This month, we’re hosting a mini-series on “Hybrid Work & Company Culture” where we’ll be sharing what we’ve learned from speaking to tech companies like HP and HubSpot on whether or not hybrid work is killing company culture.
Over the next three episodes, we will be discussing the importance of equity in a hybrid workplace, how to equip leaders for remote-first or hybrid teams, and how flexible working and company culture strategies go hand-in-hand with DEI, plus actionable ideas we’ve been sharing with our client partners to support employees in a remote or hybrid work environment.
In this episode, we’ll be talking about some of the findings from a virtual roundtable we hosted with DEI practitioners in the tech industry to discuss how they were adapting and building upon their differentiated people strategies to serve diverse groups working remotely.
If you want to follow along with the Hybrid Work & Company Culture mini-series on the podcast this month — and get access to inclusive insights from our team in your inbox — head to the link in the show notes or go to https://inclusioninprogress.com/podcast-miniseries-2023 to sign up.
Welcome to the Inclusion in Progress podcast where we give you the ideas, actions and insights to help you build more equity at your workplace and in the world at large. I'm your host, Kay Fabella, international expert on diversity, equity and inclusion, a Filipina American living in Spain and your guide in navigating this DEI journey. Having worked with teams at companies such as Philips, the IMF, Red Hat, PepsiCo and more, I know firsthand that the work of inclusion only works when everyone has a seat at the table. Regardless of your personal entrypoint into this conversation: your race, ethnicity, gender, ability, age, sexual orientation, country of origin, or educational background, we all have a role to play in creating inclusion for all and it starts with us having conversations we need to create the change we wish to see. So let's dive into today's episode.
Hey there and welcome back to the show! So, if you've been following along this month, July 2023, we are hosting a mini-series on “Hybrid Work & Company Culture”, where we'll be sharing what we've learned from speaking to tech companies like HP and HubSpot on whether or not hybrid work is killing company culture.
Over the next three episodes, we will be discussing the importance of equity in a hybrid workplace, how to equip leaders for remote-first or hybrid teams, and how flexible working and company culture strategies go hand-in-hand with DEI, plus actionable ideas we've been sharing with our client partners to support employees in a remote or hybrid work environment.
So let's go ahead and dive in!
I'm Kay Fabella, and I'm a DEI consultant for remote teams.
And I'm your host of the Inclusion in Progress podcast where you'll get research backed-industry insights into the future of work, and practical “how to’s” for leading equity and inclusion.
I also lead a remote team — and work with clients — across EMEA, APAC and the Americas. Which means you'll get a global perspective on how companies are supporting their distributed teams — building workplaces that work for everyone.
So in this first episode of the miniseries, we'll be talking about some of the findings that we collated from a virtual roundtable that we hosted back in April 2023 with DEI and HR and People Leaders in the tech industry, to discuss how they were adapting and building upon their differentiated people strategies to serve the different diverse teams that are working remotely for their organizations.
So if you want to follow along with this Hybrid Work & Company Culture mini-series on the podcast this month — as well as get access to exclusive insights from our team in your inbox — head to the link in the show notes or go to https://inclusioninprogress.com/podcast-miniseries-2023 to sign up.
And in this mini series, we'll be discussing our findings from that virtual roundtable with the likes of ActiveCampaign, HP, HubSpot, Jamf, and Listrak. And the topics that we discussed in that roundtable included:
- What is company culture today versus pre-pandemic?
- How does it apply to remote, hybrid, or distributed work?
- How is the employee desire for flexible work affecting company culture?
- What is your role now as a DEI or People Leader in implementing company culture?
- [And] How can the tech industry influence, lead, and shape company culture for this future of work?
So, let's go ahead and jump right into the first episode of our mini-series: all about the importance of equity in a hybrid workplace.
Historically, we know that tech firms have had, well, very high profile struggles with diversity and inclusion, especially when it came to providing equitable opportunities for historically underrepresented groups. Before the pandemic, organizations often overlooked the importance of flexible working to their company culture and recruitment strategies — which limited their capacity to both retain current employees and attract top talent from locations that they wouldn't otherwise reach.
Three years later, flexible working arrangements are clearly no longer a “nice-to-have” but a “must-have” for employees from everywhere; which has given tech companies, like the ones we spoke to during our April 2023 Roundtable, a chance to restructure their talent retention and recruitment strategies to support their broader DEI goals and expand their traditional talent pool.
One of the things we noticed from our roundtable discussion with these tech firms was how the terms remote work, hybrid work, flexible work, and distributed work were all used interchangeably in our discussion. And regardless of how companies chose to label it, each of our roundtable participants were intentionally listening to and designing their strategies around their employees’ shared desire for flexibility in where and how they worked.
As People, DEI and HR leaders, our participants also expressed a heightened awareness of equity challenges that could be affecting teams choosing whether or not they would be coming into the office full-time — and a lot of the folks who were more tentative about coming back into the office full-time tended to be folks from historically marginalized or underrepresented groups.
For context, for those of you who are maybe a little bit newer to the DEI journey, equity — that E in the DEI equation — is acknowledging that people from different backgrounds and starting points in life, which encourages people to promote objective guardrails and policies and practices to strategize for and eliminate bias while ensuring that those employees from those groups have the support they need to optimize their performance at work.
Now, we discussed this in more detail in Episode 29, Why DEI Only Works With Equity. So if you'd like to go back to the episode, we highly recommend it.
But back to the episode, roundtable participants also shared that flexible work continued to be a top desire for teams, and showed no signs of dissipating. When we asked our roundtable participants how employees’ desire for flexible work has changed their approach to DEI initiatives (such as recruitment and culture-building initiatives), here’s what a few of them had to say:
Active Campaign stated, “The shift of flexible work has allowed us to access a richer pool of talent. It's allowed us to think really critically. When we started looking at our population at Active Campaign and our employees — our CEO and executive team realized there is a prime opportunity to grow talent in certain demographics. With that said, there's always ways that we can improve. We can continue to grow the number of women in senior leadership. It's imperative, for example, to grow our population of Black employees at Active Campaign. And that approach by senior leaders and formed what our strategy looks like, such as how do we identify the geographies where we can attract strong Black tech talent? For other roles, it made sense to build a team around a hub. For example, our primary offices in Chicago, we also have hubs in Indianapolis, Costa Rica, Dublin and Sydney, and have a lot of hiring centers around those hubs.”
Here's what HubSpot had to say: “As we're coming out of the pandemic, not everyone is itching for that in-person moment. Some people are. Some people aren't. We're always asking [ourselves] how we try to solve for as many folks as we can — without making people feel like we're just doing it [for the sake of doing it]. I'm proud that HubSpot really leaned into hybrid. Everything that we do now has both virtual and in-person options, and that's how we plan and program all of our events. No matter what, you're going to be able to get on Zoom and participate [in our events], especially any of our DEIB initiatives. We've learned that all of our community programming — every single thing that we do — has got to be virtual by default. If there's a need for an in-person event, we analyze those needs by office and give attendees a clear purpose for coming in.”
From this conversation, we identified a substantial need for the tech companies we spoke to, who came from all sizes and geographic distribution, to continue prioritizing DEI and supporting flexible work during the turbulent times we are in.
Tech firms, as we know, have not been shy about their desire to increase representation for these previously historically excluded groups. But, as we also know, the most successful and popular employers tend to be based in expensive cities or in specific countries, such as San Francisco in California in the US, or the UK in Europe. Now, not everyone is able to or wants to move to those places where tech firms are headquartered, and many of them can't afford to do so.
Additionally, each historically excluded group has, as we know, different needs and priorities — there's that equity piece again. All of those needs to be taken into consideration when offering flexible work strategies. For instance, the single parent who lives a four hour drive from any major city, or that talent developer who's afraid to disclose that he's neurodivergent and deaf on job applications, or the non-native English speaker who may need their agendas translated to help them prepare for virtual meetings with their mostly English-speaking colleagues.
From speaking to the roundtable participants, we learned that tech companies are increasing their understanding of how to implement flexible work through trial, error, and transparent communication with employees. One of the things that we realized as we were preparing this mini-series for you all was how often participants in our roundtable said the words, “so far”. Now, some of our roundtable participants were able to successfully include top talent from outside where their offices were headquartered. For example, our Listrak participant shared that since they adapted a remote-first policy, that they were able to expand their teams both nationally and globally. By including non-local talent in their retention and recruitment strategies, the tech firms we spoke to were expanding ideas, perspectives, and worldviews that were present on their teams that would support them in staying agile and innovative.
To encourage a company culture that supports equitable access to opportunities in a hybrid workplace, here are some of the ways that our roundtable attendees had adapted:
1. Encouraging no meeting days and time off. HubSpot, for example, shared that their teams had completely eliminated meetings on Fridays, and made sure that No Meeting Fridays were observed across the company. Additionally, HubSpotters were regularly encouraged to spend time accomplishing their tasks without the interruption of back-to-back calls, as well as utilize their paid time off (PTO) to engage in non-work priorities and activities to de-stress.
2. Another thing that we saw was expanding policies for equitable hybrid work. Listrak shared how they were in the midst of an organization-wide talent assessment at the time of our roundtable, to help them identify high potential professionals in different geographies, to help them learn more about their remote teams professional development needs, and chart pathways for their career advancement. And, finally, to provide that data to their senior leadership teams, with the goal of ensuring visibility for team members who were unwilling or unable to work in the physical office. Now, this was meant for Listrak to be able to ensure adequate accessibility resources and policies that supported their employees no matter where they came from, or chose to work.
3. And finally, we saw a lot of folks sharing how they were empowering managers to lead remotely. ActiveCampaign’s DEI team was offering ongoing learning and development for managers leading teams in a virtual or hybrid environment, including how to hold effective one-on-ones with direct reports, inclusive leadership and unconscious bias training, and applying situational leadership to remote work settings. They also created a group learning initiative for their managers where they could all troubleshoot specific issues with their peers in a psychologically safe learning environment, strengthening their effectiveness on their respective teams.
Now since the pandemic began in 2020, we've found that tech organizations that have been more successful at recruiting and retaining top talent have regularly invested in DEI initiatives and constantly assessing barriers to company culture in this hybrid environment, utilizing both internal and external support — fostering a data driven and human centric approach to their company culture building that allows them to constantly iterate and measure progress. And, finally, by prioritizing an inclusive work culture that would make current team members want to stay and allow them to successfully recruit your talent.
So there you have it: the first episode of our Hybrid Work & Company Culture mini-series, all about the importance of equity when designing for a hybrid workplace.
At Inclusion in Progress, we've learned that discussing strategizing for equity, company, culture, and DEI in a hybrid work environment is an ongoing struggle for People and HR leaders. Particularly now that our teams are globally distributed, and our expectations of how we live and work change.
Which is why we're pleased to announce the release of our latest whitepaper, “Is hybrid work killing company culture?”. We've taken a lot of the findings that we're sharing in this mini-series and we're expanding it even more for you to be able to download a copy and use and leverage in your own organizations. You can head to our website at inclusioninprogress.com/learn or head to the link in the show notes of this episode to download a copy.
Stay tuned for the next episode of our July podcast mini series, where we'll discuss how flexible working and company culture strategies go hand-in-hand with DEI.
Thanks so much for listening. Thank you for sharing this mini-series and this podcast with others. And we'll see you in our next episode!