Creating a workplace where everyone feels welcome and able to do their best work is no easy job. It’s one that evolves over time and will never officially be ‘done’. But that’s ok, because it’s both highly rewarding and vitally important. Why? Well, to tell us more, we asked someone who knows all about it: Booking.com’s Global Head of Inclusion, Diversity and Belonging (IDB), Chuck Stephens.
While still relatively new to Booking.com, Chuck is anything but new to IDB, having previously helped both Barclays and Google make their working environments more welcoming places to be. But why do companies need to be inclusive or diverse in the first place? As Chuck puts it, “employees want to feel like they do impactful work, that they enjoy – which doesn’t mean it’s easy – and, ideally, they are part of a ‘work family’ where they have a sense of belonging.”
And what about here at Booking.com especially? He goes on to explain, “we are a company of explorers. We know from our own cultural surveys that diversity is one of the main elements that colleagues really value about working at Booking.com. While navigating all our diverse backgrounds, identities and variations of the human experience can seem a little daunting at times, it’s what makes us such a rewarding place to work.”
The IDB team at Booking.com is committed to making colleagues aware of all these different backgrounds, identities and variations, as well as feeling part of everything being done to make ours the most open, welcoming and empowering environment possible. Or as Chuck suggests, “the idea is for everyone to contribute to a workplace where people feel supported and can ultimately be as successful as possible in their personal and professional journeys.”
The first stage of making everyone feel part of a welcoming environment is to get everyone on the same page on just what it is we’re talking about when we discuss diversity, inclusion, and belonging at our company. “We have been focusing on creating a single source of truth around IDB, establishing metrics that will help us as an organisation drive positive change” Chuck explains.
With over 140 nationalities at Booking.com, we’ve got international diversity covered pretty well. But nationality isn’t the only definition of ‘diversity’. So we asked Chuck what do we actually mean when we talk about diversity? “We are in the process of finalising what we are calling The Booking Journey that outlines much of this – that single point of truth I mentioned before. We take a very wide view of diversity, which includes all the characteristics a colleague might use to define themselves – such as gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender-identity, physical ability, age, language skills, socio-economic status, religion, as well as introversion or extroversion, and thinking styles. There are a lot of things to consider.”
We see diversity through a wide lens, making it a broad and inclusive term that can be interpreted in many ways. Speaking of inclusion in the workplace, Chuck says, “I tend to think of it as a series of actions that send signals to others that we are glad they are here, and that also promote equality and belonging. It’s also engaging in constructive conversation, but in respectful ways.”
But this isn’t just some top-down initiative, this comes from everyone at the company. Chuck explains that, “colleagues want to support each other and contribute to opportunities to make things better for everyone. And we (the IDB team) are working to identify ways all they can do this to positively drive our culture.”
Of course, when you have such incredible diversity, you get a lot of differing ideas, which is great for creativity – it’s what makes us so strong – but sometimes, these differing opinions can lead to disagreements. That’s why Chuck, his team and the company as a whole are working hard to make sure each individual employee can recognise their own preconceptions and be aware of when they might not be communicating in the most productive or inclusive way. We’re wonderfully diverse, we’re immensely inclusive, but we’re not perfect.
On the subject of not being perfect, Chuck says, “some of what we read about in the media – such as Kenji Yoshino’s work on ‘covering’ – or things like the challenges of coming out and imposter syndrome can also be found here at Booking.com. Some of these are team challenges, some are individual. As an organisation, we are supportive, but ultimately, each of us has our own journey to take.”
The IDB team is working to find ways to create an even more inclusive environment at Booking.com. One of these projects includes launching an IDB portal, where employees are able to uncover more about specific principles they can apply to their daily interactions. The team is also putting together special inclusion workshops – which over a thousand employees have already taken part in – and have initiated a new B.Champion mentoring programme. The more the team can inspire individual employees to educate themselves and take ownership of the topic on a daily basis, the better.
For Chuck, it’s a lot of small steps and relatively easy actions, that anyone can take, that all build up to really making any workplace more inclusive. “Take a step to do something positive. Ask questions, learn from colleagues that have a different background than you, activate new skills and seek to be a leader on inclusivity, no matter what your role is. Go out and explore the experiences of others around you.”
If you’d like to make your – and our – working environment even more welcoming for everyone, you can find our latest job opportunities here.