Globalisation is a major catalyst for greater diversity and inclusion in the tech sector

28 Aug 2020

Globalisation is a major catalyst for greater diversity and inclusion in the tech sector

Today announced as Co-CEO of Workday, Chano Fernandez (formerly Co-President), discusses how the company has navigated the COVID-19 pandemic, their approach to diversity and inclusion and their response to the Black Lives Matter movement. As a European executive, he reflects on the impact of a growing number of non-US based executives taking the top jobs in Silicon Valley.

Michael Drew, Partner and Global Head of Odgers Berndtson Executive Search’s Global Technology Practice continues the At home interview series with the Co-CEO of the global software firm, Workday. Watch the entire series: CEOs At Home 


Michael: A very warm welcome to the latest in our series of At Home interviews with Technology CEOs. Today I'm delighted to be joined by Chano Fernandez, co-president of the global software firm Workday. Chano, thank you for joining us today. I hope you're well.

Chano: I'm very well, I hope you're well too, Michael. Thank you for inviting me.

Michael: Chano, would you like to provide a short introduction to both yourself and Workday, please?

Chano: Workday provide enterprise applications, cloud applications for HCM, and finance. We are very well known for serving most of the large companies across the globe. We are a NASDAQ-listed public company and globally servicing customers across many different industries.

I am a Co-President at Workday. In a nutshell, I'm responsible for almost anything that touches the customer at a global level. Based out of London, but clearly with a global footprint and responsibility.

Michael: The last few months have seen significant business and cultural change, so we're really keen to understand what you've learned from this period, and perhaps from these learnings, what has impacted your view over the future?

Chano: Yes, a great question, Michael. I think before this period, we knew, as a company, the importance of strong values and a great culture, something for which Workday's been greatly recognized in the market. If anything, this period has just highlighted how relevant the right set of values and culture are in order to navigate difficult times and to become even stronger on the other end.

Our first value is employees. I've never seen a company with more happy customers and happy employees. Since the beginning, we decided really to double down on our employees. We knew they would have concerns around health and financial stability. We've provided our employees very early on, with a couple of weeks of extra pay for every employee globally to help to ease their stress.

We also knew the importance of communication. We doubled down on “communications, communication, and communication”. I would say both townhalls but also individual conversations.

Michael: We’ve noticed that Silicon Valley tech businesses seem to be more readily appointing non-US leaders into their top roles. Do you see this as a natural acceptance of political thinking? What do you think are the benefits of this trend?

Chano: I think this shift has been evolving over the last few years, I would say. It's a very welcome trend obviously. I would say that, first and foremost, there is an acceptance that there is great talent globally, and we are in this tremendous war for talent these days. You and your firm, better than anyone, know that. You will be making a big mistake, as a Silicon Valley tech business, if you don’t recognize that talent is just everywhere.

As well, international markets outside of the US are becoming more and more relevant as a source of growth for technology companies, and senior executives who not only understand those international markets but also have a voice on the company executive committee are hugely valuable.

To succeed these days, you need to truly draw on a range of mindsets and views 

Michael: Having this global mindset brings diversity of thought, of course, but diversity and inclusion is arguably the most important strategic issue that companies are facing at the moment. Could you talk about what Workday is doing to ensure under-represented groups have a greater opportunity to accelerate their careers within Workday, and perhaps more broadly speaking, what advice would you offer others who are looking to bring greater diversity into their organization?

Chano: It's a huge hot topic that’s been in the works for quite some time and has become an even higher priority. The CEOs of the companies who are our customers, are expecting us, Workday, as a leader in the HR space, to help them too. I think we carry great responsibility for creating diversity and belonging.

Some of the things that we're doing, as a company on this journey for quite some time. A few years ago we started one of our key programs called Opportunity Onramps.

This is about creating job opportunities through training and development in less privileged or overlooked communities of people.

Those that didn't have the opportunity to go to college, because they come from more difficult family or social environments, or those in military service, who’ve retired and have a hard time finding a job. Or considering women that took the tough decision to get out of the professional market to take care of the family for 10, 15 years, and they have a hard time in getting back into the active job market.

Through the Opportunity Onramps programme, we are trying to address some of these collective groups, and then provide them opportunities, either within Workday, or within other technology companies who we partner with in the industry. This programme has worked well for a few years, as I said, but clearly we need to do much more.

We've been thinking daily about what can we do from a software perspective, in terms of helping companies to address this issue much better. While I cannot disclose much today, here, Michael, I can tell you, there will be soon varying advancements coming to the software for many of our customers that hopefully we're helping to address the issue.

Lately, for example, we as a company, donated $10 million to support black employees with job opportunities program, we're working on some others. We've created an internal group of 15 very talented and diverse employees that they're going to be working with over six months. They’ll come back to the executive committee group with proposals on what work we need to do as a company to improve diversity, beginning where we are today.

We're obviously, like many other companies, trying to ensure we reduce bias in our recruitment processes, enabling especially our first-line managers to start with, and taking actions to ensure that we have a good, solid pipeline of diverse candidates, and then providing that enablement that hopefully, will improve long term.

Michael: Thank you Chano, that's really fascinating. That brings to a close part one, but please do join us in Part Two, where we'll be exploring strategic issues including business priorities for the next 12 months, and what we might expect in a post-pandemic future.