In September 2022, I visited the Home Credit office, where I met their inspiring Chief People Officer, Alexis Pham. Following their presentation about the various ways they build a meaningful workplace for employees, we landed on a slide about Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI).
More than just words, Alexis and the Home Credit team, spend a lot of time and effort on this topic. For example, the company worked hard to ensure DEI starts at the top. 4 out of 9 ExCo members are female and come from different countries and backgrounds.
Quynh Dang, Head of Employer Branding & Internal Communication, told us that for Home Credit, it's essential that DEI is embedded in the mindset of their teams. "With more tech talents coming and more employees demanding a flexible way of working, the company wants to make them feel included and create a sense of belonging," she shared.
To that end, Home Credit practices principles that include a focus on both mindset and behaviors, integrating DEI initiatives into the People & Talent agenda, having visible leadership role-modeling, and measuring transparently to ensure the company can continuously improve on this subject.
Hearing Home Credit's approach to DEI made me think about the great opportunities that new working models like Hybrid Work present for this important topic.
Airbnb CEO Brain Chesky said that "one of the benefits of flexibility is the increased diversity." He meant geography because remote working allows companies to hire people from different parts of the country or even other parts of the world.
Furthermore, the annual World Economic Forum meeting in 2022 identified a few other groups of employees with untapped potential that can significantly benefit from hybrid work. These groups include women with primary family care responsibilities, people with physical or mental health conditions, and people facing economic housing limitations. Clearly, with such diverse communities, true diversity can be hybrid work's triumph.
To ensure that you can genuinely maintain and nourish such diversity and not just "diversity for diversity's sake," companies must implement a practical strategy. This strategy can be as simple as widening your scope. If it fits the company's stage and plans, include people who can't work in an office and other geographics to expand the amount and diversity of backgrounds and perspectives.
As beneficial as new work models such as fully remote work and hybrid work can be to diversity, equity can be a different ballpark altogether. More flexibility can result in LESS equity, especially between in-office and home workers.
Findings from MIT's Sloan School of Business show that "proactive, hard-working remote employees earn smaller pay raises, fewer promotions, and score worse on performance reviews than their in-person colleagues." In addition, a survey by The Economist also shows that 62% of employees say that "remote work brings limited networking opportunities and negatively impacts career growth."
As unfavorable as that may sound, I believe hybrid work has the right tools to combat such inequity, and the first step must start with managers. Like everything in hybrid work, managers are more critical than ever. So to practice DEI, companies must train managers on equity for all workers.
Topics such as recruiting, remote onboarding, and performance evaluations regardless of how often people show up in the office, should be trained with an emphasis on DEI. Empathy and kindness for people's circumstances are additionally critical as those usually take a toll when people become "a picture on a screen."
In last week's issue, I also talked about some questions our community of Workplace Innovators asked during a previous webinar. I mentioned how to ensure fairness when employees take on different roles. It's important to talk to your employees and understand their needs while at the same time helping them to acknowledge the roles of their jobs.
For example, some jobs, such as receptionists or office managers, must be on-site most of the time compared to other positions. However, managers can provide some form of hybrid work and allow them to work remotely for specific tasks.
A few weeks ago, in another issue of this newsletter, I talked about the importance of fostering a sense of community at work in employees to help them feel that they belong. Why is that? In that issue, I mentioned the Hybrid Paradox, meaning that while employees gain certain personal benefits when it comes to hybrid work, they lose out on the mental well-being of feeling connected to their work peers, resulting in a "huge mental burden."
The way to rectify such dilemmas may be less complicated than you thought. The key here is to personalize the employee experience, help them find the "right" communities, and you can already make the workplace more inclusive by design.
How can we do it? You can jog your memory by reading about it here. In summary, know what your employees are into, provide opportunities to form communities based on shared interests, and create community-specific events for them.
Other than that, we can do more to ensure the inclusion of all employees throughout the company. Give people a voice, including bringing to life DEI initiatives and supporting their mental health and wellness. You can also utilize technology in the right way to help include remote workers better, such as virtual meeting platforms, team communication tools, or employee engagement tool.
In short, by fostering strong communities among employees and giving them equal chances to speak out, you can help expose them to people that otherwise they may not meet and build more empathy for their peers, further growing their roots into the company.
DEI in the hybrid workplace
Done well, hybrid work can be a great ally in creating more Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in the workplace. By not relying on one physical place where everyone, regardless of their background and circumstance, has to show up at the same time every day, companies can create an open environment for everyone to thrive.
However, we can use more examples of great DEI initiatives like Home Credit's. (Just see the lack of images in this article as I don't want to default to cliche stock visuals.) Have you come across any? Are you practicing them? I'd love to hear more – please comment below this post or send me a message.
Have a great employee-centric week and see you for the next newsletter,