ChapmanCG and Experian hosted an energised and passionate roundtable recently in London, focused on innovation in the diversity and inclusion space and the work that can still be done by HR leaders to embed D&I norms in the fundamentals of the culture and the business. As well as Experian’s Tom Shaw, valuable insight and case studies were provided by a number of respected HR leaders including Emma Cashmore, Mark Norton and Asif Sadiq MBE from Facebook, Symantec and The Telegraph Group respectively.
It became clear early in the discussion that it is critical in this space to have a dynamic strategy that can ‘go where the energy is’ and isn’t too prescriptive or top down. Most organisations have had success when they have given power back to the employee resource groups (ERGs) and not pushed a central approach. One company outlined their ‘trojan horse’ approach in the regions and explained how they decentralise to check the pulse of progress at a local / regional level. Whilst there is a critical need to keep it simple at the global level, enabling people locally to create and be involved in the debate is also important; as one attendee quoted “don’t go in with all the answers”. There are also regional variances which can be highly pertinent – for example flexible working doesn’t work as effectively in some cultures where space is limited at home and an office is actually a preference.
ERGs have certainly proliferated when based around individuals who have had the opportunity to build from the ground up – for example one organisation talked about their menopause group and autism group which have both gained significant traction and momentum. Coupled with this, having drum beat events, four or five sponsored internationally, but celebrated locally with the wrapper of consistent communications, is a good way to include the organisation in this local diversity.
Experian have a ‘superhero initiative’ based around the concept of ‘be proud’ (what makes you unique). In the LATAM region for example, they encouraged employees to record a 30 second vignette around why someone is unique; one individual was a refugee from Lebanon and spoke proudly of his journey. Making people feel part of a movement is energising and can help to increase more inherent inclusivity. Looking at who the organisation has and how are they being treated allows you to decide how best to try and engage them. Google’s ‘I am remarkable’ initiative is another success story around empowering women and underrepresented groups to celebrate their achievements in the workplace and beyond.
By encouraging leaders to share something about who they are, it helps to foster more inclusive leaders; it’s important to create “real models and not role models.” People want to follow leaders who have blind spots. Humanising the leader, by talking about the challenges of having a young family for example, can be an inclusive strategy as people can relate. Bringing inclusive language into everyday working lives rather than having one big event or initiative can also be a catalyst to changing the overall culture. Small initiatives and the power of storytelling can help make a difference and permeate behaviors. “Get the messages into the business vernacular” as one attendee put it.
Leveraging the ERGs with leadership is also important. One global healthcare business talked about how they have connected the ERGs to senior leadership and created inclusion councils to help move the business.
Facebook has tried to create a more open culture using the ‘bring yourself to work’ initiative and driving an open culture where ‘diversity is everyone’s responsibility’ as Maxine Williams, their global head, put it. The Q&A sessions with Mark Zuckerburg are testament to this, with anyone able to ask a question before a vote on which questions should be put to him, driving leadership accountability.
Managing Unconscious Bias is paramount to the inclusive approach at Facebook – they host a publicly available class on managing unconscious bias, encouraging people to challenge and correct bias as soon as they see it, both in others and in themselves. They have also gone a stage further and have a ‘Managing Inclusion’ program, which trains managers to understand the issues that affect marginalised communities, and ‘Be The Ally’, which gives everyone the common language, tools and space to practice supporting others. These short programmatic sessions have also helped to create more of a listening culture.
The ‘Diverse Slate Approach’ has also been powerful based on the concept that the more people you interview who don’t look or think like you, the more likely you are to hire someone from a diverse background. To embed this behaviour, Facebook introduced a global approach, which set the expectations that hiring managers will consider candidates from underrepresented backgrounds when interviewing for an open position.
Programs such as the ‘fearless futures design for inclusion’ can help with the mindset shift around the idea that nobody is just one thing. Leaders must strive to be much more radical and proactive in dismantling oppression in organisations – they need to go the extra mile and lead from the front. Leaders need to be mindful of people’s differences to actually create more inclusivity and this programme gives them the tools as well as the motivation, as it helps them really understand the issues.
It was agreed that measuring the success of D&I initiatives can be a tough ask, so it can often be more around behavioral change – has anyone actually behaved differently? There will likely be data available, but in this particular space it is often more about seeing, hearing and feeling an inclusive culture.
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