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Driving Inclusion at Very, Head of Talent Acquisition, Sean Allen

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The Very Group, operator of Very.co.uk and Littlewoods.com, provides Recite Me online accessibility and language tools on its careers website to promote an inclusive recruitment process. We caught up with Sean Allen, Head of Talent Acquisition at The Very Group to discuss his journey to his career today and the importance of attracting a diverse talent pool.

Could you tell me a bit about your role as Head of Talent Acquisition at Very Group?

As Head of Talent Acquisition I’m responsible for implementing and executing our recruitment strategy across the business. Led by our Director of Talent Capabilities, I work closely with the Head of Academies and Head of Talent and Development to ensure we attract, select, develop and retain amazing people here at The Very Group. I’m also responsible for providing the direction, environment and support for the TA team to be able to deliver our business goals.

What has been the career journey that has brought you to where you are today?

I originally cut my teeth in recruitment starting out agency side leading a contract practice with a focus on IT and Business Change across Yorkshire and the North West. After 3.5 years I decided to take the leap into internal (not as common then as it is now) joining the Yorkshire Building Society, again with a tech lens. I also dabbled in Audit, Credit Risk, Information Security amongst other areas but my main focus was always Tech and Product. After 3.5 years at Yorkshire BS I joined Sky. They’d launched a new tech hub in Leeds, and I was part of a small team helping transition some of their tech teams from Osterley to Leeds. We hired over 500 people across tech in 2 years. Following that project and after a short stint at CallCredit (now TransUnion) I took a dream role at the BBC focussing on their engineering practices in Media City (plus Glasgow and Cardiff) before BJSS took a leap of faith in bringing me in as their TA Manager for Leeds. After nearly 3 years growing the team, practice and incorporating new locations, I had the opportunity to step up once again, this time into a new sector – Retail – at The Very Group. An opportunity I couldn’t turn down after meeting my boss Vicky and the Talent team and seeing the vision the Talent and Development team are undergoing.

Central to my personal journey have been some amazing (free) communities where I’ve been able to network with peers and industry leaders to learn from and share knowledge with. Communities such as DBR and RL100. This has enabled me to keep learning and develop my leadership skills to be a supportive and empathetic leader.

Why do you think that it is important to encourage a diverse and inclusive recruitment process?

For me it starts with inclusion at the heart of the organisation. If you’re not truly inclusive, then there is core work to do before you start to attract talent to the business.

It’s about having an environment which takes on feedback and constantly wants to learn to improve. I’ve yet to see one ‘perfect’ recruitment process. What we can all do more of is listen to our candidates, hiring managers and colleagues and implement changes to keep working towards a more inclusive process. If I can make one change that gives someone a fair platform to perform to their best at an interview, then I’m succeeding in my role.

I also believe community engagement is also key to DEI. To share knowledge and challenge how we can all learn and improve.

How has Recite Me helped you on this journey?

It’s enabling candidates access to apply to roles here at The Very Group they may very well have been unable to without this. We’re still on a journey, but Recite Me has helped us with one of those steps – the start of a more inclusive journey to working at The Very Group.

Why is it important for the retail industry to drive inclusion?

Our workforce must represent our market and customers but it’s important to any industry to drive inclusion. We’re all human and should all be treated equally as such. There is no industry, role or company that is above this. This is a basic human right. It’s fundamental before companies place the focus on more diverse teams driving better outcomes and higher profits.

What do you hope for the future of the recruitment and retail industry?

I hope that recruitment in all industries truly embrace inclusion and diversity in its many forms. I hope that leaders in the recruitment industry continue to challenge the status quo. I hope businesses truly appreciate the value of recruitment and invest in it as much as other business areas.

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