Twitter’s EMEA HR Lead exclusively shares the firm's D&I strategy, highlighting the value of Business Resource Groups...
Diversity and inclusion (D&I) is a hot topic in the HR space. The people function is savvy to the idea that diversity of thought within the workforce breeds better creativity, increased output, an enhanced employer brand and a better comprehension of the customer; statistics back this up. Research from Boston Consulting Group (BCG) found that companies boasting greater diversity among senior teams enjoy revenues that are up to 19% higher than their competitors. Additional research from McKinsey reveals that racially and ethnically diverse organisations outperform similarly placed institutions by 35%, so there is a real benefit for businesses when it comes to prioritising D&I.
EMEA HR Lead
One firm that has recognised the importance of diversity and inclusion – and has implemented several initiatives that advance this agenda – is Twitter. The social media behemoth – instantly recognisable for its signature bluebird logo, as well as connectivity that allows users to share their thoughts with a big audience – has a staggering 166million monetisable daily active users* from the US to Saudi Arabia. And, according to Anne Kiely, EMEA HR Lead at Twitter, diversity and inclusion is hugely important to the firm because, without a diverse team, the firm would not be able to deliver a service that satisfies the demand of its diverse user base.
“[At Twitter] our mission is to serve the public conversation and, the platform, particularly right now in this difficult time, has never been more relevant. We have every voice, every background, every culture on the Twitter platform using our product, [so] it is hugely important that we have all of those voices inside of Twitter to represent all of the voices and the people that are using [our] platform,” she tells HR Grapevine.
Twitter's 2025 Vision
At least 50% of Twitter’s global workforce will be women
At least 25% of Twitter’s US workforce will be under-represented minorities
Executing a diverse strategy
Yet, diversity, to benefit society, the business and the individual must be more than just a commitment. While many organisations are keen to commit to diversity as part of their public communications, stats from a global PwC study found that employers are struggling to bridge the gap between strategy and execution. This doesn’t appear to be the case at Twitter given the employee-centric D&I initiatives that they have in place and aggressive D&I targets they have implemented to assist future growth.
The BRGs are the lifeblood of our inclusion efforts
One of Twitter’s most successful initiatives is the creation of Business Resource Groups (BRGs) which promote workplace inclusion. The BRGs are comprised of groups of Twitter employees, or ‘Tweeps’, who volunteer their time and skills to create inclusive committees that are built on mutual passions. “We will always say at Twitter that we want you to bring your full best self to work every day so, as an employee at Twitter, that means having a voice, having empowerment to be heard at Twitter and the direction that the company is going. The BRGs allow our employees to bring the other side of their best selves to work which is what they are passionate about in their own lives,” Anne explains.
It appears these groups are working well. 2019 Twitter statistics reveal that one in three employees currently participate in at least one resource group – a figure that is likely to grow as more BRGs come into play. These organically-formed, employee-centric committees currently include: Twitter Able, for employees with disabilities; Twitter Open, for LGBT+ staff; Twitter Alas, for employees of Latino or Latin American descent, and the newest resource group, Twitter Faith, among others. “These are formed from the passion and drive our diverse workforce has but they are given legitimacy by Twitter which is great,” Twitter’s HR lead for EMEA explains.
Twitter fact file
35+ worldwide offices (as of the end of 2019)
More than 4,800 employees
Approximately 166million monetisable daily active users
Is the coronavirus pandemic going to set back the D&I agenda?
Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, employers have furloughed staff, made redundancies and cut costs where possible to help navigate this turbulent period. With attention focussed elsewhere, it raises serious questions about the impact that the crisis will have on the D&I agenda. “There is a risk that employers will put diversity and inclusion on the backburner during testing times,” Jill Miller, Diversity and Inclusion Advisor at the CIPD, tells HR Grapevine. “However, ensuring people feel valued, respected and included is not only the right thing to do, but vital for productivity, long-term retention, reputation and therefore business sustainability,” she adds.
One of the biggest risks, according to Jill, is that women could be more negatively impacted by the current pandemic, particularly if they are reducing work hours to juggle parenting, caring commitments and home-schooling. Jill adds: “[Women] are already disproportionately responsible for the majority of caring for both children and older relatives, and they may now face an even greater juggling act between work and home life.”
Additionally, the retail and hospitality sectors – both of which have seen redundancies and staff placed on the Government’s furlough scheme due to workplace shutdowns – are largely made up of women which could halt female career progression. While temporary suspension of enforcement of gender pay gap reporting may take initial pressure off HR practitioners, the CIPD urges “employers to view the enforcement suspension as giving them more time to report rather than an excuse not to do so at all”.
“Continuing to report will demonstrate an employer is serious about gender equality and not taking its foot off the pedal. Ultimately, the arguments for pursuing equality across all employee groups haven’t changed and, in that vein, employers also need to continue to prepare for the possible introduction of ethnicity pay reporting,” Jill adds.
“Knowing your workforce and understanding where the barriers to both entry and progression in your organisation is vital to being a fair and inclusive employer,” she concludes.
An important part of the groups’ popularity is the breadth of activities that BRGs can organise and their digital capability – which has become particularly useful during a period in which many workers are working from home. Indeed, with Twitter announcing in early May that many employees will work at home permanently, digital channels will become an important fixture in delivering diversity. In fact, Anne explains that digital technology has enabled the organisation to continue its inclusion efforts virtually. She refers to an activity that the BRG Twitter Faith recently facilitated online.
The leadership team are key stakeholders because they have to give our individual employees the time and the efforts to do these things
“Most people that have a faith will bond over food so [Twitter Faith] is having a virtual cookery course where people are cooking online and eating together and it’s really important,” Anne explains. While colleagues can’t be physically together at the moment for religious celebrations, such as Passover and Easter, Twitter’s EMEA HR lead explains that the group has done a great job at facilitating these group get-togethers virtually. Not only has this helped employees to feel included and less isolated – with Mental Health Foundation research finding that almost a quarter of Brits have felt isolated during lockdown – but it has helped the firm promote a positive company culture.
With the firm’s global Glassdoor rating standing at an impressive four out of five stars, it seems they are doing something right. Yet, Twitter Faith isn’t the only BRG to have adapted to this new style of virtual working. Anne explains that the Twitter Open group has scheduled regular ‘café slot’ calls where colleagues can just turn up and chat to one another, while Twitter Asians hosted a #FlockTalk – an agile approach to open discussions – with their Asian Twitter population, which was facilitated by the D&I team.
The power of Allies
The BRGs – which operate both in a global and localised capacity – rely on buy-in from employees who share mutual passions. Yet Anne explains that there is another facet to the BRGs that is really growing at Twitter. This – she tells me in our Zoom interview – is the notion of allyship which helps Twitter achieve true inclusivity. According to Anne, this is the concept that each employee will always have somebody to listen to them and someone that will have their back – regardless of their background, culture, sexual orientation or any other differentiating factor. “You might not be directly involved in Twitter Parents because you are not a parent but, equally, you empathise with that; you have parents you look after and you might form an allyship with that group. So, you always are standing side by side with someone in that group as a friend – I love that concept,” Anne explains, “it’s like cheering from the side-lines”.
Diversity and inclusion is at the core and the heart of our product here at Twitter
While the BRGs are set up by employees themselves – because Anne admits that there is very little point in head office creating groups that employees aren’t passionate about – she explains that Twitter’s CEO, Jack Dorsey, fully backs the firm’s D&I efforts. In fact, the social media giant has an annual cycle of budgeting dedicated to supporting BRGs. “When we are thinking of what money we are putting into resources or tools or processes, we’re also thinking about what resources we put into our BRGs,” she adds.
The importance of managers
Another D&I initiative that Twitter has introduced is its Inclusive Hiring Programme. Through this, managers are upskilled to ensure that their thinking is inclusive – receiving unconscious bias training whilst being taught about the true meaning of worker representation. Initiatives like these help Twitter with reaching future D&I goals. But not only that, Anne explains that Dorsey commits the leadership team to advocate these D&I efforts too and each one of Dorsey’s direct reports is given workforce representation goals to help move the dial. “The support for this must start at the top and feed all the way down,” she adds. And the progress made on the back of these efforts is highlighted in some of the firm’s internal D&I data.
The [BRGs] are formed from the passion and drive our diverse workforce has but they are given legitimacy by Twitter which is great
Twitter’s data has shown that it has made considerable progress in the D&I space. In 2019, 47.1% of new hires were female (up 1.4% from 2018) and 15.7% of new US hires were either Black or Latinx (up 3.4% from 2018). Twitter is not resting on its laurels though. In its public March 2020 Diversity & Inclusion report, the social media giant stated that by 2025, half of its global workforce should be female (which currently stands at 42.5%), with further targets around the representation of women across technical roles (42%) and leadership positions (41%) too. Within five years Twitter has also pledged to ensure that at least one quarter of the US workforce is made up of under-represented minorities. “[They are] very big goals but we will absolutely go after them,” Anne adds.
Twitter Able (for employees with disabilities)
Twitter Asians (for Asian employees)
Twitter Open (for LGBT+ employees)
Twitter Stripes (for veterans, service members and military families at Twitter)
Twitter Alas (for employees of Latino or Latin American descent)
Twitter Blackbirds (employees of the African diaspora)
Twitter Parents (for working parents)
Twitter Women (for female employees)
Twitter Faith (for those with a faith)
D&I on the agenda
While the coronavirus pandemic may see some employers taking their foot off the D&I pedal to focus on other aspects of the business – Anne says she wouldn’t be surprised to see this headline crop up – she assures me that this isn’t the case at Twitter. “That is because of my experience at Twitter, hand on heart. It is because I’ve seen the enthusiasm and energy that people bring to Twitter when they can bring their full selves to work” she explains.
Twitter’s EMEA HR lead continues to explain that, in this challenging time, employers should utilise more diverse hiring methods to get back to full strength. As a wealth of research has pointed towards, a diverse workforce brings in a fresh energy and “new eyes to products and services that they have never seen before”. And with Twitter making an impressive £1billion ($1.47billion) in net income last year according to PR news wire, it is likely that having a diversity of thought within the business has positively contributed towards this success. “As an HR professional, very thankfully, diversity and inclusion is at the core and the heart of our product here at Twitter,” she concludes.
*Twitter now shares its user figures in mDAU, which are Twitter users who log in and access Twitter on any given day through Twitter.com or Twitter apps that are able to show ads.