Implementing equality, diversity and inclusion (ED&I) at the heart of a company’s culture is a long-term process. It starts with a company defining what it means to be diverse and what it means to be inclusive. Leaders then need to embody these values to drive meaningful ED&I changes in their teams and throughout their entire business ecosystem. KPIs become a crucial tool that allows leaders and managers to monitor and plan for lasting changes.
Through our webinar, How equality, diversity & inclusion can drive business forward, we explored current debates on ED&I and discussed strategies businesses can use to implement ED&I in the workplace. We spoke to – among others – Yolanda Umpiérrez Alvarez, Services Enabler and Projects Lead at Accenture, Ivan Janković, People and Culture Delivery Manager IKEA South-East Europe at IKEA Group, Tudor Havriliuc, Former Vice President HR at Facebook, Serge Offers, CFO at ING Romania and member of the RDCC Board, and Doina Filip, Head of Reward & HR Budget at ORANGE Romania. Find the highlights of our conversation below.
Defining diversity and inclusion: two processes that go hand in hand
Yolanda Umpiérrez Alvarez: I think diversity and inclusion are often used in tandem but they are different, though they are also in close dynamic. One is necessary to achieve the other but they’re still two different concepts.
Diversity refers to a workplace that’s made of people of different ages, gender, cultural and ethnic backgrounds, physical abilities, religions and faiths or sexual orientations. That’s a standard definition of diversity in the workplace but I think diversity goes beyond these social categories. It includes all the elements that make individual employees unique from one another, their perspectives, their preferences, their characteristics and even their biases. Inclusion is more about belonging. It is about a company or organisation trying to meet the individual needs of people and taking deliberate action to create environments where everyone feels respected and able to achieve their full potential. In other words, diversity is about the what while inclusion is about the how.
It is important to remember that both concepts go hand in hand. After all, you can increase your recruitment efforts to reach your workforce diversity goals all you like, but if you don’t have a culture that ensures everyone feels welcome, you won’t be able to retain your diversity.
Perspectives on leadership in ED&I
Ivan Jankovic: I think leaders need to enable a channel in their companies that will feed information about ED&I with all stakeholders in the organisation. Regardless of a company’s internal structure, there needs to be a voice advocating for ED&I. It could come from the HR department or the communications department, but it is important that the top leaders direct this voice in the right way. Then it is also crucial for leaders to realise that they lead by example when it comes to ED&I matters. They are the ambassadors of ED&I in a company. Leaders set the tone daily on the attitudes and atmosphere found in their teams, they have the power to determine whether their teams will be inclusive or not, diverse or not. So if leaders in any organization lack the skills or even motivation to create change in ED&I, then this will also be reflected in the everyday life of employees in the company. I think it is crucial for leaders to develop these skills to create equality, diversity and inclusion in their companies.
Inclusion in multi-national organisations and implementing ED&I throughout a company’s ecosystem
Serge Offers: I think companies have a responsibility of ensuring ED&I practices and attitudes are implemented throughout their ecosystems, not just in their immediate teams. In that sense, I think that at an industry level we are seeing greater developments in securing sustainability and fighting climate change. The financial industry has a very big obligation to support the transition to a circular economy, where waste and the continuous use of resources are minimised as much as possible. ED&I is the same in my opinion, we should aim to implement good practices at every level of the business. And I do think that success lies in the approach you take, I don’t believe ED&I is something you can enforce with a stick.
ED&I needs to be fostered through continuous dialogue with different stakeholders to create the necessary awareness. It is a marathon, not a sprint. For example, when it comes to discussing D&I, I actually sit down and have a discussion with clients about the importance of these topics in a company. We then explore how they could change their business model to make it more sustainable or more equal. Sometimes these are very difficult discussions because people are not necessarily aware that how they’re operating can lead to the exclusion of a group of people. But if we’re able every time we’re interacting with people to change their awareness then I think that is the way to achieve change.
Creating a culture of inclusion and promoting diversity
Tudor Havriliuc: To create a culture of inclusion and promoting diversity you need to first get the buy-in (if it’s not already there) from the leadership team. That is key, the leadership team needs to be the driver of this change. From my experience working in HR, I would say that the best method is for leaders to take a complete look, a holistic look, at the employee life cycle. That starts by clearly defining your employer brand and understanding how it’s perceived right now from the ED&I perspective.
You need to understand whether your brand needs to change to truly reflect the goals of the organisation, the kinds of people that you want to hire and the kinds of people that you want to retain. This reflective work for defining your employer brand needs to be done on a regular basis because the values of generational cohorts change and the conversations in society about ED&I change. Diversity and inclusion come in many forms and are dynamic, they constantly change. This should spill into recruiting practices. I feel like once the employer brand and the recruiting practices are really honed on diversity it’s much easier to then apply that internally to the culture.
Current developments in gender equality
Doina Filip: At Orange, we have a comprehensive D&I policy that is integrated at a company level through communication. Each country has a program dedicated to implementing certain pillars of diversity and inclusion. The key behind the success of these policies is accessibility, where people have access to high-quality information and services. Another side of the debate on implementing D&I practices is how to measure these.
I will now specifically talk about diversity and why it is important to measure it and how to go about doing that. Without measuring we cannot act, we cannot identify where the gaps are in our companies and what we should do in which segments of our companies to foster diversity. Measuring starts with the establishment of a set of KPIs because they offer a measurable target and they allow us to also monitor and track development. KPIs are an essential tool at Orange not only because they allow managers and leaders to measure ED&I but also because they help employees identify areas where improvement needs to happen that they can be involved with.