What’s Your Vibe?

What’s Your Vibe?

Helen Yu 04/04/2024
What’s Your Vibe?

My grandmother asked me to spread her ashes on a tall mountain. I decided to take them to the tallest one, Mount Everest.

In honor of Women’s History Month, a time when we commemorate the visionary women paving the way for all of us – past and present – I am reminded of my grandmother who, in a hushed yet strong voice, tasked me with spreading her ashes on the tallest mountain above sea level.

She recognized my value. She believed in me. She saw me.

That’s why I am passionate about sharing the concept of VIBE™. It means “Value Inclusion, Belonging, and Equity” for all and is the cornerstone for Workday’s inclusion and diversity strategy. As a software company well known in human resources (HR), finance and education circles, Workday has baked VIBE into its company ethos, so people have the opportunity to thrive. Just as my grandmother saw my potential, they strive to help people recognize one another’s value in the workplace for a thriving work environment for all.

VIBE was coined a few years ago by Workday’s Chief Diversity Officer Carin Taylor. As the word “belonging” became mainstream for human resources, business leaders and employees, Taylor ventured to find a common definition – until she realized the task was impossible.

With curiosity and excitement about the concept of “belonging,” her search led her to an epiphany: a single definition did not apply to everyone. Belonging to one person could look completely different to another. For me, for example, belonging might be encouragement to propose ideas at a board meeting. For another, it might be feeling safe to roll up their sleeves and show their tattoo – an example Taylor cites about herself in her 2022 talk at the TEDxSonoma County entitled “Belonging, A Critical Piece of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion.”

“Belonging is a two-way street,” she says in her TEDx talk. “Belonging isn’t something we can sit back and have  . . . done to us. We must participate.”

Her message to leaders? She says that “if you want people to thrive, create the conditions for belonging.”

Taylor has dedicated her life’s work to building effective teams, inspiring employee engagement, promoting a sense of belonging, and connecting diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) with business outcomes for prominent tech players, including Cisco and Genentech, prior to joining Workday in late 2017.

In 2022, she and her team at Workday ventured to identify DEI’s key drivers, its current state, progress thus far, technology tools effectively being used in the practice of DEI, and what leaders needed to know about building a climate where people felt like they belonged. They surveyed 3,114 global HR, chief human resources officers (CHRO) and business leaders spanning 23 countries for what became a 26-page report called the “Global Blueprint for Belonging and Diversity.”

The entire report is a must-read for leaders serious about building a more inclusive, more innovative culture. Here are three parts that hit home for me.

Technology as an Enabler

It seems like we measure just about everything these days: from website traffic to KPIs to quarterly financials (not to mention our daily water intake!). Yet, when it comes to DEI, Workday found that while 73% of respondents trust DEI data, 48% simply don’t measure its impact. Based on Workday’s findings, the top three reasons people don’t trust DEI data are:

  • Data privacy and regulatory compliance issues (39%)

  • Lack of relevant technology (33%)

  • Ineffective internal employee communication (30%)

This is where technology becomes an enabler. Workday’s VIBE Index™ helps companies measure people’s sense of belonging, among other insights. Technology is like an arrow, pointing us to a more inclusive environment where belonging is measured, leading to meaningful change.

Workday’s report offers technology use case examples based on its findings.

  • Internal communications tools like intranet, instant messenger, or chat tools - 37%

  • Talent management systems like tools to expand talent pools - 36%.

  • Employee engagement tools like anonymous surveys - 33%

The power of technology to enable progress is astounding. I’ve seen it firsthand.

As the global chair for G100: Mission Million manufacturing multinationals and supply chain, a think tank consisting of 100 women leaders from around the world, I meet with people from a wide range of disparity. Some might not have access to LinkedIn, while others must face the daily challenges of war or political repression. Yet, when we get on a Web conference call, technology becomes the great equalizer and connector. Women leaders from Peru, Panama, Cameron, Egypt, Myanmar, and many other countries gather to innovate, share and define action steps toward peace, parity and prosperity for all. This community would not exist without technology.

Diverse Thoughts Drive Innovation

VIBE’s emphasis on belonging is personal for me. Whether I’m walking into a board room halfway around the world, meeting with a client or gathering with neighbors, I don’t want people to include me because I’m Asian. I want to be judged on the value I bring to the table. For me, it’s not just about having a seat at the table – it’s about having a real voice while sitting in that chair.

According to Workday’s report, the business case for DEI is clear. Leaders and board members, take note of these internal drivers:

  • Improves staff well-being (41%)

  • Increases innovation resulting from more diverse and engaged teams (37%)

  • Investing positively impacts business success and results (36%)

  • Improves employer brand (35%)

Diversity means diverse thoughts – and this contributes to performance. More than just gender, diversity points to faith, marital status, ethnicity, how we grew up and other factors that make us who we are.

VIBE Inspires Positive Energy at Work

Call it luck or fate, I learned what great culture looked like from the leaders I served under during my tenure at Hyperion, Adobe and Marketo. These great companies set precedent for the kind of leader I myself strived to be: empathetic, sincere, caring, a good listener, committed to my team, open to new ideas.

As Workday’s study shows, a gap exists within companies. Senior management thinks it is doing better on the DEI front compared to the rest of the workforce. This perhaps reveals why 39% lack a strategy approach to DEI. When companies tie commitment to DEI back to corporate goals, we will gain much-needed ground on DEI as a way for all people to get inspired about their work.

Just as my grandmother believed in me, DEI initiatives foster a shared belief among coworkers. People can reach extraordinary heights when we honor one another’s value.

With that, what an amazing new vibe we get to create in the workplace.

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Helen Yu

Innovation Expert

Helen Yu is a Global Top 20 thought leader in 10 categories, including digital transformation, artificial intelligence, cloud computing, cybersecurity, internet of things and marketing. She is a Board Director, Fortune 500 Advisor, WSJ Best Selling & Award Winning Author, Keynote Speaker, Top 50 Women in Tech and IBM Top 10 Global Thought Leader in Digital Transformation. She is also the Founder & CEO of Tigon Advisory, a CXO-as-a-Service growth accelerator, which multiplies growth opportunities from startups to large enterprises. Helen collaborated with prestigious organizations including Intel, VMware, Salesforce, Cisco, Qualcomm, AT&T, IBM, Microsoft and Vodafone. She is also the author of Ascend Your Start-Up.

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