Q&A with Etienne E. Forbes from Waldom Electronics EMEA

Etienne E. Forbes is Head of Talent at Waldom Electronics EMEA, a U.S. Navy Veteran and will be joining us at our Wellbeing @ Work European Summit between 18-20 May as part our ‘Where all feel they belong’ panel discussion. We spoke with Etienne about his many personal and working experiences, his thoughts on diversity and inclusion and what our audience can expect from the panel discussion.

We are thrilled that you will be speaking at our Wellbeing @ Work European Summit in May. Our first and most important question is, how are you doing today?
I’m doing well! The last few months, I’ve made an effort to focus on improving my sleep health. It’s not been easy for me, but last night was a success. So I’m feeling quite energized.

As a HR leader based in the region, what are the main challenges your you are facing when it comes to employee wellbeing?
In my view, I’d have to say the biggest challenge is trying to find the time and space for unpacking employee wellbeing and the way it intersections with the large diversity of people we have in this region. In Waldom Electronics, we are happy to employ people from over 20 different countries, which is wonderful. However, as you know, wellbeing touches so many areas of an employee’s life. So then the questions become how do we create wellbeing policies & benefits that are meaningful for an employee from Italy and South Korea and South Africa? This is a rather herculean task from an organizational standpoint as I believe truly addressing employee wellbeing demands that you seek these answers, which is difficult to do as people are very busy.

Why is diversity, inclusion and belonging so important to you personally?
As a black man that was raised and worked in the United States for almost my entire life, I can easily create a robust list of the reasons why I personally find this diversity, inclusion and belonging so very important both personally and professionally. Suffice it to say that when I think of the world that I want my 3 young nieces to grow up in, I don’t see furthering these issues as an option, but an obligation.

What are you most looking forward to about our virtual event in May?
Every time, I witness people investing time, effort, and resources into exploring a vital topic, it gives me a dose of optimism. As for me it means that we are getting closer to finding viable strategies and solutions to provide employees. I most look forward to listening and learning from other professionals about the techniques and tips that they’ve been deploying in their organizations.

Tell us, what is your vision for the workplace of the future, in terms of diversity and inclusion, employee engagement, mental health and wellbeing?
My vision when I consider these issues mentioned above that all intersect and heavily affect one another is every single person with an interest and skills in a particular discipline is able to have a choice of employers that are willing to accept that individual for who they are and competing with each other to continuously offer the best possible employee experience. I often say that while we human have accomplished a lot over the past few millennia, imagine what could have been achieved if we didn’t allow socio-economics, stereotypes and prejudices of all flavors prevent the smartest and brightest from doing what they are most capable of doing.

Covid-19 has undoubtedly influenced all areas of employees personal and professional lives. What are the key learnings from this period?
I believe the key learning from this period in my view is companies have been confronted with the fact that their employees are all human. I mean this only partly in jest. Unfortunately, almost every employee on Earth had been tasked with an extremely difficult proposition; suitably balancing the demands of their personal lives with those from their professional life. This requirement is only easy for a microscopic, privileged group, the majority of us don’t have that luxury. Increasing the difficulty further was that many organizations ask that you maintain this balance without ‘complaining’ or violating unspoken norms in their workplace culture. A key example is mothers that shouldn’t bring up the fact that they are actually mothers. What we’ve learned after thousands of hours of Zooms with children, partners, pets, and parents crossing the screen is that our coworkers have full personal lives outside of the office and that those lives (despite what we’ve been pretending) effect our professional ones. We’ve also seen that while some of the personal demands on others are similar to our own, many are are different than the ones we individually have to balance, but that’s okay because they are all human.

How has your organization been leading the way over the last 12 months?
When I look back over the last year, I am especially proud by the way Waldom Electronics has pivoted to not only address the novel challenges of Covid-19, but taken steps to make ourselves “future-proof” and continuing our journey to being the employer of choice. We’ve led the way by being one of the first companies to shut down our offices last March and arranging for equipment to be sent to employees. We haven’t taken the foot off since then and over the past 12 months have introduced:
i. Flexible Working Hours – employees have 4 options for weekly working hours
ii. Remote Working Policy- employees can work from their home countries up to 6 weeks a year (even after Covid)
iii. Covid Care Package – monthly salary increase to subsidize some costs of working from home
iv. Home Office Allowance – employees can spend up to almost 1000 euros to support permanent home offices
v. Acquired New Office for Hybrid Work – Start of the year we transitioned to a new office space suited for hybrid working with flexible desks, more meeting rooms and screens equipped with cameras
vi. Holiday Buy Back Scheme employees were given the opportunity to “sell” their unused holidays back to the company
This is just a few of the things we have done and we obviously have much more work to do in the coming months as we deal with uncertainty and outcomes of Covid and this new world we are not living in.

Join Etienne and 40+ expert speakers at the Wellbeing @ Work European Summit between 18-20 May. Further details can be found on the event website here.

Etienne E. Forbes

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