For a cup of coffee with Barbora and Dimana, GenWork - ENGLISH
What was the impetus for starting GenWork and what cultural perspective was primarily motivated?
Dimana: GenWork was born from personal experiences and the desire to influence real change. Formany years I worked for a company where company culture was the last thing on the agenda. After I had my children and experienced the hardship of coming back to work, I understood the meaning of discrimination. I also understood that it was practically impossible to find a new job or change a career if you demand flexibility or hours adjustment from a new employer. To be frank, it made me furious because I knew I had it in me to work, to contribute, and to grow professionally but I saw that I might never get the chance to show it. Life worked in such a way that I departed from my employer and met Bara, whose work ethic and vision completely aligned with mine. We started GenWork to help all kinds of people find a place to work where they will be valued, understood, and accepted.
Bara: When we first started GenWork we met many people who experienced that gender, cultural or lifestyle differences may unfairly influence their career. We saw that the most disadvantaged group in the Czech Republic are women, who have a family or plan to start one, so we started from there. What we saw is that the biggest misunderstanding in the Czech working environment is that women often stay on maternity leave indefinitely, hence why companies don`t know how to deal with them. This, in turn, affects hiring practices, the working environment, and the lack of diversity in teams on mid and senior levels. We spent many hours thinking about how we can change this, who we needed to talk to, and what other disadvantaged groups there are on the market.
How do you assess the current level of DE&I program implementation in our region, examples of bad and good practices?
Bara: D&I became a trend, status, branding, certain sticker next to the company logo. But how many companies do mean it? It is a question which I am a bit afraid to answer as I don`t think there are many. To be diverse and inclusive does not mean that you will set a quota just to hire females, even if they are not experienced and talented enough. It is a tricky situation for HR and hiring managers because they need to find a way to be objective when it comes to diversity. Diversity needs to fit the team or company needs, not a quota on an excel sheet. There are indeed some companies that have invested in buildingD&I-focused departments. The problem is that only a few want to change something. Many just do it because the competition does it or because their HQ requests it in the KPIs.
Dimana: I`m afraid that the words “Diversity” and “Inclusion” are starting to rub off people the wrong way. Men are starting to complain that they are discriminated against (in some cases it is true), HR managers are complaining that they need to hire women, but many are not qualified for the positions. The diverse talent pool locally is struggling because let`s face it, there is not much visible diversity. So how do we solve this? We don`t just focus on women and quotas, but we create a working environment that stimulates talent to come forward and apply. We encourage them to study, learn, develop and communicate. As Bara said, just shouting “diversity” without really working on it, doesn`t bring any results.
What is the potential of technology solutions for the DE&I agenda and vice versa, what are the threats?
Bara: Most of the companies went through the digitalization process due to Covid and they learned how to use technologies in daily life. This is helpful for the implementation of some new ideas/educational programs and projects. The advantage is that companies such as GenWork can deliver webinars/online programs/workshops related to D&I and educate many people at the same time across the globe.That helps synchronize the development process in various company locations.
Dimana: Over the last few years there have been strong developments in the areas of technology for diversity and inclusion practices in companies. While the majority of the technology investment is in talent acquisition and sourcing, we believe that much greater attention needs to be paid to talent development, employee engagement, and retention. Talent development is important because it allows people to progress professionally and diversify the senior positions in a company. Some great examples are women and people of color – they occupy the lower levels of every company, but the more you go up, the less of them you see. Technology can help companies understand better the issue of diversity and inclusion across the entire organization. It can help raise more awareness indifferent groups and give real-time results at an individual level.
One of the cons of using technology is the removal of human touch. You can`t influence individuals if you are just part of a software program. Investing time and effort can have a longer positive effect than just mainstreaming your employees.
How does your algorithm work?
Dimana: We don`t have an algorithm for matching candidates with companies because we work with people, not machines. We see a great value in using humanity when working with talent. More than 70% of all CVs are rejected before they are even seen by a human. Additionally, although HR departments are increasingly reliant on AI when selecting candidates, we believe that there can be bias, and these algorithms can reinforce discrimination in hiring practices. If you think about it, human-created algorithms are a reflection of our opinions and beliefs. They represent our prejudices, perspectives, and biases and very often can lead to misunderstandings and mistakes. Even though algorithms in HR are an incredibly cost-effective solution for busy departments, they often end up excluding job applicants based on race, gender, age, or disability because of keywords, phrases, and word choices. For a company that is strongly dedicated to diversity and inclusion, we can`t afford to have that.
What developments will enrich the DE&I agenda in the future?
Bara: I would start simply by talking about it. Educate managers and HR departments about it, what impact it might have, how to treat people who belong to a smaller social group. Re-think the approach and relationship to mothers, offer them more part-time jobs, allow them to be flexible, and work from home. When companies start hiring more diverse talent, they get fresh ideas, perspectives, and mindsets that increase their overall performance and move them forward.
Dimana: I would concentrate on two things: encourage different groups to grow professionally and educate managers on how to handle different situations, such as mothers coming back from maternity leave. We recently spoke with a company board member who said that diversity at the lower company level is not an issue, but when it comes to filling up senior positions, there are no diverse candidates. They even expressed a desire to promote someone internally, but saw no ambition, even from their people. We see this as an opportunity for change. The same goes for managers dealing with working moms – many of them have no idea how to handle a team member who needs flexibility and adjustment, so this often ends up in conflict. It can be easily avoided if you train your people properly.
Can software solutions reliably regulate such a complex topic as diversity and inclusion, what is the role of humans in this process?
Dimana: Software solutions are a great tool for HR that helps save time and resources for HR departments. We often talk about AIs that are bias-free, thus allowing less space for discrimination when it comes to age, gender, race, cultural background, etc. However, when it comes to job applications, the majority of them are rejected by AI and don`t even reach human hands. It relies too much on predefined keywords and phrases, which are often used by one particular group of job candidates. The lack of human touch can be a deal-breaker. If you a researching for the right candidate for D&I purposes, AI might not bring forward their CV. Excluding human differences such as gender, age, religion, and ethnicity are great for avoiding bias. However, often the tone and language used in a CV might not match the keywords and phrases defined in the algorithm, which results in a rejection.
What does the process of implementing your solution look like in the practice of a company that has not yet addressed this agenda?
Bara: We constantly monitor and check companies when it is the right moment to come in and share with them what we do and how we can help. It is important to show how the company can grow thanks to diversity. How their revenue can be increased and performance improved. It is important to share tangible examples and be honest. We often offer companies to come and try our platform, see the results for themselves and decide whether their company culture needs improvement, to attract the right talent.
Dimana: Many companies in the Czech market are yet to address diversity and inclusion. They either lack the budget or team capacity to work on it. What we start with is promoting their company culture and how the correct environment can attract more talent. This talent can be diverse – women, people of color, disabilities, ethnicity, religion, or sexual orientation – and the more diverse a team is the greater the chance to increase company revenue. We try to show the advantages of bringing different perspectives and how a company can develop in the future, all thanks to the diversity and correct company culture.
Why is it important that more and more even small companies pay enough attention to this topic?
Dimana: Even small companies can have a good company culture. This creates loyal teams who invest their time and effort to grow the company and product. Creating a good working environment is not always about money. It is about how you treat your people, how you include them in decision making, how you address their differences and make them useful to the team. A mother might be able to only work a 6-hour day, but she will give 120% effort. A middle-aged employee has more life experience and perspective than a young one. A person of color will understand how the company and product might appeal to different groups of people who are not local. To be honest, it is all about having the right vision. If you start well, even when you are small, your company will develop the potential to grow.
Bara: It will help society to create more diverse and more effective teams. Why should you always hire the same people? If a company struggles, you need to bring a fresh perspective. Sometimes it even helps to bring completely opposing characters tore-start the company potential. These practices are beneficial especially to women, who are often scared to plan a family as they don`t want to lose their jobs. It does not necessarily mean investing a big budget, it is about expressing a proactive interest in people and giving them a chance.
Tips on resources
Bara: I use mainlyLinkedIn, where I usually find interesting articles on different topics. I also listen to many Podcasts, which inspire me and usually open my thinking process.
Dimana: I get my inspiration from foreign companies, that are implementing strategies we are not even thinking of yet. I try to understand different perspectives and how diversity is helpful to people. I like seeing how having a disability is not a stopper anymore from doing your job. I like seeing how different cultural backgrounds are mixed in a working environment. I like seeing the change in the perception that if you are mid-aged, you are worthless – women and men over 50can still be hired at high-level positions and can still have a career change.Western culture gives me inspiration as to what I want to bring here and how I can create a better future for my two daughters.