Jeremy Stevens is project lead on Experian North America’s diversity and inclusion initiative Humans of Experian. Launched a year ago, this series of videos gives employees a platform on which to tell their own stories honestly and powerfully, to encourage everyone to feel they can bring their whole self to work. We talk to him about the profound and far-reaching impact of this campaign and how its momentum is driving culture at Experian.
What was the inspiration behind the Humans of Experian programme?
Humans of Experian was an Experian North America initiative that was brought on through our Power of You programme and spearheaded by our VP of Public Relations, Jackie Brenne.
We really wanted to make an overarching statement that Experian North America wants everyone to come to work as they are, no matter what that means. If you can come to work being who you are and not have to worry that there will be judgement, then as an employee you will be that much more productive and able to put your whole self into the work that you are doing.
The idea was to reach out across our offices in North America and identify people who were really living in their own skin – be it through their nationality, veteran status, gender identity, sexuality - or in any other way.
These are people with individual backgrounds and we wanted to hear about those. We also wanted to highlight how their unique backgrounds contribute to the company culture and also what Experian can do to help each individual bring their whole self to work.
Is the willingness to learn from employee stories vital to creating a truly diverse and inclusive business culture – and one that has genuine impact?
I think it’s integral and through that two-way street, we can continue to understand so much more about what it takes to create an inclusive culture. For us, the videos are about learning and making sure you as an employee have everything you need to feel as comfortable, accepted and welcome as possible.
It’s one thing for a company to say that it is accepting - but for companies to ‘walk the talk’ they really need to show that. You can’t just have human resources saying something in a booklet as part of your diversity programme, you need to be overt if you are going to really communicate that you are wanting people to ‘live out loud’.
We send these videos out by email to all employees, put them in our newsletters and of course, they are on our website, and they are a strong statement that we're not just saying this, we’re really encouraging you to bring your whole self to work.
This programme also really does open the door for any of our colleagues to share their story, no matter where they are in the company, from leader to entry level - because the real basis of the video is that person’s human story - and everyone has one. That’s what we focus on – and through that then what their story does to enhance the culture of Experian.
What kind of feedback have you got on the programme and what kind of impact have the videos had?
When we started the programme we thought that it could be an avenue to start conversations and another vehicle for telling our Power of You message – and there has been a tremendous amount of support and positive outpouring through the messages and employee comments that we’ve received.
We’ve leveraged the videos through our employee resource groups in a lot of ways already, which has provided tangible impact. For example, we celebrated National Coming Out Day last month and two of our leaders who are LGBT produced Humans of Experian videos. They said, “If we are going to lead employee resource groups we need to let everyone know that we are who we are so we can set an example”.
How is the programme going to develop?
The UK office has just launched its version of Humans of Experian and other regions are also working on a version of it. All along, our hope was to pilot the series in North America and then, if the response was good, let it spread to other regions - and it has done that.
We’ve just started our fourth series of videos and each batch features around 6-8 stories. The first three series involved people coming forward to tell their story. In this last round of videos, we actually asked the leaders from our employee resources groups if they themselves would want to talk about their personal stories.
There is a lot of momentum for the project to develop it. It's just a matter of trying to find people to come forward – because it is a very courageous step and not for everyone.
How inspiring do you find it in your own experience of Experian?
It’s absolutely inspiring to me and very rewarding to be a part of. I have been at Experian leading the project for a few months and I am gay myself, so I do have that lens you have when you start any job where you don’t quite know whether this is the platform on which to be open about it.
When I first came in and I was doing research and saw what went into telling these stories it amazed me. I thought, “Oh wow I am encouraged to be my true self here” which is incredibly powerful