It's time for organizations to think about how they can create an inclusive, equitable, and collaborative workplace culture outside of an organization’s physical office environments.
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As the leader of Google Cloud’s human resources function, Brigette is focused on attracting and developing amazing talent and shaping Cloud’s culture of customer empathy & belonging to drive business growth and transformation.
Prior to joining Google in 2019, Brigette served as the Chief Operating Officer of SAP SuccessFactors where she defined and implemented business strategies to achieve sustainable growth and satisfaction among customers undergoing digital transformation of their total workforce experience. In addition to her role as COO, Brigette also led SAP SuccessFactors Digital HR Strategy and Transformation teams.
Brigette’s passion includes leading large-scale global teams and building cultures that promote women and early-stage talent in leadership, diversity, and inclusion, pay equality, and digital transformation.
Here are the edited excerpts.
Do you think the remote mode of working is sustainable? We hear a lot about the importance of creating a sense of inclusion. What, according to you, should be the strategy to make this a reality, especially in a remote working world?
The idea that “work is something you do rather than somewhere you go” isn’t necessarily a new concept - it’s been catching on for years. This shift toward more flexible and remote work models has been rapidly accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic, and it requires CEOs, CTOs, and CHROs to completely rethink how they shape the future of employee collaboration, engagement, and culture through digital experiences.
For example, as the pandemic shifted us to a remote working environment, we focused on how we can better collaborate, innovate, and enhance inclusion and wellbeing for Google employees. We’re especially interested in what we call collaboration equity, or the ability to contribute equally, regardless of location, role, experience level, language, and device preference.
To your second question, we’re a data-driven company: our data drives our strategy. We’re currently measuring and learning from our experience working during the pandemic to reimagine our workplace for the future. We’ve learned that individual experiences with working from home vary. Google’s future workplace will have room for all of these possibilities, and we’ll continue to pilot new approaches while improving overall productivity, connectedness, wellbeing, and, of course, inclusion.
This shift toward more flexible and remote work models has been rapidly accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic, and it requires CEOs, CTOs, and CHROs to completely rethink how they shape the future of employee collaboration, engagement, and culture through digital experiences.
The crisis has exposed how some companies don't view D&I as a core value with companies shedding jobs related to diversity roles. But the equation suddenly started to change with a lot of organizations hiring diversity officers. How do you see the current scenario of diversity, equity, and inclusion?
At Google, our work is anchored in the fact that there are some underrepresented groups who have historically been discriminated against and excluded from opportunities in the tech industry, and who today remain affected by systemic inequity. We were one of the first companies to publish diversity data publicly, starting in 2014, and this helped start the conversation of diversity in tech. We continue to publish a report every year to be transparent about our progress and to share what we’ve learned along the way.
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Our key aspiration is to build an organization that cultivates belonging for everyone. Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) is a lens through which we approach everything, from our people to our products. We’re not only analyzing how we can help ensure Google Cloud is a place where anyone and everyone can thrive, we also want to make sure our products and services are inclusive and equitable for our users and customers.
For the post-pandemic world, do you think we need leadership that recognizes the potential of diverse talent and understands its implications on inclusion and culture?
Leaders make decisions that affect an organization’s products and services for its customers, its employees, and its culture. Our diversity makes us more innovative and better able to treat our customers with empathy, so we need to be as diverse as the customers we serve and we achieve that outcome through inclusive and agile leadership. This means not only seeking out and considering different views and perspectives across your teams, but also being adaptable and willing to change behaviors, systems, policies, and practices that are barriers to DEI.
What, according to you, are the biggest challenges organizations face implementing D&I strategy? How can the challenges be surmounted?
It’s no secret that lack of diversity in corporate America is a well-documented problem and improvements have been slow. For the first time in history, companies are being called on in a different way. On top of that, employees today have more choice, and they will seek out organizations that elevate DEI as a top priority.
In all my years working in HR and technology, there are a few consistent prerequisites for successful DEI programs and progress, regardless of the company: First, the leaders responsible for making key decisions have to understand why DEI is a business imperative, as well as the integral part they must play in advancing DEI progress. Secondly, leaders must take ownership and be accountable to lead with DEI as a top priority. Leadership requirements have changed, and agile and inclusive leaders are what’s needed to help bridge divides, give voice to marginalized groups, and build more equitable workplace environments where everyone belongs.
Where do you see the D&I agenda 2-5 years down the line? Do you expect significant changes in terms of how organizations perceive diversity and inclusion practices as a sustainable competitive advantage for their company?
We’re in a unique moment in which a vast majority of organizations are having to evaluate workplace culture through the lens of a distributed workforce, and it will be important for organizations to continue to think about how they can create an inclusive, equitable, and collaborative workplace culture outside of an organization’s physical office environments.
The pandemic has proven that physical office space does not define an organization’s culture alone: true organizational culture is founded on the mission, values, and behaviors that unify employees. In Google Cloud, for example, our culture is defined by customer empathy - seeking to understand the challenges our customers face in order to successfully create solutions for them. Customer empathy can only become ingrained in our culture when we create and sustain an environment where all Cloud Googlers feel included and believe they can succeed, which is why we’ve been leaning into new ways through our own technology to strengthen connections, build community across a distributed workforce, and support our Googlers to equitably participate, collaborate, and share ideas from anywhere. Advances in technology in the coming years will play an increasingly critical role in providing insights and driving processes and behaviors that will help organizations become more diverse, equitable, and inclusive.
How are you supporting your employees amid this uncertainty? READ this to find out how companies are leveling up their employee support systems during COVID-19.