Article: With a hybrid model in place we benefit from a larger talent pool: Karine Smyth, Experian

Diversity

With a hybrid model in place we benefit from a larger talent pool: Karine Smyth, Experian

While the world dives deeper into the concept of hybrid work, several challenges surface globally. With inclusion being one of the biggest challenges, Karine Smyth, Experian's Emerging Propositions Director for ANZ, shares insights on ways to ensure the inclusion of all employees.
With a hybrid model in place we benefit from a larger talent pool: Karine Smyth, Experian

The concern isn't anymore about networking in a remote workforce, but about how to make a hybrid work model supportive for all. As leaders note the perks of a remote workplace, some challenges of the same become vivid. Working parents being one of the sections of the employees to be facing major challenges globally, leaders are digging deeper into the possibilities to make a workplace supportive towards them, especially the single parents.

People Matters sought insights from Karine Smyth, Emerging Propositions Director at Experian ANZ on the challenges faced by the working parents and that what methods can ease out work-life for them.

Here is an account of the interaction. 

Hybrid work has become a challenge for working parents because of the way it blurs the boundaries between work and life. The problem is especially difficult for single parents. How are you addressing this? 

The pandemic has been tough for everyone, but particularly for parents thrust into working from home – juggling a busy home, school, and work life. Single parents, who have had to do it all without the option to share the load, have no doubt been hit the hardest. In response, we expanded the number of existing programs to include more initiatives targeted at providing support and connectedness through the pandemic. Throughout the pandemic we further developed our hybrid work model, allowing more choice and flexibility for the team.

We have provided support in part through a structured approach: Experian wanted to give employees who are parents, the tools and support to help balance work and parenting children at home. The region-wide Parents at Work membership for all employees provides support for working families, through webinars, coaching, workshops and resources. 

Beyond that structured support, we’ve encouraged everyone to work on their own time and adjust their hours to their specific needs. Managers worked out flexible arrangements with their team members, carers leave was available when things got too hard to juggle, and we also ensured we led by example. 

“When the senior leaders also get interrupted during a video conference by their child asking for maths support, you know you are not alone, that your struggles are understood, and that’s important.”

This strong company culture is at the heart of Experian and a driver of the recognitions we received being a Top Employer and Top Employer for Working families, and being certified as a Great Place to Work this year.

With the emerging trend of remote and hybrid working, new concerns over DE&I have come up. However, with remote working, diverse hiring has turned out to be a major benefit in terms of going beyond hiring in one's geographical proximity. How is Experian's leadership looking at this?

If we are not careful, hybrid work can sharpen DE&I challenges; however, it does also present opportunities to enhance equity through the right policies. 

The reason that hybrid working can increase inequalities is that you can end up with a dual culture. On one hand, people who need the most support such as single parents or people with a physical disability who find it easier to work from home, embrace flexibility and work from home more often. 

On the other hand, employees who require less support come into the office more often and reap the benefits of the office culture. This can see them potentially progress faster because they’ve had more face-time with management. 

It’s important we are aware of this so we can manage our talent accordingly. That way, we benefit from a larger talent pool, some of whom might have struggled to access our offices every day in the past, and our employees benefit from a fair, flexible and supportive working environment.

Like all crises, COVID-19 has certainly brought a more intense focus on the benefits of Diversity and Inclusion, as you need varied teams and ideas to best deal with a crisis. We are trying to make meaningful change in our business, and that means focusing on one specific area of DE&I, rather than trying to boil the ocean. We have sharpened our focus on gender for now, which is a regional APAC strategic imperative.

“Locally, 43% of our employees are female, while 45% of our Senior Leadership team are female.”

However, we’re continuing to strive for greater female representation at all levels of the business, especially when it comes to inspiring the next generation of female leaders. We are continuously looking for opportunities to grow, nurture and promote top female talent. Over the last six months, through recruitment and promotions, we have honed a focus on female representation in senior roles, increasing the number of female managers by 22%.

A note about your Women in Leadership DiveIn (WILD) program stated that it is designed to help develop women leaders and provide opportunities for career acceleration. Could you share some insights on this?

The Women in Leadership Dive In (WILD) program is an Experian initiative designed to give real experiences of leadership development and career acceleration for women. Aiming to fast-track women into executive leadership positions, promote lateral or vertical career moves, WILD was designed to equip participants with sponsorship, advice, targeted development and support pathways to promotion. The cohort ended with an 88% retention rate and 71% of women saw their roles develop through the program. It is so great to see the tangible benefits of implementing these initiatives.

Nearing the year-end, which trends marked 2021 in terms of DE&I?

Throughout 2021 we have seen a strong focus on hybrid and flexible working. Given our adaptation to new working environments, we have definitely seen the shift to a hybrid model as a trend within the DE&I space. What the COVID-19 crisis has reminded us, beyond everything else, is that we are all individuals living very different lives. That’s prompted Experian to go down the route of offering a flexible working culture, giving employees the choice to work remotely, in the office, or a mix of both if they prefer, allowing all employees more accessibility and flexibility depending on their needs. 

As we near the end of 2021, it’s clear that flexibility is here to stay. It’s important we stay aware of our own biases and avoid unconsciously discriminating against any part of our flexible workforce. The good news is that, over the last few years, the focus on DE&I has increased hugely, and more than ever we are all keen to combat cultural biases and keep building a more equitable working environment. 

How do you plan to structure your DE&I policies for the coming year? 

Going forward we will still maintain our strong focus on gender diversity and inclusion. We have a goal to increase the representation of women across our total workforce from 44% this year to 47% in 2024. We are already making significant progress in achieving this goal, through building out programs and initiatives to help our female employees succeed, as well as ensuring future recruitment is underpinned by diversity considerations.

Moving forward we’ll be looking at how we can best support others from under-represented groups to develop talent in all areas.

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Topics: Diversity, Technology, #HybridWorkplace, #RemoteWork

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