Colt CEO Keri Gilder on her ability to move culture change mountains, which was recognised by her recent appointment as Global President of the Global Telecom Women’s Network.
Everyday inclusion and support for all Colt staff globally, no matter how diverse their backgrounds, is Gilder’s mission. Not surprisingly, her staff support agenda was, in part, shaped by the past two years. “The pandemic has shown that mental health is just as important as physical health,” said Gilder. “You need a healthy workforce, mentally and physically, to have a healthy business. Employees that are clear on what’s expected of them, understand the vision and plans for the business, and have, where possible, autonomy and flexibility in their working practices are more likely to be engaged and have a positive outlook.”
Colt has over 60 qualified Mental Health First Aiders (MFHAs) across the business globally who have been trained to be the first response for colleagues who need a listening ear or signposting to further support. Early detection of a poor state of mind is key, and Gilder called for the education of managers and employees on the signs of deteriorating mental health through specific training or webinars. “Early warning signs are hard to see in ourselves, so it can help to have colleagues connect our behaviours to our mental health,” she added.
This is why Colt introduced its global Employee Assistance Programme. It provides staff and their families with confidential support, resources and information for personal and work-life issues. It’s offered free of charge and is available 24/7. Furthermore, Colt’s LGBTQ+ and Allies network aims to create a safe space for all LGBTQ+ employees and allies, raise awareness of issues that impact LGBTQ+ employees and encourage diversity and inclusion. Colt also makes adjustments for staff with physical or mobility issues to cater for colleagues of all abilities. “We’re conscious that not all conditions are visible and that we must provide support for them too,” said Gilder.
Colt has also made strong progress in another area that is too often overlooked – the ‘sandwich’ generation of people who left work to bring up children. “We’re welcoming them back in increasing numbers and getting the benefit of their experiences and wisdom,” commented Gilder. “We spend a lot of time focusing on the lost generation of women – and for that matter men – who have left our sector and can’t see an obvious way back in. With women, that’s often been to raise children or care for sick family members and we need to make them aware that we’re hiring.
“We want to capitalise on the life skills and experience they can bring to us. A career shouldn’t jolt to a stop just because there has been an interruption. Investing time in getting returners up to speed on the latest tools we use – such as Microsoft Teams – has yielded great results.
“The knowledge and skills returners have collected from before their career breaks means they add value fast. Our original plan in September 2020 was to recruit six people and we ended up with 11. We’ve since extended the programme to India.”
Returners to work (like all candidates) will also benefit from Colt’s approach to addressing unconscious bias. “We host unconscious bias awareness sessions because if we can unpick that in our hiring and across our company – and by extension, across society – then we go a long way forward,” commented Gilder. “The more we peel away innate prejudices or assumptions then the better we do.”
Gilder also chairs the TM Forum’s Diversity & Inclusion Council and is deeply embroiled in how the technology industry can take practical actions to drive new ways of thinking and behaviours. She believes that by sharing successes and learnings with other companies across the world the whole industry can move forward. “If we learn from each other, we move faster and work smarter,” she commented. “I’m now building support for a DPS – Diversity Promotion Score – as an industry key performance indicator. Change cannot happen in isolation. It has to filter across the ecosystems of partners and suppliers, to then filter across the whole industry sector, then disseminate across business more broadly and into society as a whole to drive tangible and beneficial change and give everyone an equal voice.”
Colt celebrates milestones such as International Women’s Day on March 8th when it hosted network meetings with colleagues and business partners around the world, sharing knowledge, understanding differences and sharing its messages across the global village of social media. “Some of our inclusiveness work includes the programmes run by Network 25, our women’s network,” noted Gilder. “This encourages greater female representation and successes, as well as seminars and informal meetings. We survey our people, engage with groups and also accept anonymously shared diversity data because we want to hear the truth, unfiltered.”