People Matters Magazine March 2022: The Evolution of Diversity

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The Evolution of Diversity Diversity, equity, and inclusion have broadened far beyond the initial push for representation.



Officer-in-Charge for UN Women Asia and the Pacific INTERVIEW


Chief People Officer of Planful

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Growing from representation to enablement


iversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) is an ever-changing space, evolving alongside society, culture, and the expectations of each generation to join the workforce. Many organisations begin with the first step of representation, trying to get more women into a workforce which might be demographically unbalanced. Then, as realisation of the benefits and business case for diversity increase, organisations raise their aspirations to encompass more people of different races, cultures, age groups, sexual orientations, and so on. Many succeed wonderfully. But | March 2022

soon enough, the workplace outgrows this approach. The next question becomes: can the organisational culture, the way things are done, the policies and processes, evolve to be more equitable towards everyone in the workplace regardless of their differences? Can hiring and promotion, compensation and benefits, visibility and opportunity, be made fair and inclusive for all demographics? And so the bar continues to be lifted. Then came 2020, and the pandemic fast-forwarded this approach as tolerance for people's circumstances became central to people management. In a single year, organisations' approach expanded to encompass all the 'soft' aspects of work that were previously given less consideration. From empathy, to vulnerability, to acceptance of the needs of people facing an entire spectrum of very different challenges. That shift is, of course, extremely relevant to true diversity and inclusion, because forgiving the multifarious challenges of working from home, just to name

the most notable phenomenon of the last two years, is adjacent to accepting the equally varied challenges of a diverse workforce. And the next step is to not just accept, but to enable people to work over and around these challenges. That is where progressive organisations stand today: driving DE&I by enabling people to be their best at work. In the March 2022 issue of our magazine, we look at some of the ways in which organisations have manifested this shift. We hear from a wide range of HR leaders who specialise in diversity: Silke Muenster, Chief Diversity Officer of Philip Morris International, Lauren Guthrie, VP of Global Inclusion, Diversity, Equity & Action at VF Corporation, Rachel Scheel, Senior Vice President of Global Diversity Equity, Inclusion and Sustainability at Criteo. Also sharing their views are Mukta Arya, Managing Director and CHRO APAC of Société Générale, and Dr. Natalie Baumgartner, Chief Psychologist at Achievers. And this issue's Big Inter-

in the New World of Work (18 April to 20 May); Talent Analytics: Driving Organizational Impact (02 May to 03 June); HR Business Partner in the New World of Work (16 May to 17 June); Wellbeing: the Road to Resilience (23 May to 24 June). You can reach out to for more information and to enroll. People Matters BeNext has shown us all, over the past year, how interconnected community and learning are. Now that we have extended our virtual learning programmes to leaders in Spanish-speaking countries, we anticipate even greater levels of diversity, inclusion, and community development upon the platform. As always, we welcome your views, comments, and suggestions regarding our stories. Happy Reading!


what’s this? make it bigger in anycase...


From the Editor’s Desk

view is an exclusive conversation with Sarah Knibbs, the Officer-in-Charge for UN Women Asia and the Pacific, who talks about the ongoing challenges in sustaining DE&I efforts including the difficulty in upholding gender equality and the need to go beyond tokenism. Our coming lineup of events revolves around employee experience, of which DE&I is of course an inseparable part. The India edition of our annual EX Conference kicks off on 28 April, and less than a month later the ANZ edition comes on 18 May. If all goes well, both of these will be hybrid events, signalling a much-anticipated return to normal. And keep a space on your calendars for our flagship TechHR conference (India: 4 August; SEA: 25 August), where we invite the HR community to look at how to enable people in the world of work with #FreshEyes. People Matters BeNext, our cohort-based certification programme, launches three new courses in the coming months. Designing Employee Experience

appetizing, nice!


Esther Martinez Hernandez Editor-in-Chief follow

M > @Ester_Matters F > estermartinez > March 2022 |


contents The Evolution of Diversity

february 2022 v o l u m e x I ii issue 3


Lauren Guthrie, Vice President, Global Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Action at VF Corporation


cover story


From implementing programmes to creating systemic change

Accessibility in action: Key strategies to implement PwD inclusion at the workplace

Asmaani Kumar


Psychological safety is the base for an inclusive future

Silke Muenster, Chief Diversity Officer at Philip Morris International


Being diverse and inclusive is an employer's obligation


Rachel Scheel, Criteo's global lead for diversity, equity, inclusion, and sustainability


To drive diversity, embed access in the day to day policies Mukta Arya, CHRO APAC of Societe Générale


Connecting the dots between recognition and D&I Dr Natalie Baumgartner, Chief Workforce Scientist at Achievers


Shifting from defense to offence: Measuring DEI results

Richard R. Smith, Professor at Johns Hopkins University where he also serves as Vice Dean, Education and Partnerships at the Carey Business School and D. Jill Green, Associate Dean of Student Experience and the Executive Sponsor of DEIB at the Carey Business School


Esther Martinez Hernandez

Senior Manager - Research and Content Strategy - APAC

Editor & New Product Content Strategist (Global)

Assistant Manager - Content - APAC

Mastufa Ahmed

Manager - design, photography, and production

Marta Martinez

Drishti Pant

Design & Production

Shinto Kallattu

Senior Manager - Global Sales and Partnerships

Content Manager and Lead - D&I

Bhavna Sarin

Saloni Gulati +91 (124) 4148102

Senior Associates - Content


Managing Editor

Shreejay Sinha

Sudeshna Mitra Asmaani Kumar Ajinkya Salvi

Senior Editor

Associate Editor

Published by

Mamta Sharma

People Matters Publishing Pvt. Ltd.

Senior Features Writer

Digital Head

Owned by

Rachel Ranosa Mint Kang


Jerry Moses

Prakash Shahi

| March 2022

Sumali Das Purkyastha

People Matters Publishing Pvt. Ltd.

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editors nor the publisher can take responsibility for consequences arising from errors or omissions in the information provided. Reproduction in any manner without prior permission from the publisher is prohibited.

Note to the readers The views expressed in articles are those of the authors and do not reflect the views of People Matters. Although all efforts have been made to ensure the accuracy of the content, neither the

This issue of People matters contains 78 pages including cover


big interview



Diversity does not automatically translate into inclusion

Good performance is about clear objectives, not about appearances

Sarah Knibbs, Officer-inCharge for UN Women Asia and the Pacific

Melissa Dreuth, Chief Officer of Planful By Mint Kang


By Bhavna Sarin

24 D i v e r s i t y

Driving diversity and inclusion: Role of Chairs and CEOs

By Kate Barker, HR Futurist, Global Chief People Officer & Board Advisor, UAE Federal Government


76 T h e r o a d l e s s t r a v e l l e d

Cool Learning

By Visty Banaji, Founder and CEO of Banner Global Consulting (BGC) #BreakTheBias

84 B l o g o s p h e r e


My Money, My Voice: The importance of a woman being financially independent


By Vishalli Dongrie, Partner and Head - People and Change, KPMG in India

Tech needs more women talent for better problem solving and higher performance

Sandra Teh, Chief Culture Officer, APJC at Amazon Web Services 69



From the Editor’s Desk


Letters of the month


Quick Reads


Rapid Fire


Knowledge + Networking



By People Matters Editorial Team

Nimisha Rana Pathak, HR country head for global professional services firm Alv\ and Marsal in India

Featured In this issue Carmen Wee Lauren Guthrie Lynne Scheid Melissa Dreuth Mukta Arya

Nimisha Rana Pathak Rachel Scheel Sandra Teh Sarah Knibbs Silke Muenster

CONTRIBUTORS to this issue D. Jill Green Kate Barker Dr. Natalie Baumgartner

What makes women better leaders in a crisis?


The HR leadership journey: tenacity, flexibility, values

Carmen Wee, Long-time HR leader

Richard R. Smith Vishalli Dongrie Visty Banaji

March 2022 |


Letters of the month

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How do you prepare your people for change?

Many great points here. Especially the thought that the best strategy of change management is to teach and train people first, before the new technologies or new tools arrive. It is certainly more difficult but it is also much better than springing surprises on people when they are unprepared. Let them know what is coming and give them the tools to meet it – that is how to reduce the fear and resistance for a win-win strategy. - Varnika Saxena

Want better performance? Decouple goals and bonuses

In a way it is a revolutionary method of thinking. The Pavlovian approach of rewarding performance is so ingrained in organisations. But then when people think less of the reward, and more of doing well for the sake of the accomplishment itself, they should also be more open to new learnings and new strategies. However if bonuses are decoupled, should the next step not be about giving better base pay to keep people financially secure as they innovate in their work? - Ruhan Dey 8

| March 2022

February 2022 issue

The winning solution for a future of work

Fully agree that hybrid success is not just about getting back into the office! If we are to be obsessed with any part of hybrid, it is the support and wellbeing aspect that we should be obsessed with. We need to design this future around people and not keep squeezing them into a 'new' vision that really has nothing new about it but is just the old vision recycled. - Tania Bhatia

Interact with People Matters

Redesign jobs to reduce workplace depression

Why leaders need to constantly expand their thinking

Important lessons from the success of a family business that has stayed and grown through four generations. Learn from what has been done previously, see how it matches the opportunities of the present day and use it to move the company into the future, that is the epitome of passing the torch on to the next generation. - Prabnoor Bajaj

- Cicilia Singh

The Dogs of (Office) War

Indeed, there is not often enough talk about the accountability of the C-suite outside of stock market performance. The top leadership plays a non-negligible role in setting the tone for values and behaviours such as sustainability and diversity, ethics and social responsibility. For such performance, they should also be recognised and rewarded accordingly. Can more boards be this forward-looking?

Office politics are the most pernicious and unproductive thing in the workplace. Yet we are doomed to find this toxic pushing and shoving everywhere, harming performance and careers, dividing teams along lines of pointless personal conflicts. It seems the best we can do is accept that we will be caught in some kind of crossfire and take lessons from those who have gone before us, so that we do not get pulled down or worse, become known as the managers who let our team members be pulled down.

- Jyaneshwar Laishram

- Sanvi Chakravorty

Time to measure senior leaders' performance beyond just financial indicators

Xpheno @Xpheno "I am very excited to have Kalpesh join us in our journey.", says Bala Sarda - Founder & CEO, @VahdamTeas. Click @PeopleMatters2 article… to know more. #xpheno #peopleeffectchange #india #leadership #ceo #people #team #staffing Planful @Planful Our Chief of Staff to the CEO and Chief People Officer Melissa Dreuth shares valuable initiatives and tactics for employee engagement and productivity in @PeopleMatters2. Read here: #HR #companyculture #chiefpeopleofficer #hybridwork #hybridoffice #HR Xpheno @Xpheno "We are thrilled to welcome purpose-driven leaders who are deeply passionate about helping brands uncover their full potential.", says Vivek Sunder - CEO, @Cuemath. Click @PeopleMatters2 article gtkWFrmT to know more. #xpheno #jobs #Leadership #India #startup UN Women AsiaPacific @unwomenasia “Women in management positions are twice as likely as men in the same position to spend more time on DEI work that falls outside their formal job responsibilities,” - @Sknibbs2 Officer-in-Charge for UN Women Asia and the Pacific Via @PeopleMatters2 PG1Q50IlkcN

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If organisations can just be more open to change and accepting that certain work processes are not set in stone, how much better the work life would be for so many of us. Work by itself can be satisfying. It does not cause anxiety and unhappiness. But the burdensome and inefficient processes surrounding work, or the rigid approach of the people around oneself, is what leads to stress and poor productivity and should be eliminated.

People Matters values your feedback. Write to us with your suggestions and ideas at

Freshteam by Freshworks @freshteamHQ Using the right #HRsoftware to aid your HR team is a game-changer. Take just four minutes to read this article from @ PeopleMatters2 that will help you choose the right HR software for your business: bit. ly/3qlp0Vg #hrtech #humanresources #freshteam #freshworks follow

M > @PeopleMatters2


March 2022 |


Ekincare raises $15 million in Series B funding led by HealthQuad, Sabre Partners

HR Technology

Cornerstone enters into pact to acquire learning experience platform EdCast

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Cloud-based HR software solutions provider Cornerstone OnDemand has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire learning experience platform EdCast. The terms of the deal, which is expected to close in the second quarter of 2022, were not disclosed. Himanshu Palsule, CEO of Cornerstone, said that the two companies together have

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PeopleStrong acquires PayReview in cash and stock deal

Sesame HR secures €10 million ($11 million) in funding led by PSG group

Spanish startup Sesame HR has secured €10 million( $11 million) funding. The round was led by PSG, a Boston, Massachusettsbased growth equity firm that has partnered with middlemarket software and technology-enabled services companies to help accelerate Sesame HR’s growth. According to the company’s statement, PSG’s support will help strengthen Sesame's international presence by helping the HR tech startup adapt its products to each new country, leveraging the firm’s presence and expertise across Asia, Europe and the United States. 10

the potential to deliver a nextgeneration learning and talent infrastructure, rapidly innovate a connected people growth experience, and create a new blueprint for the way organisations and their people grow and thrive.

| March 2022

PeopleStrong, a leading enterprise HR technology company in the Asia Pacific region, has acquired PayReview, a platform for employee compensation and benefits management, for an undisclosed amount. With the cash and stock deal, PayReview will now be a part of PeopleStrong’s HR Tech 4.0 platform, delivering an intuitive and powerful solution designed to automate the compensation review and increment process, the Gurugram-headquartered human capital management company said in a statement.

Ekincare, a health benefits platform that assists employers in designing a health benefits package that meets the needs of their employees and their families, has raised $15 million in a Series B round led by HealthQuad and Sabre Partners, with participation from existing investors Ventureast, Eight Roads Ventures, Siana Capital, and Endiya Partners. The startup intends to use the capital to accelerate growth, provide a more simplified experience, and introduce and test new products.

HRM services company UKG acquires SpotCues and UKG Inc, a global provider of human capital management payroll, HR service delivery, and workforce management solutions has acquired SpotCues and its mobile communications platform, was launched in 2016 to connect frontline workers more closely. The team has a workforce of 50, who joined UKG in January. They are presently accelerating development while also integrating the solution within UKG Dimensions, UKG Pro, and UKG Ready.

Capgemini to hire 60,000 employees in India this year


Walmart aims to hire 50,000 U.S. workers by end of April

Walmart plans to hire more than 50,000 people in its U.S. stores by the end of April as it expands its retail and other businesses in the midst of a labour shortage. Walmart's hiring push comes as retailers and other businesses face a tight labour market and near-record job openings. This is also at a time of year when many retailers cut back on hiring following the holi-

day shopping season. Many of those employees will work in stores, but Walmart also plans to hire in new business areas such as health and wellness and advertising, according to Donna Morris, the company's chief people officer.

The IT sector has been one of the most affected victims of the Great Resignation and talent shortage. Unsurprisingly, companies hailing from the same have started ramping up for robust hiring even as offices are gradually reopening for the employees to return to on-site work. Following the trend, Capgemini has announced that it is going to hire about 60,000 new employees in India this year. q u i c k

Employee Management

Instahyre to recruit and expand the workforce by 3 times by 2023 AI-based hiring platform Instahyre is all set to grow its employee strength by three times and increase revenue by four times in the next year. The expansion will be a part of the company’s strategic move to onboard 20,000 accounts from enterprises to mid-market SMBs, serving a candidate base of 80-90 million. According to the official statement, Instahyre is also expanding into the non-tech hiring space, where the company plans to provides the same experience for tech companies since they face the same challenges for their non-tech hiring as for tech hiring.

Google has been sued over accusations of systemic racial bias against Black employees. The complaint states that the company steers black employees to lower-level jobs, pays them less and denies them opportunities to advance because of their race. In the complaint Google has been described as a “racially biased

Compensation & Benefits

Casual workers to receive paid sick leave for the first time in Australia The state of Victoria has introduced a new AUD245.6 million

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Google faces lawsuit over DE&I grounds

corporate culture". that favours white men, where Black people comprise only 4.4% of employees and about 3% of leadership and its technology workforce. government-funded programme to cover sick or caregiving pay for casual workers and those with insecure jobs. A first in Australia, the programme is expected to cover more than 150,000 workers during the first phase of the project. They will receive the sick or caregiving pay at the national minimum wage. Prior to this programme, one in five casual and contract workers had no access to sick and carer's pay even if they are already working more than one job to earn a living. March 2022 |


newsmaker of the month

Spiralling inflation

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By Jerry Moses



s the world is still reeling from the economic devastation unleashed by the pandemic, the Russian war on Ukraine is sending shockwaves to global markets. Strained supply chains, increased cost of energy, and uncontrolled inflation. 15 of the 34 countries classified as Advanced Economies by the International Monetary Fund’s World Economic Outlook saw a spike in inflation of over 5 percent year-on-year. 78 out of 109 Emerging Markets and Developing countries saw inflation of over 5 percent. This inflation was driven by supply chain disruptions in the second half of 2021, but the situation in Europe has worsened it. Worldwide, three common factors are driving inflation today: the increase in commod-

| March 2022

ity prices, the increase in transportation costs, and disrupted supply chains. Advanced economies are already experiencing difficulties post their COVID19 stimulus-response to their fiscal and monetary policy, and many emerging economies are reeling from ongoing difficulties such as a decline in per capita income even before the pandemic. Currency depreciation has also contributed to inflation among imported goods. The impact of the war will also be felt on key industries, from food to semiconductor. According to a report by the Conference Board, the war in Ukraine is threatening significant food security problems for many emerging countries. That’s because Russia and Ukraine account for about 6

percent of global grain production and 16 percent of global grain exports. Both countries are also major sources of a number of important raw materials in semiconductor production. Last year, the semiconductor shortage caused disruptions in many industries, including the automotive industry. And the progress made post the pandemic could be reversed due to the war. Shipping companies have predicted that the sanctions by Western governments will further disrupt global supply chains and cargo movement. Many global western companies that sell goods and services in Russia have stalled their operations or have exited completely, and the Russian stock market has tanked. Global investor fears have led to a sharp decline in bond yields since the war began. In the near future, we may expect to see wages and taxes pushed up in many countries. At the same time, as policymakers and central banks attempt to tame inflation, interest rates are also likely to rise. This will not help the economic recovery, or the global labour market. It’s likely that in the coming months, many of the gains made in the employment landscape will end up slowed, or even reversed.

EPIKInDiFi hires Ravitha Devasenapathy as new Chief Human Resource Officer Australia based digital automation company EPIKInDiFi has named Ravitha Devasenapathy as the new Chief Human Resource Officer of the company, effective February. She is responsible for headlining the people function and strategically drive the young company’s future growth. Devasenapathy boasts of fourteen years of experience in HR and organisational development field. Prior to this role, she was the Head HR at Arcolab, where she was tasked with delivering end to end HR transformation. including the design of a new HR operating model.

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Skilling platform Disprz appoints Devi Maheshwari as the Director of People Artificial intelligence powered skilling platform Disprz has appointed Devi Maheshwari as the new director of people at the company. With over 12 years of experience under her belt, Devi is well versed in managing various diverse functional and leadership aspects of building the people function in organisations. Previously, Devi was the HR Head at FlexiLoans for almost two years, where she built HR functional capabilities in People Practices, HR Tech and Talent Acquisition. Prior to that, Devi has worked in the philanthropic sector with organisations like Magic Bus India Foundation and Population Services International.

PeopleStrong hires Satyajit Menon as Group Chief Human Resource Officer HR tech company PeopleStrong has announced the appointment of Hero Vired's Satyajit Menon as the new Group Chief Human Resources Officer of the company. Menon had been Head of HR at edtech firm Hero Vired since in June 2021. He comes with over 20 years of experience in the people function, having worked globally in consulting, outsourcing and technology domains. Besides Hero Vired, his resume includes companies like Innovaccer, GE Capital, Lehman Brothers, Fidelity, Snapdeal and more.

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JLL promotes Laura Adams as Chief Human Resources Officer Real estate company JLL has promoted Laura Adams to CHRO and a member of the company’s Global Executive Board, effective July 1, 2022. According to the official communique, Adams, presently Global HR Lead for JLL’s Markets Advisory, Capital Markets and Work Dynamics segments, joined the company in 2005 following senior HR roles with Washington Mutual Bank and Diamond Technology Partners. She has extensive experience in aligning people programs to business strategy and driving large-scale complex change and is a passionate advocate of diversity, equity and inclusion. She is based in Chicago.

Shorr Packaging ropes in Rekha Jones as Chief Human Resource Officer Global packaging firm Shorr Packaging has announced the March 2022 |


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appointment of Rekha Jones as the organisation's Chief Human Resources Officer. Jones has served as a senior human resource leader at various enterprise-level organisations in her career. Most recently, she has served as VP, Global Human Resources at Instant Brands. Starbucks CEO to retire, Howard Schultz returns as interim CEO Starbucks has announced that CEO Kevin Johnson will step down on April 4 after five years at the helm of the company. Howard Schultz, who led the company for decades before Johnson, will serve as interim CEO and rejoin the board of directors while the company searches for a new CEO. In addition to day-to-day management of the company, Schultz will assist in the search for and onboarding of the next CEO. The company's founder and architect of its culture, Schultz grew Starbucks into one of the world's most well-known corporations. DocuSign appoints Iesha Berry as first Chief Diversity & Engagement Officer Electronic signature management firm DocuSign has appointed Iesha Berry as its first Chief Diversity & Engagement Officer. Berry joins from management consulting firm Slalom, where she held the role of Chief Inclusion, Diversity and Equity Officer. She has over 20 years' experience in driving diversity, inclusion, and belonging within large global companies, with her DE&I career spanning Pfizer, Bank of America, Prudential, and Microsoft. 14

| March 2022

At DocuSign, she will work on accelerating the diversity, inclusion, and belonging strategy, and will also work on impact and sustainability. She will report directly to DocuSign's Chief People Officer Joan Burke. Colgate-Palmolive India names HUL's Prabha Narasimhan as new CEO Colgate-Palmolive India has announced that Prabha Narasimhan will be appointed the new Managing Director and CEO from 1 September 2022. She will join ColgatePalmolive from Hindustan Unilever Limited, where she is currently Executive Director of Home Care. Narasimhan has over 23 years of experience in FMCG. She joined HUL in 2006 and has spent the last 15 years there, moving up from general management positions to heading specific business lines. She stepped into the home care role in 2020 and played a major role in integrating sustainability into the business's product development strategy. OYO elevates Rohit Kapoor to global chief marketing officer Global travel tech major OYO is elevating Rohit Kapoor to a global role as the company’s marketing head, from his current position of CEO–India and Southeast Asia. At the same time, global chief business officer Ankit Tandon will take on the additional responsibility of Southeast Asia (SEA) with specific focus on Indonesia and the Middle East (ME) region as its CEO. Ankit Gupta, currently the CEO of Hotels and Homes - India will take on the role of CEO - India. All three leaders take on their new responsibilities effective April 1, 2022 and will report to the founder and Group CEO, Ritesh Agarwal.

Ten Questions



Lynne Scheid

SVP Human Resources, Kofax By Mastufa Ahmed


recruitment, onboarding and performance management

Top three challenges for HR leaders today?


Change management, skills gap, and work-life balance

What's your talent management mantra?



What about keeping the people you hire?

Create a positive corporate culture, improve organisational dynamics, and understand the human psychology

Where to start on these fixes?

Have the right tools and change-management models: connect corporate strategy to action, gain digital insights into the organisation, and lead managers to build strong relationships with remote and hybrid teams


The outlook for remote/ hybrid work in 2022?

A new set of cultures will emerge in hybrid work settings. HR leaders and people managers should be prepared to navigate these shifts


What does the new culture look like?

A performance-driven culture:


Talent management isn’t the sole responsibility of HR; managers also play a very important role. Even if employees are satisfied, they may still leave if they don’t enjoy people they work with engages and develops a diverse high-performing workforce by maintaining effective performance management strategies, practices, and activities supporting corporate objectives


How to create such a work culture? Combine targeting with

Talent management isn’t the sole responsibility of HR; managers also play a very important role. Even if employees are satisfied, they may still leave if they don’t enjoy people they work with

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Tips for fixing these?

Hire right the first time. Talent management ensures the company hires the right people with the right talents and skills the first time


How to deal with the Great Resignation?

Improving and enhancing the employee experience is a must. Invest in the right technology and support employees’ development and well-being


Top priorities for your company this year?

Rethinking leadership and support; redefining our company culture; building a performance-driven culture March 2022 |



| March 2022

Diversity does not automatically translate into inclusion: Sarah Knibbs, UN Women APAC


arah Knibbs, the Officer-in-Charge for UN Women Asia and the Pacific, has been working in the Asia Pacific region for the last 25 years, focusing on gender, violence against women, HIV, youth issues, and sexual and reproductive health and rights. Her remit has covered a range of organisations including UN Women, UNFPA, DFID China, Save the Children Fund, VSO and the Khmer HIV/AIDS NGO Alliance (KHANA). Sarah joined UN Women in 2014. She was initially

based at Cambodia Country Office and moved to the UN Women Regional Office for Asia Pacific in June 2020 where she is the Deputy Regional Director. Hailing from the UK, she studied History at Oxford for her first degree, later taking an MSc in Development Management specialising in Population and Reproductive Health at the University of Wales Swansea. In this exclusive interview, she spoke to People Matters about the key to sustainable DEI impact, the essentials to shaping trans-


By Bhavna Sarin


If DEI impact is to be sustainable, it must go beyond the workplace and into the marketplace. And that calls for a deeper understanding that having a certain number of women in management and leadership positions is just the start. In an exclusive interaction with People Matters, Sarah Knibbs, Officer-in-Charge for UN Women Asia and the Pacific, talks about how to step away from tokenism and into real change

formative learning experiences and the role of men in enabling gender equity.

What are your top three DEI priorities for 2022? DEI is a broad agenda, but in the context of gender equality and women’s empowerment, the priorities for this year include: Promoting women in leadership positions: The Asia Pacific region has made progress in increasing women in leadership, but there is still a long way to go to reach parity. In ASEAN, women make up only 24% of March 2022 |



We must understand that diversity does not automatically translate into inclusion. Assessing progress on metrics alone and singular indicators (like women on boards) can easily lead to tokenism middle and senior management positions and account for only 14.9% of board members. Having 30% of women in senior management is an important threshold as this is the minimum representation needed to change decisionmaking processes, according to research. There are many business benefits to be reaped from this. Studies confirm that companies whose boards are in the top quartile of gender diversity are 28% more likely than their peers to outperform financially. Businesses must take comprehensive and concerted efforts | March 2022

to not only reach the 30% milestone but also to ensure women sit at all leadership levels – on boards, in the C-suite, as unit heads, and in senior and middle management roles. Expanding workplace policies for gender inclusion: While we see many corporates taking more steps to implement policies like equal recruitment and non-discrimination in professional development and promotion, the additional childcare burdens placed on working women as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic require increased attention

to family-friendly policies. Even before the pandemic, women in the Asia-Pacific already performed on average four times more unpaid care work per day than men, and this unequal burden has been exacerbated by ongoing lockdowns and school closures. Women’s disproportionate responsibility for unpaid care work is a major factor affecting their full and equal participation in the paid workforce. In fact, a new ILO study showed that, globally, more than 2 million working mothers have left the workforce in the midst of the pandemic. Key determining factors in their decision include women’s disproportionate burden of unpaid care and that men are still paid on average 15% more in Asia. Beyond providing parental leave, employers have a major role to play in consistently supporting working parents, especially women, with flexible working arrangements, expanded care leaves, and subsidies for onsite or on-demand childcare. Moving the DEI agenda beyond workplace and into the marketplace: While workplace policies are crucial to keep working women in the workforce and to build the pipeline for women in leadership, businesses need to expand the scope of their DEI initiatives to look at how to include women and disadvantaged populations in their supply chains through targeted gender-responsive pro-

are included in fields like finance, logistics and STEM. To support women in the workforce, businesses need to actively implement gender-equal recruitment and hiring practices and then further provide ample training and professional development opportunities for women.

How can organisations steer clear of tokenism in their hiring and cultural transformation efforts? We must understand that diversity does not automat-

The so-called ‘motherhood penalty’ is the combination of workplace disadvantages in the form of less pay, lower perceived competence, and inadequate benefits that working women face after having children addressing gender inclusion from recruitment to career growth and progression. In the past three years, more than 1,000 companies in the Asia-Pacific have become WEPs signatories and began their journey to infuse women’s empowerment across their organisation. Taking this holistic view of the WEPs, businesses can help build a pipeline for access to employment by supporting community initiatives and leading advocacy efforts within their industry to ensure more women

ically translate into inclusion. Many companies set quotas for women in management and leadership and think they’ve solved the issue once they achieve these targets. Quotas can be a powerful tool – after all, you cannot manage what you don’t measure – but assessing progress on metrics alone and singular indicators (like women on boards) can easily lead to tokenism. One key to moving beyond tokenism towards deeper inclusion is mandatory and March 2022 |


With the pace of change still slow, how can organisations better balance the needs of underrepresented communities across access to employment, mental healthcare, career growth and cultural inclusion? The pandemic has posed major threats to recent

hard-won gains for gender equality and women’s economic empowerment, and it is more important than ever before to reaffirm and be accountable to commitments for gender equality. The Women’s Empowerment Principles (WEPs), launched by UN Women and UN Global Compact in 2010 as a set of 7 principles guiding the private sector to become more genderresponsive across the value chain, is a powerful framework that allows businesses to take a holistic approach to


curement schemes. For example, data from the recent WEPs Gender Gap Analysis Tool (GAT) report show that only 21% of companies in the region take steps to procure from womenowned businesses (WOBs) and only 7% set procurement targets for buying from WOBs. Firms can start with incorporating more women in functions where they are typically underrepresented, such as procurement, which allows for the opportunity to inject new thinking on DEI. This can include setting targets for procurement spend on women-owned businesses, conducting outreach to communicate procurement opportunities to womenowned businesses, and also integrating gender criteria into supplier codes of conduct. SMEs and women-owned businesses were among the hardest hit by COVID-19, and advancing gender equality in the marketplace is critical to an inclusive recovery and this represents a major opportunity for the private sector to chart a leading path.



annual training on gender bias – especially assessing unconscious biases that have tangible impacts on workplace dynamics. For example, research has shown that when men and women work together on tasks, women are given less credit for a successful outcome, viewed as having made smaller contributions to it, and blamed more for failure – this is called performance attribution bias. When male performance is overestimated, women are often not given the same opportunities as men and are held to higher/stricter standards. Women tend to be hired or promoted based on what they have proven, versus men tend to be hired or promoted based on their potential. When it comes to promoting women in leadership, competency/likeability trade off bias can lead to women leaders being seen as effective only when displaying ‘feminine’ aspects. As a result, women have to produce results and be liked which makes it harder for them to get hired and promoted, negotiate on their own behalf, exhibit decisive leadership and avoid “office housework”. Conducting regular employee surveys to assess DEI efforts and take regular ‘temperature checks’ on the perceptions to which efforts have been instilled into a deeper business culture of | March 2022

inclusion can also be a powerful tool to gather genuine feedback and assess where gaps and opportunities exist. Another key element is addressing DEI at multiple levels. Focusing only on one metric, such as the number of women on boards or in senior management, leaves out inclusion efforts for all other women in the workplace. Businesses need to take a holistic approach to offer training and networking opportunities, supporting women to advance in non-traditional roles, and providing mentorship opportunities for promising talent to advance to leadership positions. One final critical area of support that can have a major transformative effort is around what employers can do to support women’s unequal care burden. As I stated previously, COVID19 has exacerbated the

already unequal burden of care shouldered by women around the world, and this has a major impact on women’s economic empowerment. The so-called ‘motherhood penalty’ is the combination of workplace disadvantages in the form of less pay, lower perceived competence, and inadequate benefits that working women face after having children. Compounding these external factors is the higher rates of burnout experienced by women, and with the onset of the pandemic, burnout is escalating much faster among women than men. One in three women says they have considered downshifting their careers or leaving the workforce within the year (2021) compared to one in four women who said this a few months into the pandemic, according to a McKinsey report.

Employers have a major role to play in supporting working women to address this burden and ensure they stay in and advance in the workplace. In addition to the actions mentioned previously, they can also explore innovative and creative solutions, such as contracting care enterprises (many of whom are owned by women) to provide care services for employees.

sustain efforts and deliver on promises, UN Women has created the WEPs Transparency and Accountability Framework, which has been developed using globally aligned benchmarks and sets out a series of essential indicators that any company can report on and that are most likely to create positive impact. Making progress visible and publicly reporting on progress – which all WEPs signatories can now do on – can have a powerful catalytic effect to drive

return to work and retention rates, we see only 25% of companies doing so.

What are some of the biggest challenges prolonging sustainable DEI? How can organisations overcome these? Accountability is key to creating impact, and further measuring progress by integrating KPIs across pillars – from the C-suite into the workplace and marketplace – ensure efforts go beyond a ‘tick in the box’ exercise. To support companies to

change within industries and among peers. At this critical juncture for gender equality and particularly women’s economic empowerment, we need more multinationals to take bold steps and publicly report things like women at all management levels, the gender pay gap, percentage of new hires and promotions that are women, retention of women after maternity leave. It is also crucial that companies dedicate resources and create long-term strategies to advance DEI and March 2022 |


It’s absolutely essential that men are involved in gender equality efforts and sensitised to their own biases so they better understand the unconscious ways they may be unintentionally furthering workplace inequalities


A recent Harvard Business School report coined the term 'hidden workers' to reflect the missing talent pool in global hiring efforts. In your opinion, what is keeping underrepresented talent hidden despite the spotlight on DEI today? There is still a hidden bias in many recruitment and hiring processes that mean women are left out from consideration. For example, automated review systems may overlook women who have taken career breaks to have children. Corporates need to look past gaps in resumes and also retain the talent they already have by offering phased return to work options to ensure support for women to re-enter and stay in the workforce successfully. According to new data from the WEPs Gender Gap Analysis Tool (GAT) report, we see that currently less than a third of companies in the region (only 28%) pro-

vide an option for a phased return to work after parental leave. As well, less than a third of companies in the region (23%) provide mentorship, support, or training to refresh employee skills when returning from parental leave. In Asia, over one third (36%) of companies track the effectiveness of their approach to retain women after maternity leave. However, when it comes to reporting publicly to company stakeholders on the number of women who took maternity leave and the



ensure efforts are not pushed to employees to develop and implement initiatives outside of working hours. Women leaders are taking on much of the load when it comes to promoting DEI. Women in management positions are twice as likely as men in the same position to spend more time on DEI work that falls outside their formal job responsibilities – including recruiting from underrepresented groups, supporting ERGs (employee resource groups), and organising events. Looking at the data, 19% of women senior leaders spend substantial time on DEI work compared to 9% of men, according to a McKinsey report.

How impactful are virtual learning programs to sensitise the workforce and leadership towards being more inclusive? What are some essentials to shaping meaningful and transformative learning experiences and fostering a sustainable mindset and cultural change? Virtual learning programmes can be a great asset to sensitise employees, but impact depends on several factors. First, commitment and participation need to be secured at the highest levels. If trainings are attended by those without the real power to make decisions and influence organi| March 2022

While it’s crucial to get more women in the workforce and into leadership positions, we cannot achieve this unless we also have more men in the room actively supporting the efforts from design to implementation

are interactive and include worksheets to engage participants in personal and organisational reflection throughout. Finally, as stated before, the key to transformation is anchoring efforts and learning outcomes within a framework to track and maintain accountability.

Particular to gender diversity, how do you see the role of men in enabling and accelerating gender equity? It’s absolutely essential that men are involved in gender equality efforts and sensitised to their own biases so they better understand the unconscious ways they may sation-wide strategy, results be unintentionally furtherwill be difficult to achieve. Second, learning experiences ing workplace inequalities. As mentioned, it’s vital require a self-assessment that male leaders, unit before jumping into action. This needs to happen first at heads, and managers are involved in championing the the individual level – recognising biases both conscious cause of gender equality. We need them to not only affirm and unconscious – and how their support publicly or those result in tangible inewithin the organisation, but qualities in the workplace. back this up by participatThird, reflection and ing in trainings, being part assessment must happen of DEI committees, modelat the organisational level. We have found that the most ling the role that fathers play successful trainings are not in childcare, and speaking in based solely on passive input panels about gender equality. but involve active reflecWhile it’s crucial tion on where the company to get more women in currently stands on differthe workforce and into ent inclusion efforts. We leadership positions, we start this by requesting that cannot achieve this unless all companies complete the we also have more men in WEPs GAT Tool and bring the room actively supporting their results to our trainthe efforts from design to ings. Further, all trainings implementation.

Kate Barker

Driving diversity and inclusion: Role of Chairs and CEOs The demand for D&I leaders has skyrocketed as companies rush to deal with racial divisions and inequities within their organisations

D i v e r si t y



he case for diversity in corporate leadership has never been stronger. In recent years, women have made gains in leadership, especially at senior levels, but the pandemic continues to have a negative impact. They are significantly more burnt out than men. Despite the added stress and exhaustion, women are rising to the occasion as stronger leaders and are doing more to support their teams and advance diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts. A McKinsey report of 2021 finds that companies in

| March 2022

the top quartile for gender diversity on executive teams were 25% more likely to have above-average profitability. Many business leaders believe that having a diverse set of viewpoints is the best way to maximise defences against relentless disruption and diverse representation has been steadily increasing, the pace of change remains too slow relative to the challenges that businesses and society face—a clear indicator that there is still much to be done. The path forward is clear. Women leaders who are driving progress must be

recognised and rewarded. They also need to do the fundamental cultural work necessary to build a workplace that values all women equally. The events of 2020 put extraordinary pressure on companies and employees. The COVID-19 crisis shook the economy and turned people’s lives upside down, both at work and at home. A heightened focus on racism and racial violence triggered a reckoning on diversity, equity, and inclusion. Companies’ current priorities reflect these changes: there has been an overwhelming recruitment drive for diversity and inclusion (D&I) Leaders as companies demonstrate their understanding that D&I is one of their key areas of focus. U.S. companies are rushing to hire chief diversity officers or elevate existing leaders to the position in the midst of pressure to address racial divisions and inequities within their organisations. The role has long been marked by high turnover, with many in the position,

known as CDO, leaving over a lack of resources, unrealistic expectations, and inadequate support from senior executives. Roughly half of S&P 500 companies employ a chief diversity officer, and a 2019 study by Russell Reynolds found that 63% of diversity chiefs in the S&P 500 had been appointed or promoted to their roles within the past three years.

So why is progress still painstaking, so slow?

Change starts at the top

As board leaders, the Chairperson can model an ideal culture within the boardroom by: Ensuring that the board itself is diverse, including women, minorities, and diverse points of view; engaging in creative efforts to build the board candidate

To be effective, the group has to attain a critical mass of diverse viewpoints rather than simply including a symbolic woman or other minority representative pipeline; and eliminating bias from the ideal director profile. Every member of a board can affect D&I efforts, however, board chairs have the most direct opportunities, as they are responsible for managing the composition of the board, running meetings and setting the board agenda. When the chair uses these functions to create an inclusive environment for the board, it becomes a model for the CEO and the rest of the organisation to follow. Most of the time, we talk about boards and executive committees as setting the tone; I think it’s more important when they set the example. The obvious and

often uncomfortable starting point is to take stock of how visibly diverse a board is. For better or worse, the composition of the board sends a strong signal about what the company values. To be effective, the group has to attain a critical mass of diverse viewpoints rather than simply including a symbolic woman or other minority representative. My own experience is that when you are a lone female on a board, you are seen as a female voice. Once you reach a critical mass of three or more female directors, you are just seen as a voice; gender is no longer a factor. Creating an inclusive March 2022 |

D i v e r s i t y

To learn more, I spoke to nearly 60 directors and senior executives in 2021 at large global companies across 10 countries who have helped foster change in their organisations. They consistently emphasised the critical role that the chair and CEO play in driving D&I in the workplace, specifically in terms of creating inclusive environments where everyone can thrive. From their insights, there are three sets of takeaways, detailing how chairs and CEOs can drive progress on the agenda.


D i v e r si t y 26

boardroom environment that fully harnesses the benefits of a diverse board and encouraging all board members to contribute and constructively challenge assumptions and perspectives. Just hitting certain numbers isn’t enough. To maximize the value of a diverse boardroom, a board chair must also create an environment that encourages participation from all members. Chairs who are able to truly get the best out of all the voices in the room tend to be genuinely curious about different points of view and experiences. They identify which voices are not being heard and actively create an environment in which everyone can meaningfully participate in the conversation. Setting the tone that D&I is important to the organisation by keeping it on the board agenda, asking the right questions and monitoring the relevant data. Chairs and boards can and do have a direct impact on the success of D&I within the organisations they serve. The tone is hard to see or measure, yet it is a powerful tool with which chairs and board members can play a crucial role in advancing diversity and inclusion practices in the organisation. Through the behaviours and priorities, the board chooses, directors can and do have a significant ability | March 2022

to create change. The nature of a non-executive director’s role is to raise important questions with management. When board members make it a habit to regularly probe for details about efforts to improve diversity, they will encourage the CEO to pay more attention to it. That means asking direct and meaningful questions about the development paths of diverse talent and ensuring that they have the skills and exposure within the organisation to reach the top.

Chair and CEO partnership Within organisations that lead the way on D&I, the chair and CEO are aligned on the importance of the topic. Together they: Embed D&I into the organisation’s strategy and empower and remunerate the business to prioritise the topic alongside other business KPIs and objec-

tives. This partnership can make a real difference in terms of progress, as it shows the rest of the organisation that diversity is something both the chair and CEO prioritise. Make a shared commitment to role-model purposeful, authentic and inclusive leadership for the rest of the organisation. While the business case for D&I is powerful, it is the combination of the economic case and committed leadership that changes behaviour. The chair and CEO need to articulate this message authentically and personally, explaining it not as an initiative on the side but as part of the underlying culture of the business. If the company’s top leaders are simply checking boxes to comply with external pressures, the company is unlikely to achieve inclusivity and harness the benefits that diversity presents.

CEO delivers results

and sponsorship, are critical to success. The barriers for diverse talent are a lot higher; mentoring and sponsorship are crucial to overcoming those barriers. Naturally, it’s essential to understand what programs will be most meaningful and effective within a particular organisation. We have recently seen the rise of parental leave policies expanded to include new fathers and flexible working arrangements for entire workforces. Coach and mentor leaders with the recognition that diverse teams require different management skills than homogenous ones do. Increasingly, leaders are recognizing that a bumpy transition period is an inherent part of moving toward diversity—and that many leaders need coaching and mentoring to manage through it. As the ultimate role model for inclusive leadership within the organisa-

tion, a CEO must not only learn how to do it, well but also be proactive in helping other leaders learn similar skills. For all the challenges associated with corporate D&I efforts, the benefits that accrue to companies that meaningfully cultivate diversity and inclusion are too great to ignore. Diversity is vital to future-proof businesses and create organisational resilience, enabling organisations to more effectively mitigate risk and capitalise on a wider range of opportunities. As we look forward, it is the ability of leadership to create a culture and environment where the power of all forms of diversity can be fully realised that is the critical differentiator, and it will be one of the defining leadership attributes for the next generation.

D i v e r s i t y

While the chair and CEO can partner on tone-setting and making D&I a strategic priority, it is ultimately the CEO’s role to deliver results. The best CEOs: Gather data and set targets to ensure diversity across the business. This means going deep into the data around hiring and promotion decisions at all levels across the firm, analysing roadblocks and being transparent about success and failure in meeting targets. What gets measured gets done. When I designed the D&I for a large $32b global technology organisation, I spoke to two Board members responsible for D&I that we were well below the target. Within 6 months we made 6 years of progress to close the gap. Such targets especially when publicly communicated create focus and the necessary impetus to change. When there is more pressure, people need to act on it, and that does tend to work in driving diversity. Put structures and policies into place that encourage inclusive working environments and that provide diverse talent with the support systems they need to be successful within the organisation. Policies and structures that help to create inclusive working environments, such as mentoring


Kate Barker is an HR Futurist, Global Chief People Officer & Board Advisor, UAE Federal Government. March 2022 |


In t e r v i e w

Good performance is about clear objectives, not about appearances What someone's time spent in the office looks like from the outside is less important than whether they are doing their best work for the organisation with that time. Melissa Dreuth, Chief People Officer of Planful, tells People Matters about how the way people view performance is changing By Mint Kang


et clear objectives, communicate them well, and look at what people need to meet those objectives; anything outside that, such as working hours, is a distraction from the real business of doing good and competitive work. In a conversation with People Matters, Melissa Dreuth, Chief People Officer of cloud financial planning and analysis platform Planful, talks about the connection between productivity and expectations, and the importance of equipping people with


| March 2022

the skills to perform well in the hybrid world of work. Here's what she said.

Tell us about your take on productivity. Where do you think we are now? The concept of productivity really comes down to expectation setting. You want employees to feel like they can bring their whole selves to work, but there also need to be some expectations: this is our mission, this is the the goal for your job, this is when we need it to be done by. What we did

What we care about is that our employees are motivated to do great work, that they're able to do their best work, and that we're releasing the best product for the market What's your take on the impact that remote and hybrid collaboration has had on the traditional productivity and performance concepts? Before the pandemic, there was a quote going around LinkedIn to the effect that if you don't trust someone to work from home, you should never hire them. And that is so true right now. But it is also very much an evolving process. When a team is not performing, it's natural instinct for the manager to say 'We need to get together in the same office, because we're missing things along the way'. It may be a kneejerk reaction, because we've been conditioned to believe that we do better when we can physically see each other. But at the same time, March 2022 |

In t e r v i e w

was introduce OKRs (objectives and key results) to create transparency around our corporate objectives, then built department objectives out from there to align the teams and make the tasks more digestible. Once you build on those expectations and objectives, you will have a clearer picture of whether people are doing their best work and what else they might need. That picture also depends on the role. For some roles, maybe that of an engineer, or maybe someone in sales, the tools they're already using to manage their projects and products will also track their progress. For other team members whose work is less measurable, it boils down to whether that person feels like they are doing their best work. Can they go to bed every night and wake up every morning feeling like they have given 110% of themselves to the job, and the product that they produce is the very best that they can? When you get to this point, what their best work looks like from the outside actually becomes less important. For some people it could look like the traditional nine to five hours. For others, it could be nine to one, and then stepping out to take care of children for a few hours and coming back to work from six to nine. And it doesn't make a difference, because that's not actually what we're looking at. What we care about is that our employees are motivated to do great work, that they're able to do their best work, and that we're releasing the best product for the market.


we do realise that we are missing the in-person collaboration. What we've done is to get the executive team together once a month, and the extended leadership team together once a quarter. We always make sure to do it at an outside venue where we can have a good balance of work and socialisation, and that has been really helpful for us. And while the focus is more on bringing the executives together here, we also want to empower our managers to do that for their teams.

In t e r v i e w

Do you find there are certain qualities, maybe in the business culture or in the leaders and managers, that help this model to work more smoothly? There is trust of course, as I mentioned. But you also need to look at your hiring profile. You want to be hiring managers and employees who have a high degree of autonomy, but also ownership and accountability. And then you have to make sure that your internal commu-


| March 2022

nication is good. You need to explain the role of the employee, the role of the manager, even the role of the job, and then people feel empowered and have a lot of ownership in the work that they're doing. It only works if people feel that they are connected to the company values and mission, that they know what role they play in the company structure. If you look at those horror stories about the remote or hybrid model failing, you see some common issues, such as companies that thrived being remote but suddenly called all the employees back to the office without properly explaining why. Or you might find that they hired people who aren't used to working from home.

On the issue of people not being used to working from home, what are your thoughts on easing these people into the new working model? Do we need to train them in a hybrid-specific set of soft skills? Yes, a big part is identifying the skills that are needed to do the job in this particular way. And in the hybrid or remote context in particular, if you've never been exposed to this way of working, it's so very different. My heart goes out to any fresh college graduate who had to get their first job in the pandemic, because the expectations and the style of management are not at all going to be what they might have learned to expect. On the training end, I think it's something that companies need to prioritise regardless of where you are in your career. We have

employees who are everywhere on the spectrum of life, and remote work is very new to a lot of them. And we have a very heavy Slack culture at our company. So in the onboarding boot camp, we actually do one-on-one Slack training to teach people how to use the statuses, how to show others where they are, how to interact a little bit better, and so on. I think that as long as you are taking the time to set people up for as much success as possible, and giving them the tools to be successful in your company, they will be able to settle into the new world of work quite well.

rather than talk about it externally, because of where we are on our journey. The example I'll use is the George Floyd protests. We could have easily posted something, changed our logo, done all that. But the reality is we didn't have good internal representation in our team. And we didn't do a lot of education up until that point about what does inclusion look like. So instead of just checking a box, we really focused on educating our team working with our recruiting team to have a more inclusive environment, because you can have representation, but it's those people who don't feel included in your company who you really need to pay attention to. March 2022 |

In t e r v i e w

Helping people to adapt is actually a big part of inclusion, and it helps contribute to diversity as well. How is that working out at Planful? I mentioned the approach we take to hiring and onboarding, the way we look at the fundamentals and the transferable skills that people need – what's coachable and what's not, how we can leverage that for the workforce. Here's an example, we hired someone who had been a teacher for the last 15 years and wanted a change, but she'd never worked in a corporate environment before. I sat down for coffee with her and at the end of the conversation I hired her on the spot. She had so many transferable fundamental skills: educating people, bringing them along on the journey. She had never worked with a software company, but software and Slack are all teachable. If you look at our initiatives, we prefer to focus internally

As long as you are taking the time to set people up for as much success as possible, and giving them the tools to be successful in your company, they will be able to settle into the new world of work quite well



| March 2022

The Evolution of Diversity Diversity, equity, and inclusion have broadened far beyond the initial push for representation. Today, DE&I has advanced to include supporting people according to their individual needs and circumstances. Let's keep expanding our horizons


role for many organisations, enabling to track the success of their DE&I efforts and link these efforts to a business case. Acceptance driven by the aforementioned social movements has also made the transition smoother than in past years. Nevertheless, industries, entire professions, individual organisations, and even departments within organisations progress at greatly different rates depending on their own situations. This month, we touch on some of the ways in which the concepts of diversity, equity, and inclusion have broadened, and look at how this has affected organisations' approach to DE&I. Most of all, we acknowledge that DE&I is still very much a work in progress, and may always be so, simply because diversity, as a completely human trait, will evolve alongside people and societies, and the corresponding needs for equity and inclusion will do the same. March 2022 |


layers nested one within the other, the push to meet initial goals such as achieving gender and racial parity in the workplace, or putting a stop to bias-driven harassment and unfairness, uncovered more and deeper needs. To mention just a few: the need to rethink entire systems such that bias can be minimised; the need to make workplaces not just representative but wholly inclusive; the need to tangibly show the connection between diversity, equity, and inclusion, and the ability of an organisation as a whole to perform well. So it has been a natural next step to look more deeply into the idea that people's individual challenges are not just personal idiosyncrasies, but something that the organisation actually has a stake in overcoming and a responsibility to support them through. The journey is a long and complex one. Technology has played a major


he definition of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) has evolved rapidly in recent years, and so has the approach to it. We have advanced from the initial step of trying to balance representation and eliminate various types of bias in the workplace, to a much broader move to support people based on their individual needs. Undeniably, the events of 2020 were a great accelerating factor in this shift. The pandemic forcibly pushed people to accept and understand the vast range of circumstances under which their fellow team members worked. But even before that, organisations' understanding of bias and representation was already evolving, with broader social movements such as #MeToo and Black Lives Matter spreading internationally and finding echoes around the world. Like a matryoshka doll with




From implementing programmes to creating systemic change: VF's Lauren Guthrie on the evolution of DE&I


In an exclusive interaction with People Matters, Lauren Guthrie, Vice President, Global Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Action at VF Corporation, talks about how the definition of DE&I has advanced, and what this means for the way companies need to approach it By Mint Kang


ompanies' diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) strategies have been evolving rapidly in recent years, with businesses going from simple workplace representation to broader acceptance of different circumstances and challenges, and from a programmatic to a systematic approach. This is the natural next step in diversity and inclusion, says Lauren Guthrie, VF Corporation's global head of inclusion, diversity, equity and action. Founded more than a century ago, VF Corporation is one of the world's largest workwear and lifestyle companies, and owns well-known | March 2022

brands such as Timberland and The North Face. The company has been using its reach to drive inclusion and equity in the communities it serves, following an IDEA strategy that adds the concept of action to DE&I. Lauren has been in the apparel industry for over 15

years, and first stepped into a DE&I leadership role when she joined VF in 2018 and took up a position chairing an employee resource group. In 2020, as calls for racial justice in the US intensified, she was appointed the company's first global head of inclusion and diversity

There is no growth, no meeting, no conversation in which these principles aren't relevant and play a role in driving us to stronger solutions

how they approach work, what they need to feel successful. There is a growing acknowledgement of the different levels of ability people have to deal with these matters. And neurodiversity is a really strong current within this, closely tied to mental health and mental well-being.

Could you share more about the evolution of VF's own IDEA strategy? What does today's approach look like? For us at VF, there has been a lot of emphasis on how we embed the currents of inclusion, diversity and equity into our ways of working. Our approach to minimising the impact of bias in our systems and our processes has moved from the more programmatic, to how we think about learning and education, to more systemic interventions. We March 2022 |


What are your thoughts on the wider global trends around DE&I? How do you think these trends are influencing companies' strategy today? The original positioning of diversity and inclusion work was anchored on the importance of diversity to creating an innovative culture internally. But over the past few years, many layers have been added on to this value. First and foremost, the concept of culture has grown far beyond the the lens of innovation and collaboration, to encompass a working environment in which associates aspire to show up in their full uniqueness every day and truly feel

respected and appreciated for the individual contributions that they're able to make. The dimensions of diversity have also gotten broader. A lot of the original focus in DE&I work was around gender identity, particularly within the United States. Globally, the initial focus was also on race, ethnicity, and culture. But now, particularly as we've moved into the question of public health issues, it's transformed to include how companies think about supporting associates – not only for who they are but how they're uniquely affected by global or local events, because that affects how they can present themselves at work every day. What I've seen very clearly is a broadening of how we think about diversity into how people have been affected by the pandemic,


with a mandate to operationalise the IDEA strategy. In an exclusive conversation, People Matters asked Lauren for her take on the evolution of DE&I and the place that action needs to hold in DE&I work. Here's what she told us.



Action to us is a promise, first and foremost, to our people that we are committed to this work for the long term. It's not about saying the right things, but about really committing to doing the right things, and in doing so, seeing the measurable impact of that work have also shifted from an internal to a more external focus: from supporting those within our immediate corporate environment, to supporting the communities in which we live in and operate. For a company like us, with a large house of brands, we also need to consider how we are supporting our consumers around the globe more fully as well. This work of broadening our scope is relevant not only in how we think about our work, but how | March 2022

we execute that work on a daily basis. And so there is no growth, no meeting, no conversation in which these principles aren't relevant and play a role in driving us to stronger solutions.

You have an 'action' component to VF's strategy, which is something not very common in DE&I so far. How did that come about? Originally, our team was named D&I – diversity and inclusion – and it was focused on diversifying the internal demograph-

ics of our population. We had a leader come into the business about four years ago who really emphasised the importance of inclusion as a cultural tenet, and because of that we flipped the naming convention to inclusion and diversity in order to lead with the cultural concepts of building allyship, advocacy, and ultimately authentic belonging for our associates. Over the past few years, we've seen much stronger and more holistic corporate social responsibility efforts. And for us that has meant an opportunity to really connect some of the activation that's happening from a workers' rights perspective, as well as a responsible sourcing and sustainability perspective, with the associated experience and community engagement. And that's the equity piece: looking at how we're deconstructing systems. With that came a need to more directly address transparency and accountability, and that's the action piece. How do we move beyond rhetoric and language and into really measurable impact that has long term goals, where we hope to really seek and drive change on behalf of our stakeholders around the globe? Action to us is a promise, first and foremost, to our people that we are committed to this work for the long term. It's

not about saying the right things, but about really committing to doing the right things, and in doing so, seeing the measurable impact of that work.

way. And so we measure our success based upon the feedback that we hear from both of those critical stakeholder groups.

March 2022 |


What do you think is one common misconception that holds companies back from incorporating action into their DE&I strategies? It's not necessarily a misconception, but maybe a hesitation that keeps companies from stepping into this sphere, because at the heart of a lot of conversations about diversity, equity and inclusion are conversations about identity: conversations that are influenced by social movements and even political domains. It can feel very big, and it keeps people from stepping into the work, I think, because they're not sure what's going to drive meaningful impacts. This brings up a conversation around intention versus impact. And I think a big misconception in this space is that intention is all that matters – we want to do the right thing, we want to be good people. But it takes work to drive impactful DE&I strategies, and that is about really applying all the strategic prowess that organisations have to build cohesive long term plans, to build the right testing mechanisms, to build all of the structure that you would around any other business strategy or imperative.


You mentioned stakeholders – what role do you see companies playing in actively driving equity and inclusiveness in the wider community? It's been very clear that around the globe, more and more people are looking to companies to drive the change that they want to see in their communities. And rightfully so. There are a lot of global movements, whether social or environmental, that require all of us to come together cooperatively to drive impactful change. We see that as a responsibility of doing business. And first and foremost, our most critical stakeholders are our consum-

ers: those who are actively engaging with our brands, and also our own people who are the consumers of our programmes and the support that we provide as an employer. And so when I reference stakeholders, I'm referring to those communities. We prioritise our efforts according to how VF can drive sustained impact by our operations as a business. It's a combination of the opportunity and the need, very similarly to how our portfolio of global brands succeeds through consumer connectivity: not only understanding what our consumers need, but anticipating those needs. Part of that is achieved through our transactional relationships, but another part is also how we can help tell stories that are important to elevate voices, faces, and aspects of people's identity in a really impactful



And another common misconception is that there's a finish line for this work. Well, the biggest job security I have is that there is no finishing line for this work! Certainly, how we define diversity will evolve the impact on people, but feelings of marginalisation will also continue to evolve and will need to be addressed. I think that's the beauty of this work, but it can also be overwhelming for people. What we've done to get around it is focus on where there's the opportunity to further people's social experience, and that really

In some cases, we look at tangible product initiatives that are driven around either insights derived from DE&I, or DE&I-driven product collections. We watch these from an immersion perspective and a sell-through perspective to understand how those efforts are resonating. But ultimately, we must speak to key stakeholders, and it's our progress in the sentiment from both of those stakeholder groups I mentioned earlier that really drives and define success. If the reason why a

understand what's resonating with people, and we take this beyond internal demographic data. We definitely want to understanding how we're actively diversifying our employee base, but we are also looking at brand health: how the work that we're doing for our brands is resonating directly with consumers.

company is driving this work is based purely on revenue, then the ROI has not been defined clearly enough.

If the reason why a company is driving this work is based purely on revenue, then the ROI has not been defined clearly enough starts with first and foremost allowing them to feel celebrated for every aspect of their personal identity. I think there's a lot that can be learned through stakeholder engagement and conversations, but also by trying things and not being afraid of them not working.


the business case for DE&I and how that reflects on the bottom line? Holistically speaking, it's part of a broader human capital management conversation. I think diversity and inclusion are indirect measures of success from a return on investment perspective, but they're really important measures. And so we look at a broad set of KPIs to define our progress. First and foremost is employee sentiment. We use surveys to measure the impact of our programmes over time and

On the topic of impact, what are your thoughts on | March 2022

Tell us about your approach to communicating your DE&I initiatives and progress to stakeholders. We use big enterprise-level initiatives as well as smaller, more organic conversa-

One final question: you mentioned earlier that the greatest challenge is actually to take the first step. What's a good way to get things moving? A call to action. A really clear positioning around why this work is important to the organisation. There are a few ways to find this

positioning, such as data. Data does not hide the truth. It can unveil where there's an immediate need, especially in human capital metrics such as talent acquisition rates, promotion rates, hiring rates, attrition, and other KPIs. Once you start to look at these through different levels of diversity, you can start to see where there may be bias impacting your organisation and your systems. It provides a really clear place to start. You can further advance this by asking questions about the why, really getting to the root cause. Have conversations with your people around their experience and ask really direct questions about their sense of belonging. That can also unveil really clear opportunities to get started in this work. March 2022 |


Finally, our brands have been very vocal, and even more so over the past two years as they recognised the macro forces that have been affecting all of us around the globe. And so they have a number of ways in which they can tell their story, linked to both their products and their brand storytelling platforms. And so that becomes another important way for us to anchor our storytelling and the authenticity and DNA of our brands.


tions. At the highest level, we issue an annual report that details our global progress against our initiatives and tells a bit of our story. We also have town hall conversations with our associates – in fact, DE&I is included in pretty much every global town hall we have, as an opportunity to lean in on certain aspects of our agenda. I think it's really important that both things happen: that we're providing transparency and upholding our own accountability, and that we're also using it as an opportunity to share the work that our leaders and associates are driving. We also encourage our leaders to put together their own comprehensive plans around DE&I and drive it within the performance management process and goal setting processes so that becomes another way to reinforce not only again what our intentions are, but how we're measuring impact. And the goals we set are not anchored on diversity demographics. They're anchored on programmatic execution behaviours that we want to see come to life much more in our culture, anchored around the equity and inclusion aspects of our strategy. That's actually part of how we measure success of leadership: how they are accomplishing those goals over time.




Accessibility in action: Key strategies to implement PwD inclusion at the workplace

As organisations examine their practices for disability inclusion, a change in hiring practices and creating the right company culture is bound to make a significant difference

soft found that while 89% of people want their organisation to be inclusive to those with intellectual disabilities, only 29% expressed no concerns about hiring someone with an intellectual disability. Closer to Asia Pacific, a 2020 Kantar survey By Asmaani Kumar commissioned by Special Olympics Asia Pacific found great many people live that while 81% of people with disabilities of surveyed across seven Asia some kind. But they Pacific countries felt that don’t always have the oppor- PWIDs are able to work in a tunity to work with those paid position, 60% perceive disabilities, often because them to need a lot of help in employers misunderstand the workplace,” said Dipak the nature of their needs and Natali, President & Managare reluctant to include them ing Director, Special Olymin the workforce. “According to a 2021 report from the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific, there are nearly 472 million persons with disabilities within the APAC region. Additionally, a global study by Skill-


pics Asia Pacific in a exclusive interaction with People Matters. Citing how these numbers point out the challenges that continue to remain in the disability inclusion landscape at the workplace across APAC, Jaya Virwani, EY GDS Ethics and Diversity, Equity and Inclusiveness leader said, “There’s so much work still to be done.” Although organisations are investing in bringing to the table a number of tools, technologies and policies to drive the diversity agenda, Natali rightfully pointed out an important lesson for the

There is a difference between meaningful employment versus hiring to meet a diversity quota – and existing policies will need to change for companies to truly be an inclusive space for PwDs to work in


| March 2022

Tying up with disability stakeholders can have a significant impact on the talent pipeline for your organisation. Chan Yit Foon, Senior Vice President, Human Resources, Marina Bay Sands shared with us the story of how her organisation’s Food & Beverages team back in 2010 took in trainees from Metta School, a local school for students with special needs, of whom three went on to become fulltimers. Today, with the F&B industry facing increasing challenges in finding personnel, this lesson can be important for organisations who wish to expand their talent pool.

organisations are initiating innovative strategies to further the agenda of inclusion, all their planning might fall flat if the workforce is not made aware of the policies in place. Accessibility in information is as important as accessibility in infrastructure.

The role of company culture in disability inclusion

As pointed out by Paul Francis Chong, Operations Director, Malaysia & Singapore,

When it comes to creating an inclusive work culture, recruitment is a critical starting point and so is ensuring an ergonomic work environment with the best technologies in place for neurodivergent individuals and how systems need to be in place with a leadership buy-in to give way to different forms of testing and interviewing for candidates. In line with this, onboarding also has to be carried out keeping the spectrum of disability of the concerned hire in mind. There is a need to broaden the ways organisations attract and onboard talent, a long term view becomes critical. Another interesting initiative being carried out by EY GDS and brought up by Virwani is the creation of a ‘PwD Playbook.’ Even though

Sodexo, there is a need to shift the mindset around PwD at the workplace. A common perception among companies is that significant workplace and workflow modifications are required, especially for consumerfacing roles. At the same time, he said organisations “may struggle to pinpoint common barriers, such as the use of ableist language, learning to approach PwD the right way when expressing our concerns and offering our help, as well as to recognise and reinterpret communication styles.” What Sodexo has impleMarch 2022 |


Re-examine your recruitment models to foster inclusive hiring practices

Employers should also take note of the recruitment policies and processes in place, even the most simple ones. In an interaction with us, Nishigandha Shendge, HR Manager at Fynd called for the provision of alternate formats for application forms and assistance in filling them for candidates with disabilities. This can become applicable to forms filled within the organisation as well. Virwani also brought this point up in our discussion by taking up the case


HR community at large. He said, “There is a difference between meaningful employment versus hiring to meet a diversity quota – and existing policies will need to change for companies to truly be an inclusive space for PwDs to work in. You do not hire someone because they have a disability, you hire someone because they can do the job, regardless of their disability. PwDs can advocate for themselves when they’re given the opportunity, right information, training, and support. We need more such meaningful engagements and listening to happen at the workplace.”



mented keeping these hurdles in mind is to first demonstrate how disability has a wide spectrum by hiring PwD at their microproduction kitchen. In a small workspace with the right workflow adaptations, PwD have been empowered to work well in a fast-paced environment like a production kitchen. Similar initiatives have also been taken by Flex as shared by Sandra Andrews, Senior Director HR, Flex India. Given that most of the conversations about disability tend to centre around physical disabilities, the "Flex Inclusive Factory" at Flex Zhuhai in China has set up a special assembly line for employees with intellectual disabilities namely Down Syndrome and Autism. At EY GDS, cognitive disabilities are factored into the learning content that is made available to their employees; the intention is to make content accessible to | March 2022

those with neuro-divergent individuals and to recognise that there are indeed “different starting points.” When it comes to creating an inclusive work culture, recruitment is a critical starting point and so is ensuring an ergonomic work environment with the best technologies in place. As Natali said, “It is important to think through what the environment that PwDs will be coming into will look like. This requires effort from all employees, and they must be open to having authentic conversations.” From having buddies and coaches at the workplace for smoother onboarding to resource groups for PwD employees to connect on shared interests, support each other and advocate for change to regular check-ins with PwD employees for visibility and feedback to modifications of infrastructure through regular risk assessment and workplace audits to regular

awareness trainings, all of these are fundamental. But an organisation also has to envision the career growth journeys of its PwD employees. Andrews shared with us that at Flex, the Individual Development Plans (IDP) team assists the HR teams, and managers have regular engagement with PwD employees to understand their career and the direction they would like to take. Sodexo’s Chong highlighted many of the same initiatives. “At Sodexo, job coaches also train co-workers of these new hires, provide emotional support, and manage relationships with parents/guardians, which are especially helpful when job coaches eventually exit for the new hires to work independently,” he said. As Virwani emphasises, “DE&I cannot be an add-on responsibility. There is a need for individuals to lead this agenda from within the organisation and take accountability every step of the way.” With the right policies and behaviour in place, organisations can truly build an inclusive and high trust culture. It will always be a work in process: continuously reworking the points where employees may feel left out and investing in an environment where people are free to be themselves, express their views, and are not just enabled, but also empowered.

Psychological safety is the base for an inclusive future: PMI's Silke Muenster


In an organisation's efforts to create inclusion, there must first be psychological safety as a base. Fortunately for those who want to drive change, it is easy to get people to buy into the concept of psychological safety. Silke Muenster, Chief Diversity Officer at Philip Morris International, explains how this works


By Mint Kang



arlier this year, Philip Morris International released an Inclusive Future report developed by the International Institute for Management Development, on the methods organisations can use to drive cultural change in support of diversity and inclusion. One major theme emerged throughout the findings: that psychological safety | March 2022

plays a central role in determining just how well an organisation's D&I initiatives can take hold. People Matters asked Silke Muenster, PMI's Chief Diversity Officer, about the report's findings and how the concept of psychological safety fits into D&I strategies today. Silke has been with PMI for over a decade, and before taking the lead

role for diversity, her area of expertise was market research. Coming from that background, she brings a strong focus on measuring outcomes – “What gets measured gets done,” she told us. Here's her perspective on how to create a long-term strategic approach for D&I.

The IMD report recommends moving away from measuring D&I by selfreporting, and instead establishing broader benchmarks. Why do you think self-reporting has been the norm for such a long time? In deciding an organisation's D&I progress, the feeling of being included or

what people are posting. So we hope to get a measurement of what is top of mind for people and what is their current sentiment, without asking them directly. But it requires very good natural language programming, and then we also have to keep in mind that for many people, in our company, English is not their native language. Some people don't communicate in English at all. So that is a difficulty we face.


On the topic of measurements, what change have you seen in the way people measure D&I progress? I have had many discussions with colleagues about what we should focus on to really measure progress. It cannot be only measuring female representation because that does not really give a picture of the work you have done. It cannot be

measuring inputs either. There was a time when people were spending a lot of money on training, and they were measuring what was done rather than the outcome. And actually, what we have seen is that some of these interventions people have done are not giving the expected outcome. There is literature showing that for example, mandatory trainings with regards to unconscious bias can even have a negative impact depending on your population. And I think what we really have to measure is, what has changed with regards to our employees? How have their feelings changed when it comes to inclusion and diversity? How has the representation of underrepresented groups changed?


excluded plays an important role, and this feeling can only be measured with self reporting. Of course we know that self reporting has many issues: do people trust that this is anonymous, do they answer these questions, honestly? And if they are feeling a general frustration about the situation this has an impact on all the questions they answer, which could mean that more people tell you that they don't feel included when in fact, they're only frustrated about their their current work or their current circumstances. The challenge is that so far, nobody has found a different way of measuring this. Now something that we are starting to do more of, in PMI, is to apply technology. We have our own internal communication system, Yammer, which is like social media for company use only, and we can use artificial intelligence to analyse

The IMD report also highlighted psychological safety, which is a long-standing

What we really have to measure is, what has changed with regards to our employees? How have their feelings changed when it comes to inclusion and diversity? March 2022 |



concept but hasn't gained much traction in D&I previously. What are your observations on how psychological safety came to the forefront? I truly believe that psychological safety is the base for getting to an inclusive future. It is a concept which has existed for a long time, but it's in the last year that I've seen many more people talking about psychological safety. And in the report, psychological safety is clearly defined as the linchpin between the individual elements of inclusion and the organisational elements. Without psychological safety, you'll never be really able to make progress. As to why this has come to the forefront, I think it is because we have no global definition of what we mean and what we try to achieve when we talk about being inclusive. Ultimately, you want to achieve belong-

Ultimately, you want to achieve belonging. But you can't focus on belonging alone... these elements do not work unless there is psychological safety as the base 46

| March 2022

ing. But this report has also made it very clear that you can't focus on belonging alone, because fairness and participation are also very important elements. And these elements do not work unless there is psychological safety as the base, where people feel safe to participate and feel safe to act with fairness or ask for fairness. The connection isn't obvious, but it is there.

Can you share some of your plans to make psychological safety part of your strategy? We have planned a whole year based on creating psychological safety. Some time back we did an internal study on the health and well-being of employees, and we saw that psychological safety is clearly a base for people's psychological wellbeing. When they feel they can talk to their supervisors

about not feeling well, that makes a huge difference in terms of their well-being. So we have started measuring, because I'm a big believer that what gets measured gets done. We have consulted with employees, and we have drawn on the work of Amy Edmondson, who is the guru when it comes to psychological safety. She has developed questions for measuring psychological safety and we will include those questions in our next pulse survey, employee survey, which will allow us to also look at psychological safety on a team level and see which teams need intervention. We also plan to gamify some exercises to help teams better understand psychological safety. And we are currently working with all our leadership teams and managers to familiarise them with what

psychological safety means and how can they drive psychological safety. We gave Amy Edmonson's book on psychological safety, 'The Fearless Organization', to all of them as a Christmas gift.

One last question, you've mentioned previously that PMI, over the last one year, was able to dramatically increase the number of women in leadership. Can you tell us a little bit about how to achieve this? The starting point is to convince leaders to let the hiring process take more time than they would usually want. If you have a candidate list that has little or no women, you need to

encourage the leaders to wait for more female candidates to show up. Because in certain areas, especially more technology oriented areas, it's much more difficult to even get female candidates. And if you don't start with a diverse slate of candidates, you'll never be able to hire a woman. The next thing is to increase the visibility of female talents internally, so that when it comes to promotion and succession for senior roles, those female talents are top of mind. We've launched a female leadership programme and one element is that at the end of the programme, women give a presentation about themselves to an audience which includes senior leaders. That gives them visibility and in this way we have increased sponsorships of senior leaders for for women. March 2022 |


entiating factor between highly effective teams and less effective teams, and that is a super convincing argument for senior managers: that psychological safety is not only good for employees, but it's actually good for the business. So we have arrived at this win-win situation, where we are embedding psychological safety in our strategic goals for the company.


Tell us more about getting leadership buy-in for this change of strategy. The interesting thing about psychological safety is that it's very easy to get people to buy into it. So every employee understands immediately why psychological safety is important for them, that they can express themselves and talk about their struggles and their fears. Which is a big element of psychological safety, that you're allowed to talk about failures and see them as a way to learn rather than a disaster. And at the same time, it's also easy for our senior managers to understand and buy in, because the role which it plays in driving innovation is so obvious – you have to allow for mistakes and you have to allow for people to try something and then figure out if it doesn't work, and you have to allow for people to come up with ideas which might be only half-baked at the beginning, but which really lead to innovation. There has been research showing that psychological safety is the top differ-


Being diverse and inclusive is an employer's obligation: Criteo's Rachel Scheel It needs to be viewed as a business priority, so that the right strategic approach can be taken. But it is also a moral imperative – an obligation and a responsibility to society, says Rachel Scheel, Criteo's global lead for diversity, equity, inclusion, and sustainability



By Mint Kang



rganisations around the world are getting serious about DE&I: not just investing resources in it, but also upgrading their entire DE&I strategy to a more strategic, long-term, and data-driven approach. What's more, the more progressive organisations are acknowledging it as a moral responsibility, much as sustainability is recognised today. Rachel Scheel, Senior Vice President of Global Diversity Equity, Inclusion and Sustainability at Criteo, described this shift – which is also illustrated by her own role – in a conversation with People Matters.

What broader trends have you seen in the way DE&I is discussed and approached in recent years? Firstly, more organisations are shifting their focus | March 2022

from short-term executions to long-term, datadriven strategies to foster a stronger DE&I culture. Secondly, as DE&I becomes as much a moral imperative as a business priority, we can expect more organisations to invest in hiring new leaders and creating new roles to strengthen the company’s DE&I focus and direction. LinkedIn data revealed how the number of people with the title ‘head of diversity’ has more than doubled worldwide between 2015 and 2020, while the ‘director of diversity’ title rose 75% and ‘chief diversity officer’, 68%. I personally joined

Criteo last year as its first leader dedicated to DE&I to drive our DE&I programme and focus on strategic initiatives that can foster a more diverse and inclusive culture. Thirdly, more organisations are investing in learning and development programmes to educate employees on contributing to a stronger DE&I culture in the workplace. Common practices include DE&I training and workshops to help employees correct biases and help create a more inclusive work environment. We have been doing this at Criteo, focusing on learning paths to guide

the C-Suite level. Many companies hire a head of DE&I, but the role is hidden two to three layers below the C-Suite, making it challenging to drive real change. The DE&I role should not be seen as a title that is created just for sake of representation. Rather, it should be seen as a role that embraces the entire employee experience, with the goal of driving companywide representation, awareness, education, allyship and sponsorship. Change is difficult to drive when you don’t have the topline buy in and engagement on the topic, and I’ve seen and worked with companies where it either wasn’t a priority or it was only a Human Resources priority. DE&I needs to be a busi-

ness priority for leaders, with clear and measurable goals that are visible throughout their teams. This is where I see companies taking the lead, regardless of industries, to drive a real difference and support consistent and sustained improvements.

Tell us a bit about how the DE&I approach in AdTech, and specifically Criteo, has evolved. As an AdTech company, we understand that tech tools have an immense power to close the diversity gap, but they can also perpetuate stereotypes if non-inclusive language is not corrected. One good example would be coding terms – we recognise how crucial it is to correct coding language that might perpetMarch 2022 |


You've worked in quite a few different industries do you see some commonalities in how the various industries approach DE&I? Regardless of industry, the key to driving an effective DE&I approach within an organisation lies in the support and sponsorship at

The DE&I role should not be seen as a title that is created just for sake of representation. Rather, it should be seen as a role that embraces the entire employee experience C OVER

employees on being allies and demonstrating inclusiveness. We’ve also been strengthening a DE&I learning culture through ongoing mentoring and sponsorship programmes. Lastly, there have also been more DE&I tools and solutions developed to quantitatively measure programme success and progress – especially amid remote and hybrid work. To measure our employees’ sense of belonging, authenticity, and psychological safety, we have similarly introduced our own Criteo Inclusion Index last year. We will continue to use this index to uncover best practices and guide progress in a data-driven manner.



uate stereotypes. Therefore, we launched new inclusive language guidelines this year to challenge some of the coding terms like “blacklisting” and “whitelisting” to mitigate bias and stereotyping. These are small steps that an AdTech firm like Criteo can take to make a great difference, and we will continue to identify these opportunities for change, ultimately empowering our customers and partners to foster a more inclusive culture. In terms of our broader DE&I strategy, we are continuing to learn from past programmes, as we recognise that there’s is always room to do more. Since I joined Criteo last year, we have been adopting a four-pronged approach to help bring our DE&I strategy to life. This includes introducing focused hiring programmes to increase diverse talent opportunities, strengthen-

| March 2022

an organisation, connecting different generations and communities to develop new business solutions – including sustainability. In addition, there is a strong link between being a sustainable organisation and a diverse and inclusive employer as both topics are becoming increasingly relevant and important to current and prospective talent. We have a clear obligation to not only offer a Your remit aligns DE&I with sustainability – how are great place to work, but also you bringing the messaging to be a responsible employer and organisation. around the two together? Therefore, offering equiDriving positive impact table opportunities, and a and leveraging our assets in working environment where support of our society and our employees can contribplanet is one of Criteo’s five core values. We believe that ute and make a difference building a diverse and inclu- and support relevant socisive culture is the corneretal and environmental stone for driving creative causes, is critical to our success. We currently have collaboration and sustainaseven active Community ble change across the industry. This is because a commit- Groups (Employee Resource Groups) that contribute ment to DE&I will help to diverse communities, bridge hierarchies within ing our culture of inclusion and supporting awareness, increasing our DE&I employer branding, and creating a clear governance and frameworks to support our DE&I strategy. For each of these pillars, we have detailed quantifiable goals to be met in 2022 and will continue to work on monitoring and accelerating our progress.

supporting education and wellbeing, and the environment. And the intersectionality of these groups working together is extremely powerful. By fostering a diverse and inclusive environment for our people, we empower them to advocate diversity and find purpose in giving back, ultimately becoming more aware of their surrounding society and the environment.

If a company is out to improve its DE&I approach or even launch a DE&I strat-

egy for the first time, what should its first steps be? Organisations should first set clear definitions for the key aspects of DE&I that they want to champion within the organisation. This would be key in framing a consistent point-ofview which they would then need to communicate across the organisation to provide everyone – from senior leadership to frontline employees – a strong understanding of what the organisation’s stance is on DE&I, and how this will look like in action. Secondly, they will need to have a measurement framework in place, for DE&I leaders to evaluate the success of their programmes and initiatives, and as they continue to access potential initiatives to introduce within the organisation. March 2022 |


recent survey, 60% of private equity investors have also requested for DE&I demographic data. If DE&I is not regarded as a business imperative, there will be a lack of resource and strategy allocated to programmes that can drive meaningful, long-term, and consistent change. Rather, organisations may instead focus on sporadic DE&I programmes which would not be able to equip them to develop a tangible DE&I culture and change within the organisation. It is thus crucial that organisations overcome the misconception that DE&I is a “nice-to-have” and start incorporating this into their business priorities.


Given the evolution of the DE&I conversation, what misconceptions do you think are still holding companies back from actively pursuing stronger DE&I strategies? While more organisations are seeing DE&I strategies as part of their core business priorities, some organisations are still viewing DE&I as a Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) effort. This cannot be further from the truth, especially since stakeholders across the business recognise the need for DE&I to be a greater business priority. This is especially true for employees, with 76% of job seekers and employees reporting how having a diverse workforce is an important factor when evaluating companies and job offers. One in three consumers also considering a brand’s public commitment to DE&I when making a purchase decision. In a

We have a clear obligation to not only offer a great place to work, but also to be a responsible employer and organisation


To drive diversity, embed access in the day to day policies As organisations gain maturity in their diversity efforts, their work will begin to broaden far beyond the initial scope of gender representation. Mukta Arya, CHRO APAC of Societe Générale, talks about the DEI focus areas that the organisation has identified and how policies and practices are being adjusted to support these



By Bhavna Sarin



ukta Arya, ACC, is the Managing Director, Chief Human Resources Officer, APAC at Societe Générale. A HR professional with over 24 years of experience in multiple industries and locations in the APAC region, she started her career with India's Essar Group. In 2006, Mukta joined Societe Générale in Mumbai as Head of HR for India. She subsequently became Regional Head of Talent Development and Inclusion then Head of HR for SEA, before being appointed as the CHRO for Societe Générale, APAC. Based in Hong Kong, she is a published author with four books to her name. In this exclusive interview, Mukta shared her | March 2022

perspective of what's needed to drive DEI across a large international organisation: how to embed DEI elements in talent management processes, how to enhance accessibility inclusion for differently-abled talent, best practices to build a thriving ecosystem for LGBTQ+ talent, and what it means to craft transformative learning experiences for sustainable change.

What are Societe Générale’s DEI priorities for 2022? In Societe Générale, APAC, we have identified four main DEI focus areas: Gender, Cultural, Differently Abled and LGBT+. With a D&I steering committee at regional level in 2015, we started with creating networks with employee volunteers and creating awareness on these topics internally in the organisation. Over the years we have progressed to embed-

ding DEI elements on the above in our HR policies and managerial practices. On gender, we have been working on gender balance in our organisation, which is not an easy task in corporate and investment banking at senior levels, given the systemic issue. The added complexity is that gender ratios are not the same in all countries that we operate in Asia, so we need to have a customised approach in different countries. On cultural diversity, we are looking at creating an inclusive environment with a mix of nationalities in our organisation. In APAC, we have around 30 different nationalities at all levels of the organisation. The challenge that we are aiming to overcome is the perception of employees as well as concentration of few nationalities for senior positions. On Differently Abled, the challenge is to create aware-

approach, it is important that for an organisation, if there’s an issue of underrepresentation, the elements of access to employment, mental healthcare, career growth and cultural inclusion should be embedded in day-to-day HR policies. If they are not part of the policy and if HR and managers are not trained for those elements, it can fall through the cracks. I am a believer in institutionalising actions in the organisation, so that they are not person depend-

How is Societe Générale enabling its workforce and the broader community to What's one thing organimeet the needs of the differsations should to work on to ently abled? address underrepresentaTechnology is a big support for our initiatives tion? I would not differentiate regarding differently abled the integrated talent manage- employees. Accessibility ment approach for differfrom movement with autoent communities of employmatic doors to features in ees. However, within the Microsoft Teams to live

What are some essentials to shaping meaningful March 2022 |


ent. In my opinion, all the elements are equally important and they should not be compromised.

captions during meetings or “Reading” function in Outlook, all helps to create an inclusive environment for differently abled people. IT infrastructure which allows us to work from home is a boon for corporates to explore different working arrangements which are favourable to employees with different needs. In Societe Générale, we have made conscious efforts to create awareness on the topic of Visible and invisible disabilities through our Employee Resource Group - Differently Abled Network (DAN). DAN organises webinars, panel discussions, participates in external events throughout the year, and engages employees to know more about the topic. We have also made conscious efforts in our office design wherever possible to improve accessibility. Some locations took the lead in hiring of differently abled interns to test whether we can integrate them well and whether we can hire more employees with these abilities in full time positions in future. The network has also worked with HR on mental health care initiatives such as mental health first-aid, caregivers support group, well-being month. We currently have over 20 activities across 12 locations in APAC.


ness among employees on visible and invisible disabilities in the workforce and implement accessible and inclusive measures. We have already started on this front and we hope to see much more progress in the near future. On LGBT+, we are in the process of enhancing an inclusive environment with awareness about the issues that LGBT+ employees may face based on conscious and unconscious bias and progressive policies. Every year, we review our priorities and look at the current challenges we face in APAC countries. We believe that with consistent efforts including policies to support families, development programmes for specific groups of employees, conscious effort to embed DEI criteria in talent management process from recruitment, succession planning to development, open culture of “speaking up” and acting on employee suggestions, we have managed to build an inclusive environment for our employees and will continue to make progress.



and transformative learning experiences for the distributed workforce and bringing sustainable mindset and cultural change? The first few things coming to my mind are the debrief and collective experience. With the advancement of technology, there are various means or modes of remote learning where users could complete the learning completely on their own. However, I believe the real difference lies in whether users could be accompanied in reflecting on the concepts and knowledge they learnt and what’s next for them. Discussion with peers and a hybrid mode of training with some instructorled elements would be very conducive to make the learning more impactful. Panel discussions and hearing from people who have experienced the concepts are also a powerful way of learning. In our sessions, we have a mix of these components so that it reaches employees with different learning styles in the most effective way. In recent years, Societe Générale has done tremendous work towards making their organisation a workplace where LGBTQ+ talent can thrive. Can you share some of these practices and their impact? As mentioned above, we aim to create an inclusive


| March 2022

have been recognised for our efforts in this field by external organisations in Hong Kong and Japan in the past few years.

What is your advice for businesses that hope to achieve their diversity goals and build inclusive workplaces? environment for LGBT+ DEI is not a buzzword employees. We have worked anymore. DEI is a relatively on several initiatives in this field through our ERG which long-term cultural change for workplaces, and it takes is quite active in creating much more than the manageawareness across the organment to make everything isation through training sessions throughout the year happen. For example, to foster such as well as an annual LGBT+ week, participation in exter- cultural change in broader teams, there must be solid nal panel discussions and awareness in staff at all webinars, movie screenings on the topic, career fairs, and levels in the organisation and managers should be able to events like Pink Dot and the explain on how the goals on celebration of Pink Friday. Our LGBT+ ERG launched DEI could be translated at team level. “Reverse Mentoring” on the topic for all the 20 ManageWithout company-wide ment Committee members participation and buy-in of in APAC. I was also a mentee the philosophy of DEI, it will and even though I have a be very difficult to “walk the fair level of exposure to the talk” in the organisation. topic, I learnt a lot. It was My advice will be to have eye opening to me and to my the top management buy in fellow management commit- first and then choose “influtee members to understand encers” within the organisathe real issues faced by the tion to work on the initiatives community and how we can and implement them. Recogplay a part towards enhancnition of the “influencers” ing LGBT+ inclusivity in the and employee volunteers is organisation. extremely important and the In addition, we have embed- organisation should earmark ded benefits for LGBT+ a budget for these initiaemployees in our policies tives. DEI is an area where I and have started revising believe the ROI is multifold our internal policies with in terms of employee producgender neutral language. We tivity and retention.

Connecting the dots between recognition and D&I There’s a correlation between the strength of an organisation’s recognition culture, and its level of commitment to D&I By Dr Natalie Baumgartner

Making the connection between recognition and D&I Our research discovered that when there’s a strong culture of recognition, a strong commitment to D&I also exists.


Singapore National Employers Federation (SNEF) revealed that 71% of employers in Singapore recognise the positive impact of Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) on company culture, and 55% recognise its impact on employee engagement, but 7 in 10 Singapore employers have yet to implement policies around D&I. It’s clear that recognition and D&I are intricately linked, but this leaves us with the question: what is the relationship between recognition and D&I?



hanging employee demands and expectations in a candidate’s market means companies are increasingly considering a more permanent shift to a hybrid work model. With the increased flexibility around work arrangements resulting in better work-life balance, employees are benefiting from this change. Yet, the hybrid workplace has presented a new challenge for employers and employees alike: cultivating a culture where employee recognition and D&I initiatives can be effectively executed without physical interaction. Further confounding the challenge is the uneven implementation of both initiatives today. For example, a recent survey conducted by the

Recognition is key in driving higher inclusion at work; at companies with a strong culture of recognition, 87% of employees report a high level of inclusion and a majority (82%) of employees agree that their company is committed to D&I. Taken together, this is strong evidence that recognition goes hand in hand with D&I initiatives. When one is prevalent in an organisation’s culture, it’s likely that the other is present as well. Although correlation does not imply causation, the fact that these two factors are linked is enough cause for HR leaders to sit up and take notice. Companies who have tied D&I into their recognition efforts have had a positive impact on not only recognition and D&I outcomes, but have also experienced tangible business benefits. In fact, our study revealed that employees are three times more likely to be highly engaged when companies integrate their D&I initiatives with their recognition programmes, resulting in 22% higher profitability, 21% higher productivity, and up to 65% less turnover. Further, 89% of employees whose companies integrate D&I and recognition feel a March 2022 |



strong sense of inclusion. Integrating D&I into recognition also improves recognition outcomes. At companies where the two strategies are linked, 88% of employees agreed that recognition leads to higher levels of productivity, engagement and a stronger sense of belonging and inclusion. Undoubtedly, there are real, tangible benefits to be gained when these two strategies are integrated. To truly drive cultural change within the organisation, leaders need to start by listening and acting on employee feedback, which is critical to empowering their workforce. At a time where employees are rethinking their career priorities and relationship with work, employers must assess whether their organisational culture is benefiting or compromising the employee experience.

Cultivating a stronger sense of belonging through recognition and D&I

Combining recognition and D&I strategies also creates positive outcomes for your employees’ sense of belonging in your organisation. Employees who are recognised more frequently for their work are 4.5 times more likely to feel a strong sense of belonging, and employees who feel valued and accepted at work are 2.15 times more likely to feel a sense of belonging. A sense of belonging is critical for driving individual and organisational success. A recent survey conducted by the Achievers Workforce Institute found that employees with a strong sense of belonging are significantly more likely to be engaged in their role, in addition to being more than twice as likely to be produc-

tive and satisfied with their job — all of which contribute to greater employee retention. How can companies not just recognise D&I efforts, but also ensure that recognition is inclusive, to build a greater sense of belonging among their employees? I recommend the following four approaches: • Bring your programs together: Unite leaders of both Recognition and D&I programs to discover how each set of initiatives can work together. Planning in a silo will mean continued separation, whereas bringing those planning initiatives together will help develop organic alignment between programs. • Add recognition to existing D&I initiatives: Encourage employees to recognize D&I efforts among their peers, as interactions with co-workers contribute to feelings of inclusion and belong-

Although correlation does not imply causation, the fact that these two factors are linked is enough cause for HR leaders to sit up and take notice 56

| March 2022

This disconnect happens because employees are not usually aware of how the strategies are structured; transparency on such issues can help employees feel included and valued specific action, they’re more likely to take that action in the future.

• Create D&I recognition opportunities: Organisations can consider adding a recognition component for D&I efforts into their program, to emphasise that D&I is a strong part of company values. What gets recognised gets repeated; our previous study found that 92% of employees agree that when they’re recognised for a

Additionally, frequent real-time pulse surveys can help to keep employers on track with the sense of belonging within the organisation, and course-correct D&I initiatives along the way. Finally, leaders need to be more transparent to build visibility around how they are prioritising employee wellbeing. Only one-third of HR leaders and 17% of


• Use recognition data to assess D&I trends: Identifying key data, such as language trends, can help organisations understand and address nuances in how certain groups recognise, which in turn informs recognition training programs.


ing at work. For example, companies can leverage a platform that enables public recognition, like a company-wide newsfeed. Through the newsfeed, employees can stay updated on every recognition sent in real-time and even show additional support for each recognition, encouraging employees to participate and engage in peer-to-peer recognition.

employees say their recognition program is integrated with their D&I strategy. This disconnect happens because employees are not usually aware of how the strategies are structured; transparency on such issues can help employees feel included and valued. In times of change, we must rely on data to guide our decision making. The research highlighted today clearly demonstrates the power of connecting recognition with D&I to drive results for both initiatives. Business and HR leaders looking for ways to improve the employee experience should ensure they are focused on breaking down silos and finding ways for each program to support the other. With this clear call to action, leaders should feel empowered to take action informed by employee feedback and powered by recognition to drive diversity and inclusion from the ground up. Dr Natalie Baumgartner is Chief Workforce Scientist at Achievers. March 2022 |


Shifting from defense to offence: Measuring DEI results Is your organisation’s diversity, equity, and inclusion work done as a form of defense against criticism? Or is it an active move to ‘go on the offence’ by making genuine improvements?



By Richard R. Smith and D. Jill Green



hile many organisations are working to improve diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in their workforces, it is sometimes difficult to recognise progress. And though change takes time, we do sometimes wonder if diversity efforts are more of a “Defensive” move to avoid public or employee backlash. Some have argued that management mindsets are a reflection of societal values, which can take a generation to change. Too often we see organisations create grand statements of commitment, appoint a diversity officer, require diversity awareness training, and yet take very little tangible action or and fail to achieve meaningful results. We call this compliance-oriented approach a “Defensive” approach to diversity. How do organisations shift from defense to offence | March 2022

when it comes to diversity, equity, and inclusion? To consider a shift in manager behaviour, we need only witness how organisations respond to financial results with publicly traded firms. CEOs and their teams work tirelessly to meet the expectations of shareholders and their performance is measured in common terms of earnings and financial return. What if a portion of this energy and focus was expended towards making an impact with what many managers might say is “Our most important asset” – people. Shifting from defense to offence requires the ability to keep score – hence the need for measuring results related to DEI.

Taking a data-driven approach

Shifting to offence requires

commitment across the organisation. After all, when first publishing a scorecard related to diversity, the numbers may not look so great. This can create a challenge for organisations that may wish to “wait until the numbers look better” before sharing specific data. However, this line of thinking does not help propel the organisation into a position of offence. Taking a data-driven approach is a significant commitment – especially in the early days of reporting some results that may not be so positive. Data empowers teams and leaders to make decisions, develop strategies, and change course when necessary. Measuring and reporting DEI efforts is no different and helps organisations foster trust with transparency and achieve results

efforts having an impact? Examples of key demographic metrics include: • Hiring – attraction, selection, and acceptances of diverse talent • Retention – who stays and what development tactics have an impact • Advancement – promotions, raises, project assignments, etc. • Leadership – representation by level, by area, etc. • Pay equity review – by department, job classification, etc. Diversity metrics are one part of the equation. Organisations must also measure inclusion, belonging, and engagement. This qualitative feedback is more

Dashboards and scorecards provide businesses with an overview of goals and progress. Quick access and transparency of data and goal progression helps organisations run more efficiently while increasing engagement and accountability. Seeing roadblocks and successes in real time leads to timely problem solving, course correction, and opportunities for recognition and celebration. In the US, many businesses have started using scorecards/ dashboards including the likes of Salesforce, Sodexo, Cigna, and Intuit. The findings from a recent Harvard Business Review Analytics Services found that higherperforming organisations work hard to monitor how equitable they really are and measure DEI progress across a wider range of metrics. March 2022 |


When first publishing a scorecard related to diversity, the numbers may not look so great. This can create a challenge for organisations that may wish to “wait until the numbers look better” before sharing specific data

difficult to capture but can include: • Surveys – annual and quarterly pulse checks • Tracking participation in ERGs • Tracking mentorship • Accessibility review/ audit (bathrooms, parental leave, screens, close caption) • Regular exit interviews to uncover common themes or potential issues. • Conducting meeting audits to review who speaks, who gets interrupted, etc. C OVER

through accountability. By taking this big first step, a strong signal is sent to the organisation and progress can begin in earnest. Deciding what to measure In deciding what to measure, organisations should begin with questions and clear goals. It begins with determining what diversity means in your organisation, industry, the customers you serve and what you want your organisation to look like. How diverse are your teams, your leadership, and what can you do to change the composition? Are you paying employees equitably? How and from where are you recruiting? What are your retention metrics—are your




Creating action plans


With a scorecard in place, managers are more attuned to and accountable for DEI results. However, many may not be equipped to address the challenges surfaced by such data-rich scorecards. After reviewing the dashboards and processes across a number of firms, there are a few key actions that organisations can take to get started: 1. Start Small – Focus on a few key areas to get started. 2. Ensure Strong Sponsorship – The CEO or equivalent should serve as the sponsor 3. Ready the Management Support – Once the metrics are published, managers will likely need some level of support to help with the action planning 4. Drive Accountability To ensure companies achieve their DEI objectives; they must measure | March 2022

With a scorecard in place, managers are more attuned to and accountable for DEI results what matters and hold themselves accountable. 5. Expand the Measures – Once progress is noted and new norms are established, it is likely time to expand the metrics and perhaps create a dashboard Companies around the globe have talked the talk around DEI for years, but it has taken recent societal events to propel more companies to make DEI a top priority. There has been an awakening and reckoning that past efforts to recruit diverse talent and train leaders and managers to greater diversity have failed to make the desired impact. Now, company goals and employee expectations around inclusion and

belonging are supported by more effective ways of measuring and evaluating initiatives and outcomes. As more organisations shift from a defensive, compliance-based perspective to one of taking DEI as an offensive strategic priority, we expect to see DEI data driving more and better results.

Richard R. Smith, Ph.D. is a Professor at Johns Hopkins University where he also serves as Vice Dean, Education and Partnerships at the Carey Business School. Jill Green, J.D. is the Associate Dean of Student Experience and the Executive Sponsor of DEIB at the Carey Business School.

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Five Workplace


to Break in 2022


| March 2022

What workplace biases are leaders taking aim at this year? We asked industry leaders what biases they are striving to eliminate for greater inclusion in 2022 By People Matters Editorial Team


False belief that women are less productive

Many workplaces are plagued by the false belief that women will not be able

to fully contribute or be productive once they have children. Even when this belief is not consciously acted upon, it creates a bias against women that has severe negative impacts on women's promotions, compensation, and even new opportunities. It holds them back from advancing into leadership positions, sometimes across entire industries.

What can organisations do?

Review people management practices and processes to ensure that women are not being unfairly disadvantaged. Critically, leaders and managers need to be educated that this issue is real and important, as they have the greatest direct impact on whether bias is stopped or worsened in the workplace.

False belief that women should be caregivers

The above bias goes hand in hand with yet another false belief, that caregiving responsibilities should rest mainly upon women. All too often, this belief is unconsciously held even by women

themselves. The resulting combination of external pressure and internal assumptions creates additional bias against women that pushes them out of their careers at the time when they should be in the prime of their lives.

What can organisations do? Again, review people management processes to ensure that women are not being disadvantaged. At the same time, caregiving benefits such as parental leave should be extended fairly and equally to men as well, and they should be encouraged to use these benefits.

False belief that flexibility is unproductive

Productivity is all too often falsely equated with rigid workplace norms, leading to a bias against flexibility that adheres even after two years of the pandemic proved that teams can give their best without being glued to their office desks. This bias even extends to discrimination against people who seek flexible work arrangements. It does far more harm than good, often working against the well-being of employees

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ias, both unconscious and conscious, has often been a stubborn deterrent to progress in the space of diversity, equity and inclusion. Even if people do not realise it, bias affects people management decisions in the workplace, from recruitment to promotion, from compensation to recognition. Some are favoured because of bias; others, less fortunate, are discriminated against. Despite multiple efforts in this direction, workplaces continue experiencing both subtle and significant hindrances to becoming truly diverse, equitable and inclusive. It is important for employees and leaders alike to recognise their own internal biases in order to expand their personal growth in a professional environment. This is not just about progressing in a workplace setting; it's about breaking mental barriers and challenging your own personal views to become a better person. This month, People Matters asked industry leaders about the workplace biases they want to break in 2022. Here are some of the false beliefs and resulting biases that they flagged out.

It is important for employees and leaders alike to recognise their own internal biases in order to expand their personal growth in a professional environment March 2022 |


being assessed in a more rounded manner, and also look at whether performance management and retention practices are accurately matching evaluations to contributions.

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Misunderstanding that numbers can substitute for diversity


When organisations first move towards diversity, they may set a goal of having so many percentage women or minorities among their workforce. A good first step, this nevertheless can result in the misunderstanding that the numbers are the end game. It may lead to existing biases not being properly addressed, or even inadvertently create new biases based upon meeting the numerfor gauging someone's contri- ical target, thereby skewand counteracting efforts to ing the hiring, performance improve diversity. bution to the organisation management, and retention and thereby the compensation they receive. But in real- process. What can organisations ity, experience is only one do? What can organisations of multiple markers. It just Recognise that employees have diverse needs and prior- happens to be the easiest one do? On the one hand, focus ities that are each valid, and to measure. The resulting on hiring and advancing bias works against people give them the autonomy to people based on their fit for manage their own schedules with less experience, and also against those with many the job; on the other hand, in a way that allows them to ensure that 'non-traditional' years – they are assumed to do their best work. The last candidates are given equal two years showed clearly that be more expensive to hire, opportunities, whether or overqualified. This places this approach will prove its in hiring or in access to needless constraints on own value. organisations' talent options. advancement and exposure. This again requires work False belief that experion the organisation's part to ence automatically means What can organisations remove bias from the hiring do? higher pay Years of experience are very Re-examine hiring processes and performance manageto ensure that candidates are ment processes. commonly used as a proxy | March 2022

Years of experience are very commonly used as a proxy for gauging someone's contribution to the organisation and thereby the compensation they receive. But in reality, experience is only one of multiple markers


By Mamta Sharma


andra Teh, the Chief Culture Officer, APJC at Amazon Web Services (AWS), manages branding and talent engagement for AWS in the APJC region – including driving diversity of talent and addressing the gender imbalance within the tech industry. Singapore-based Teh often speaks on topics related to inclusion and diversity, and how Amazon hires and develops talent and is enthusiastic about the ways technology can be more inclusive, equitable, and flexible for all. She conceptualised the first AWS DeepRacer Women’s League in ASEAN and is AWS GetIT’s chief ambassador in Asia.

In an interaction with People Matters, Teh talks about what works to close the diversity gap in tech and why it's so critical in the fast-moving industry.

What are the major reasons for fewer women in tech even when the tech industry is booming? How has it changed in recent years? When it comes to entering the tech business, women encounter several challenges. There are structural and cultural barriers, as well as a perceived high learning curve, lack of visible women role models, and difficulty determining where to begin when consid-

ering IT career paths. Studies indicate that the number of women entering STEM-related fields is on par with men, but at managerial positions and higher, this gender representation becomes more disparate. Today, women make up 34% of the IT workforce in India, with a 50:50 gender parity rate in STEM graduates according to 451 Research. However, while women make up 51% of entry-level recruits, only 25% are in managerial positions, with less than 1% in the C-Suite. This lack of women representation at higher levels makes the tech industry seem male dominated, resulting in less women March 2022 |

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Having team members from different walks of life, showcasing different experiences and perspectives, results in an intersection of varied ideas and solutions, says Sandra Teh, Chief Culture Officer, APJC at Amazon Web Services


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pursuing a career in the industry. In recent years, however, companies are consciously hiring women talent and are focusing on building an inclusive work environment to improve women’s representation in senior roles. It is necessary to implement initiatives at all levels of the organisation, from leadership to human resources. Business leaders can initiate mentoring programs and assist in preparing women for board roles. For example, my colleague, Puneet Chandok, President, India and South Asia, AWS, encouraged the entire AWS team to take personal pledges to support diversity, inclusion, and equality. His personal pledge was to recruit at least three women into his leadership team, mentor eight to ten women, be more aware of the challenges they face, and actively support their choices.

| March 2022

What roles had companies played in more women taking up careers in tech? What works to address the gender imbalance in the tech space? Industries like manufacturing have been skewed towards men due to their labour-intensive nature. However, fields like technology are an equal playing ground for both men and women, and we are seeing more women keen to explore careers in technology. To enable more women to take up careers in tech and retain them, its necessary to provide equal opportunities, strong role models, and equal pay. From an HR perspective, companies can build a diverse and inclusive workforce by including women during interview processes, creating gender-neutral job descriptions, implementing blind screening of resumes, and conducting inclu-

sive hiring training among employees. Engaging with young tech graduates is another way in which companies are driving women participation. For example, AWS has held several calendar events, such as Girl's Tech Day and International Women's Day, that helped foster community learning and eliminate the stereotypes of STEMrelated fields. We also held community events like AWS DeepRacer Women’s League ASEAN and AWS DeepRacer Women’s League India.

How do you think women are transforming the tech industry – the qualities that set them apart and their contribution? Two great benefits of having more women in tech industry are innovation and learning. Having teams made up from different walks of life showcasing different experiences and perspectives results in an intersection of varied ideas and solutions. Similarly, the tech industry is in need of more women talent to foster higher problem-solving abilities and increase performance at the business level as there is potential in building and curating high tech products and services catered to women. Lastly, more women role models are needed to encourage the next generation of the work-

youth, apart from taking good care of her big crew.

How can companies empower women to pursue careers in the tech industry? The first step in creating programmes to empower women is to identify the pain points that women face in specific areas. By knowing these pain points and challenges, we can then look to understand how we can help women address them better. The next step is to ensure that the programmes

the ratio of men to women speakers at AWS events and community-led engagements. This observation encouraged her to create She Builds as a local programme to inspire women, which targets ANZ university students. She Builds has since grown, supported by a dedicated team of 13 programme owners, and the wider organisation to include community education and mentorships across Asia Pacific and Japan, influencing over 7,000 registrations and indications

Two great benefits of having more women in tech industry are innovation and learning. Having teams made up from different walks of life showcasing different experiences and perspectives results in an intersection of varied ideas and solutions we adopt can assist women in addressing these issues. We want them to feel welcomed and empowered, so they can debunk the myth that the tech business is a challenging environment for women. One of the programmes that we have introduced that has seen great success is the AWS She Builds programme. This initiative was conceptualised in 2017 by my colleague Kim Bonilla, GTM Growth Acceleration Lead - ISV (SaaS), who noticed a gender gap in

of interest to date. The She Builds event, led by women employees, encompasses talks and invites women leaders as speakers. This event fosters engagement for women in tech where they can hear stories about other examples, connect with likeminded peers, and explore opportunities to increase their technical and strategic skills to further expand their careers. In addition to She Builds, we have many international programs that support inclusion, March 2022 |

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force through guidance and mentorship. At AWS, we've been successful in hiring women for all positions, including management, and I am excited to work with incredible women who are innovators and builders, contribute to the growth of the organisation and deliver exciting results for our customers. One such leader is Mani Thiru, Aerospace and Satellite Solutions Lead, APJ. Overcoming stereotypes every single day, Mani works with a global team of interdisciplinary experts to re-imagine space system architectures, transform space enterprises, and launch new services that process space data on earth and in orbit. Her efforts have resulted in outcomes that range from space-enabled agriculture and emergency and disaster management to impact on education and earth observation research. By actively sharing her stories, Mani has brought the women in space community across APJ together, to run meaningful programs for youth as well as webinars for the industry. Another leader, who is my role model, is Francessca Vasquez, Vice President, AWS Technology and Customer Solutions. Francessca leads a large global team and yet she always finds time to volunteer and mentor young girls and


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small and large, will play an increasingly important role as companies focus on innovation and growth. They will renew and recommit to their efforts to hire more women. As a result, today’s women tech leaders will serve as key role models and inspiration for the next generation of women, playing a crucial role in achieving gender parity in the tech industry at all levels.


What's your message to women who wish to take up a career in technology but give up due to various reasons? A greater effort is required than women simply wanting a career in tech. My advice to women who wish to take up careers in IT is that they must come forward boldly with their aspirations and age, will reach nearly 33% for organisations to encouroverall female represenage and facilitate a culture tation in their workforce that encourages employees across the world in 2022. This to voice their unique insights is an increase of 2% from and ideas. It is incumbent on 2019, representing progress all of us to advocate for and achieved through targeted lead opportunities for women campaigns to attract women and underrepresented indiinto the tech industry despite viduals to have a successful economic difficulties caused career in technology. Creatby the pandemic. ing a global community of Businesses continue to women in IT that is inclusive, understand the importance equitable, and innovative can of diversity and the benebe accomplished by removing fits of having a diverse work- the barriers standing in their force in terms of gender, way. It is this culture of inclurace, and culture, including sion that will nurture diverincreased productivity and sity and help attract, retain levels of innovation. I believe and grow women talent in the that women working in tech- technology sector. And this nology organisations, both starts with you and me.

My advice to women who wish to take up careers in IT is that they must come forward boldly with their aspirations and for organisations to encourage and facilitate a culture that encourages employees to voice their unique insights and ideas diversity, and equity. Pilot programmes like AWS GetIT were launched in Singapore, with an aim to empower young students, especially girls, to help them gain digital skills, challenge gender stereotypes within the tech industry, and consider a career in technology.

How do you see the future of women in the tech industry? A Deloitte Global study published in December 2021 predicts that global companies will likely continue to close the gender gap in the year ahead. Large global technology firms, on aver| March 2022

What makes women better leaders in a crisis? Centuries of resisting domination and combating prejudices have imbued women with immense grit and tenacity, says Nimisha Rana Pathak, the HR country head for global professional services firm Alvarez and Marsal in India By Mamta Sharma

is already broken and where the chances of failure are high. We see this happen frequently enough that it made us wonder, are women in fact more qualified to lead during a crisis? Could that be why they are handed the reins when times are tough?,” says the Harvard Business Review research. In an interaction with People Matters, Nimisha Rana Pathak, the HR country head for global professional services firm Alva-

rez and Marsal in India, shares the top five qualities that women possess, which, according to her, enable them to stand apart – and effective – while managing crises.

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crisis erupts when you least expect it, but also brings opportunity in its wake. Based on analysis of a 360-degree feedback data between March and June 2020 – the peak of the coronavirus pandemic, a research study by Harvard Business Review states that women are natural leaders when dealing with a crisis situation, and were emerged better leaders before and during the pandemic. “When discussing the careers of women leaders, a phenomenon referred to as the “glass cliff" often comes up, denoting how when a company is in trouble, a female leader is put in charge to save it. When women are finally given a chance to prove themselves in a senior position, they are handed something that


In the cut-throat world of business, empathy is an important and rare quality, helping to bring people together, understanding them better, and enabling better decision making.

Often, showing emotions and feelings is seen from a negative lens; however, it has been proven to be one of the effective ways of managing people, particularly during a sensitive crisis situation March 2022 |


A crisis teaches you a lot of valuable lessons. Successful business leaders focus on these learnings and build a strong shield against similar future crises

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Effective communication “Women possess empathy inherently and that gives them an edge over others, especially in leadership roles. Often, showing emotions and feelings is seen from a negative lens; however, it has been proven to be one of the effective ways of managing people, particularly during a sensitive crisis situation. Much research indicates that leaders who display honesty and integrity; and who are sensitive and understanding of the stress, anxiety, and frustration that people are feeling are wanted and loved by people. Women are often rated higher on these traits. Emotion as it stands today in the world of mental health issues, pandemics, and crises, is one of the biggest strengths one can have,” says Pathak.

Collaborative approach


Pathak says women are experts in collaboration, and enjoy working across teams. | March 2022

And in any crisis situation, collaboration ensures appropriate response coupled with relevant skills and strategy. “Whether it is working with various vendors externally or getting together different teams internally. Collaboration is key to getting work done swiftly and with the right expertise,” she adds.

Resilience and tenacity

Centuries of fighting domination and rising against prejudices have largely conditioned women with immense grit and tenacity. “A lot of them also work with a mindset to deliver results that acts as a driver/ motivator to achieve their goals. This also makes them calmer to deal with tough situations, as they are determined to find a solution and overcome the situation,” says Pathak.

Communication can make or break a situation. Therefore, it becomes critical for individuals to have clarity in communication to achieve desired outcomes. As per Pathak, due to their observant and collaborative nature, women are measured and engaged in their communication. “They are known to show compassion towards others and are good listeners,” she adds.

Open to learning

A crisis teaches you a lot of valuable lessons. Successful business leaders focus on these learnings and build a strong shield against similar future crises. “We have observed that women are receptive to learning things at every stage; this makes them sharpen their expertise in the respective area and prepare for the future. Colleagues, family, friends, companies around women tend to greatly benefit from this quality,” says Pathak.

The HR leadership journey: tenacity, flexibility, values What does the career journey of a HR leader look like, and what life and career lessons can we draw from those who have broken the ground ahead of us? Long-time HR leader Carmen Wee shares her experience of decades in the profession

she stepped up to take board directorships. Here's her career story: a journey of cross-disciplinary experience, flexibility, and openness to opportunity.

What you study isn't necessarily where you'll find your career

“When I was young, I thought that I wanted to become a social worker. I wanted to do something altruistic. So I studied social work at the National University of Singapore. In my final year, I was attached as a medical social worker for 10 weeks. It was very interesting, because the doctors would refer patients with

# B r e a k T h e B i a s


eing able to show role models and mentors is a key pathway to increasing diversity at any level. But what does it take for someone to work their way up to a life and career stage where they can be such a role model and mentor? People Matters asked long-time HR leader Carmen Wee, the author of From the Kampung to the Boardroom: My Leadership Journey, to tell us about her rise through the profession. Carmen has been in HR from the very start of her career, holding regional and then international roles with large companies, and within the last few years

emotional and counselling needs to the medical social work department, and I did my share of counselling, casework, and intervention. And I realised that I had no desire to do this work for the rest of my life. I could see how the other social workers were tired and burned out, how their caseload just piled up, and how they would be there for the next 10-20 years or until they retired – and I didn't see any future in that for myself. “In that same year I had to take some elective programmes before graduating, and I stumbled upon a human resource management course. When I attended the classes, I found it really interesting, and I thought that even if social work wasn't for me, maybe I could do something involving helping people or compaMarch 2022 |


nies. And so when I graduated with my social work degree back in the early 1990s, I decided to apply to some HR jobs.”

# B r e a k T h e B i a s

Everyone starts from the bottom up

“My first job was with the Urban Redevelopment Authority, on the part of the HR team that looked after the human resource database for all the employees. My job was to go through 1,000 personnel files and clean up the entire database by doing data entry of all the employees' personal details. I spent a year doing that. In addition, I had to write papers – one was an exploration of how to attract engineers into the profession in Singapore, because Singapore was losing engineers, and another was on work-life balance. And that was my entry into the profession.

“After a year of this, it happened that my boss fell sick and had to skip a training programme. She suggested that I should attend this programme in her place, and I agreed. While I was there, I met my next boss. She was in the fast-moving consumer goods space, and about a week after the course, she called and asked me out to lunch. Well, she had a vacancy in her company, and before I knew it, she had offered me a job as HR executive. So I accepted it, and that was how my HR career in the private sector began. I went on to work for that company for seven or eight years.”

Never say no to international opportunities

“The first private sector company I joined was expanding across Southeast Asia at the time, and I spent the mid-1990s travelling

to places like Vietnam and Myanmar. They would start factories, and I would go to the location to set up the HR processes and build the teams. This was before many countries in the region had opened up, and it was very exciting for a 20-somethingyear-old, travelling every few months and staying there to oversee the operations for another few more months. “Before long I was approached by SAP, which was also expanding in Southeast Asia. So I left the manufacturing sector for professional services, as SAP's HR manager for Southeast Asia. At that time, in the 1990s, SAP's growth was skyrocketing, and running the HR operations across Southeast Asia was a huge growth opportunity. Learning to be a business partner, working with the leadership team to help design sales incentive plans, working with the

There is an immense amount of growth that comes with learning to be a business partner and learning how to look at people issues from a strategic and business lens 72

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The beauty of cross-disciplinary experience

“There is an immense amount of growth that comes with learning to be a business partner and learning how to look at people issues from a strategic and business lens. My years of handling HR for the entire region were formative years

Doing the right thing was very important for me as a HR person. And when I look back, I realise that when I was training as a social worker, there is a code of ethics – doing the ethical thing, doing the professional thing, being very tight-lipped about clients' confidential stories of really learning, especially when I was given global projects a few years on: working across time zones, leading a project team to overhaul the entire company website, leading a team to look at how we could build more project management competencies. It tested me and caused me to build new muscles, and it provided me exposure to cross cultural leadership and management, which is so important right now. “Eventually I moved on into hospitality, which was a different space altogether, and because of that company's growth in Asia I started working on M&A due diligence for the first time. With every career move, there were new foundational blocks of knowledge and experience put in place, which accumulated and snowballed into who I am today.”

Doing the right thing is central to HR's identity

“The partnership of HR with business can be pretty

tricky, because sometimes you are faced with two sets of values that don't always match. Several years ago, I had to deal with a sexual harassment case in the company I was with, and I was not getting a lot of support – so we parted ways. Because even though I was trying to do my job, without the company's support there was no way it could work out. Through the entire situation I was, without knowing it, being true to the HR profession: being ethical, trying to be professional, and making sure that employee interests were looked after. “Doing the right thing was very important for me as a HR person. And when I look back, I realise that when I was training as a social worker, there is a code of ethics – doing the ethical thing, doing the professional thing, being very tight-lipped about clients' confidential stories. I imbibed those values very early on, and it carried over into my HR career. March 2022 |

# B r e a k T h e B i a s

finance controller, basically managing the SAP business for the region. “Eventually I wanted to expand my remit beyond Southeast Asia and grow to more markets like China, India, the entire Asia Pacific. So I decided to jump into a startup environment. The company I settled on was Ariba, which was very revolutionary for the time with its platform to connect suppliers and enterprises. This was during the boom...and unfortunately, it was followed by the bust. I was retrenched nine months on. “I still wanted to grow internationally, so my next job was the HR director for APAC with a telecoms company based out of Chicago, and every three months I would travel between Singapore and Chicago. Unfortunately I joined at a time when the company was doing a lot of resizing, and I ended up doing a lot of retrenchments. That was a bad label to be associated with.”


# B r e a k T h e B i a s 74

I would say the HR career is not for everyone. It's about fairness, it's about providing opportunities, it's about providing perspective on the people side of things in addition to just looking at metrics and business outcomes “As a HR person, you navigate through all the complexities of the human condition and the human challenges at the workplace. And sometimes there are no straightforward answers. Your work is very much about bringing perspective and bringing your values to bear. If you think about it, different companies take care of their employees in different ways, depending on how they express themselves, the kinds of brands they want to portray, the budget that they have, how they want to promote their | March 2022

culture, leadership effectiveness – in all of this the consistent factor has to be your values.”

Spend time thinking about the kind of HR professional you want to become

“With every job disruption that I went through, I had to think harder and harder about the kind of HR practitioner I want to be. I had to take many steps back over the years to think about how to navigate through the transitions, how to make sure that my finances were not

compromised, how to ensure my own career viability and longevity. And I decided that I want to be true to my convictions and principles. I want to be a fair and open HR practitioner, because sometimes, your leadership can ask things that are not necessarily the best examples of how leadership should be practised. “You have to decide what kind of response you want to provide when a particular situation comes up, and that's when it's a challenge to your values. So I would say the HR career is not for everyone. It's about fairness, it's about providing opportunities, it's about providing perspective on the people side of things in addition to just looking at metrics and business outcomes. “And you really need to know what you stand for. What are your values, what are your thresholds, what will you not put up with? What's your breaking point, what are your vulnerabilities and your strengths? Knowing your blind spots is also important. For every feedback that you get, whether good, bad or ugly, take some time to process it. Take advantage of every learning opportunity.” From the Kampung to the Boardroom: My Leadership Journey is available online. Proceeds from the book will be donated to SPD and Last Mile fund (to be launched in Q2,2022), which provides training for special needs people to enter the HR profession.

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Visty Banaji

Cool Learning

The road less travelled

At a time when the latest 'hot' apps and programmes are providing simplified, gamified or pre-prepared learning solutions for all of an organisation’s competency needs, what’s the alternative? Try 'Cool' Learning


Branches they bore of that enchanted stem, Laden with flower and fruit, whereof they gave To each, but whoso did receive of them, And taste, to him the gushing of the wave Far far away did seem to mourn and rave On alien shores…1


hose of you who like poetry will have immediately recognised the origin of these beautiful lines. The ones who had to look at the notes to find out which poem they come from have, perhaps unknowingly, already started ingesting the soporific fare it warns against (or recommends?). Maybe, this column will be a timely alarm for them. Of course, there will be some who will neither know nor care who wrote the poem. Their minds have already 'had enough of action' (at least insofar as non-work reading is concerned) and desire rest from such 'long labour'. They are best off | March 2022

turning to less thorny columns or, better still, to binge-watching OTT serials while keeping themselves current with 110 dB TV debates and worshipping the great god WAU (Whats App University). "Surely an entire column is not going to be devoted to the benefits of poetry", I can sense some of the rugged men-of-action reading this piece fervently hoping. Their trepidation is unnecessary. I have managed to resist that temptation though I reso-

nate with Coleridge’s claim that "… poetry is the blossom and the fragrancy of all human knowledge, human thoughts, human passions, emotions, language."2 It is left for me only to lament with Bennet: "Imaginative poetry … teaches the highest form of wisdom. … [T] here is nothing to compare with it. I say this with sad consciousness of the fact that the majority of people do not read poetry." Fear not, action heroes: we shall use a different medium to fry today’s fish.

required to complete and digest information, instructions and ideas is at the heart of the 'cool' and 'hot' medium terminology popularised by Marshall McLuhan and which will be the usage adopted in this column as well. According to McLuhan: "A hot medium is one that extends one single sense in 'high definition.' High definition is the state of being well filled with data… [S]peech is a cool medium of low definition, because so little is given and so much has to be filled in by the listener. On the other hand, hot media do not leave so much to be filled in or completed by the audience. Hot media are, therefore, low in participation, and cool media are high in participation or completion by the audience."3 McLuhan goes on to clarify that reading can be of both kinds. "Francis Bacon never tired of contrasting hot and cool

prose. Writing in 'methods' or complete packages, he contrasted with writing in aphorisms, or single observations… The passive consumer wants packages, but those, he suggested, who are concerned in pursuing knowledge and in seeking causes will resort to aphorisms, just because they are incomplete and require participation in depth."4

Learning to be 'Cool'

Of the virtually infinite ways in which learning can be acquired, one ideally suited to 'cool' adaptation is the greatly neglected art of self-study. Learning under one’s own steam and supervision is once again (there was a time when it was the only path to progress) becoming vitally important in new-age organisations that prize agility.5 Reading is obviously an integral part of self-learning but, equally obviously, not all reading leads to learning. Before carving away

The road less travelled

Most of us decry (even if we don’t always avoid) readycooked meals, predigested news and more-of-the-same movies that minimise exertion on our part and make us passive recipients of food, information or entertainment. At work, however, we are not always equally alert to the dangers of the singlesolution (often built into an SOP or handed down from above) answers that leave us in our mental comfort zones regardless of the number of chronological hours we put in or ounces of sweat we exude physically in the process. We can place every process in an organisation on this actively participating versus passively receiving continuum. We shall pick the learning process as our example for this column since it is at the heart of worthwhile HR and runs the entire gamut from energetic endeavour to lazy lapping-up. The participatory effort

Of the virtually infinite ways in which learning can be acquired, one ideally suited to 'cool' adaptation is the greatly neglected art of self-study March 2022 |


The road less travelled

and rejecting the rinds of reading that will not serve our 'cool' purposes, let’s spend a minute to eliminate one of the hottest habits of reading that all managers are encouraged to acquire. Unfortunately, in terms of retaining worthwhile knowledge, it is as effective as an intestine after bariatric surgery. I am referring to speed reading which has been a continuing craze in over-busy management circles for several years now despite its claims having been debunked regularly.6


When you have absorbed the techniques of reading well, you will automatically find your speed increasing. Don’t take pride in this. The task we set before ourselves now has nothing to do with quantity."7As Nicholas Carr describes it, with Deep Reading, "[t]he reader becomes the book".8 As a veteran of the 60-70 hour work week I can empathise with those who barely get sufficient time to sleep, leave aside reading meaningful books at a measured pace. But there is no

Unfortunately for the single solution sellers, it is not the certainties but the new questions any learning yields that are the most important part of 'cool' intellectual pursuit Even if the comprehension claims on behalf of speed reading were admitted, it would be useless for our goal here which demands 'cool' reflection, filling in the blanks, extrapolating and mentally following the new trails that are opened up for the perceptive reader once some underbrush has been cleared by the author. Sire makes his preference clear by titling his book 'How to Read Slowly' and writes in the introduction: "Reading speed is totally irrelevant… Good readers reread many things many times. | March 2022

choice: 'cool' learners have to carve time out from work and other activities if they are serious about learning. I am sure most readers of this column will be able to extract time from the eternity they spend watching games like cricket (as a wit pointed out: "The English are not very spiritual people, so they invented cricket to give them some idea of eternity"), reading pulp fiction or pulpable self-help books and illuminating long-suffering Whats App groups with how brilliantly (or stupidly) the illuminator’s children,

company or country have performed. Then there’s that whole reservoir of time waiting to float our reading boats as soon as we open the dam gates of efficiency and organise our work in the e-world better.9 What should characterise the self-study reading for which you are being asked to give up so much? Very obviously, the domains of study can be limitless in their variety, starting from the directly job-relevant functional expertise (which itself differs from position to position), going through preparations for progression to the next career ledge and extending to the less conventional suggestions an earlier column has carried for building great leaders.10 In all of these cases, however, there are three characteristics that will mark out 'cool' learners’ choices.

The Cool Trinity

"Constant and frequent questioning is the first key to wisdom … For through doubting we are led to inquire, and by inquiry we perceive the truth."11 The ideal cycle for learning, described by Abelard almost a thousand years ago, needs to be endlessly repeated as deeper questions yield more profound insights and they, in turn, raise knottier questions. "[T]he problem is that preachers and polemicists want us to accept just one, exclusive set of stories,

reluctant to reveal its secrets. Pseudo-profundities lull us into 'lotos'-sated inaction long before we have peeled any layers of the onion of reality. Our second criterion for 'cool' learning is at a tangent (though, hopefully, not contradictory) to the one just presented. It prompts us to find the inspiration for lofty, crazy and immensely ambitious goals as a by-product of the material one stud-

practical ways of extracting profits from them? No. We make legends of leaders who may well have fallen short of their vision but who dared "[t]o dream the impossible dream".15 Catalysts for releasing these ambition-triggering thoughts in our mind-streams can often be found in the ready repository of great biographies and histories of people and epic events both within and

ies. To keep it 'cool', selfstudy should yield untested paths and unusual directions (rather than specific destinations) which need to be personally charted and are preferably unattainable. Of course, there may be great achievements and recognition along the way "but a man's reach should exceed his grasp, Or what's a heaven for?"14 Quixotic they may well be but do we even remember, let alone idolise, the millions of managers who had prosaic plans and

outside business that have left more than life-sized contributions and reputations behind.16 Unfortunately, few of these are Indian, since we rarely seem to be able to leave the bounds of hagiography when writing about our great men and most certainly not when commissioned to describe our business leaders. Our third test targets the technical learning needed for remaining current in professional roles as well as in adjacent fields of manageMarch 2022 |

The road less travelled

one vision, which we must believe is true. And many people are happy to do this."12 To 'preacher and polemicist' we could easily add 'HR practitioner and corporate trainer' in our context. Unfortunately for the single solution sellers, it is not the certainties but the new questions any learning yields that are the most important part of 'cool' intellectual pursuit. Much of good literature (poetry and drama included) and almost all of philosophy midwifes more and more complicated questions. "The … world has become immensely complicated and the complex stories of novels help us to see our way through it, to shape a trajectory for ourselves in the increasingly fragmented and ill-defined social environment we move in."13 Drama, particularly in its tragic form, forces us to confront the unpredictability of fate and how it conspires with the pride and other fatal flaws of the greatest of heroes to bring about their downfall. In contrast, cheerful books that provide tomato soup for the (vegan) soul and most that make it to the 'Management Book of the Year' list are far too 'hot', prescriptive and smug to educate us, build emotional resilience or prepare us for the grim realities that lie in wait. Reality is sometimes tragic but always complex, ambiguous and


The road less travelled 80

ment and technology. On the face of it, non-fiction, professional text-books and serious journals would appear to be the definitive antitheses of 'cool'. This is, however, a misconception as scientifically conducted research is always tentative (in contrast to dogmatic guru-speak – whether managerial or spiritual) and leaves room for (in fact, points out) new directions for further investigation. Moreover, a technique called 'Fractal Learning' can squeeze out any residual calories out of material that appears 'hot'. It simply involves pursuing every interesting reference where it leads and then doing the same from the newly reached way-point (why not follow the notes appended to any of these columns that particularly interest you, as an experiment?). With 'Fractal Learning' even poorly written research papers (provided they are from

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reputed journals) and tedious (but annotated) books that seemingly leave no 'i's undotted or 't's uncrossed can prove to be fecund sources that can lead to foundational texts and seminal papers. 'Fractal Learning' is obviously a mortal enemy of speed reading.

Cool-laboration Without Losing Individuality

Learning is just one way to make the case for 'cool' HR. Other equally promising illustrations could be 'cool' leadership, 'cool' meetings and 'cool' work.17 In keeping with the spirit of this column, I leave these (and other HR terrains) to be worked out by mentally agile readers who wish to be 'cool'. If it’s the individual who plays such a pivotal part in every 'cool' activity, is HR only to spectate and applaud? Were the process as automatic as that, every organisation would inevita-

bly reach close to 0ºK in short order. In reality, there are at least three important steps HR can take to beat the heat. The sourcing schemas, for corporates that can afford it, limit themselves to 'hot' qualifications like pedigreed MBAs and prestigious B Techs. Not only are these highly prized in the market but the way they are imparted, particularly in India, produces people with an attitude of 'there’s one right answer and I know it'. Not every corporation has the luxury of setting up a 'Think Different Corporate University' like Apple did and which Richard Tedlow, who heads it, calls a "therapeutic alliance between technology and the liberal arts".18 But surely most corporations can acquire Edu-diversity by recruiting from a mix of educational sources.19 Fred Phillips (and his coauthors) punch the message home tellingly: "Before the advent of modern b-schools, companies – even Wall Street banks – hired liberal arts graduates. There’s a lot to be said for this practice, and businesses would be wise to return to it. Those grads had a sense of history, a way with words, and some idea how their actions would affect society."20 Diverse educational streams are a long gestation cure. Introducing leading lights from the disciplines mentioned in the previous section into management retreats, executive develop-

Notes: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5.


Alfred Tennyson, The Lotos-Eaters, The Works of Alfred Lord Tennyson, Wordsworth Poetry Library, 1994. Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Biographia Literaria, 1817. Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media, McGraw-Hill, 1964. Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media, McGraw-Hill, 1964. S Lemmetty and K Collin, Self-Directed Learning as a Practice of Workplace Learning: Interpretative Repertoires of Self-Directed Learning in ICT Work, Vocations and Learning 13, 47-70, 2020. Keith Rayner, Elizabeth R Schotter, Michael E J Masson, Mary C Potter and Rebecca Treiman, So Much to Read, So Little Time: How Do We Read, and Can Speed Reading Help?, Psychological Science in the Public Interest,

The idea is obviously not to provide degreelevel learning in another discipline but to expose highly focused leaders to totally divergent thinkers who are comfortable with nonoptimality open-ended, question-posing subjects. Equally importantly, they should be able to follow the pleasures of 'Fractal Learning' by finding and following the trails of scientific research through papers appearing in a variety of journals, without having to subscribe to each individually. Company-wide licences for research databases are irreplaceable aids for the Magellans of the mind. Ultimately, 'cool' thinking has to be one’s own think7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12. 13. 14.

January 2016. James W. Sire, How to Read Slowly: Reading for Comprehension, Waterbrook Press, 1978. Nicholas Carr, The Shallows – What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains, W. W. Norton & Company, 2011. Visty Banaji, The unforgiving minute, People Matters, 15 September 2021. Visty Banaji, Learning leadership lessons from leaders, People Matters, 18 January 2019. Peter Abelard, Sic et non, Prologue, translated in Readings in European History, Vol. I, edited by James Harvey Robinson, 1904. Tim Parks, Do We Need Stories?, New York Review of Books, 26 March, 2012. Tim Parks, Where I'm Reading From: The Changing World of Books, Vintage Publishing, 2016. Joe Darion, The Impossible Dream, Man of

ing. Whatever may have been the trigger that started the process, unless individuals participate in the idea to create something of their own, they will ultimately get shown up like the crow who stuck peacock feathers to himself but was quickly exposed as a pretender. After all, even admission to hell isn’t available with only borrowed ideas. Without independent thought 'hot' learners may get the same report and rejection as Tomlinson did from the devil’s assistants:

"We have threshed a stook of print and book, and winnowed a chattering wind, "And many a soul wherefrom he stole, but his we cannot find. "We have handled him, we have dandled him, we have seared him to the bone, "And, Sire, if tooth and nail show truth he has no soul of his own." 21

The road less travelled

ment programmes, awards juries and house journals, can materialise much quicker. The idea is obviously not to provide degreelevel learning in another discipline but to expose highly focused leaders to totally divergent thinkers who are comfortable with non-optimality. Sometimes celebrity (or imported) catalysts are an essential requirement for senior teams to listen. Normally, however, the frequently ignored riches of Indian (non-MBA) academia yield outstanding and cost-effective thinkers for nudging 'cool' non-conclusive ways of thought. Much of this effort will be wasted if executives cannot follow up, through self-study, the new ideas that have been planted by differently thinking colleagues or savants. For this to happen the organisation needs to provide an excellently stocked (or available-on-order) library through which people can freely access books in the

Visty Banaji is the Founder and CEO of Banner Global Consulting (BGC)

La Mancha, Broadway musical, 1965.

15. Visty Banaji, Learning leadership lessons 16. 17. 18. 19.


from leaders, People Matters, 18 January 2019. Visty Banaji, "If you want people to do a good job, give them a good job to do", People Matters, 24 June 2021. A Lashinsky, Apple’s Tim Cook leads different, Fortune, March 2015. Visty Banaji, Diversity delivers dividends, People Matters, 15 December 2021. Fred Phillips, Chih-Hung Hsieh, Charles A Ingene and Linda L Golden, Business Schools in Crisis, Journal of Open Innovation: Technology, Market, and Complexity, July 2016. Rudyard Kipling, Tomlinson, Collected Poems of Rudyard Kipling, Wordsworth Poetry Library, 1994.

March 2022 |


Past Month's events

Knowledge + Networking

The HRBP in the New World of Work People Matters BeNext 04 February – 07 March 2022 Online Learn how the HR Business Partner can create greater impact and value with a peoplebased approach to leading the transition to the new world of work. This programme is for leaders and practitioners interested in how the HRBP drives cultural shifts that align with the changing needs of teams and organisations in the new world of work.

Futurist Forum People Matters 08 March 2022 (India), 09 March 2022 (ANZ), 10 March 2022 (SEA) Online This invitation-only, closed door event brings top functional experts and CHROs from their respective regions together to find ways for larger business transformations and chart the path for the future of work and talent.


| March 2022

Well-being: the Road to Resilience People Matters BeNext 21 February – 25 March 2022 Online Theme: This programme is for all HR professionals, organisational leaders, and individuals who recognise the importance of actively investing in themselves and in a workplace where mental health, focus, resilience, stress-management and psychological safety are highly valued, and who want to explore and create opportunities to safeguard the well-being of their employees through the implementation of impactful initiatives.

Talent Acquisition Conference SEA People Matters 24 March 2022 Online How can we tackle the era of the ‘Great Resignation’, the ‘Great Attrition’, and the ‘Great Disconnect’? This conference brings together CHROs, TA Heads, Senior HR & Recruitment leaders to discuss a concrete action plan for improving recruiting processes.

Talent Analytics: Driving Organisational Impact (Spanish) People Matters BeNext 21 February – 21 March 2022 Online The future of HR lies in analytics. Gain solid knowledge and hands-on practical experience of analytical tools to help in making people decisions. This programme is for HR leaders eager to gain practical, hands-on approaches to talent analytics, connecting HR policies and practices to business performance. Prior knowledge of HR management, statistics and basic managerial accounting is preferred, but not indispensable.

Upcoming events Designing Employee Experience in the New World of Work People Matters

BeNext 18 April – 20 May 2022 Online This program is for HR leaders and employers looking to design an impactful, outstanding employee experience for their teams in the new hybrid working environment.

People Matters 18 May 2022 Hybrid People Matters has always been at the forefront of helping the community navigate the uncertainties, leading the conversations impacting the space of people, work, and workplaces. Our record in providing an effective platform where talent leaders, business thinkers, and service providers for meaningful conversation and exchange of ideas has been unparalleled.

People Matters 28 April 2022 Hybrid People Matters has always been at the forefront of helping the community navigate the uncertainties, leading the conversations impacting the space of people, work, and workplaces. Our record in providing an effective platform where talent leaders, business thinkers, and service providers for meaningful conversation and exchange of ideas has been unparalleled. Join us at People Matters EX Conference for a riveting, insightful clash of cutting-edge ideas aimed at Exponentially furthering employee value proposition, and advancing a corporate agenda that is profit-seeking, yet people-centric and ecologically sustainable.

HR Business Partner in the New World of Work People Matters BeNext 16 May – 17 June 2022 Online This programme is for leaders and practitioners interested in how the HRBP drives cultural shifts that align with the changing needs of teams and organisations in the new world of work.

Talent Analytics: Driving Organizational Impact People Matters BeNext 02 May – 03 June 2022 Online This programme is for HR leaders eager to gain practical, hands-on approaches to talent analytics, connecting HR policies and practices to business performance. Prior knowledge of HR management, statistics and basic managerial accounting is preferred, but not indispensable.

Wellbeing: the Road to Resilience People Matters BeNext 23 May – 24 June 2022 Online This program is for all HR professionals, organisational leaders, and individuals that recognize the importance of actively investing in themselves and in a workplace where mental health, focus, resilience, stress-management and psychological safety are highly valued.

March 2022 |

Knowledge + Networking

EX ANZ Conference 2022

EX India Conference 2022



>> Vishalli Dongrie

My Money, My Voice: The importance of a woman being financially independent Education is the first step towards gaining financial independence. It can help a woman fuel her innate drive and conviction

b lo g o s p he r e

much more and included working towards a career that is fulfilling – one that restores the sense of self. This motivated me to take control and embark on a journey towards financial independence. To me, this meant having the courage to lay my own path, and not having to choose one set in stone.

Seizing educational opportunities is imperative


eing born in a modest political family and getting married at a very early age kept me far away from financial independence for the better part of my life. Often, I wondered why women were not naturally included in the financial decisions at home, thus impeding development of interest and knowledge in that area. Over the years as I developed my personal and professional self, I began to realise that the purpose of my life was not limited to the trite “can women have it all”. It meant


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Education is the first step towards gaining financial independence. It can help a woman fuel her innate drive and conviction. I can attest to this, as it has helped me carve out my professional as well as financial roadmap. As a woman, I also believe it is key to understand the nuances of investing and diversification. It is a gradual journey, albeit full of learning, but one that requires focussed effort, considering I viewed investment as a mundane chore, that I had to check off a list for a very long time. But I view this inhibition as just one of the many obstacles that I have overcome with the jour-

ney still continuing. Also, with COVID-19 endangering millions of lives around the globe, being financially prepared and sufficient as a woman, has never been more important.

Being resilient and never giving up

Being financially independent can liberate and empower us in a big way. It is what bridges the gap between pseudo independence and complete independence sometimes adversely affects their financial independence in the not-so-distant and unpredictable future. And that in itself is a case for why it is more important than ever now for women to take complete control of their fiscal plans and prioritise it.

b lo g o sp he r e

I have been through my fair share of ups and downs with regard to my health in the past. I am a cancer survivor and have had heart issues and have had blood transfusions every few years due to sickle cell disease. I have been fortunate enough to receive unwavering support from my beautiful son, my family, and my loved ones which has kept me going. My resilience combined with their emotional stamina was my arsenal to bounce back to life. Being resilient mentally and financially, can help in leading a dignified life, at the same time allow us as women – single or married – to mindfully immerse ourselves in the elation of seeing our family happy, in addition to still chasing our dreams. I for one, would not have been able to traverse these tough times without family support. It is also imperative that we live with an immense amount of gratitude as being gracious as women allows us to help fellow colleagues at work, relish good experiences, improve our health, be resilient, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships. But not everyone today is blessed to stumble upon and build a bridge to financial freedom. There are very few who get acquainted with financial management at the genesis of their careers and this in turn

Financial independence is liberating and empowering Being financially independent can liberate and empower us in a big way. It is what bridges the gap between pseudo independence and complete independence. When a woman becomes dependent on herself for her financial security, she is not only more confident with the decisions she makes but also models as encouragement for other women to follow. Complete independence means freedom of choice. It allows us women to prioritise

March 2022 |


b lo g o s p he r e

the allocation of finances based on our needs and what is important, thereby ensuring that we put aside money that we should look at investing and amplifying.


Sense of purpose

But the larger picture still circles back to our sense of purpose in life – our value system, beliefs, and virtues. Even though we have seen women break the glass ceiling across sectors, a lot still needs to be done to change mindsets, as it requires us as a woman to either stand alone or leave the pack to create a space at the corporate table. And in such cases, our financial independence takes a new avatar, in that it gives us a choice to break away from the pack and prioritise our freedom and more importantly find our own way. It is not easy making that choice, but before we make it, we need to be absolutely sure of ourselves. This has also empowered me to tackle and work around biases in the corporate world and society in general. All said and done, this is a | March 2022

work in progress, but I am confident that today as a woman, I am in a better position to deal with the challenges I am confronted with. To all the young women out there, I can say this with complete confidence – when you conquer your fears and understand the importance of financial independence, you will be able to find your voice and lead an impactful life. Take the road less travelled, and enjoy the journey, for it is as vibrant as it is challenging, and will fill you with the faith that you are undoubtedly made for something bigger. Even as this Women’s Day heralds its theme of ‘#BreakTheBias,’ the writing on the wall is clear. The pandemic has meant many steps back for the financial independence of women. And the onus of ensuring that women find their voice again is on every institution and community capable of helping. ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Vishalli Dongrie is Partner and Head People and Change, KPMG in India

RNI Details: Vol. XIII, Issue No. 3, R.N.I. No. HARENG/2010/33504. Published and Owned by People Matters Publishing Pvt. Ltd. Published at 501, 5th Floor, Millennium Plaza, Tower A, Sushant Lok-1, Sector-27, Gurgaon - 122009, Haryana. Editor: Esther Martinez Hernandez

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Articles inside

t he roa D less travelle D

pages 76-81

Shifting from defense to offence Measuring DEI results

pages 59-64

The HR leadership journey: tenacity, flexibility, values

pages 71-75

What makes women better leaders in a crisis?

pages 69-70

Tech needs more women talent for better problem solving and higher performance

pages 65-68

Connecting the dots between recognition and D&I

pages 56-58

To drive diversity, embed access in the day to day policies

pages 52-55

Rapid Fire

pages 15-23

Accessibility in action: Key strategies to implement PwD inclusion at the workplace

pages 40-43

Quick Reads

pages 10-14

From implementing programmes to creating systemic change

pages 34-39

Psychological safety is the base for an inclusive future

pages 44-47

D I vers I ty

pages 24-33

Letters of the month

pages 8-9

Being diverse and inclusive is an employer's obligation

pages 48-51
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