BUILDING A DIVERSITY EMPIRE, FROM SCRATCH
By the Editorial staff
With no financial backing and from a kitchen table during a recession Morgan Lobb set up DiversityJobs.co.uk in January 2011 to help people from under privileged backgrounds and diverse communities gain access to jobs and careers and to provide an inclusive alternative to a recruitment industry rife with discrimination. Fast forward to 2019 the business has helped millions of people find the right employment and is now Europe’s largest diversity and inclusion focussed careers website. Morgan’s business works across a multitude of industry sectors including a large number of government departments https://www.vercida.com/uk/employers
Rebranded to VERCIDA.com in 2018 the website is considered the most accessible jobs board in the world, and can even be used by individuals who have complete sight loss, dyslexia, English as a second language and mobility impairments. The website was built specifically to ensure people from diverse communities can access meaningful employment with employers that are inclusive. VERCIDA is an acronym that stands for Values, Equality, Respect, Culture, Inclusion, Diversity, Accessibility.
The story of VERCIDA and Morgan’s passion to drive the message of inclusion through British commerce defies the odds going against it and is a success story worthy of distinction. Morgan was brought up by a single mum in council estates across the South West of England during the 70’s, he attended numerous schools and by the time he was 11 had moved home more than a dozen times due to his mother’s desire to better her life and settle in London (moving was by way of council house exchanges). Having lived in some of the poorest most deprived areas of Cornwall and Bristol Morgan experienced first-hand how difficult life can be to individuals born into a low social economic demographic. Morgan left school at the age of 15 with no meaningful education results to speak of, he had a mish mash of education across numerous schools and was barely able to write or spell he relied on charm, wit and honesty to secure his first job as a telesales trainee within the recruitment industry. Working to secure recruitment agencies sales leads Morgan learned very quickly that people from underprivileged backgrounds and diverse communities were often side lined from jobs that were being advertised because they “didn’t fit the stereotypical candidate profile” that earned recruitment agents their placement fee. Morgan quickly rose to the challenges of his job and worked tirelessly to make up for his shortcomings, he worked his way up to become a director of the business and eventually owned a third share of the company. It was only eventually when a partner of the business defrauded the company of thousands of pounds during the passing of his mother due to cancer Morgan decided to move his career on.
During the following years Morgan worked for several businesses and travelled the world experiencing different cultures for 2 years before he settled back in London in the early 2000’s which saw the rise of the internet as a force within business. Morgan secured a job with a growing internet business Monster.com which went on to become a billion $ turnover business in over 50 countries. Morgan enjoyed a successful 4 years within Monster and saw the rise of the internet revolution with the recruitment sector. From Monster joined an American start-up .com that was looking to gain a foothold in the UK, during this time he married his first wife and saw the birth of his daughter Mila in 2010. Unfortunately due to complications during the birth his wife suffered severe blood loss and nearly died during the emergency caesarean, she is alive today only due to sufficient stock of her blood type that day. Morgan’s employer terminated his employment on learning he would need to take at least 3 months off to become a career to his wife and child during the recovery period, as a start-up business they were unable to keep his position open due to the climate of the recession. Faced with an ill partner, a new born child and no job Morgan felt his options were very limited. Previous periods of life applying for a job with no qualifications had proved tricky in securing interviews. To make ends meet Morgan rented out a room in the family home to a friend who was contracting in the city for a large bank. His friend would often come home upset about how he could not come out of his team as being gay as the culture was very macho. This did not sit well with Morgan who struggled to see his friend upset. Having worked within recruitment for many years Morgan became despairing of the blatant discrimination that existed at many levels, it began to eat at him and he started to look into the newly formed Equality act 2010 for ideas to combat bad practise. It was a 2am eureka moment that woke Morgan from his sleep, he ran downstairs looked up the domain name diversityjobs.co.uk and took the bull by the horns. The website was in use but was being run in a disjointed way, Morgan tracked down the owner the very next morning and asked if it was an ongoing concern, the owner was all too happy to let a failing diversity website go during a recession. Confident he could make a success of the site and a difference to the recruitment industry he decided to re-mortgage his home and focus his attention and industry knowledge on creating a diversity and inclusion job board. The following months were spent leveraging industry colleagues for support on developing a new website, 3 months later and Diversityjobs.co.uk was born. Morgan then spent the next 6 months working from his kitchen cold calling businesses and employers in the hope they would see the value in a diversity focussed careers website. After thousands of calls Morgan managed to secure business from several large employers willing to trial the site, this alongside his own investment gave the business enough working capital to survive. Morgan reinvested all revenues generated back into the website, growing a start-up diversity focussed careers website was tough going in a recession and his peers though it was career suicide, many urged him to give up through fear he risked losing his family home. Even established websites such as Monster.com were seeing their share price collapse due to the reduction in global need to hire staff.
From 2011 -2012 Morgan focused his attention on employers that were members of Stonewall, the Business Disability Forum, ENEI (Employers Network for Equality and Inclusion), Race for Opportunity and Opportunity Now. These organisations were championing inclusion, but lacked the ability to add diverse talent into the employer’s staff base. During the first year Morgan turned-over £120,000 and manged to entice an industry colleague to leave a lucrative job at Ebay and join him on a minimal wage (a £70,000 pay drop). By the end of year 1 Morgan and Ben had signed up 11 employers and were displaying over 1000 jobs on any given day, they saw signs the recession was lifting and employers were starting to have conversations about hiring in the next year. Attention shifted to industry events and pushing job seekers from diverse communities to the website to apply for jobs. DiversityJobs.co.uk clear message was we work with employers that are fair and inclusive to people. We aligned our values to include BAME, LGBT, Disabled, Gender, Age, Veterans and Returners. From 2011 to 2013 over 2 million job seekers visited the site which ignited an appetite for employers to align themselves with the inclusive values DiversityJobs stood for. During years 2013, 14, 15 and 16 Morgan and Ben focussed on building the number of job seekers visiting the site, the number of clients posting jobs, won numerous awards and increased the business head count to 15 staff in full time employment. In 2015 over 1.5 million people looked for a job via the platform and by 2016 the number increased to over 2miilion. In 2016,17 the business crowdfunded over £250,000 to develop the platform and create a website from scratch that would be accessible to people that require on line reading support (the Business Disability Forum suggest 22% of people require online reading support and over 110 million across the EU). The new site rebranded to VERCIDA.com would enable employers to share to their messages of inclusion as part of their hiring strategy and communicate why diverse talented people should consider them an employer of choice.
Such was the passion and drive to ensure the website was as accessible as technology could be Morgan had to choose a web development company based in Bulgaria due to UK providers not being confident enough to produce a fully working website the could be used by assistive technology (used by disabled individuals). The website the underwent a 60 hour full audit by the Shaw Trusts dedicated disability centre in France to ensure prior to launch it was fully accessible to people with the widest range of disabilities. The audit delayed the launch of the site by 3 months until every recommendation was met, Morgan wanted to ensure no member of society who had the skills to do a job would be limited by their disability in the application process via VERCIDA.com
Morgan also spends much of his time working with Disability Confident since it’s launch 3 years ago by David Cameron, Morgan is a steering group member to the Department for Work and Pensions and has advised on recruitment best practice to Esther McVey MP, Mike Penning MP and has taken VERCIDA.com to a level 3 Disability Confident Employer Status. Morgan is a judge for the RIDI awards (Recruitment Industry Disability Iniziative) and works with the following government/public departments to assist with their diversity hiring.
Brighton and Sussex University Hospital Trust
Camden and Islington NHS Foundation Trust
Department for Business Energy Industrial Strategy
Department for Digital Culture Media Sport
Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency
Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency
Government Internal Audit Agency
Maritime and Coastguard Agency
Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service