With 32,000 employees located across some 30 countries and regions serving 1.7 billion members worldwide, Rakuten’s employees are, like its business portfolio, remarkably diverse. As such, the topic of diversity and inclusion has long been of crucial importance and an enterprise-wide area of focus.
Efforts are underway at the global, regional and individual country level to maintain and expand this inclusive environment. Supporting these worldwide efforts are Japan’s Diversity Office and the Global Talent Management and Inclusion (GTMI) team. Rakuten Today sat down with two of GTMI’s leaders to hear their insights on cultivating a diverse, sustainable, equitable and happy workplace.
Vivian Yun serves as Rakuten’s Senior Diversity and Inclusion Program Manager within the GTMI team. Focusing on North and South America, Yun is continuing a varied career working in non-profits, medicine and refugee camps – all in pursuit of a common goal of ensuring people from underrepresented communities have equitable access to the resources and the opportunities they deserve.
“I find that no matter what company or industry, there’s always the challenge of disparity. So, my drive comes from wanting to impact and create an open playing field for all.”
As Director of Global Talent Programs, Leadership and Inclusion, Habeeb Haneef oversees Rakuten’s global plans for inclusion & diversity and leadership development – including oversight of the GTMI team in the APAC region.
“My journey has been entirely centered around people. It began in India, where I started way back as a facilitator, training people on communication nearly 23 years ago.”
Haneef’s career coincided with India’s IT boom, and he takes great pride in having trained over 100,000 people across a range of industries.
Connecting Rakuten’s passionate ERGs
Over the years, in several countries and regions, passionate Rakutenians have formed employee resource groups – or ERGs – to support one another in various aspects of life and work. Locally, there has been considerable focus on impacting Rakuten’s brand and inclusive culture.
“Groups like our Black Employees Alliance have spent a lot of time and effort building the ‘Grow and Shop with Optimism’ program to bring in underrepresented clients,” Yun explains. “Our Women at Rakuten network strengthens our pipeline for future female leaders through developmental programs like ‘Executive Leap,’ and our businesses are working hard to develop a diverse pipeline of future leaders.”
Many of these ERGs were formed long before Rakuten had a D&I team, but they had been largely working within business unit silos. “We needed a forum where everybody cross-pollinated ideas, not a place where we tried to reinvent the wheel for every project,” adds Yun. “We have a greater impact on sharing practices and working broadly.”
“One of Vivian’s key achievements from a D&I programming perspective is her ability to actively engage and create a culture of collaboration between the ERGs,” Haneef shares. “So that has worked fantastically.”
Enhancing ERG Skills and Global Collaboration: Rakuten’s ERG Summit
Over the last three years, GTMI has organized an ERG summit annually to bring all ERG leaders together to deepen their skills, share experiences and best practices, and bring global voices together. The summit also serves to recognize the ERGs’ hard work and impact on the company.
“The topics we focused on were things we heard from our ERG leaders – challenges they’ve gone through in the last year or more, leveling up skills and also using the space as a forum to share ideas,” Yun says.
This year, the team expanded the summit to include other global experts from around Rakuten to share their input and build skills. Rakuten employees from the United Kingdom and Singapore joined exchanges on D&I topics while employees from the Americas joined sessions on ways to deepen employees’ connection and engagement with Rakuten.
Making an inclusive workplace a core part of the agenda
Another major undertaking from the team has been the formal inclusion of D&I activities in employees’ goals. Leaders of Rakuten’s employee groups now dedicate 5-15% of their annual objectives to these initiatives.
“By codifying it in employees’ personal objectives, it shows that we, as a company, are essentially recognizing the things that they do in D&I are just as important as project work,” Yun explains. “If you invest your time in D&I work, it impacts your compensation just like any other project.”
Yun believes this marks a major step for Rakuten in supporting D&I work as a core part of the company’s goals.
Moreover, by getting managers involved in the goal-setting process, Yun has seen a cascade effect within Rakuten’s culture. “We’re getting a lot more willing participants in this culture movement because we’re able to ensure employees are getting fully recognized for the work they do on D&I.”
Rakuten is focused on innovation as a key differentiator from the competition – a difference achieved through its D&I vision, Inclusion Enables Innovation.
Leveraging data to build a talented workforce
Whether it’s e-commerce, fintech or telecommunications, Rakuten is unquestionably a data-driven company. In his time at Rakuten, Haneef has worked to leverage this expertise to achieve Rakuten’s D&I goals.
As a first step, Haneef collaborated with the Human Resources Information System team to release the first version of a D&I dashboard piloted for the U.S. He says data analytics can be used to identify and mitigate bias in various processes, such as recruitment, performance evaluations and promotions. This ensures that decisions are made based on objective criteria.
“Under our vision’s ‘Grow and advance a diverse workforce’ pillar, we were able to provide data to both HR and the ERG folks,” he says. “It was a big struggle to make that happen, but in a year and a half we’ve been able to upgrade our D&I dashboard and provide a high-level data overview to the ERG leaders so they can actually start looking at numbers, see what the impact of their activities are and make strategic priorities on focus areas.”
Easier access to this data helps to recruit and retain the most talented employees and further build Rakuten’s diverse workforce.
For example, the local recruitment teams have started leveraging market insights and industry-wide data, collaborating with vendors to help Rakuten increase its sourcing profile of underrepresented talent.
Equal opportunity across the board
“Employees want to work for companies with a purpose,” Yun says. “There’s a growing proportion of the workforce for whom that is becoming non-negotiable when applying for jobs.”
Even through changing social factors – pandemics, politics, the economy – Yun is confident Rakuten is in a strong position to create an attractive employee value proposition and demonstrate the impact the company’s Shugi core principles can have on diversity and inclusion.
“People’s priorities change due to the state of the world, but sometimes those changes are affected by short-term trends. I think overall Rakuten is well positioned to address those challenges, because we’re pretty bullish about our Shugi values.”
While the many diverse geographies in which Rakuten operates require flexible approaches, Yun is adamant that her team’s core goal holds true no matter the location.
“There isn’t one thing that fits all,” she says. “But that doesn’t change our core message, that we want everybody who works within Rakuten to feel like they have an equal opportunity across the board to contribute and grow their careers.”