How creating inclusive workplaces and unlearning biases benefit all

Published July 5, 2022, 10:25 AM

by John Legaspi

P&G Philippines president and general manager Raffy Fajardo shares his view on the power that comes from harnessing individual differences

Diversity is a term one hears from many corporations. It is a buzzword in today’s labor force as people hope to find a workplace that is perfectly suited to who they are. While creating a work culture built on inclusivity and openness is the goal, many are challenged by it and how to fully integrate it into their system.

The thing is, making an inclusive workplace is something that cannot be done overnight. For some, it takes years to fully have it. A corporation that can attest to that is Procter & Gamble (P&G) Philippines. As a multinational consumer goods corporation with a strong footing in over 180 countries, it has continued to foster an inclusive environment for its employees through the years. With its “We See Equal” campaign, it has produced numerous policies, practices, and programs that champion not only minority groups but everyone, from its line of managers and leaders down to its teams. This enabled the company to be recognized by the United Nations Women Empowerment and Principles (UN WEPs) as a Champion for Gender Equal Workplace.

Raffy Fajardo

“We value diversity to a point that everyone is unique,” Rafael Arturo “Raffy” Fajardo, P&G Philippines president and general manager, says. “We don’t see religion, political views, nationality, gender, any of those. We judge based on merit and contributions. Diversity comes from individual strengths and understanding those strengths. What it is not are stereotypes and judgment—these have nothing to do with the company.”

During a media roundtable discussion, Fajardo details more on how creating inclusive workplaces and unlearning biases benefit all. From seeing beyond one’s background and having mutual respect to asking the right questions, here’s what we learn from the leader of P&G Philippines in shaping an inclusive work culture.

Look at what people can contribute

Working for P&G for 23 years, Fajardo can attest to the company’s focus on people’s outcomes, not activities. As a computer science graduate, it is likely that he would end up in a role that is more suited to what he finished in college, but the organization saw potential in him in the field of marketing, which led him to opportunities to work in Singapore and Thailand, and eventually in the Philippines.

Fajardo believes in merit system and so is P&G. Focusing on outcomes means first looking at employees’ performance and stand-out impact instead of their different work styles and personal circumstances. This way, employees are motivated to perform, help in achieving company goals, and be seen for their abilities regardless of their personalities, sexual orientations, and backgrounds.

“Everyone is unique. When we focus solely on a person’s outcomes, we level the playing field to provide an equal chance for everyone to achieve their objectives without biases and preconceived judgments,” Fajardo says. “Then we empower by recognizing the value of individual strengths and capabilities that each person brings.”

Photo from @pgcareersphl/Instagram

Creating meaningful conversations

Organizational status can be one of the many barriers for employees to creating conversations with their heads. Managers and leaders are different in the business world. One is fixed on accomplishing tasks and mentoring his team while the latter tends to inspire people. To be a successful chief, he or she must have both qualities. Managers and leaders should stay curious and humble while keeping their targets in their heads. And the best way to attain that is through their employees, and by listening to them.

In Fajardo’s case, he learns more about his employees through “Cocomos,” his nickname for coffee connects with country managers outside the usual workplace meetings. Through it, he discovers more about his team, things about and beyond the workplace, making them feel that they are important and their opinions matter. This ultimately helped him be more aware of biases and barriers and understand what actions or help is needed.

“Reaching out to the people who can give you the best insight through curiosity and humility, changes your frame of reference,” he says.

Actions for change

Unlearning biases can be hard, and again, takes a lot of time for its product to manifest. In P&G’s journey toward an inclusive work culture, it has built many affinity groups to foster change within its community. First is GABLE (Gay, Ally, Bisexual, Lesbian, and Transgender Employees), where workers can feel safe, have a sense of belonging, and feel free to be themselves. Another is Men as Allies for Real Change, which encourages understanding among male leaders and colleagues to promote gender equality and be true catalysts for change. There’s also the series Women Beyond Boundaries, featuring a variety of women from different functions of the organization and parts of the company.

To fully create a change in the community, the company has launched numerous policies and programs based on its employees’ needs. One of which is the “My Pay, My Way” program, “where certain benefits are customized according to the priorities and personal preferences of our people.” Another is the “Share the Care” policy, a parental leave program that grants eight weeks of fully paid parental leave. This allows dads to take care of their new child for more than seven days. It also applies to all employees regardless of gender or marital status. Of course, this is on top of the birth or adoptive mothers’ 105 calendar days of fully paid maternity leave.

Currently, the company is looking to branch its inclusion practices toward people with disabilities. Already in the pipeline for the Philippines is #Limitless, a new global chapter of P&G’s People with Disabilities affinity group.

Harnessing individual strengths

Fajardo thinks that a common pitfall for people managers is to expect their employees to grow and possibly follow a proven path of someone else, perhaps a role model, instead of helping them become the best version of themselves. To allow employees to reach their fullest potential, he believes that leaders should empower their employees to play to their strengths.

An example of this is the misconception that “extroverts” are more successful or impactful than “introverts” because they are able to speak up and be more visible in collaborative and social events. Personalities and styles will always differ so an alternative frame of reference is to focus instead on a person’s stand-out impact and contributions to the business and the organization.

At P&G, employees are given meaningful work from Day 1. It aims to create a workplace culture where employees are empowered and enabled to grow, develop and succeed through intentional career planning and equal opportunities.

“Allow each employee to set their own level of flexibility, so that they may bring themselves to work every day and make a difference,” he says. “If everyone comes in feeling included and plays to their strength, we will have a huge impact on the business and culture.”