Roman I. Matla is Director, APAC Diversity and Employee Engagement at Google. Roman’s professional career spans over 24 years in a variety of Technology, Human Capital and Business Analysis leadership roles within the investment banking, mining and resources and technology industries across North America and the Asia Pacific region.
In August 2020, Roman joined Google as APAC Director of Diversity and Employee Engagement based in Singapore. In this role, Roman and his team are responsible for delivering a globally aligned yet regionally tailored DEI strategy and set of initiatives that support Google’s business opportunities around the region.
In an exclusive interaction with us, Roman, who will be speaking at People Matters TechHR 2021, shares some of the core tenets to build a diverse and inclusive culture.
Despite so much talk on DEI, why do you think organizations still are lagging behind?
There’s no secret that the lack of diversity goes beyond the tech industry, but achieving greater diversity, equity and inclusion requires long-term commitment and investment from an organization. I’m an optimist, and being in this space over the years, I do see progress being made across several industries. I believe that regardless of the industry you’re in, every action and initiative to address and improve diversity and inclusion is a step in the right direction and is progress.
Creating a diverse workforce is not just the right thing to do, it makes good business sense. Countless studies have shown that diversity improves commercial performance but gender is just one dimension of diversity - it’s common sense that when different viewpoints and ideas are shared you’ll build better products, create smarter processes and run things more smoothly. We need to recognize that building a diverse and inclusive workforce isn’t a one-off effort but an ongoing process. Again, we haven’t got all the answers but we are striving to do better all the time.
The first step that companies can do to foster a sense of inclusion at work is to provide channels for employees to have ongoing open conversations with one another to facilitate understanding and awareness for different groups, but also opportunities to educate the wider employee community.
For instance, during Trans Awareness Day in May, our Trans@ Employee Resource Group did an incredible job hosting education sessions and sharing a conversation about their lived experiences. They also organized Trans 101 training designed to educate Googlers about the experiences our transgender employees face and how to be a better ally to transgender co-workers, given the specific APAC context around acceptance and inclusion. For me personally, these sessions were incredibly powerful and eye-opening at the same time. It’s been great to see our Googlers strive to know more and educate themselves.
What are some of the core tenets to build an inclusive culture?
When we look at our culture at Google, we want our workplace to provide a sense of belonging -- where every colleague feels seen, connected, supported, and proud to be a part of Google. This is important because it empowers people to do their best work, and we want to be a company where people of different views, backgrounds, and experiences can come together and show up for one another.
To keep our culture inclusive, innovative, and thriving, we focus on hiring for culture ‘add’, not culture ‘fit’ when we evaluate potential candidates.
We approach this by asking ourselves what perspectives or experiences are missing from our teams or what can a candidate add to our organization. This enables us to consider candidates that do not “fit” a preconceived profile. To date, more than 2,500 employees in 150 offices have taken our “Culture Add” training, with nearly 90% agreeing that the workshop inspired them to think about how a candidate would enhance Google’s culture.
What are some of the best practices followed by Google to build a diverse and inclusive culture?
At Google, we’re committed to making diversity, equity and inclusion part of everything we do - whether that’s how we build our products to how we build our workforce.
Since 2014, we’ve published our Diversity Annual Report, to provide greater data transparency and find ways to increase the diversity of our employee base, be it for women or other underrepresented groups. Our recently published 2021 Diversity Annual Report continues to help us better understand where we’ve made progress and insights on where we need to improve.
With such data, people managers work closely with our diversity experts to identify opportunities on their teams, helping to ladder up to our objective. For example, to build a diverse pipeline, we launched DigiPivot in India, a program aimed at upskilling women, including those with disabilities and those from the LGBTQ+ communities, so they can pivot into digital marketing. We’ve been able to hire incredibly talented individuals from this program.
Our APAC leadership team is also invested in ensuring we are building a diverse and inclusive workforce, and has formed a cross functional DE&I council committed to owning the representation gap -- this group meets regularly to align on and commit to actions each region/function will take to reach this goal.
In an era of hybrid work and distributed teams, what are some of the challenges organizations need to overcome to build a high performing inclusive culture?
The pandemic has certainly impacted the way many of us work, learn and stay in touch with one another. Just as employees are adapting to this new way of working, organizations need to be cognizant of the importance in creating a virtual culture where employees can continue to collaborate and contribute equitably.
Melonie Parker, our Chief Diversity Officer, recently shared several ways we can foster inclusiveness while working from home. One example I resonated with was a manager’s role to care for teams. As a people manager, we need to acknowledge that everyone is experiencing the pandemic differently. We shouldn’t underestimate the importance of regularly checking in with team members to see how they are doing. In this time of ambiguity, be open in creating flexible work schedules and practice empathy. At Google, we temporarily expanded our existing Carer's Leave policy to support employees who need to take time off to look after their children or other family members. These policies and care can go a long way to ensuring employees feel supported and included.
What would be your advice to organizations to improve DEI and build an inclusive culture?
Leaders have the opportunity to set the right tone and culture internally, so employees can show up and be at their best, but also feel comfortable providing critical feedback about initiatives that are not working.
When developing initiatives, data matters. Use data to have regular checkpoints, hold people to account on data matters and keep the conversation top of mind. For instance, when it comes to the recruitment pipeline, making sure the teams are constantly asking questions that align to the overall goal: “Do we have a diverse slate? Are we making sure we aren’t letting bias or speed creep into the process?” No matter which industry you’re in, we all have the opportunity to bridge divides, give voice to marginalized groups, and create the kind of workplace where everyone belongs.
Hear Roman Matla speak at People Matters TechHR 2021. Click here to register.