#22: Dianna Owen, Senior Director EMEA Employee Relations at Oracle
As a HR leader whose influence creates social change, what do you feel has been your most impactful action to date?
I come from a legal background and transitioned into HR, which was the best decision I ever made in terms of creating impact. I’m working to build frameworks that formalise patterns of working that have been more widely adopted during the pandemic, adopting an employee-centric approach.
For example, thinking of the caring responsibilities that so many have been juggling, I’ve been working on a more generous paternity leave policy. I believe providing support for fathers will have a positive impact on expecting mothers and women in the workplace more generally. For example, my husband, who also works at a tech company, had the option to take more than two weeks statutory paternity leave; but he didn’t feel he could ask for it, he felt uncomfortable even though policies were in place that would enable that. This is a social issue – I was shocked – especially that this happened at a modern tech company. I want to create culture where men feel comfortable and empowered to take leave and thereby support their partner both during maternity leave but also when they return to work. If we don’t champion parental leave there won’t be a social shift in historical gender patterns and how we balance caring and work responsibilities.
At the moment, in your industry, what do you think is the most exciting opportunity for HR to change the world?In the tech industry we've been practicing many elements of working digitally for a while. For example, having a Zoom call was already second nature prior to the pandemic. In adapting to remote working other industries have been propelled in to way of working that tech had already adopted, and there is a great opportunity to see what other sectors can do enable diverse work patterns. In HR we used to think that certain conversations had to be held face to face – for example a severance discussion, or a union meeting. Face to face is still important, but we have shown that we are able to have complex and difficult discussions remotely. This means we can change our way of working to engage with a wider global talent pool that is much more diverse – an exciting opportunity for HR to embrace.
Which particular areas of social and environmental injustice are you most passionate about, and see that your role gives you the chance to create change?
Balancing parental leave is an issue I’m passionate about. One key area I’ve been working on is the point of returning to work, how to make this aspect of the journey more successful – for all working parents. Parental leave is not just about the pay policy, we need to create robust return to work programmes. I noticed one of my own parental leave periods, that some of my friends also on leave felt really anxious about their return to work, it was distressing to see - no parent or carer should have to worry about returning. In creating a formal framework I’m working on how managers can have an agreed communication plan prior to departure, that is flexible to the preferences of the individual and helps resolve any anxieties by creating opportunities to talk.
How have you best used your position to create a more equitable and inclusive environment in ways that deliver your business goals?
In the area of return to work, I’ve also been working on how we bring in cohorts of talent that are re-starting their careers – which could be for a variety of reasons. For example, we’re creating a framework to help our salesforce recruit returners, including people that had been working in different professions and sectors. Supported by the programme they add huge experience, including diversity and diversity of thought, to drive further performance for our sales teams. Programmes such as these open work opportunities to broader pools of talent and there are many reports that show that greater diversity in teams drives growth in profits.
What is the one specific action you would like to see all HR Leaders take to make a positive change for the world?
I’d like HR Leaders to drive positive leadership in organisations. A starting point is leading by example and inspiring your teams to do the same. When people thrive in their career and give so much to their company; it’s because they’re inspired. Work relationships need to be win/win, not just transactional, to drive success.