The murder of George Floyd and the resulting focus on the Black Lives Matter movement have fueled a renewed focus on issues related to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) not just in the United States but also around the world.
There is a wide range of issues companies are grappling with today. The pandemic, of course, has been one major impact. Black Lives Matter and concerns about how black people have been disenfranchised for decades is another. But DEI runs deeper than that, says Carin Taylor, Chief Diversity Officer (CDO) at Workday.
DEI issues have also recently been focused on anti-Semitism, Asian hate related to COVID-19, politics, the war in Afghanistan, and natural disasters.
It’s a time, she says, “where I think it’s getting both complex and also exciting because we now have so much attention on the diversity space and there’s a lot to solve for.” It’s exciting, though, because people are listening and taking meaningful action. “That’s critical as we have to continue to make long-term progress in this area,” she adds.
A Passion for People
Taylor plays a dual role at Workday, where she is focused on both internal employee needs and offering insights on the kinds of information and services that might be valued by fellow CDOs in other organizations. Workday is a leading provider of enterprise cloud applications for finance and HR, serving more than 9,000 customers globally and representing 55 million workers.
What attracted her to Workday, she says, “was the opportunity to further expand our diversity and inclusion—D&I—efforts, influence our products, and have engaging discussions with our employees and customers about our D&I initiatives.” It’s a role that has a lot of potential for impact both internally and externally, with a broad and growing audience of organizations and individuals.
Taylor describes herself as a people person. She cares about people, and she wants to help them survive and thrive. She’s in a role, she believes, that will allow her to do just that.
The Path That Led to Workday
Taylor started her career at Cisco Systems, working initially in the customer service area. Realizing she was interested in becoming an operations leader, she set out to gain experience in sales, finance, and operations.
Then someone told her: You really should think about going into diversity. She was not immediately excited about the prospect because she didn’t fully understand what diversity was about at that time. “I really didn’t want to be seen as the face of diversity,” she says. “I did have my reservations.” But she was encouraged to check it out, and when she did, she discovered there was something in the work and something about focusing on bringing people together and focusing on the whole notion of D&I that she was passionate about.
So, she made the shift.
At first, Taylor managed employee resource groups (ERGs), which she enjoyed. She was fortunate, she says, to have had a leader at that time who really believed in and supported her—she was given opportunities to elevate her voice and learned more about management at the senior level. She began speaking publicly on behalf of the company and established Cisco’s first Diversity Council.
From Cisco, she moved to Genentech, where she first took on the role of head of diversity. “I had a great time learning there and then had an opportunity to bring over what I was learning to Workday.”
That was 4 years ago. At that time, she says, “I intentionally started with a process of a three-year journey to drive awareness, action, and accountability across the entire organization.”
Broader Opportunities to Make an Impact and Institute Change
Taylor had an immediate positive impression of Workday and its culture. During the interview process, she asked everyone she encountered about the culture. “I’m a people person and I wanted to know that the culture was going to work for me.” What she found, universally, was that “everyone said the same thing—‘we have this fantastic culture with wonderful people, and everyone wants to help you succeed.’”
Another big driver in her decision to join Workday was the potential for elevating her voice outside of the company. “I wanted to make sure I was having a very broad impact on both the tech industry as well as the DEI space,” she says.
The final driver was the ability to impact the company’s product and, in doing so, impact the DEI practices of other companies around the globe. One example of that is VIBE Index, an offering that helps organizations assess their current level of organizational maturity related to belonging and diversity and helps them learn best practices to advance their programs. VIBE is Workday’s approach to diversity, and it stands for Value Inclusion, Belonging, and Equity. VIBE Index, says Taylor, is “a way to measure parity across points of intersectionality along the employee lifecycle.”
For instance, she explains, if race and gender are two attributes of interest, how do you think about the points of intersection between race and gender for your community at work and then determine whether there’s parity across the employee life cycle—hiring, leadership, promotions, attribution, etc.?
- Are Asian women having the same experience as white men?
- Is there parity across how we’re looking at how they’re being promoted?
- How are we assessing leadership and inclusive hiring practices?
The index provides a single score based on everything a company is doing around diversity, inclusion, belonging, and equity. It provides a baseline that can serve as the foundation for continuous improvement.
Taylor has also been able to continue to leverage the power of ERGs to provide both a voice for employees and an important source of input and insights for Workday.
Getting Strategic About Employee Belonging Councils and VIBE™
Workday has 10 Employee Belonging Councils (EBCs), also referred to as “affinity groups,” with more than 55 chapters around the world. Before Taylor joined Workday, the EBCs were at a very grassroots level, she says.
Shortly after she started with the organization, she brought the EBC leaders together for the company’s first Global Employee Belonging Council Leadership Summit. The EBCs’ goals are to support a more diverse population and to advance the professional development of the groups’ members. They also provide important input for the organization and its DEI efforts.
These days, says Taylor, EBCs are “very vocal.” They are, she adds, “probably the most elevated voices that are coming through right now in terms of helping us understand what’s happening within our communities and how we can help to address those issues.” She points to the Black @ Workday and Families @ Workday EBCs as two examples of this.
During the racial unrest of summer 2020, she says, the Black @ Workday EBC “really stepped up and helped us to understand what they were feeling, how they were experiencing work as well as what they were experiencing externally.” During the pandemic, she says, the Families @ Workday EBC “were extremely, extremely useful in helping us understand the perspective of the caregiver during the pandemic.”
Workday’s strategic approach to D&I is centered on its values and supports its VIBE strategy, extending throughout the organization. VIBE Councils and VIBE strategies are embedded into Workday’s functional areas, e.g., engineering, HR, etc.
Taylor says she is “thrilled to have the opportunity to influence D&I at Workday, with our customers and across the industry. I’m proud of what my team and I have been able to accomplish in a short amount of time, and I know there’s still much more to be done. As we look to the near future, we’ll continue to openly discuss the topic of D&I and set company-wide goals to increase the diversity of our workforce. And by encouraging an open dialogue, we will uncover new ways to enrich Workday’s culture of bringing one’s best self to work each day.”
Lin Grensing-Pophal is a Contributing Editor at HR Daily Advisor.