Topia, an HR tech company specializing in global talent mobility, drives its diversity and inclusion (D&I) efforts from both a global and an individual focus. Bear with us as we flesh out this effective strategy based on our recent discussion with Jacky Cohen, VP of People and Culture at Topia.
Cohen began her career at a civil and structural engineering firm—a position she credits with helping her develop the foundational aspects and practices of Human Resources. She subsequently went on to hold a variety of HR positions in the broader technology industry, leading business partner teams and people operations functions, such as benefits, onboarding, and HR technology.
Global Mind-Set—Starting with Recruitment
Anyone who has spent time in the tech industry understands that firms search far and wide for the best talent; that talent can come from all over the globe. Topia is no different. Cohen attributes much of Topia’s focus on D&I to this global mind-set.
“Diversity and inclusion have always been part of Topia’s culture,” says Cohen. “We have been global since our inception, and our distributed footprint is rare for the number of employees we have.”
“We’ve gotten here by embodying our own mission of breaking down the barriers between people and places so companies and individuals can work everywhere,” Cohen adds. “With this, we hire talent based on our needs and do whatever is necessary to get them to the right place at the right time. This has resulted in a multi-national team that works across cultures and borders.”
Topia’s recruiting process is a great example of how remote work arrangements can amplify the diversity of a workplace. Companies based in regions of the country without diverse populations are limited in their diversity potential if they require staff to be physically present in the office.
Topia doesn’t take that approach. Its ability to expand its recruitment efforts globally has had a huge impact on its overall diversity.
Taking a ‘Location-Agnostic’ Approach
“We try to be location-agnostic when beginning a search,” says Cohen. “While certain roles need to be based in specific locations and some candidates may not be open or able to relocate, we try not to let location be a barrier. This opens up a whole world (literally) of talent.”
Cohen believes that Topia’s mind-set and mission around global talent mobility are unique and naturally foster a diverse team. She says that Topia is focused on having the right talent in the right place at the right time. The company knows that diverse teams drive business results. Cohen says Topia’s openness to hiring talent from anywhere in the world is something that sets it apart.
In addition to the “where” element of recruiting, Topia’s D&I efforts have benefited from what it looks for in potential employees. That means not focusing exclusively on hard skills but also on how a candidate’s values align with those of the organization.
“Throughout the recruiting process, we focus on values that fit almost as much as skill set,” Cohen says. “At Topia, we measure our employees’ success equally on what they do (job performance and expectations) and how they do it (values fit) so we need to gauge candidates’ values fit throughout the screening process. We have designated values-fit interviews with specific questions for every hire.”
Inclusiveness Demonstrates the Commitment to Diversity
While diversity efforts have picked up legitimate steam in recent years, many companies are still stuck in the primitive phases of diversity efforts by focusing purely on numbers. Simply hitting targets for the proportion of a company’s workforce made up of women or people of color or any other group misses the mark. Those diverse employees have to have a real voice in the organization, or the boost to human capital derived from that diversity is simply squandered.
Attracting, retaining, and engaging a team as diverse as Topia’s simply cannot work without inclusion. In addition to a global mind-set when it comes to recruitment, Topia strives to engage that diverse workforce. That obligation belongs collectively to the entire workforce, not just people like Cohen.
Holding Everyone Accountable for D&I
A company culture of D&I requires more than just support from upper management. Employees throughout the organization have to be committed to supporting and learning from the diversity of their coworkers. One of the ways Topia has done this is by embedding support for diversity and inclusiveness in corporate values and performance criteria.
“We hold everyone on our team accountable for inclusivity,” says Cohen. “The first of our five core values is ‘Be Global Citizens,’ which means that we take a global mindset and understand that our teams and customers around the world work and communicate differently—and we adjust accordingly.”
“Inclusivity is also one of our Manager Competencies, meaning that we expect every manager to prioritize building diverse teams and creating a sense of belonging with each individual by developing authentic connections,” Cohen adds.
Engaging the entire workforce in a company goal of D&I is a two-way street, especially when it comes to Topia’s culture of individual responsibility. That means that D&I efforts and strategies aren’t simply mandated from on high, says Cohen.
“It’s also important that we have multiple feedback channels within the company so that we’re regularly in touch with employees about what’s going well and how we can do better,” Cohen explains.
“We have a Culture Catalyst team that includes people from each location and meets monthly to have an open discussion. We’ve made several changes internally based on their feedback, and they act as a helpful group for my team and me to test out ideas and gather feedback before launching to the whole company. It’s become an extremely valuable channel for us to gather sentiments rather than presuming we know what our employees are looking for.”
Diversity is often the most straightforward element of any D&I strategy. After all, it’s relatively easy to hire employees from diverse or traditionally underrepresented groups.
The more difficult element is inclusion—creating a culture and an environment in which all voices feel they can be heard—and making an effort as an organization to truly listen is what sets companies like Topia apart in their D&I efforts.
To learn more about Cohen, check out our recent “Faces of HR” interview, here.