Organizations must foster diverse and inclusive cultures to attract a diverse workforce of top talent; we have invited Devi Virdi, Group Head of Diversity and Inclusion at Centrica, and Nina Pagon, Consultant and DEIB Lead at Right Management UK, to share their perspectives on this timely topic.
92% of organizations believe that a diverse workforce is beneficial, and only 19% believe that diversity is well integrated into their current structure, according to Everest’s Future of Work Series Paper #2: Reimagining Workforce and Workplace Mechanics report. In this episode, we discuss what it means to have diversity well-integrated in the organization. We also focus on DEIB in the new reality, especially in the remote and hybrid working model context. We touch upon the challenges those models may have on DEIB and learn from Centrica and Right Management how organizations can tackle those challenges to drive commercial success.
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Intro (00:01): The future of work and the future for workers is changing. From new technologies and talent strategies to the management of tomorrow's workforce, tap in to ManpowerGroup Talent Solutions' 60 years of expertise, and join us for the Transform Talent Podcast, your guide to talent market trends, new technologies and winning talent solutions.
Dominika Gałusa (00:28): Hello, and welcome to the 21st episode of the Transform Talent Podcast. We are your hosts, Dominika Gałusa...
April Clark (00:35): …and April Clark. As we continue to share our perspective on how to foster diverse and inclusive cultures and what it takes to attract richly diverse workforce of top talent, we've invited Devi Virdi, Group Head of Diversity and Inclusion at Centrica, and Nina Pagon, Consultant and DE&I Lead at Right Management UK, to talk to us about this timely topic.
Dominika Gałusa (01:00): In this episode, we would also like to understand what it makes to have diversity well integrated in the organization and only 19% believe that diversity is well integrated into their current structure according to Everest's Future of Work Series paper, the second edition report, which we'll make sure to link in the description of this episode. We would like to focus on DEIB in the new reality, especially in the remote and hybrid working model context. We will also touch upon the challenges those models may have on DEIB and learn from Centrica and Right Management how organizations can tackle those challenges to drive commercial success.
April Clark (01:41): So Devi, welcome. It's great to have you here with us.
Devi Virdi (01:47): Thank you, so lovely to be here as well, Nina. Nice to meet you.
April Clark (01:51): Yeah. Welcome Nina. Thank you for joining us.
Nina Pagon (01:54): Hello, and thank you for having me. Very excited to be here.
April Clark (01:57): Wonderful. So let's start with the definition. Can you please define the D, the E, the I, and the B in DEIB and what each of these mean for you in the workplace?
Devi Virdi (02:10): Sure. So April, that's a really great question. And I, so from my lens, actually diversity, so the D, if we start with the D, it doesn't actually mean one thing, right? It means many things. And what I mean by that is, you know, diversity, it's the multiple layers of identity, frankly, that each and every individual has, right? Within an organization. And that includes actually every single person. And I think it's really important to remember that, you know, no one person is defined by one singular dimension of diversity. In fact, we've all got multiple layers, right? That make up our own unique identities. You know, somebody's female, they're bisexual, they're black or disabled.
And in fact, all of these different elements create a unique identity. So for me, I think what's incredibly important is when I think about diversity, it's to start exploring it actually beyond a singular dimension, because if we stick to that singular dimension in a workplace, frankly, we are not seeing the whole picture of diversity. And let's be really frank about this. Most companies, right? Diversity is based on the visible characteristics that people see. The problem with that is that you are not truly understanding what matters to that person, right? And actually what will make them feel truly included in the workplace. So that's the first thing, right? We've gotta look at diversity beyond that singular dimension.
Inclusion, you know, so if we talk about the I, this is about behaviors, it's about values and it's about how those values really manifest themselves, you know, through leadership from top down and bottom up. And actually with, a workplace without, right? Inclusion, frankly, diversity is doomed to fail. So when it comes to creating an environment of inclusion, you are either leading the way or you are simply getting in the way. Neutral doesn't exist. And actually everybody wants to be in a workplace where they are valued and they are respected.
And there's also the piece here with the, the D and the I, is that they have legal requirements that are also behind them, right? So there, there is the moral case, but there's also the business case now. And the business case, in fact, it's not a new element, right? But I think companies and organizations now really do see the value in how diversity drives performance. You know, there's better output, there's more innovation and better productivity. And then when we move to the E, the E stands for equity. So we have moved beyond the D and I and we've now landed with the E. And actually equity, what does it mean to me in the workplace? It’s really about treating individuals fairly. It's based on their needs and their requirements, right?
So actually another way to think about it is equity is the process while equality is actually the outcome. And that distinction is so important when you think about in a workplace having fair systems and processes such as promotion, hiring and so on and so forth. And finally, I think just to finish off, the B, what I've really seen is actually this year, you know, where the conversation has shifted from DE&I to DEIB, and that commitment to belonging. And what do I mean by that? Well, look, I think while valuing diversity and inclusion is great, actually, sometimes it's just not enough, right? One thing that you will increasingly hear is the term belonging.
And I think that also plays into the part of, you know, with the continuation of hybrid working, right? The impact of the digital workplace, this requires a much greater emphasis on creating that sense of belonging, you know, for the workforce, for people. So, yeah, so that, that is what I see it means to the workplace, April.
April Clark (06:14): Thanks. Nina, what are your thoughts? I know ManpowerGroup has definitely elevated the B in making sure that belonging is a big piece of that discussion. Do you have anything to add there?
Nina Pagon (06:26): Absolutely. That is one thing I wanted to share with Devi that absolutely, you know, we've seen the conversation shift and we've also done the same in ManpowerGroup and we've added the B because it is crucial. And I think, you know, I agree with what Devi was saying. And I think diversity is just a relational concept. It just means having differences within an organization or, or assessing. And we need to, and I 100% agree what Devi said, look for differences in, you know, thought and style beyond just the traits and protected characteristics.
I think equity is a big one. We cannot, yeah, just, you know, start with equality or just assume that everyone's equal and that the playing field is level for, equal level for all. But equity actually recognizes that everyone's starting points is unique so that people will be impacted by the same processes and practices quite differently based on different factors. So equity really considers you know, the, all of those differences and take them into the account. And then inclusion is crucial. And a lot of times we believe that inclusion is a natural consequence of diversity, but that is not the case. An organization can be very diverse without being inclusive, because it is, it's about those behaviors as Devi was saying.
And it's about, yeah, how we behave in the equitable way and true to the values that really foster empowerment, employee voice and agency. And we see belonging as an outcome of holding this space of inclusion where everyone feels truly empowered to speak up, make change, and shift the culture really, and be their, again, be their best self.
April Clark (08:33): I think those are such thoughtful explanations. Thank you both. It's clear that you're both passionate about DEIB. So before we dive in, I'd love to hear your background stories. Devi, your bio says you're a senior level advocate for diversity, equity and inclusion. Can you define what it means to be an advocate?
Devi Virdi (08:52): Thanks so much, April. Um, and yeah, look, so I'm really, I feel incredibly inspired actually to be here today. And so I guess a bit about, you know, how have I got to where I've got to today, right? And actually quite unconventional. And what I mean by that is, so if I sort of rewind a little bit back, I grew up in Hong Kong. That's where I'm from. And actually I grew up in a household where our mantra was where there's a will, there's a way. And that was led by a fiercely proud Asian mother who wanted her four children really to have empathy for others and actually leave the world a better place.
It's a mantra that, you know, has really served as my personal North Star. It's guided my decisions and my choices both big and small. And, you know, I would say because of who actually my mom was and her beliefs, what she dreamt was possible, she frankly never asked anyone for permission. And she really showed us, she showed me what the power of action and actually what it truly means to break down barriers. And with both Chinese and Indian cultures, you know, in her DNA, she was, you know, the first police woman in Hong Kong of Indian descent, right? So breaking down barriers, she was my role model. She was a change maker and she taught me what the power of action was.
So I guess my personal story to, to led me to where I'm at today is as part of that, you know, growing up in the '80s in Hong Kong along with my Chinese heritage, look, I frankly didn't fit in. Right? And all I wanted to do as a child was to fit in. And I think, you know, it's struggling to fit in at school. I still remember the feeling of sitting in a classroom, you know, as a, as a young child, young girl, with everybody chatting away in English, you know, I hardly understood a word, right? I grew up in a multi-generational home, speaking Cantonese and Punjabi. I had a lot of low self-esteem and not a lot of friends at school.
And I'll be honest, you know, I shied away from drawing attention to myself, right? In the classroom. And my grades actually reflected that. Right? I even got to the stage where I took report cards away from the mailbox, right? To hide these sort of my own failings from my parents. But anyway, look, my parents realized that I needed the support and things eventually did improve, but that fear of rejection, that fear of exclusion and actually not fitting in, not having friends, that was all really real to me. So I've gotta say, I'm not alone in having those type of experiences, right? In life.
And I recognize that countless people around the world feel a level of exclusion every single day, right? Whether that's due to the skin color, their gender, their nationality, their age, their accent, right? Or any one of those range of differences that makes each one of us so incredibly unique, you know, exclusion, it saps confidence, right? It undermines dreams. And it keeps too many talented people living up to their full potential. So experiencing that really can stay with you for a lifetime and actually cost can be huge. If I fast forward to where I'm at today, I went into the world of work and coming into D&I hasn't been conventional. So I've been in senior leadership roles, running regions, global teams. I was in the hospitality sector with Marriott, then with Accor.
I then pivoted, went into the travel tech where I started my D&I journey, running global markets. But it's when you realize that, you know, you look around the room, you're not just the only, the only woman in the room. Sometimes you're the only person that looks like you in the room. So driving that change, right? To make that positive impact, it's an absolute key motivator of mine. And for me, it's something that I've gotta say, I'm a passionate believer, right? That we are frankly, all in positions of influence where we can be part of that positive change.
April Clark (12:47): Well, and that must be so rewarding having come up with those experiences to be in the position you are now to really activate and impact change. That's a great story, Devi. Nina, you know, what led you to, to enter into DE&I with Right Management?
Nina Pagon (13:02): Absolutely. And it was just, Devi, I wanted to say, I agree it was inspiring listening to your story. And where I can make a connection with mine is that there are so many components and elements, I think that bring us into this work. And that's amazing because I think it's our life's work and that is where that passion comes from. And, you know, as everyone else, I also bring a unique story to my journey. And I think, you know, it starts with being born in Slovenia, a country of two million people and different to you, Devi, I always liked to, I always liked to stand out and I always challenged the idea of the same and I liked being different, hence why I left straight after secondary school and I moved around and I lived in Scotland, in Italy. I spent some time in the US.
And I think that was where, you know, and it's a story of privilege, but it's also a story where I started realizing, what does it mean to be that other? You know, not being a part of a dominant culture, accent is different. You look different. All of those things that really got me interested in, you know, what does that mean for me and for people like me? And I think it was really when I moved to London and I joined Right Management a few years ago that I really recognized my privilege even more so. And also, I think it opened my eyes to some of the struggles that perhaps before I haven't seen for other people. And I'm an impact and everything that I do has always been centered around people.
And I think, you know, fast forward to 2020 and all of the events that were happening from the killing of George Floyd, BLM movement, COVID and how it was disproportionately affecting different groups and people. I think as every organization and Right Management, we started to reexamine our approaches to DEI&B. And as a lot of other organizations, we had to modernize and we had to step up our game. And I think, you know, with my experiences and passion and the fact that I like to be out there, that I like to convince people and, and get them on my side and this is something I'm really, really passionate about. It was just sort of a natural, natural progression, but of course, you know, I'm co-leading this with a colleague and it supports a group of like 20 people that started this. So it really was a group effort as I think it is in all of those, all of those things.
April Clark (15:48): So Nina, how is Right Management helping to create DEIB advocates for organizations?
Nina Pagon (15:54): We support that in many ways. And, you know, once again, it's amazing that something that I get to do in my organization and I'm so passionate about, we get to do with other clients as well. And when it to DEIB and the strategies and the initiative, as the Right Management, we have a view that it needs to be both top down and bottom up approach. So we address both of those groups. So for example, with certain organizations, we are developing their leaders. We work on inclusive leadership because we know that you need to have leader buy-in for the agendas to work and for the culture of the organization to change.
At the same time, you know, a lot of people fall into the role of advocate leader, diversity. And again, some people just fall into the role of doing this work of an advocate or an affinity network leader. And we know that we need to empower those people as well. So we have been running programs on storytelling for inclusion, or how to look after yourself as a DIB advocate. So we are supporting that, as I said, bottom up, empowering people to drive and feel that they can do the work that they believe in, that they're passionate about and also talk with the leaders and managers so they really understand and buy-in to really driving the initiative.
Dominika Gałusa (17:34): So thank you so much for sharing those stories and, you know, it was so inspiring to listen to it. And I see now how, you know, coming from a diverse background and having those international experiences really make you sensitive and really want you to, you know, make a difference. I would like you to talk about diverse workforce now. So Devi and Nina, a question, um, questions to both of you. How would you define what a diverse workforce looks like? And if you could share with us best practices that you're seeing. And Nina, let's focus on, Right Management's perspective, and Devi, let's focus on Centrica's perspective.
Devi Virdi (18:16): Super. Um, thanks so much for that question, Dominika. So at Centrica, the definition of what a diverse workforce is one that represents our customers and the communities we serve, right? It is one of our pillars, which is part of our ambitious diversity and inclusion plan. And actually it's really critical in this day and age, right? For organizations to have and to inspire, aspire to, right? Because you want to ensure that, you know, particularly for us as a business, right? Being a service business, that we represent who our customers are.
And so our workforce mirrors this, why? Because we know that when you have that diverse team that fully reflects the diversity of the communities we serve, it creates that customer higher satisfaction piece, right? It improves our company's reputation. It increases our colleagues' feelings of empowerment and pride, right? It also increases, you know, satisfaction and wellbeing. And, you know, there is the bottom line piece as well. Right? And ultimately, as an employer, it's about becoming an employer of choice and being a more sustainable business. In fact, right now, I would say, you know, if I think about the last 24 months, this piece holistically on that, what is a diverse workforce? What does that look like?
This has actually given also organizations an opportunity to actually show up in many ways, right? What do I mean by that? I mean by that in terms of, um, the dialogue of a flexible working approach, particularly in a post pandemic world, right? And actually allowing businesses to affect real change. It's about challenging those, you know, those structures, those progresses that lie far beyond that physical desk. And I know we're gonna talk about that later on. So I don't really wanna bring too much of that into play right now. But for, in terms of a definition, for us at Centrica, it sits on our D&I plan. It's part of our core pillar within our workforce stream. And it's about building also the workforce for the future.
We are in the energy sector. So it's something that's incredibly, you know, pivotal to us in order to leverage and ensure that we build on as a business and as a sector as well.
Dominika Gałusa (20:39): So how about you, Nina?
Nina Pagon (20:41): I love the question. What does a diverse workforce look like? And I think it's important to go back to what Devi so beautifully described at the start of how diversity means so many different things. So I think it's important to say that you can also have a team of people that look very different. But if they have no, they'll think the same, you know, then we have no diversity of thought. So I think it's really important to look beyond what we can see and really bring in all of the things that make someone unique and what brings their identity and ensure that they really feel that they can express. They feel psychologically safe to express that at work and just be who they are.
I also think it's important to think about both, again, in terms of, you know, protective characteristics and looking at, and I second what Devi was saying, we need to look at our organizations and teams, and that's what we've been doing at Right Management UK and say, you know, does it reflect our customers? Does it reflect the workforce? Does it reflect the market? And we are engaging in a lot of other companies in positive action, and we have been setting goals around certain dimensions. So for example, by 2025, we're striving for 50% of leadership roles to be held by women. That is just one of the goals and one of the examples.
And that, that positive action, you know, which it's about hiring and promoting candidates, those protected characteristics over another, of course, provided that they're equally as qualified as the other candidate. So that, that has been important for us and, you know, setting data driven goals, and really striving to get to that level where we do look at teams, organizations and say, this is exactly what we want to see. So striving for that.
Devi Virdi (22:51): Can I just, um, that's a really valid, valuable point, Nina, and something that actually, I think it's really important to share because that question is about, so how do you define the diverse workforce? Right? So it's, it's great to sort of set what that is in terms of an abbreviation point of view. But I think going back to exactly what Nina said, so something we've done at Centrica that we've brought in, ooh, uh, tail end of 2020, right? So it's over, over a year and a bit now, we've actually brought in our own sort of responsible business, ambitious goals, right? What, what does that mean?
They're effectively our ESG goals. So we've gone out publicly to the market and we have sign posted that by 2030 as a business, we are defining ourselves across a variety of diversity dimensions. It also means that we're tracking ourselves, you know, and we're measuring our progress, right? So we measure where we are in terms of our gender, in terms of our ethnicity, in terms of our sexual orientation, our disability, and also looking at our ex-service population. Right? And I think what's really important, you know, particularly for organizations is define what diversity means for your business. Take an honest look at your company's current composition, know what you are missing, right?
And actually, where do you want us, where does a company wanna be in the future? Right? And actually, what do you need from diversity to gain those rewards and set those goals and those targets, right? As a starting point, get to know your data and your baseline, and then do the work that goes behind it. So I just wanted to add that on top of what Nina had said there.
Dominika Gałusa (24:29): No, that's great and thanks. And you both shared great examples of, you know, how goals are being set for achieving those diver- um, the diversity. So what else does it take to attract directly diverse workforce of top talent? Do you have any other thoughts?
Devi Virdi (24:48): Yeah. So that's a really great question, Dominika. I think, you know, to crack diversity, right? It requires also organizations to be in a position to firstly build a respectful and inclusive culture, right? Because if the aim is to create an environment where actually everyone can excel and they can speak truth to power, then long term change commitments have to be made, right? With an intrinsic belief that things can be done differently. Right? And this is where also the recruiting process comes in, right? 'Cause that's an ecosystem where lots of individual elements influence the outcome.
In fact, every part of the process is important and individual choices actually can have a cascading effect down the line. And, you know, I see it in our own organization, your ta- the talent team's recruiting process naturally has an impact on our diversity and inclusion efforts, right? So when we talk about, you know, what does it take to attract a richly diverse workforce of top talent? I think it's incredibly important to look at, so we talked about, you know, define what, what it means to your organization, from a, uh, speak to the people that you wanna attract. Right? So consider some of these things, look at the language in how your job descriptions may cause you to target candidates to apply or to opt out. Right?
For example, I'm just sharing some examples that we do at Centrica. You know, we look at how we consider a more inclusive job requirement and hiring practices, right? So we make sure that we don't limit in terms of certain roles who applies so we're not missing that pool of talent, right? And I think particularly in the hybrid work that we are in, in our professional services space, there is no fixed place of work per se, that you need to now be. There's also a piece about posting jobs in the right places, right? Making sure that if we're trying to attract diverse talents, you know, are they going to see them if we're constantly posting them on the same websites, right? On the same tools using that?
There's also for us a piece which we've recently started last year, was getting involved within new communities. Right? So really stepping out of our own comfort zone, I would say, and actually seeking out, working with, you know, communities that we have our sort of minimal in terms of representation piece. So like within women in tech, right? Specifically within black women in tech, for instance. So we're working with certain organizations and really trying to upskill ourselves as well within those new communities. So those are just some examples there.
Nina Pagon (27:28): Hmm.
April Clark (27:28): That's great. And, you know, Devi, you mentioned in the, in the conversation there that Centrica has adopted a hybrid work model. You know, I'd like to talk a little bit more about the impact remote and hybrid work have on DEIB. According to Everest's Future of Work Series paper one, which was reimagining the workforce and workplace mechanics, 51% of organizations expect more than 40% of employees to continue to work from home post pandemic. And 92% of organizations are evaluating or planning a similar move to a hybrid working model. McKenzie says that hybrid work is here to stay. So with that, you know, I'm sure there, there are a lot of challenges, um, that, that appear for DEIB. Devi, can you talk to us about challenges that Centrica is facing since this adoption and how you're tackling them?
Devi Virdi (28:24): Sure. Thanks April for that question. And I think, you know, so at Centrica, we recognize that look, work patterns, you know, have changed and are still changing. And we are no exception to that. As a business, we have moved to a more hybrid work style, which is really a mixture of home, office, where you work, right? And this is actually incredibly positive, right? But there's a flip side to it. It's positive because there's a, there's a better work life balance. There is more control, there's more flexibility, right? There's increased productivities. And for certain groups, there's also more family time.
Back in the summer last year, so in 2021, we introduced within Centrica, our flexible first approach. It means what it says. We did a survey amongst our colleagues to really understand what they wanted. We worked with our careers network as well as our working parents network. So these are two of our colleague led networks to really understand, you know, what was it that our colleagues wanted coming, coming through the pandemic. We listened to them and then we presented the flexible first approach, which simply means that you can work where you want, whether that's a home or office or a mixed environment.
And given that we are an energy service provider, our biggest office teams were our call center teams. They pivoted overnight. That real value, that option to give them that great flexibility and that support and particularly for those with caring responsibilities was an absolute step change to us as an organization. And actually welcoming that increased flexibility, I think that's now being injected right into a post era work pattern. There are some key positive lessons that we are learning from this, right? One of the absolute key elements that we've recognized is the importance of our employee wellbeing. And it's really raised that conversation across the board and across all the markets that we are present in.
We also, you know, we've had senior leaders who've also role modeled, right? That sort of behavior. And I think the senior leadership piece really does set the tone is that, you know, it is okay to be doing difficult work and you are doing this at home, but be very visible within your own team and your own sort of workspace environment. You know, our town halls are now a real hybrid approach. I think there is also a piece that we are learning as we are going along this journey. We haven't got this absolutely right to a T. I would also say that, you know, going back to the business that we're in, whilst it's working for our call center teams and our professional service business, our a core part of our organization, which is the engineering population, you know, they still have to go on knocking doors, right?
You know, they still go into people's homes, they have to do their job, so that doesn't change for what they have to do. But what it has done is really set the tone of our employee wellbeing piece across our entire organization, which frankly wasn't anywhere near as the scope as it is now. And I think that really says, you know, it sets the tone within our organization and how D&I are so interlinked within the wellbeing piece itself as well.
April Clark (31:53): That's so interesting. You know, Nina, I'm sure you're seeing a lot of similar situations with your clients. Do you have a favorite success story you could share?
Nina Pagon (32:02): Absolutely. There so many, and I think I really liked, Devi, what you were talking about that increased flexibility, considering wellbeing, and really understanding what your people want and the clients that are sharing success stories such as yours, Devi, is the, is the clients that have listened to people-
Devi Virdi (32:24): Hmm.
Nina Pagon (32:25): ... and understood what it is that they need. Because we know that, you know, as everything, hybrid working has its positives and not, not so positives for a lot of people, individuals and organizations. And what's important is that... Oh, I lost my train of thought. Let, let me start again. Absolutely, there are a lot of success stories that are there that we've been hearing about. And I think very similarly to, Devi, what you were sharing, it all started with really listening to what the employees wanted and making sure that they were part of the process and considered into the decisions that were being made.
And I would like to share a story of what we did at Right Management UK, because it was very much similar to what you were sharing Devi, in a way that, you know, we were testing out different things and we were measuring the impacts and we were listening to what people needed and wanted. So we started with saying, you know, okay, one point, let's do, return to the office this many days. And I know a lot of organizations did that because we've been hearing from some people that they missed work, they missed collaboration. They missed being with people. They missed the team spirit, they missed everything that comes with going to work. So to be sure, okay, let's do that hybrid thing the way that it is hybrid a little bit of this and a little bit of that.
I think a lot of organizations, as I said, ours included, did two, three days in, two, three days out. But the world has changed. And as Devi was saying, it's all about wellbeing. It's all about increased flexibility. And actually some people have realized that actually it's easier for them to let's say, focus at home or absolutely they’re careers, so they have families or whatever it is, even if it's just hobbies or quality of life, that has changed for them.
So we've, what we've seen was that, you know, it's not as easy just to say, okay, two days in, three days out or something along the line, but it really is about what people want and need. So now we've changed our approach, listening to, to what we wanted as an organization. And it's very flexible now. You know, you can come into the office, we've refurbished our office to be more, more equipped for flexible hybrid working. It's a different space. It's more collaborative. So we've changed that so people have an opportunity to come in if they want and also to work from home if they want. And it really is that flexibility that is allowing for that belonging that we spoke at the start.
And a lot of people that we're working with and ourselves included have also recognized that, you know, it is important to connect with people and connect every so often face to face. So just yesterday, I was with a client, a team coaching, a team of people that met for the first time after COVID and they were just saying how amazing it was. And it's something we're doing with Right Management UK as well. So once a quarter, for example, a team will meet face to face in the office and it does create a very different experience.
Devi Virdi (35:51): I just wanna add onto that, Nina. I think you're, that is absolutely so important, so valuable, right? And I'll give you my example. I mean, I joined this company remotely, right? (laughs) I, I onboarded on a screen and it is an experience that I can never, ever forget. But at the same time, you know, right now I have the flexibility of going into our offices and I have the flexibility of being at home and that connection, meeting your colleagues for the first time, even now, today, it just changes the conversation. It shifts the dial, it drives that sense of, you know, unity, that sense of belonging that actually, you know, everyone is, it's that, it's that analogy, right?
Look, we might be in the, on the same, we might be in the same ocean, but frankly, we are in very different boats. Right? And I think that piece is really incredibly important when you talk about hybrid working, because what is gonna work for one person, it is not gonna work for the, the next person. And so being flexible within your own organization, giving that autonomy is incredibly important, but at the same time, building the purpose of coming together. Right? And making it collaborative is hugely important. And something that actually we've started doing at Centrica is only that you come together, you know, whether it's for your town hall meetings or for your team meetings, but you've given enough notice so that if you do have childcare responsibilities, if you've got caring responsibilities, you can also manage that.
And absolutely, because you know what, the world has moved on from two years ago. So no, incredibly valuable points, Nina.
Dominika Gałusa (37:29): I think-
Nina Pagon (37:29): Hmm. If I can just add to that, I think what you've said is so crucial. When you come together, what, have a purpose and allowing for people to understand why that is important. And we program some clients early on to say, you know, some people are coming to the office and they're saying, "Well, I'm the only one sitting there, so what's the point of me being here?
Devi Virdi (37:50): Mm-hmm.
Nina Pagon (37:51): So I really like what you said about purpose. So just, just to add to that. So thank you.
Dominika Gałusa (37:56): Thank you. You were, it was so insightful. So thank you so much. And I would like to focus now on why diversity is an approach that guides every part of talent practices and why it's not just something a small group of people are focused on. So we actually had a fantastic podcast episode, The Road to Gender Diversity in Leadership, with our Dr. Syneathia LaGrant, VP of Global Learning and development at ManpowerGroup. And she shared a very interesting quote, "The key to any program that has a diversity initiative to it is longevity, longevity and engagement. The longer it goes on and the more people you get engaged, the more successful it is." So Devi, Nina, do you have other thoughts on what it means to have diversity well integrated?
Devi Virdi (38:48): Yeah. I mean, look, and, and it's a really great question, Dominika. I think if I take, you know, my non-conventional background, right? And I shared that earlier on, diversity and inclusion is not just an HR challenge or an issue. Right? Of course, it has lots of element that touch HR. And I think, you know, companies have started to understand that actually diversity and inclusion should be dressed through all aspects of the company, right? It needs to touch every single department. It's from the employees to customer engagement, to product design and innovation, you know, and they're dramatically shifting patterns of behaviors around consumers.
And actually organizations are starting to realize that they actually need to be fully what I would call ingrained diverse, right? That's what they need to be. It needs to be really baked into the DNA, right? Not seen as a bolt-on. And look, we can name big companies from 10 years ago that aren't around today and many would argue it's a result of digitization or eCommerce and technology. Frankly, I would argue that they didn't really evolve with the times, right? They didn't evolve with the changing behaviors of consumers, of their customers, of that younger generation. And so when, when you think about that quote from the global CHRO of Goldman Sachs, I think it's really important that actually it's something that companies need to now naturally build into their systems and their processes, right? Across the business.
It's not something to spend five minutes talking about at the beginning of a meeting and then another five minutes at the end of a meeting. It is, needs to be absolutely ingrained, sort of integrated seamlessly into all aspects of the business, right? And actually for any company, this next decade will be critical in how it establishes itself for the future, because actually consumers will no longer purchase goods or services from a company that really don't align to their core values. So I think that's where I see diversity initiatives with its longevity, right? And that engagement piece. Nina, what about you?
Nina Pagon (41:00): Absolutely. I agree with that. And I liked what you said, Devi, about this being in organization's DNA. And it really is something that organizations need to believe and live and breathe because if not, they will be, they'll be gone with the time. It’s not a nice have, it's a must have.
Devi Virdi (41:25): Hmm.
Nina Pagon (41:27): So it's crucial that, you know, we have understanding of the importance of diversity, equity, inclusion, belonging, and also the buy-in from everyone at the organization. I absolutely agree. This should not just be an HR initiative. It needs to be something that everyone from the top, from the leaders down to all of the individual contributors believe in and drive and see the importance of. Because what we've been talking about today, you know, is what you do without diversity. It's creating inclusion, it's creating belonging. And you really need everyone to be contributing to the culture. So, absolutely, it's crucial. It's key and we need everyone to own it and understand it.
Dominika Gałusa (42:20): Devi, when you and I met for the first time, you mentioned that inclusion comes before diversity. So how do you measure inclusion and what KPIs do you put in front of your leaders?
Devi Virdi (42:31): Great question, Dominika. You've got me at my sweet spot here. You know, for me, look, it is, you're absolutely right. Inclusion for, it comes before diversity. It is the input. Diversity is the output, right? Because without a culture of inclusion, diversity is doomed to fail. If employees don't feel safe, right? To share and be transparent, if they don't feel they can bring their best selves to work, when it comes to creating a culture of inclusion, I said it right at the beginning, right? You're either leading in the way or you're getting in the way, because that neutrality piece, it doesn't exist.
And everybody wants to belong in the workplace, right? Whether they're, they wanna feel valued and respected. So inclusion isn't an optional extra, it's the key to better diversity. Right? So at Centrica, we've got KPIs that are very much based on our engagement surveys. We do these every quarter across all our business units. It's pretty intense because we do them every quarter, right? So, you know, it just sort of shifts the dial for our leaders to actually have that conversation. And actually we've baked this into part of our leadership team's transformational three goals.
So measuring that progress is an essential part, but it's often overlooked, right? Because for us, it's, it is about key to making that difference. And I would say that, you know, we are on our own sort of, I don't like using the word journey, right? 'Cause I don't think it's about journey. We're on our own progress. Right? So we are, we are getting better as we go along this period. And I think realistically, you know, there is never an end game to this, right? There's not, there's never, there's not a deadline to this work.
What I would also add to this is actually the reason inclusion work exists, right, Dominika? Is because, let's be honest, exclusion has been able, enabled, right? And it's been present for decades. And that lack of commitment being vague is frankly, part of the reason why we're in this position in the first place. And so for us, publicly putting out commitments in the marketplace to say where we wanna get to as a business is really signposting our own commitment where we wanna achieve by the end of this year in 2022 and working towards some of key targets. And as a FTSE organization, we also have legal requirements, right? That we are inbound to sort of support.
And so I think with all that in mind, when you have a leadership team, and this is really important. When you have a leadership team that really does support, does drive it, I've gotta say it makes one heck of a difference, right? In my work. And that's where it's about shifting the dial. So it's about now really driving the sort of narrative with that middle management layer because the top definitely get it. They absolutely understand it. It is now bringing this sort of middle management layer along with the journey with us. And that's not easy, you know, it's not easy at all, but it's something that, you know, for me, it's definitely my mission to accelerate that change.
Dominika Gałusa (45:35): Devi and Nina, I have a last question to you both. And we love asking our guests about that. So if we fast forward 30 years, what does the future look like for DEIB in the workplace?
Nina Pagon (45:48): I think the optimist in me would like to say that we will live in a world that's inclusive and everyone will feel like they belong. But I second what we said earlier that there's no deadline for this work and that we're dealing with barriers that are systemic and have been put in place a long time ago and then reinforced. So I believe we'll still be working on, in the field, but I would like to believe that it will have progressed with millennials and, you know, Gen Zs coming into the global workforce and then having different values and different needs. I believe that we will have shifted the dial to a much more positive side than we are right now, but I think we'll still be, still be doing the work.
Because there always going to be something, you know, it's not static. I like the fact that if we're not on a journey, we're continuing this, we're developing, who knows what is the world that we'll be dealing with and what all will be important to people to feel included and feel belonging. So excited to see where, where we go.
Devi Virdi (47:02): That's really, really great to, to hear, Nina. I think for me, if we fast forward to 30 years, what does the future look like for DE&IB in the workplace? I definitely believe that technology will be a big factor in the future. I predict that we'll have environments that are truly inclusive and actually technologies there to help improve human error and biases from items like interviews, recruitment, access, assessments, performance, and promotions. And look, that's all possible. However, there's a big bit of a warning here. The technology is only gonna be as good as the people who designed it, right? So I think if you haven't built diversity into your company or into that design or into the team working on it, you will end up with product solutions that are biased. It's as simple as that.
And I think one more thing that's more of a hope than a prediction, we should have a workplace where we're not even talking about diversity anymore, right? And actually with the right steps and leadership, you won't need people like me anymore. You know, my role would merge into the role of every single leader in the organization. And actually that's where I'd like to see us end up.
Nina Pagon (48:08): I agree. That would be fantastic.
Dominika Gałusa (48:10): Well, that was, that was fantastic, indeed. So thank you so much for this amazing conversation. It was a pleasure to have you here with us. Thank you, Devi and Nina, for joining us today on our 21st episode of the Transform Talent Podcast. And I hope that our listeners enjoyed this episode as much as we did.
April Clark (48:29): Hey all of our listeners, don't forget to subscribe and leave us a review on your favorite podcast listening now. See you on the next episode.
Outro (48:39): The Transform Talent Podcast, because we know the right talent transforms organizations and helps your business flourish. Talent solutions, business, and talent aligned.