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Marky Alvarez, PayPal Philippines: Paving the Way for Deaf Employees with Workplace Inclusivity

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Bright, driven and unselfish when it comes to sharing his talents, Marky Alvarez is the kind of employee any company would love to have.

“Ambitious, goal oriented, and optimistic—Marky often thinks of [various] ways to achieve what he deserves in life. No matter how difficult the journey is, he often trusts himself. Sometimes he [also seeks help] from others because he knows that there are some things he cannot solve it all by himself.” – Ava Estallo, Group Leader, Global Customer Services – Venmo

Marky is also deaf.

Unfortunately, this meant dealing regularly with workplace discrimination. Being differently abled, he’s faced everything from rejection to rude behavior from different people and organizations.

He recalls being hired as an assistant manager, only for the company to change their mind after he told them about his physical disability.

Even landing a job was no guarantee that he would be treated fairly. Despite knowing his condition, some colleagues would insist on talking to him rather than finding alternative means of communication.

“It frustrated me [so] much knowing that I was not selected. During those times, it was best for me to accept it as God may have other plans for me. I didn’t lose hope and still thought positively that I will find a great job that will help me support my family; where I can do my best to contribute and show the capabilities of being deaf—that we can do what hearing people can,” he mentions.

So, when he applied to work at PayPal Philippines, he expected the same kind of treatment. He was in for a pleasant surprise.

Finding Inclusion and Diversity in the Workplace

In 2020, Marky became one of the first batch of deaf employees hired by PayPal Philippines. There, he found a workplace that treated him with kindness and an organization willing to invest time and money in his talent.

“I had to make a few adjustments. First was my sleeping schedule because I used to sleep early. I was a part-time faculty staff so I had to make adjustments to my teaching schedule too. After a year, I solely worked for PayPal since there was no teaching load left for me to cover.”

As a customer solutions agent, he sometimes encounters difficult days at work. Despite that, Marky says he knows he can count on his colleagues to lift his spirits and encourage him to do better next time.

“I remember a time when I performed poorly and expected negative feedback from my group leader. Instead, I was asked if I needed anything to help improve my performance. I loved how they showed me kindness and patience. It motivated me to do better than I did the previous months,” he recalls.

But it’s no accident that PayPal Philippines has a workplace culture that champions inclusiveness and diversity.

As a Great Place to Work-Certified™ company and one of 2021’s Philippines Best Workplaces™, PayPal has made Diversity, Inclusion, Equity and Belonging (DIEB) a part of their DNA.

The company has dedicated teams handling their DIEB initiatives at a global, regional and local level. This allows them to create programs that are consistent across all sites while having the ability to customize those according to local needs.

Ava shares that “prior to 2021, the focus was just on Diversity and Inclusion but to be a truly inclusive organization, we realized that we needed to have an intentional focus on Inclusion by promoting a culture of Equity and Belonging. Our DIE&B initiatives are part of our journey to Workplace Harmony, the recognition and removal of obstacles that stand in the way of everyone reaching their full potential.”

Aside from these teams, PayPal conducts regular surveys to better understand their employees’ needs. They also evaluate their policies to uncover other areas where they can make a difference.

In the Philippines, every new employee hears directly from their site leaders about the importance of DIEB to the company. The company also continues to find ways to make everyone feel included and that they belong.

“The phrase ‘Diversity and Inclusion’ gets thrown around easily without it being really understood, but it is through hiring our deaf teammates that it became a reality for us,” says Jane Barrion, Senior Group Leader at PayPal Philippines.

Moreover, employees are encouraged to make themselves heard. Marky takes advantage of this by consistently providing feedback on his colleagues’ work and vice versa.

“I appreciate the opportunities being provided to me here. So, I’m happy to help them find a solution to whatever challenges we face, like improving how we communicate. It makes for a great working experience for both new and old employees,” he shares.

And then there is “Thrive”, one of the company’s Employee Resource Groups (ERGs). They aim to foster an inclusive workplace for the differently abled community at PayPal.

“They run engagement and awareness sessions regularly. These fun activities showcase different types of disabilities, allowing for better understanding of the topic. It also encourages collaboration among our employees who are passionate about helping our employees with special needs,” says Jane.

“Most of the time I get shy when I join organizations with hearing people,” Marky shares. “I’m much more confident when I join deaf-related groups. I [observe] how they work and I have much to learn, and need more experience to know how the org works. “

It’s not only Marky who feels welcome at the company. In our Great Place to Work Trust Index™ survey of all PayPal employees, 93% of respondents report a consistently positive experience about being able to be themselves at the workplace, while 91% agree that PayPal employees care about each other and 89% say that management is approachable and easy to talk with.

The figures are a reflection of the PayPal Philippines’ DIEB initiatives that have helped to create an inclusive culture where everyone has a consistently positive experience regardless of role or identity. In doing so, it has embodied Great Place to Work’s® mission of “building a better world by helping organizations become Great Places to Work For All.”

Organizations also benefit from creating diverse workplaces where everyone feels accepted. Our research shows companies that rate most highly according to our For All™ standard grow their revenue three times faster than their less-inclusive rivals. In other words, while trust fuels business performance, For All™ accelerates it.

Our DIE&B initiatives allowed us to explore better ways to make our training materials and tools be more apt for our deaf teammates and to look closely at the support available for the team post-training.  We didn’t need to make drastic or complicated adjustments as the teammates already had the customer service skills. It’s just that they were also the first batch of teammates we had who did not have call center backgrounds.  When they reached production, they had the same performance goals as our hearing teammates and have been using the same tools to respond to chats and emails. They have been receiving commendations from our customers and are meeting the expected goals.

A Learning Experience on Promoting Diversity

PayPal Philippines’ transformation into a deaf-friendly workplace didn’t happen overnight. The beginning has been a challenging journey ahead as most of their deaf candidates did not have any call center experience.

“I worked in factory when I am not studying college yet for 8 yrs in order to support my family’s daily needs. During college on 2014, I worked as a Student Assistant in order to support my study,” says Marky.

Working while studying was challenging for him. However, this didn’t stop him from aiming high. “I still got my honors for being a Dean Lister from [my] first to 4th year,” he recalls. “I have [experience] in Stock Knowledge; focused on Digital Education Technology. After that, I worked at De La Salle – College of Saint Benilde as part time faculty for first year college, and part time teacher for Filipino Sign Language (FSL) and project-based for creating a seminar more about learning FLS.”

“We banked on their past experience serving customers and their willingness to learn something new,” says Jane.

They also lacked the materials to work with differently abled employees like Marky. So, they made the necessary adjustments, thanks to passionate volunteers within the organization who were keen to make sure deaf candidates succeeded and felt welcome.

“We looked at our training process, timelines, materials, and our operational cadence. We also assessed how we would carry out engagement activities. We adjusted where we should, created what we didn’t have and communicated a lot so we would know where to focus on,” shares Jane.

The company’s employees also receive opportunities for education and self-improvement.

One can choose from a wide range of learning paths across functions, skills and competency requirements. PayPal also provides a 10:20:70 approach to employee development where 10% of learning is acquired through self-education, 20% through the network and 70% through experience.

Hiring their first batch of deaf candidates taught the company to be patient and better understand what it means to be equitable. Jane adds that the experience made them respect everyone’s uniqueness even more and showed them the desire of deaf employees to be successful and exhibit their passion.

Paying It Forward

After enduring workplace discrimination for so long, Marky may have found his home at PayPal Philippines. While he’s only been with the company for a little over a year, he already sees himself staying there for the long term because of the opportunities it provides him.

He’s also paid forward the kindness he received from his colleagues by being an invaluable member of his team. He’s already established himself as a top performer in customer service and productivity among deaf employees.

“He is reliable and aims to be a mentor. He shares his best practices with his peers and helps others improve their performance,” says Jane.

She adds that Marky is one of the advocates for creating engaging activities for differently abled employees there.

Always generous, Marky also hopes PayPal Philippines would hire more people living with a disability like him.

“Deaf people like us can do what others can except hearing. Therefore, it is best to try their abilities before you judge them. What we truly need is the accessibility, reasonable accommodation and equity for us to perform well. Give us time and you will truly appreciate our work.”

“This becomes a learning opportunity for the deaf candidates whether they get selected to join us or not,” says Jane.

With employees like Marky working at PayPal Philippines, the future looks bright for both deaf people and the company.

“I would love to help other deaf people succeed as I have. I know I can contribute more in making this company a great place to work,” Marky says.

The company is more than willing to rise to the challenge. Apart from hiring more deaf candidates, they are also encouraging other organizations to do the same.

“All it takes is to have the courage to start. They have to define what diversity means to their organization and then boldly decide how to make it an inclusive culture,” says Jane.

But it has to be a collective effort. According to Jane, everyone in the organization will need to work together for any initiative to succeed.

PayPal’s example shows that while hiring differently abled individuals for the first time can be challenging, it can be done. With patience and truly meaningful programs for deaf candidates, companies can make their workplace great for the likes of Marky who are only waiting for their moment to shine.

Measure and Improve Diversity and Inclusion Today

For Great Place to Work® and the world’s greatest workplaces, For All™ is more than just an idea. It’s a commitment, a pledge and a mission we all practice every day. Let us help you create a more welcoming organization with our employee surveys, employer branding, certification and other offerings. Contact us today for more information.

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