Building a diverse workforce – Design@ANZ

This is the first in a series of case studies exploring issues of equity, diversity and inclusion within the Design team at ANZ NZ. We’ll share our stories and learnings as we strive to create a workplace environment that truly celebrates and values its people.

In Focus: Rethinking recruitment

Shalom had recently finished his masters in design when he attended a Navāgate event, a non-traditional approach to networking for Māori and Pasifika people within the design and tech space. 

It was here he met Sachi Taulelei, the head of design at ANZ. This brief meeting led to a casual coffee catch-up, a chance to present his work to our design leads, and then finally a job as a junior designer in the ANZ design team.

From the outside this might look like fate or a lucky chance encounter. In fact, it was part of our new recruitment strategy to break into new sources of talent and encourage a more diverse pool of candidates.

How it started

In 2021, approval to extend and expand our design capability gave Sachi and her team of design leads the perfect opportunity to pause and reflect on what sort of team we wanted to be. 

We knew the business case for a diverse workforce was stronger than ever. Research shows that not only do diverse companies outperform industry peers on profitability, but they’re more likely to adapt to, and withstand massive changes in circumstance – an important consideration in our increasingly volatile social and economic environment.  

But the importance of diversity hit even harder when the team started sharing personal stories about working in environments where they felt they didn’t belong. Stories about feeling out of place, like a “token”, or pressured to behave a certain way to fit in.  

From our kōrero two things became clear: 

  1. It was important on a business level, and a human level, to have a team culture that included and celebrated different perspectives and experiences. We wanted everyone to feel that they could talk as their authentic self and be heard. 
  2. Representation matters. The right team culture is meaningless without a range of voices being included at the table. 

Holding up the mirror

It was time to take an honest look at the current team, compare it to the wider social context of New Zealand and assess what we could be doing better. 

The team had always celebrated its people and had the right inclusive spirit, but after a closer analysis we found some gaps between what we wanted to be and what we currently were. 

  • A lack of Māori and Pasifika representation 
    When we compared New Zealand census data to the team demographics, it was immediately apparent that our Māori and Pasifika customers were not being represented on the design team. 
  • Limited range of experiences
    We noticed a trend that many of us had come from working at the same few companies. The traditional process of advertising through Seek or LinkedIn, shortlisting through CVs, and hiring based on formal interviews, often resulted in recruiting people with similar skills and working backgrounds. 
  • A lack of junior roles
    The existing make-up of the team was heavily weighted towards senior roles. This isn’t uncommon in an emerging capability where you need senior designers to embed design into an organisation. However, with the move to build and grow the capability, we knew giving passionate people a chance to break into the industry should be a priority. 

A new style of recruitment

To shake up the status quo and encourage a broader range of people to apply for our design jobs, we needed to experiment with a new type of recruitment process.  

Our goals required us to look holistically at people and what they could bring beyond skills and work experience. Parts of a person’s identity that can add a valuable perspective to a role include things like access needs, life experience, gender, age, ethnicity and culture, volunteering experience and other experience external to ANZ.

"Skills are only one aspect people bring with them. We like to see people holistically – their mind-set, perspective, thought process, beliefs and values are just as important" 

Sachi Taulelei, ANZ Head of Design 

We wanted to get beyond the answers people thought we wanted to hear and draw out their genuine thoughts and values. Through a process of trial and error, we came up with the following recruitment techniques, focused on encouraging people from a broad range of backgrounds to apply for our design roles, and enabling us to learn about candidates in a more meaningful way. 

Meet informally for coffee (and sometimes a donut or two)

We used coffee catch ups as a relaxed entry point into the recruitment process, giving the candidate a chance to feel comfortable with the team before needing to engage in a more formal interview. 

Look in non-traditional places

We had to be creative when it came to letting people know about our roles as traditional avenues, such as Seek and LinkedIn, were potentially limiting.  We weren’t receiving any applications from groups such as Māori and Pasifika, and it was possible people with the right transferable skills and knowledge were discounting themselves because they didn’t have experience in design or hadn’t thought of design as a potential career. 

To overcome this, we invested time and effort into exploring partnerships with design schools, networking events and even the Ministry of Social Development.   

Referrals also played a big part. All the recruiting leaders had a view of the available roles and worked closely to ensure they were sharing and referring people amongst the group. 

Focus on the person not the role

The goal was switched from finding a person to fit a particular role, to finding passionate and interested people with a unique perspective and finding them a place within the team.

Recruit as a team – using different interviewer styles

The leadership team recognised we each brought our own bias and perspective to the recruitment process. To address this, we took the time to discover our different interview styles and what each of us was looking for in a candidate. 

Create opportunities for early talent

With a very tight labour market, we noticed there was a huge pool of new and emerging talent.  As a result, we created four junior roles as an intentional pathway for new graduates who were looking for a place to learn and grow.

Looking within our wider organisation 

Finally, we recognised there was a vast amount of knowledge to be found within ANZ. Employees who work in areas unrelated to design, such as customer-facing or development roles, bring a different view of our customers and a valuable perspective to design.  

We saw business acumen as a valuable skill and actively sought to find ways to shape roles around these transferrable skills.  Areas such as service design and design operations were perfect areas for an internal hire to apply their skills and experience in new ways.

So how did we go? 

We have a much more diverse team and have improved on a number of dimensions – age, ethnicity, experience, internal vs external hires. 

Ethnic diversity

How we increased our ethnic mix within the team.

Note: Each shape icon represents one person within the ANZ Design Centre of Expertise.

The first column, with heading ‘8 Ethnicities in 2020’, shows that the design team members identified as eight different ethnicities: 16 NZ Pākehā, two Pasifika, one British, two Chinese, one Japanese, two Other Asian, one Other European and five Other Ethnicity.

The second column, with heading ‘15+ Ethnicities in 2022’, shows that the design team members identified as over 15 different ethnicities: 17 NZ Pākehā, three Māori, three Pasifika, one African, one Australian, two British, three Chinese, one Dutch, one Indian, one Italian, one Latin American, one Japanese, two Other Asian, two Other European and four Other Ethnicity.

Design role diversity

How our team evolved after a new recruitment approach.

The first column, with heading ‘Design roles in 2020’, shows the number of roles at each level of seniority in 2020. One intern, one graduate, four juniors, seven intermediate, seven senior, five leads, no practice leads and one head of design.

The second column, with heading ‘Design roles in 2022’, shows the number of roles at each level of seniority in 2022. Four interns, three graduates, seven juniors, 11 intermediate, 11 senior, five leads, one practice lead and one head of design.


Taking the time to be mindful about how we recruited, and broadening our focus beyond work experience and skills, gave us two important advantages. One, we were able to access a wider variety of candidates, and two, we could start a more genuine dialogue about whether they were right for us and we were right for them. 

Interviews that focused on collaborating with the candidate rather than testing them meant everyone felt they could be more honest with us about their goals. Really getting to know the candidates and what they valued helped us match people to jobs and teams where they could grow and add their own unique value. 

For us, this new recruitment process has meant:  

  • a greater variety of experiences and perspectives are being brought to our designs,  
  • we have a more complex and multi-skilled team that can pick-up different levels of work and support each other’s growth, and 
  • important company knowledge has been retained, as well as new insights on our customers brought in. 

Perhaps most importantly, we have created a workplace environment where unique perspectives are valued, space is given to grow and people feel safe to be themselves. 

As we continue on our journey exploring issues of equity, diversity and inclusion, we recognise that the metrics we measure and the approach we take will continue to evolve as we strive to keep learning, take time to reassess and iterate to improve.