The road to inclusivity – creating work places where all thrive
Inclusivity is one of the foundational cornerstones of a healthy culture that promotes employee mental health – but persuading c-suites that it’s a must rather than a nice-to-have, sometimes feels like a long road.
Thankfully, mentl is delighted to announce that it has a new friend on our journey, as General Motors officially becomes our latest partner, and we begin a series of conversations that, together, we hope will amplify our shared vision for work places where all can thrive.
And so, we welcomed Monica Hernandez, Regional Director of Human Resources at General Motors Africa & Middle East, to ‘the mentl space’ podcast.
For the full compelling conversation, watch the podcast embedded here, or click on the link to listen to the podcast on your platform of choice.
Here is an abridged Q&A from that conversation between mentl founder Scott Armstrong and Monica Hernandez.
So, the science tells us that the feeling of loneliness is as harmful to the body as smoking 15 cigarettes a day, whether at home, at school, or in your work community. Tell me how GM’s vision to be the most inclusive company in the world speaks to that?
After the onset of COVID, many companies are starting to talk more about this loneliness and how to build these relationships with employees.
But for us it has been a journey. We have learned that it’s a matter of leaders and employees creating a safe environment where you can really express how you’re feeling.
I’ve been in HR for the last 23 years, and it was never a key topic of interest to talk about the happiness of employees. Now, it seems that it is beyond a trend, it’s something that really we want to achieve.
And why do we want to achieve this? Because, as you were saying, it’s not only a matter of a nice phrase saying, ‘we want to be the most’. It’s really having our employees bringing their whole selves to work.
Regardless of place, it can be working from home, it can be at an office, you know – picking up a little bit of human contact, we’re really living it through our values, our behaviours, and our leaders.
Inclusion can take on many forms, what does it mean to you?
Inclusivity cannot be a standalone word.
For us, it’s inclusivity and equity as well. And the diversity is already there, variety has always been there. Inclusivity is looking into what each individual needs and trying to shape something according to their needs, be it professional or personal.
Now, we look at ‘what do you need?’ Trying to shape a solution or trying to shape a path for a person. Of course, we have thousands of employees, which makes tailoring one plan of action per employee a little challenging as we we don’t have enough leaders or enough time to do this. However, at the very least, it’s letting them know that they can speak on their own and they can ask for whatever suits them.
Obviously, we both believe this is just the right thing to do, but couching it in the terms of the c-suite, what for you are the business benefits of inclusivity? How does this play into the P&L, the bottom line? How can we persuade leaderships that this isn’t just a nice to have, not a tick box exercise, but is actually a necessity?
It’s a complex question. I would probably divide it into two. Firstly, the list of requirements and skills that we’re looking at from leaders has changed. Before, it was more focused on the technical side – the experience, how many years of this. Now, it’s more of how we want a leader that is candid. We want a leader that is humble. We want a leader that is not afraid of being exposed and being more human.
We’re looking more into the leadership characteristics rather than the technical. Of course,
the technical element is going to be important, but we’re assuming that in your career you have proven this already and, and you can learn that. So there definitely has been a change.
As a leader, just talk us through what creating a safe working environment that encourages growth, development and inclusion so that team that can bring their best selves to work, means to you?
We started with ‘this is how you need to behave and be an inspiring leader’, but now we’re not leaving it to luck.
This means we know that some leaders are more naturally people-oriented, but sometimes you become a leader and no one is really mentoring you on that journey. So we’re taking care of you when you become a new leader, we give you specific training. Being a leader is being a multiplier rather than a leader who tells people what to do.
Also, we’re measuring their performance against goals. Each of us sees within our annual objective list, one objective that specifically talks about your performance as a leader, the quality of feedback you’re giving to employees and how much you develop them.
Every six months, a people leader survey is disseminated. This people leader survey is intended to assess how you’re doing as a leader. So, we’re being held accountable rather than qualitatively accessing which are the leaders that inspire, which are the leaders we need to emulate and which leaders need some action, as we want our leaders to be successful.
We also have been working on how we’re inspiring leaders to walk the talk. And for that, honestly, we have the best – in the form of our brand leader – Mary Barra, who in addition to embracing diversity and our behaviours, really talks from the heart.
There’s no tolerance when it comes to a leader mistreating people, not having an inclusive language or not having a collaborative approach.
Finally, we have our workplace environment survey that also measures how leaders are behaving, not only the immediate leader, but in general all our leaders, because we want them to really be a good example for our teams.