BYP x Habito: Pushing The Lid On Diversity and Eliminating Biased Hiring Practices
Habito’s mission is to help people find homes by making mortgages more accessible and removing the intimidating jargon and setbacks that come when buying property. Habito enables its clients to find the ‘perfect mortgage’ by comparing over 20,000 options from almost 100 banks and lenders. Habito connects its customers with mortgage experts and is well equipped to do the heavy lifting including applications and liaising with external parties on its clients’ behalf.
As a whole-of-market broker, Habito has access to nearly every mortgage out there as well as exclusive deals that are not available elsewhere. With a team of just over 150 people Habito is looking to scale up and are determined to ensure that its community is as diverse and inclusive as possible. BYP had the pleasure of sitting down, socially distanced of course, with Javaad Rasool, VP Talent and Start-Up Advisor at Habito. We discussed what diversity and inclusion mean to Habito, how to avoid unintentional bias and why Habito is an employer of choice when it comes to being your authentic self at work.
Javaad, what does diversity mean to you?
Being truly diverse is something that we have to work on every single day. It’s not something that you can briefly think about today and revisit in a few weeks’ time. It needs to be constantly front of mind and this needs to be the case across the entire business. As we scale, we need to make sure that Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) are at the forefront and never an afterthought. DEI needs to be embedded within our culture and be second nature. It should literally be just ‘what we do.’
It offends me when people don’t take DEI seriously and consider it to be optional or merely a box to be ticked, rather than actually baking it into what they are doing. Employers need to consider the position they play in excluding diverse talent and become more proactive in dismantling the barriers people face. If you view it as simply a tick box exercise, that shows that you do not take the issue seriously and lack the understanding of the multitude of benefits having a diverse workforce brings. If employers don’t effectively implement these changes now then nothing will change. The time is now.
Where is diversity and inclusion at the moment?
Diversity is incredibly important to us at Habito. As we grow as a business, we not only measure and communicate our diversity to the company at large but we also look at the unique challenges when it comes to scaling. We place a lot of value in our culture and diversity and inclusion play a big part in building and nurturing that culture. It’s my responsibility to bring people into the business - those people bring with them skills and talent but also cultural currency. Working with companies such as BYP is an example of how we make sure we achieve this. We think about diversity as part of what we do when it comes to hiring people and how we think. Having diversity in thought counts. In order for us to do that, we require people who come from different backgrounds and cultures and can offer diversity of perspective and thinking.
What is the current culture of Habito?
I’ve been at Habito for three years and when I joined we were a small team of 40 or so members. Our company values are at the forefront of every decision made and underpin our culture. You need to design your values based on the culture you want to build as they are intrinsically linked. Habito’s values are ‘Empathise first’, ‘Build better things’, ‘Be 100% responsible’ and ‘Have backbone’. I am proud to say that there is complete transparency in the business in terms of what is going on, how we do things and what challenges we are facing. Habito is very open as an organisation and we share everything with our teams. We meet as a whole company every week for an hour and as shareholders in Habito, we meet once a quarter to hear Dan, our Founder & CEO, talk through our commercial performance. We conduct quarterly engagement and internal comms surveys to measure the impact of our values and the impact of our company rituals on the happiness of our team.
We are very much a mission and values led culture at Habito and invite our employees to engage in our internal networks as much as possible. We have multiple Slack Channels in which our employees can communicate and have honest conversations about the topics they care about most as well as their concerns. The LGTBQ+ community is incredibly active! Moreover, we frequently host Listen and Learns in which we bring in thought leaders to share their experiences with our team and open up wider conversations. We were recently joined by Reggie Nelson who provided us with excellent insight on mentoring and career progression. Stonewall’s Ruth Hunt session was very well received and we will continue to reach out to inspirational figures who have faced adversity, come out the other side and are willing to share their findings with us. Moving forward, the way we are going to cultivate a diverse and inclusive environment is by cultivating safe spaces in which people can openly discuss their views. It is up to all of us to continue to talk about these things.
How are you using this informed knowledge to attract diverse talent?
As an ethnic minority myself, I am acutely aware of the challenges minorities face and that it may be more difficult for me to get a job than my white counterparts. For this very reason, it's incredibly important that we do whatever we can to ensure that Habito is a real diverse environment. People from diverse backgrounds want to work for companies that are aware of diversity and inclusion - Habito is just that. In order to attract diverse talent we have revamped our careers page, reviewed our culture handbook, and feature countless blogs and employee testimonials on our website. We understand that in order for you to attract diverse talent then you have to first show that you are a diverse employer.
We have transformed our hiring process. Our interview panels are conducted by people that make up a true representation of Habito from a cross section of the business. We carry out Culture Add Values Fit interviews to minimize bias within the interview process. This enables us to assess how our candidates match Habito’s values and ethos but, even more importantly, the values and culture that our prospective candidates can bring to Habito. It’s not about just fitting in - it is about adding value.
We review all our job adverts before posting and run them through a gender decoder to ensure the language used doesn’t alienate anyone. Excitingly, we are in the process of updating our applicant tracking system, to further eliminate biases that may unintentionally creep in. Our new system will remove the need for CVs and applicants will be able to complete work samples instead. They will know that they are being judged purely on their ability - not their background, name, grades or gender.
What does your partnership with BYP mean to you?
For us, as a business, it allows us to really understand what's going on in the world when it comes to diversity and inclusion. The reason we partnered with BYP Network was to increase diversity within Habito and make people aware that we are committed to being a diverse employer. The partnership with BYP is very much because we want to raise awareness when it comes to diversity and inclusion. One of the ways we are looking to do that is by learning from and working with organisations such as BYP.
What are your hopes for the future - how will you continue to fight the ‘good fight?’
It's about taking the small steps, not just doing it because everyone else is or for the performance aspect. For us, we do not ‘think it’s the right thing to do’ - we know it is. This is the direction that everyone should be going in. Partnering with BYP Network, SheCanCode, Applied & London tech ladies and there's more to come, is just the start of our journey. Working collaboratively, our partnership can really grow as we understand your network and vice versa. We know that you are thought leaders in your field, value your insights and have noted your very reputable partners. We greatly anticipate what lies ahead as this is just the beginning for us.