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#OpenUpTheWorkforce with Inclusion, Diversity and Equity Leaders at Oyster

Written by Mitra LeBuhn on July 11, 2023
5 min read

Presented by Symba, #OpenUpTheWorkforce interviews feature executives advancing inclusion, diversity, and equity for the future of work. In these short audio-only episodes, we talk with top leaders about what it takes to develop and implement inclusive processes. 

In this episode of #OpenUpTheWorkforce, Ahva speaks with the trio behind Oyster’s inclusion, diversity, and equity efforts which includes Kim Rohrer, Principal People Partner, Matt McFarlane, Senior Director of People Experience, and Eryn Marshall, Senior Director of Global Recruiting. The three shed light on Oyster's approach to DEI and its impact in a global, remote work environment. Listen here.

Creating a Globally Holistic Approach to DEI

Kim begins by recommending looking beyond traditional DEI metrics such as race, gender, and sexual orientation, and considering factors like global economic status, geographic diversity, and language diversity when approaching DEI initiatives. For example, half of the Oyster team speaks English as a second language. In addition, about 58% of Oyster’s workforce identifies as women. By leveraging a global lens, Oyster aims to make its workforce accessible to diverse populations and build a talent ecosystem worldwide. However, navigating different compliance regulations and privacy concerns presents challenges in collecting data related to diversity metrics. For example, some of the countries they work in require reporting on race and ethnicity, while other countries don’t permit companies to ask those questions. Nonetheless, Oyster is committed to creating an inclusive environment that values accessibility, equity, and inclusive communication tailored to a linguistically diverse team.

Overcoming Challenges in Global Recruiting

Eryn shares insights into the challenges faced during Oyster's rapid global expansion. While the ability to source talent globally is advantageous, it also requires extensive resources and education to ensure effective hiring practices. Oyster's focus on structured interviews and eliminating bias in decision-making processes helps to streamline and objectify the recruitment process. However, due to the diverse backgrounds of candidates, recruiters and hiring managers must be educated on what success looks like in a global context. As Eryn says, “You can't pattern match; you can't rely on some old tactics that you used in the past in order to quickly fill roles.” Through intentional and strategic hiring practices, Oyster seeks to create a workforce that represents different nationalities, races, and genders.

Fostering Inclusion and Belonging in Hyper-Growth

Matt helped Oyster scale by over 3x across 70 countries in just 12 months and sheds light on strategies for fostering inclusion and belonging in a hyper-growth environment. He acknowledges the competitive advantage of Oyster's distributed workforce and notes that one way they foster inclusion in a highly diverse environment is by defining a structure to determine job levels. On a social level, Oyster has structured channels and affinity groups within the company's cloud-based workspace for employees to connect. For example, they have a “New Channel” Slack channel which creates a space for new employees at Oyster to make intros and build relationships, as well as a mental health channel, and a channel where employees can share their outfits of the day. By creating spaces that encourage a culture of inclusivity and vulnerability to flourish, Oyster ensures that every employee has a space to feel heard, valued, and supported.

The Impact of Oyster's Mission Squad

The Mission Squad, a self-led group of dedicated employees at Oyster, plays a crucial role in aligning existing work with the company's mission and exploring new mission-driven projects. For example, they track the financial impact of their hiring strategy. Oyster’s global compensation philosophy bases wages on the cost of living within 3 tiers of countries. For wealthier countries (tier 1) like the US and UK, Oyster begins salary offers at middle-market rates and increases from there, offering top-of-market salaries to developing countries. Matt reflects on the impact of this model, “If every one of our customers and every company in the world were to apply a comp philosophy like ours, we would actually see salary parity across the world because of course, if you're offering the top of market in some areas, it eventually lifts that ceiling.” For non-Mission Squad members, Oyster has a Slack channel dedicated to impact-oriented dialogue. Kim shares a recent example of an enthusiastic Oyster employee that, 2-days into returning from a year of maternity leave (what an amazing policy!), proposed an initiative to connect the paid volunteer time off program with organizations helping job seekers in low-income earning jobs. The Mission Squad & adjacent impact channels embody Oyster's commitment to making a tangible impact on diversity, equity, and inclusion through practical and measurable projects.

Metrics That Drive Decision Making

Oyster’s data-driven approach to DEI incorporates essential metrics to guide decision-making. Their goal is for 80% of their hires to come from outside the high-tier countries and cities and measure their progress towards that benchmark. Eryn highlights the importance of tracking the hiring distribution across countries, diversity in nationalities, and gender representation. Additionally, Oyster's structured interview process ensures objectivity and reduces bias. By closely monitoring offer acceptance rates and retention rates, the company evaluates the effectiveness of its hiring practices and aims to continually improve.

What do leaders need to do to #OpenUpTheWorkforce?

  • Kim emphasizes the need to make the workforce more accessible to caregivers and neurodiverse populations. By providing flexible scheduling and accommodations, Oyster seeks to empower individuals who do not fit the traditional worker model. 
  • Eryn highlights the importance of financial literacy in wealth creation. Ensuring individuals have access to financial education and resources can contribute to long-term financial well-being. 
  • Matt underscores the significance of recognizing talent beyond local markets and challenging traditional assumptions to access a diverse global talent pool.

By embracing a globally holistic lens and fostering a culture of inclusivity, Oyster has created an environment where individuals from diverse backgrounds can thrive. Through structured recruitment practices, the company aims to eliminate bias and provide equitable opportunities for all. In addition, Oyster's Mission Squad exemplifies its commitment to making a tangible impact on DEI through measurable projects. Moving forward, Oyster envisions a workforce that is accessible to caregivers and neurodiverse populations and encourages financial literacy to promote wealth creation. Ultimately, Oyster's efforts serve as an inspiration for organizations seeking to drive DEI in the modern workforce.

About Kim, Matt, and Eryn:

Kim Rohrer is a passionate people person with over a decade of experience building inclusive, sustainable, values-based company cultures at tech companies and beyond. She is currently the Principal People Partner at Oyster, and is also the founder of and advisor to OrgOrg, a global community of over 3,500 people operations professionals. Kim believes fiercely in holistic support for working caregivers and is proud to be a part of the movement to create change as a cofounder at TendLab. Her eclectic career has taken her from theater to tech, always with the common threads of community and care.

Matt McFarlane is the Senior Director of People Experience at Oyster, a global employment platform that makes it possible for companies everywhere to quickly and compliantly hire talent anywhere. Matt is experienced working across complex, globally distributed environments and is passionate about building first-rate workplaces and cultures based on a foundation of people-centricity and operational excellence.

Eryn Marshall has over 15 years of recruiting experience, helping companies like Culture Amp and Cisco Meraki develop and deploy global recruiting strategies for exponential growth. As Oyster's Senior Director of Global Recruiting, Eryn has led the team through hyper-growth, hiring more than 500 people in 70 countries worldwide. Eryn is passionate about Oyster’s mission and is deeply invested in finding the best talent in underrepresented countries where opportunities haven’t always been available.




You can view other episodes of #OpenUpTheWorkforce here. Are you an executive leader increasing access to jobs and wealth creation? Request to be featured and show us how you #OpenUpTheWorkforce.

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Mitra LeBuhn

Mitra is the Head of Impact and Communications at Symba and leads social impact, PR, and marketing partnerships for the business. She combines a unique background in Global Health and Higher Education, and speaks French. Beyond Symba, Mitra spends her time outdoors, traveling the world and making music.

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