In conversation with… Bob Athwal: creating a culture of belonging
As LGBTQ+ History Month draws to a close 106 Comms is in conversation with Bob Athwal: Director of Culture and Belonging who oversees E,D&I globally for Skyscanner.
How would you sum up your main focus for E,D&I at Skyscanner Bob?
Our focus is making sure that we create a place of belonging for our colleagues; for everyone to be safe and to be able to thrive, being who they want to be at work regardless of characteristics.
What does LGBTQ+ month mean to a business such as Skyscanner?
The LGBTQ+ agenda is a critical part of our DNA and we are very proud that we were recognised last year as a Gold Stonewall employer. 20 years ago we were a tech start up with no E,D&I team per se, but had a simple mantra of making it a better place for everyone to be at Skyscanner. At the beginning of our journey (pardon the pun) the Pride Network was our first proactive E,D& I programme and so it was the first focal point for our E,D&I work.
What are organisations’ biggest challenges in being able to build a culture that is inclusive for LGBTQ+ employees and future talent?
When we were in start up mode and one of our LGBTQ+ employees took the idea of starting up a Pride network to our Co-founder, their reaction was to encourage them to just “go for it”. So, the first challenge for businesses is about being brave enough to listen to your colleagues and allow them to focus on things they really believe in.
But there is something else…Things are shifting so quickly in business today and the language around E,D&I is constantly evolving. Along with that, peoples’ understanding of the diversity landscape is playing catch up. I am a true believer in people being inherently empathetic. We were after all built by travellers for travellers who have a curiosity for the world and for learning about and from others. This naturally brings with it values aligned to empathy. Skyscanner is the best place I’ve ever worked at because it is so full of genuinely decent human beings who are willing to share, learn and grow… harnessing that empathy and balancing good allyship without marginalising those who may have an opposing view is a key challenge. For me it’s all about calling people in; we need to be educating more as opposed to calling people out.
What are UK businesses doing well to support LGBTQ+ employees and applicants to be their authentic selves both at work and in the recruitment process?
Those organisations that promote a workplace built on the principle that it’s everyone’s responsibility to own the culture and to play a part in building an inclusive culture are the businesses that provide the best support to all employees.
E,D&I needs to be part of the fabric of the business like it is here at Skyscanner, we make sure that our product is loved and trusted by everyone regardless of their backgrounds. For example we have colleagues that are focused in ensuring that our product is developed so it is accessible for our diverse customers. We do this because it is the right thing to do, not because it’s a tick-box exercise.
I also think that building an inclusive employee culture in a brand like Skyscanner needs to be fun, engaging and exciting for our people.
One of the most impactful ways of creating a culture of belonging for all is around understanding and using our data. Data can help us validate if we are doing things right so we are constantly talking to our Employee Resource Groups, we interrogate our Employee Engagement surveys and we run round tables with diverse employees. We listen to our data in all the places that we operate in to make sure that they are safe for our colleagues, especially those who identify in different ways. We are not quite there but we are making strides towards being the best we can be.
Thank you to Bob for his valuable time in sharing his views for this article.