You would expect one of the world’s largest financial information companies to be a whizz with data. So it’s unsurprising that global information services firm Experian’s people and engagement data has allowed it to navigate the pandemic with relative ease in workforce terms. It conducts annual and quarterly ‘pulse’ staff surveys, gauging everything from its employees’ thoughts about working for the company to their mental health, with a people analytics team dedicated to HR data able to provide insights to senior executives and line managers. It even uses data to predict attrition. No mean feat in a company of more than 20,000 employees across 44 countries. “The main use of our data is monitoring how people feel about working here,” explains chief people officer Jacky Simmonds. “We share that with the operating committee – each team member takes ownership and we take action where necessary.”
And it seems the majority of staff are very happy working for Experian – in 2021 it undertook the Great Place to Work survey for the first time, and was recognised as a Great Place to Work in 21 countries, with employees reporting feeling connected to the company’s culture and purpose – even the 3,000 people it has hired remotely since the pandemic began. The culture itself, Simmonds explains, is “a blend of high performance and people first”, with the most positive aspects having been dialled up during Covid. “People have mentioned how great the culture here is, and generally, behaviour drives a culture,” she says. “Since being remote, people have been a lot more collaborative, a lot more thoughtful about how they engage and include people in their teams, and have put a lot more structure into how they do that.”
But in the UK, given each of its global offices are in countries at different stages of the pandemic, developing its culture with reduced face-to-face contact is something the firm is planning not just during Covid, but in the long term, too. Its more than 3,500 UK-based employees now have the choice of being hybrid or home-based, as well as ‘hub’ roles connected to an office, or ‘roam’ positions relevant for sales teams who need to spend time travelling. It’s also offering every employee globally the opportunity to work a maximum of 30 days outside their ‘home’ country. As part of these plans, Experian is cutting its number of UK sites from 17 to five and investing in creating more collaborative work spaces, including an overhaul of its UK HQ in Nottingham. “People can also manage their day how they want, including different start and finish times,” explains Simmonds. “Our message is ‘whatever works for you, we can make work’, and that’s had a really positive response.”
Whether by luck or design, the move to flexible and hybrid working also came at a time when the organisation had increased its focus on diversity, equity and inclusion, with Simmonds having led on creating the organisation’s first ever global DE&I report, published in summer 2021. The firm’s chief diversity officer in North America was also promoted to global diversity officer. Previously, each country did its own work in this area, but there was “a lot of duplication of effort,” she explains. “We felt it would be much better to maximise our impact if we brought it together globally, and we had a much better picture of where we were,” she says. Experian now has plans to capture demographic data globally (although Simmonds admits that’s more difficult in some countries), and has put targets in place for gender diversity, aiming for women to make up 47 per cent of its total workforce by 2024, compared to the current 44 per cent, and for its executive committee and their direct reports to be 30 per cent female, compared to the current 26 per cent.
Simmonds is also effusive about the role employee networks have played – and continue to play – in Experian’s ED&I efforts, having been a constant source of constructive feedback, and work is ongoing to implement a more constant framework, as their size and scale varies widely. “They’ve been great in telling us what’s working and not working,” explains Simmonds. “It’s a fantastic opportunity for them to help us tune in to what matters to employees.”
The employee networks have also been involved in Experian’s pertinent work to improve financial inclusion, both among its staff and the communities it serves. (In 2020, it launched United for Financial Health, an initiative that partners with not-for-profits and aims to deliver tools and resources to 100 million people across the globe by 2024.) Staff from its network for black employees, Black at Experian, recently undertook work educating local communities about access to credit and personal finance. “That’s been a great bridge, going into communities and sharing what we do, but also getting feedback that feeds into our product development for underserved communities,” Simmonds says.
Experian’s plans show no sign of slowing and Simmonds has ambitions for the company to make the top 25 Great Places to Work in the world in the not-too-distant future: “Covid has given us the opportunity to adapt, and it’s important to focus on how we keep people connected to our purpose and provide great career opportunities.”