Office chemistry can be tough to engineer, particularly for larger companies with employees worldwide. The traditions and norms in Europe may vary vastly from those in Asia, and vice versa.
We all know that culture is incredibly important, but do the same principles hold true when you have offices in say the United States, China, and the Czech Republic?
Travel company Booking.com is no stranger to navigating this, especially when it comes to working with a team made up of different backgrounds, cultures, and religions. Here’s how Booking.com creates its inclusive environment so that everyone—no matter where they’re located—feels welcome, accepted, and heard.
Find the Gaps
Lotus Smits is Booking.com’s newly appointed Diversity & Inclusion Advisor. It’s the first time the company has created such a role, and it’s central to their future.
Based out of Amsterdam, she has an important part to play in maintaining a culture that’s both open and accommodating to everyone. She’s finding out where the company still has gaps in its workforce and looking at the data to see what kind of trends there are in terms of equal representation.
One of the things she’s discovered? While Booking.com is doing well in terms of gender equality for pay, they also want to help more women rise into leadership positions, and have created mentorship programs to pave the way.
“The bigger we get,” Lotus says, “the more important it is to focus on our culture. Things can happen under the radar that you’re not aware of because of the size of the company. Focusing on D&I is the logical thing to do as it plays an important role in the success of our company. Our D&I team focuses on creating and protecting an inclusive work environment that fosters respect and celebrates the individual differences of everyone at Booking.com. Which ensures that everyone can be themselves and be at their best.”
Educate Your Leaders
Because Booking.com’s workforce is comprised of many different backgrounds, it’s imperative they have an inclusive culture. That’s why they’re working on training programs to educate their leaders to promote respect and inclusion. But it’s important that all employees feel like they are a part of the team and are treated fairly. This is of course not only the responsibility of the manager—all employees have the duty to treat their colleagues with respect.
For new arrivals in Amsterdam, Booking.com offers classes on Dutch culture so that employees can better acclimate to their new home. They’ve also introduced lunches where you get to eat with another Booking.com employee who you’ve never met before so that you can learn a little bit about each other.
“There’s always room for improvement,” Lotus says. “What’s challenging with this topic is that you’re never done.”
Make Diversity the Norm
Dakotta, a Global Sourcing Lead with Booking.com, is used to being surrounded by diverse cultures and people. After being certified as a yoga instructor in India, the Texas native relocated to Amsterdam this past summer, where he works with inside recruitment to maximize the impact and quality of Booking.com’s hires.
“My whole life has been travel,” Dakotta says. “I’ve been to 81 countries and I’ve lived in 13 of them.” Despite working for many different tech companies, Booking.com is one of the most internationally diverse and inclusive places he’s ever worked—it was almost as if the company had formed their own model UN at their Amsterdam headquarters. During his interview process alone, Dakotta spoke with people from the UK, Greece, and Mexico.
Because he plays such a crucial role in their recruitment efforts, Dakota is well-versed in the importance of diverse teams. “Diversity helps you reach more markets and more creative candidates,” Dakotta says.
And for Dakotta, there was no period of adjustment or acclimation. From day one, everyone was friendly. “Stepping into the office is my haven. That’s the best thing about my job. I can’t say that about anywhere else.”
It’s Not Just an HR Thing
Whether you’re in an office back in the states or working abroad, creating an inclusive culture is critical to the success of both employee and employer.
“We need to make it a place where you can do your best work,” Lotus says. “We can’t do it alone. We need to realize that diversity and inclusion isn’t just an issue that’s the responsibility of HR or the CEO, it’s the responsibility of everyone.”