By now we are all aware that including sustainability, equity, and diversity (often referred to with the abbreviations DEI or ESG depending on focus area) into your business model is a requirement for any company that wants to thrive — customers, investors, and employees are demanding it. It’s a hot topic and yet, the path forward — what to implement and how — is unclear for many.
So what can it look like for a company that is actively implementing DEI into its culture, business model, and communications? What are important concepts and how do you get buy-in from team members and leadership alike? What are some of the pitfalls and how do you celebrate successes? Answers are going to vary, but there are some universal points to take into consideration.
Where to Start
A good place to start is to do an inventory of what you as a company are already doing, and what team members think about, and are involved with, in their daily lives. You are likely to find that much is already happening, albeit not necessarily in a coordinated or pronounced way. It is also crucial to take a look at what you as an organization stand for and where your natural touchpoints are.
When Globiana started the work of implementing DEI into our business goals, one of the first steps was to survey our team members to find out what individuals’ thoughts were on how we can be more inclusive, promote diversity, and manifest our commitment to sustainability. We also surveyed the composition of our team to get a clear idea of where we stand in terms of diversity. The answers in combination with how they naturally fit into the business we are in — global mobility — laid the ground for how to move forward.
Some of the results from our ongoing conversations are discoveries about how our core business already serves the purpose of creating understanding and collaboration on a global scale; how we use our voice and platform to create change; how the team dedicates time to ensure we reflect on best practices; and how each team member is accountable to their personal goals.
Implementing strategies for DEI is not a “one and done” kind of event. To gain long-term benefits, the topic will need to actively stay on the agenda as a way to hold the team/company accountable, and as a way to note progress and celebrate successes. A common pitfall with these kinds of efforts is that they become a “paper product” without real implementation; meaning, it’s easy to set up lofty goals but unless they are actively pursued, they don’t mean much. That’s why it’s important to really think about what makes sense for your organization, what you are asking of individuals, and how the efforts are supported. Seeking feedback and buy-in from employees, and keeping an open dialog with interested parties, is crucial for success.
As a measure of how important the topic has become in the wider world of business, there are efforts underway to implement universal ESG accounting standards so that companies can easily report their performance to investors. The idea here is not to report on things such as carbon emissions, equity, and inclusion, but, writes Harvard Business Review, “provide credible information on the reporting done by a company on its progress in achieving whatever targets it decides to set (if any).”
The world of global mobility has a unique place when it comes to inclusivity and diversity, as these are a natural part of what we do. As Lisa Sezto-Ip head of global mobility at Varian said in a recent interview with Globiana: ”I feel that global mobility, in general, is a great enabler of diversity and inclusion. We take people to new cultures and environments and bring together multicultural teams. Nothing compares to sitting next to a colleague in a new country with your senses soaking up all the new and different ways of doing things, of sharing different cultures.”
Language — The Tool to Promote Shared Understanding
Language use in internal and external communication is an important part of DEI implementation because it is how we build and promote shared understanding. To start, there are the abbreviations themselves — DEI (Diversity, Equity & Inclusion) and ESG (Environmental, Social & Governance). These don’t mean a whole lot unless they are first defined and understood and then used accordingly to reflect the work that’s actually being done.
Words and images matter and inclusive usage are essential to help people who have been historically marginalized (whether based on race, gender, sexual orientation, disability, etc.) to feel included. In the words of Corey L. Jamison and Frederick A. Miller (The Linkage Leader: 7 Actions for Creating an Inclusive Organization): “If we don’t intentionally include, we unintentionally exclude. The power of diversity thrives in a culture of inclusion.”
Yet another aspect of language use is brought forward by Camilla Degerth, coach and DEI lead at Globiana; she points out that for the global mobility world, where words such as “diversity” and “cross-cultural” may blend together, it can also be a good idea to keep the following distinctions in mind: DEI is ultimately about being allowed to be who you are, i.e. you don’t need to change. Cross-cultural work is about adapting your ways/code switch for a better understanding of, and to fit into, a new culture or environment. In other words, belonging is more important in DEI, while awareness of own culture is more important to understand other cultures.
Summing Up the Basics
Some basics to keep in mind when implementing DEI:
- Take a collaborative approach rooted in team members’ interests
- Ensure buy-in from team members on all levels of the organization
- Have a long-term perspective
- Report on progress
- Celebrate goals reached
- Define language and agree on word use
By: Felicia Shermis