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HR Leader DEI Roundtable: In conversation with Matt Gowan of Hays

By Jack Campbell | |6 minute read
HR Leader DEI Roundtable: In conversation with Matt Gowan of Hays

Senior client engagement director and chair of ANZ ED&I committee Hays, Matt Gowan, joined the HR Leader Roundtable on 6 October. He discussed diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) at Hays, how recruitment can benefit from better inclusivity, and why we should be sharing vulnerability in the workplace.

Shandel McAuliffe, editor at HR Leader: “How important is DEI at Hays?”

Mr Gowan: “Hays is a recruitment company, based out of the UK, but in most continents, and our commitment is working with people for their whole life … and from a DEI perspective, of course that’s integral because the communities that we serve are extremely diverse.”


“We represent everyone in the community and many of our clients are from all sorts of different environments and backgrounds,” he said.

Editor: “Is there adequate inclusion in recruitment?”

Mr Gowan: “If inclusion starts with connecting with everybody in a meaningful way that’s actually applied, then I think employers and recruitment companies have been struggling with that forever.”

“In terms of where I’ve seen some … positive flags, there’s been small increases in named roles for Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander people, we see that a little bit, but beyond that, not enough.”

He continued: “We’ve done some gender work in terms of de-gendering some advertising, but our next focus on a larger scale is the Disability-Confident Recruiter program and working through our advertising to be more inclusive of people with different abilities, whether it be mental disability or physical disability.”

“So, there are some operational structural things that need to sit behind that to meaningfully improve the experience of the candidate applying with a disability. So, [people can] feel confident that there is good organisational work being done in that space and we’re certainly looking to echo that over the course of the next 12 months,” explained Mr Gowan.

Editor: “What tips would you give for creating a more inclusive work culture?”

Mr Gowan: “The aspect of being vulnerable, of sharing … If we see our leaders experience or talking about their own personal circumstances or accepting that everyone has a different story, in talking about that more openly, I feel that that really makes a difference.”

He continued: “But you do need to hear it from as many people as high up the organisation as you possibly can to really connect with it. But then I think it needs to be lived day to day, your mid-management as well, those other leaders and advocates need to be pushing that message out in everyday conversations.”

“I think that’s more important than advertising frankly. If we’re talking about people with disability, we’re talking about people on the spectrum, we’re highlighting experiences that we’ve had that were successful and we see how easy that is or how achievable it is, maybe even if it’s not easy, that helps change behaviour,” Mr Gowan said.

Editor: “What could Australia be doing better in the DEI space?”

Mr Gowan: “Not being afraid to look internally and be really critical. And I think if more workplaces did that, we might learn some really important things that we could change about our own workplaces right now.”

“Based on the feelings and experiences of our people from different backgrounds, asking them what we are not doing well, to help build a proper strategy that incorporates the views of everybody in the organisation, and then you will attract people based on what you’ve built.”

Mr Gowan added: “You can build better structures, but also, you’ll be able to retain people, attract people better from different backgrounds, because you’ve enabled them to be successful in your organisation. So, I think having the courage to not just write a strategy, but to talk to your people and ask, and lift the hood, and be vulnerable.”

The transcript of this roundtable episode, when quoted above, was slightly edited for publishing purposes. The full conversation from the event is at the link below.






Disability is a persistent condition that limits an employee's capacity to carry out routine tasks. It refers to anything permanent or likely to be permanent, may be chronic or episodic, is attributable to intellectual, mental, or physical impairment, and is likely to require continuous support services.


The practice of actively seeking, locating, and employing people for a certain position or career in a corporation is known as recruitment.

Jack Campbell

Jack Campbell

Jack is the editor at HR Leader.