The link between diversity & inclusion and an organisation’s purpose in society was a core focus for the recent ChapmanCG HR Leaders roundtable hosted by Vodafone Ireland in Dublin.

Intersectionality around purpose

Many individuals and organisations are now talking about a higher purpose and how they can make a difference in society, not just company culture. The sweetspot for D&I is bringing this to life, converging CEO directives with grassroots sentiment and action.

Vodafone feels it is important to have a holistic approach that orients their D&I strategy around a code of conduct that aligns to the three ‘Cs’ – customers, communities and colleagues. Internally, the aim is to create an environment that allows people to be the best they can be. The team talked about how to deliver the ‘Gigabit Society’ to create connectivity that helps people enjoy what they do today, and also shapes a better tomorrow.

Aligning with the three ‘Cs’

Customers – Articulate what the organisation stands for and share the journey with customers who share the same values and purpose. A diverse employee base can attract and reflect a diverse customer base, all engaged with the same purpose. This drives a level of inclusion goes beyond the transaction.

Communities – It is becoming critical to contribute to the communities that companies are touching. Vodafone launched the world’s farthest-reaching coding program to address the widening gender gap in science, tech, engineering and mathematics (STEM) careers – ‘Code Like a Girl’. They have also launched the Reconnect program to help individuals who have had time out of the workplace to transition back in.

Colleagues – Engage and innovate in this space to ensure a talent and gender balance in every team. Embed D&I into tools, embrace unbiased job specifications using language tools such as Textio, and create diverse interview panels.

One of the HR leaders in attendance has launched an initiative giving cameras to a number of employee volunteers to take photos on what it means to live in Ireland. They then create collages that build up a vision of this to encourage discussion and engagement. They have also widened their graduate hiring pool beyond traditional industry sectors such as engineering or technology to ensure they have 50/50 talent pools from the outset.

Storytelling

The above approach can create an environment for D&I to flourish naturally, but it needs to live in the individual and to feel authentic. Metrics and targets are useful to create transparency and help measure progress. However, there is only so much they can do to change thinking and behaviour. The power of storytelling, when aligned with these metrics, can get people talking about the right things.

It is crucial that these forums are empowered by the organisation. LinkedIn uses employee ambassadors who create the culture first and then provide the language to follow. Belonging is vital, and they have a built a ‘belonging moments’ campaign using hashtags as a hook to spark dialogue and sharing. It must be organic, and managers have to empower employees by holding the mirror up and providing the right boundaries and education.

Influencing society

The group agreed that the biggest levers can be hard to control and come through society, government and values that can be ingrained from an early age. Another HR leader said that their organisation is bringing in children as young as five and six years old to learn technological skills, using gamification around coding to build interest in this space. This is not just about building future talent pools, but also CSR and giving back.

Companies need to look at how they can change things more collectively from a community standpoint, rather than thinking from a purely organisational perspective. It is important to change the narrative at an earlier age, perhaps learning from the Nordics where there is a more gender-balanced talent pool linked to more favourable legislation around part-time working.

The diversity of the individual

One multinational organisation is bringing the focus back to the individual and talking about the human aspect, rather than labels. They are introducing more Gallup assessments to highlight individual strengths rather than differences.

They want to emphasise the uniqueness of the individual – employees should bring their full selves to work, be natural and unite with others who are different to produce diverse and successful teams.

Hiring outside the box

Various companies spoke about reframing the way they assess graduate skill sets around problem solving and lateral thinking. AI is taking the need for some of the technological skill sets away, and creating a need for more design-led talent rather than pure engineering.

Tools like Pymetrics and other gamification tools at the assessment stage can help take out unconscious bias. One social media company has had huge successes hiring from atypical talent pools such as nurses, scientists and product people.

Organisations are aware they need to create more inclusive environments and continue to foster diversity of thought and approach. Building an agile workforce, through a diversity of experience and galvanising them around a shared purpose will position organisations for success in the future.

The general consensus was that there isn’t a silver bullet when it comes to Diversity & Inclusion. However, it was clear there is a genuine willingness from HR leaders to continue to drive this innovation, and that we as individuals, all have a critical role to play in shaping this diverse future.