Connections & Collaboration for Hybrid Teams with Experian

The Next Practices Weekly call series has become a well-attended and wide-ranging discussion for HR leaders each Thursday at 11am ET / 8am PT. On this week's call, i4cp' s Managing Director, Communities and Partnerships, Carrie Bevis, and Senior Research Analyst, Tom Stone, facilitated a conversation with special guests Annette McEnery, Sr. Vice President, HR Operations, and Joanna Wimbish-Gildart, Sr. HR Business Partner, at Experian. Here are some highlights from the call:

  • Experian always had a larger than average (over 20%) remote workforce. They've also grown in part over the years by acquisition, which led to merging various organizational cultures together. They have a large set of call center employees who are hourly and had more schedule structure, but the rest are salaried professionals so a culture of flexibility was already important at Experian, prior to 2020.
  • Experian found that their workforce remained productive during the early parts of the pandemic and the shift to full remote work. They listened closely to their employees, and determined that maximum flexibility was going to be best for their workforce. Some prefer to work mostly at an office, but many want to be fully remote. The same approach and principles were used globally at their various main work locations, such as in Costa Rica, Chile, and elsewhere. Experian's core belief is: "We believe in a people-first approach. We design the way we work to enable the best outcomes, for our people and our business." Their core principles in this regard are:
    • Trusting our people. We know that our people strive to do their best work every day, wherever and however they work. They have proven that during the pandemic.
    • Offering flexibility. We believe that we can achieve great business results while supporting our people to find more balance in their lives and are committed to offering each person as much flexibility as possible.
    • Enable success. Being with colleagues not only inspires collaboration and innovation, but helps people learn from one another and build relationships which are key for career development. We will make sure that our office spaces support that and that our technology and collaboration tools help people stay connected and be successful.
  • Experian's employee listening strategy includes regular use of pulse surveys. They use Qualtrics as their platform.
  • They measure turnover closely, and found that their regretted attrition actually decreased a little while other companies were suffering from "The Great Resignation." And their % of women in the workforce remained constant, compared to many other organizations where more women than men left the workforce over the past few years. Their major employee engagement numbers also remained high, in the high 80s and low 90s percentages.
  • From a technology standpoint, Experian had been rolling out Office365, and emphasizing Sharepoint and Teams, for greater connection and collaboration in their distributed teams and workforce. So in early 2020 they accelerated this and made sure all employees were using these platforms to maximize productivity, connection, and collaboration. These technologies provide part of the "connective tissue" that binds people together.
  • Experian also encourages, but doesn't require all the time, the use of video as this reduces multi-tasking during meetings and helps people get to know each other better. Experian encourages the use of video by having leaders model the use.
  • More recently they are focusing on different cohorts beyond an employee's immediate team.
    • One focus is their ERGs, and making sure these groups are still going strong in a hybrid/remote world.
    • Another driver is encouraging people who live in the same geographic area to get together in-person. To support this, they've created distribution lists based on zip codes (people who live within 50 miles of each other, without actually giving out people's zip codes for privacy reasons).
    • Another is their onboarding cohorts--having people stay connected in these groups, and one day getting them together in-person as well.
    • At the larger office locations, they are encouraging people to come in with intention, i.e., to collaborate, to celebrate, etc. The idea is to come in once or twice a month when many others will be there, and not have it be a ghost town without purpose. Providing good food is a great incentive in addition to the purpose of the gathering. One participant on the call noted their organization does something similar, and they call these CATO days, for Collaborate At The Office--with food being a great incentive for them as well.
  • Experian created a 60-page guide called "Aspire to be Well," which was for both employees and managers to focus on well-being. It included several videos from managers and leaders, again to model key points and principles.
  • Experian also created guides for managers on remote and hybrid work, as things evolved over the pandemic, that included tactical information, technology tips (e.g., setting up a Teams channel), and links to curated playlists in their LMS (e.g., how to lead a dispersed team, how to have an engaging virtual meeting, etc.)
  • Experian has also enhanced their benefit offerings in many ways over the past three years, led by their Global CFO, who has very authentically shared many of his own stories and learnings. They have a global well-being hub, as a one-stop shop for all well-being offerings, aligned to each local region.
  • Experian has a program called "Mental Health First Aiders". This involved training over 400 Experian employees (which was beyond their initial goal) to serve as mental health first points of contacts. They are trained to listen for and identify possible mental health needs, help guide employees to the right available resources, etc.
  • Experian also focuses on financial well-being, which mostly involves their own products and internally developed resources given that this is their product and service business.
  • Regarding real estate, Experian has taken a multi-pronged approach. They have closed some locations, renegotiated some leases, and importantly restructured some spaces to consolidate people so they are closer together and to create more spaces appropriate as hubs for collaboration, celebrations, etc. These changes have reduced some costs.

Links to resources shared on the call: