diverse teams into the future.

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this :-)

Well, having worked in Southern Africa, it would have to be Elon Musk, right? Elon being originally from that part of the world and us both perhaps being equally good at bad jokes (I for one love your jokes, Elon, mate). We can also swap notes on who has the cooler accent, Aussies or South Africans.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

I always recommend people follow our LinkedIn company page. We often have content and thought leadership pieces there from our community across Australia/South East Asia, UK/EU and USA. https://www.linkedin.com/company/simply-alined/

We would love to hear your readers’ voices and insights there.

Thank you for these excellent insights. We wish you continued success in your great work.

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Fotis Georgiadis

Fotis Georgiadis

Passionate about bringing emerging technologies to the market