This International Women’s Day, Air Liquide (UK) has joined a worldwide community of over 200 organizations endorsed by WORK180 that are spearheading diversity and inclusion.
On the road to joining us, from the start of 2020 Air Liquide boosted maternity leave from the standard Statutory Maternity pay, to sixteen weeks at full salary within the UK. This updated policy means working mothers will be supported at a higher pay for longer – a game changer for Air Liquide’s growing female workforce. Simultaneously, AirLiquide increased paternity pay from the standard 1-2 weeks to 4 weeks. To find out how it all came about, we spoke with Air Liquide’s Cluster NEC Talent Director Samantha Newman and the UK’s Human Resources Director & CFO, Matthew Hasnip.
“I really wanted to work with WORK180, but as Air Liquide didn’t quite fit the criteria for endorsed employers. I went to the Managing Director (MD) of Air Liquide UK and said, ‘This is an organization we can work with to improve gender diversity – but we need to go above and beyond the minimum standards to make it happen.’ The MD replied, ‘Well, why aren’t we doing more? Let’s go for it.” – Samantha, Talent Director, Air Liquide
When we sit down with Sam and Matt, we meet a pair of dedicated ‘people people.’ It’s through their very different life experiences that Sam and Matt share a passion for diversity and inclusion (D&I) today.
Matt has been with Air Liquide for over two decades; he’s seen the business strengthen over time as its workforce has diversified. Pursuing his passion for the people behind Air Liquide, Matt undertook the role of HR Director in early 2019 while continuing his role as CFO for Air Liquide in the UK and Ireland.
“Everybody has something different to bring. The more diverse our workforce, the greater capacity we have to develop the business in a holistic way. Historically, we have worked in a very male-orientated industry, but I’m passionate about ensuring our workforce better reflects our society in the UK and our diverse customer base,” says Matt.
Sam, on the other hand, has led a career in senior HR positions in the football industry, construction, logistics and refrigeration – often being the only woman at ‘the table.’ Sam joined Air Liquide’s HR team six years ago when expecting her first child.
“Inclusion is very important to me on a personal level. I know what it’s like to work in organizations where you don’t feel included as a young woman. People need a sense of belonging,” Sam shares.
From strength to strength
When asked about Air Liquide’s evolving D&I policies, Matt is proud to say that Air Liquide has blossomed into a tapestry of identities over the last decade.
“Over the last 10 years, we have gone from ratio of 15-20% females in the workforce, which is now closer to 30% women, and this percentage is increasing. In addition, there has been a change in the types of roles performed by women and men; a symbol our industry is moving away from stereotypes. You can clearly feel the change within the business, which in my experience, has created a more comfortable working environment. We’re recruiting for the long term; all employees should reach their highest potential. This is where both my roles meet; striving for optimum business performance through a stronger and more diverse work force”, shares Matt.
For the last 12 months, Matt and Sam have implemented several initiatives that are getting real traction, with others just over the horizon. Air Liquide’s flagship way of working, ‘BeActEngage,’ encapsulates Air Liquide’s vision for D&I, while providing the vision and practical tools to get there.
“’BeActEngage’ is about listening, giving purpose and trusting one another so everyone is included and empowered. People should not feel they must act in a certain way to lead a fulfilling career. This is where a wide range of initiatives like ‘Close the Loop’ (which ensures all employees have a voice in meetings) and flexibility fit together like a puzzle,” shares Sam.
Although there’s clearly a lot going on in the D&I space at Air Liquide, Sam and Matt are the first to say that there’s still a long way to go.
“The next step is to make our HR policies gender-neutral to ensure we are inclusive of all people across the gender spectrum; we’re working hard on this now with a vision for streamlining our policies this year”, says Matt.
Joining forces with WORK180
It’s not always easy to approach the leadership team to suggest policy change or a new partnership. In this case, Sam and Matt achieved both. The secret to their success? Bringing a clear plan to the table.
“Clearly explain exactly how you expect the policy to benefit your people, and therefore your business. When I spoke to the Cluster HR Director of our region, I said that partnering with WORK180 will not only develop our capability from a talent acquisition perspective, but will elevate our brand overall. The leadership team are familiar with the challenges we face when it comes to attracting females to careers in STEM, and they have a vested interest in a diverse workforce. But more than this, they know we have a responsibility to give back – so it wasn’t a difficult conversation. They were on board immediately.”
Since WORK180 and Air Liquide UK joined forces, Matt and Sam say the partnership has created a buzz across Air Liquide clusters around the world.
“We’re not experts when it comes to being an employer of choice for women – that’s why we’re partnering with WORK180. We feel the energy of the WORK180 team; their creative ideas are second to none. Other Air Liquide entities will take on ideas like Super Daughter Day. The Managing Director of Air Liquide Benelux is now asking about WORK180 – the excitement is infectious. WORK180 helps us drive our ambition for diversity and inclusion – and this is really important to us.”
Gemma Lloyd, CEO and Co-Founder at WORK180 is equally excited about Air Liquide’s progress, “Seeing the dedication of the Air Liquide team to take action on such important initiatives speaks volumes about their commitment to creating a more inclusive workplace,” says Gemma.
“We look forward to working together to support Air Liquide on their journey and share their progress with our community of talented women, industry partners and other employers who are looking to be more progressive.”