‘DEI initiatives are designed to create a more inclusive and equitable workplace by promoting diversity’
We spoke to Joe Taffurelli, Chief Operating Officer of Liquid Friday, about advocating for EDI and LGBTQ+ rights, how communities can better support DE&I, what it means to be a Stonewall Diversity Champion, and much more.
Before we start, can you give us an overview of Liquid Friday and your role in the company?
Liquid Friday’s core business is providing contractor payroll and support services to thousands of agency workers across the UK. We started small in 2006 from a cramped office in Portsmouth to now supporting more than 5000 contractors across more than 400 recruitment agencies from our Head Office at Port Solent marina.
We’re always looking at ways we can expand and enhance our offering to contractors and recruitment agencies and in 2019 we launched an invoice finance division, Liquid Link. We also invest a lot in R&D to better position ourselves in what can be an undifferentiated market.
This last year alone we’ve launched our contractor app and a software platform for recruitment agencies which provides insights on candidate behaviour and allows them to place workers faster.
I’ve been with the company for 11 years now, starting off as Customer Care Manager back in the day. I took a place on the Board in 2022 and my role now is COO. I wear many hats but primarily I work with the CEO and Board on developing, shaping, and executing the business’s upcoming strategies and working towards our vision of building a better workforce world. One of the things that sets Liquid Friday apart is its integrity and values in what can be quite a cut-throat industry, and that includes an embedded culture of inclusion.
Can you tell us about how you advocate for EDI and LGBTQ+ rights in the recruitment and contractor payroll industry?
Advocating for EDI and LGBTQ+ rights in our industry involves actively promoting inclusive policies and practices and leading by example.
This includes promoting diverse hiring, practising inclusive recruitment and promotion processes, educating industry professionals about LGBTQ+ issues and discrimination through thought leadership, and collaborating with like-minded individuals and organisations to effect positive change.
I actively work to dismantle biases and barriers within the industry, to hopefully create a more welcoming and equitable environment for everyone, regardless of their gender identity or background.
Do you believe that judgements on a person’s ability to carry out a working role in a company should be based on whether they tick a DEI box?
No, judgements on a person’s ability to carry out a working role in a company should not be solely based on whether they tick a DEI box.
DEI initiatives are designed to create a more inclusive and equitable workplace by promoting diversity and eliminating biases and discrimination. However, it’s essential to assess individuals based on their qualifications, skills, experience, and competence relevant to the job. DEI efforts should not compromise the hiring or promotion of individuals who are not qualified or capable of performing their job responsibilities effectively.
The goal of DEI is to ensure that everyone has an equal and equitable opportunity to succeed in the workplace, but it shouldn’t prioritise diversity over competence; that undermines the whole concept of DEI.
Liquid Friday sponsors Portsmouth Pride. In what ways does your company support Portsmouth Pride?
We were really proud to be a principal commercial partner of Portsmouth Pride this year. As a business which strives to provide a fully equitable, diverse, and inclusive working culture where everyone can be themselves, in partnering with Pride we got to put our money where our mouth is, securing vital funding for their work, providing strategic advice and making our office space available for the committee’s use. Meanwhile, we got to be part of something brilliant in our local community. Every part of the business was engaged in supporting the event; the team really got behind it.
We have already committed to continuing the partnership in 2024 and 2025 and have also pledged the resources and expertise of our marketing team to support Portsmouth’s bid to hold UK Pride in 2025, so watch this space!
In what ways can companies better support DEI and LGBTQ+ in their communities?
Companies have a significant role in supporting DEI and LGBTQ+ and it really begins at your own door, by implementing inclusive policies and hiring practices and providing ongoing diversity and inclusion training for employees to increase awareness and understanding of LGBTQ+ and DEI issues. It is also key to ensure that leadership is on board with DEI and LGBTQ+ initiatives, both internally and externally, and to lead by example.
In the wider community, I believe the best way to support and promote EDI is to be vocal and visible about it and use your business’s standing and influence for good. This may include sponsoring or participating in LGBTQ+ and DEI community events (like we have with Pride), openly supporting legislation and initiatives that promote equal rights, and taking part in public awareness campaigns.
What does it mean to be a Stonewall Diversity Champion?
Being a Stonewall Diversity champion is a signpost that we are an inclusive workplace where everyone is free to be themselves and be given equal opportunity to thrive. It’s a visible way for a business to demonstrate its commitment to LGBTQ+ inclusion and equality. Collaborating with Stonewall gives employers the confidence and tools they need to become LGBTQ+ leaders and create a workplace culture that can attract, retain, and nurture LGBTQ+ talent.
As a Stonewall Diversity Champion, we’re pledging support and raising funds for LGBTQ+ issues but in return, we get access to a wealth of guidance and resources on workplace inclusion – it is truly a two-way partnership.
In what ways would increased DEI in the workplace encourage a better work environment?
I could talk on this subject for hours! There are loads of ways that increased DEI in the workplace fosters a more vibrant and productive work environment. Firstly, a diverse workforce brings together people from different backgrounds, perspectives and experiences, leading to a broader range of ideas and creative problem-solving.
Secondly, when employees perceive that their employer values their unique identities and experiences, they feel more engaged and motivated, which leads to higher job satisfaction and retention rates. Thirdly, DEI initiatives help reduce bias and discrimination, creating a safer and more respectful workplace for everyone. An inclusive culture promotes teamwork and collaboration, as teams are more cohesive when people feel respected and heard.
Ultimately, increased DEI not only benefits employees but also enhances innovation, productivity and business success; there’s literally no downside.
What, to you, makes a good business leader?
Above all, good business leaders have to practice what they preach, this applies across the board.
Specifically in terms of DEI though, a good business leader is someone who champions and embodies diversity and inclusion principles in their leadership style and follows this through with action. This includes practising inclusive management, promoting diverse hiring and advancement, investing in DEI education and holding themselves accountable for progress.
To me, a good leader creates a culture where all employees feel valued, heard and respected, while also banging the drum for DEI outside the boundaries of their own business, to inspire others within their own industry and beyond.