Article: Five ways of leading in diversity: Workday's Carin Taylor


Five ways of leading in diversity: Workday's Carin Taylor

A mature, impactful approach to diversity requires high intentionality and a strong understanding of data and business outcomes. Carin Taylor, Chief Diversity Officer of Workday, explains what goes into such a strategy.
Five ways of leading in diversity: Workday's Carin Taylor

The objective of diversity is to create a positive impact: to improve the experience people have, to improve customer satisfaction, to improve business outcomes. At Workday's recent Elevate Singapore conference, People Matters caught up with the technology firm's Chief Diversity Officer Carin Taylor, who shared with us several great insights into how data, intentionality, storytelling, and business expertise can be combined to help a company drive engagement and business impact.

Carin joined Workday in 2018 as its first Chief Diversity Officer, coming from Genentech. She manages the global development and execution of Workday's VIBE (Value Inclusion, Belonging, and Equity for all) strategy. Here are five takeaways from our conversation:

1. Collect and use data about belonging in an intentional way

2. Find the ways in which inclusion is linked to business outcomes

3. Leverage business partners to understand business impact better

4. Have a single clear definition of what diversity means in your organisation

5. Communicate your approach and expectations to partners and customers

Read on for the full interview:

Workday by its nature is a data-rich company. What are some ways you're using that data to drive inclusion?

Everything I do is about the data, whether I'm looking at demographics or at experience. We really listen to our employees; we survey them every Friday through our Peakon tool, creating a regular cadence of data that then allows us to make better business decisions. For example, a couple of years ago we found through looking at the data that a particular segment of our population was not having a comparable belonging experience. So, we said to this group of employees: 'Help us better understand your experience.' We took that feedback and created a journey for them using the Workday application, and then we saw an increase in not just their productivity, but their sense of belonging. I think that that's really important, because if you don't feel like you belong, you are less productive. You don't put in as much of yourself and you can't be as innovative.

Some other very good examples happened during the pandemic. When the pandemic first started and people started to work from home, we didn't realise that the tools and the resources that they needed to be productive at home were very different than what they needed in the office. So we did another survey through Peakon and used that data to better understand the gaps in technology that people were encountering at home, and then we input a process to ensure that financially everyone could close those gaps. Another example from the pandemic was the role of a caregiver. We found that parents were not getting any separation between their younger children being at home and the work that they needed to do – that there was this extra weight caregivers were facing. And that allowed us to make different decisions on the experience that those caregivers were having.

Speaking of regular surveys, there are ongoing conversations around how to manage feedback and listening initiatives such that people don't go numb to it. How are you handling that risk?

We have a long-standing culture of feedback, and one important part of it is that we ask for information in a very intentional way. We actually do something with the data we collect, and we also tell our employees what we did. That lets employees see that we really are taking their feedback and reacting to what they're saying, and that the outcome of them giving us this data is us putting in processes or resources that will help them. It's an incentive for them to continually want to give us the data.

Of course, when we increase the number of questions we ask, we do see a little bit of tapering off in the responses. But for the most part, the majority of our employees still complete surveys on a regular basis.

To collect data intentionally, you have to know what you're looking for and what you want to achieve – so how do you identify the data points that you actually need?

The intersection of people and data allows us to make different business decisions and gives us a direct link to the impact on the business created by things like innovation; speed and efficiency; performance management; processes to elevate the performance of all of our employees. All of those are tangible ways in which we are connecting diversity to the business aspect.

Another important thing is that it's really the employee that drives our business. Without people we don't have anything. And so when we connect people and processes to culture, values, and purpose, we then really are having a direct impact on the business because we already know that if someone doesn't feel like they belong, they are much less productive. They are not giving their best ideas. They are not being as innovative as they possibly can. All those are direct links to the business. It may not connect directly to financial numbers. But if you think in terms of productivity, about innovation, about whether your employees are giving back to your customers – all those are an impact to the product quality, to customer satisfaction, to the bottom line.

What's your advice on training and preparing a team for this very impact-focused approach?

We used to just talk about diversity in terms of representation and numbers. But now you have to think about inclusion, belonging and equity in terms of engagement, and that means you have to have the elements of engagement, connection, and understanding what it means for us to step into the workplace. My team is responsible for making those connections between the business, our talent acquisition organisation, and our diversity organisation, so that we look at talent strategies in a connected manner.

As part of our diversity strategy, we bring in business partners who have a lot of experience and understanding of the business impact. We partner with them to own the overall strategy, leveraging their expertise to connect those dots of what diversity is and what it impacts. This way, we can connect diversity to technology; we can connect diversity to AI; we can connect diversity to talent; we can connect diversity to process; we can connect diversity to social impact, and so much more. And then we play off of that to give people the opportunity to think about the different ways in which they can impact our business from a diversity standpoint.

You're describing a very mature approach to diversity, something that many businesses still need time to achieve. Any tips that could help them move forward?

One of the most powerful tools that we have under our belt right now is storytelling. An employee can say, “Here's what's happening to me” in a way that a leader can care about and change, and when leaders hear more of those stories, it opens their eyes to the real experience that people are having in the company. And that leads to change.

Another thing that works very well for us is ensuring every single person in our workforce is connected to diversity. At Workday, we define diversity simply as difference. When you put two people in a room, those two people are diverse. It doesn't matter if it's a white person or a Black person or an Asian person or an LGBTQ person. They are diverse, they are part of the diversity agenda. And when leaders all the way to the top understand that, it makes a huge impact.

And one more thing that has been a game changer is the focus on belonging. Regardless of your dimensions of diversity, regardless of who we are, almost all of us can point to an experience where we have felt like we didn't belong. That is a stepping stone for us to help people to understand more about what this work involves. We have what we call employee belonging councils, also called employee resource groups, which help us understand the impact of our policies and processes either culturally or from a community standpoint. Our leaders act as executive sponsors, taking what they hear to their peers and elevating the conversation so that even our CEO plays a role. It's part of what helps us really get a lot of people behind our efforts.

Besides elevating the conversation internally, are you able to pass the diversity message on to stakeholders outside the organisation – customers, suppliers, business partners?

This happens through our values. We have a very strong value system, and we do expect that our customers and our partners and the folks that we work with are going to align with our values.

And so we lay out that foundation by talking about diversity with our partners. If we're talking about a part of our diversity strategy related to something that our partners should be doing, we communicate our expectations and what we want them to do; then we help to train them in this area if that's needed. It's about building a strong partnership where we can engage with them, help them understand what our expectations are, understand in our turn where some of their gaps are, and then see how we can help them fill those gaps.

Workday really emphasises protection of our ecosystem. We want people to have a great experience within that ecosystem, and so if something isn't working for an employee, a customer, or a partner, they have the opportunity to bring that up with us. They can openly say, “There's not good behaviour here. How do we change that?” And then we can work with them on it.

One thing to add, this is something that you have to model but you also have to be really clear and intentional about what your DEI efforts are. If you leave it up to the organisation to interpret that, your 20,000 employees are going to interpret it in 20,000 different ways. And so in a lot of cases, we are very intentional about defining what diversity is, making sure that people understand our goals around diversity, and creating ways for the average employee to see how their leader is supporting diversity. That creates a real, connected thread around expectations.

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Topics: Diversity, Leadership

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