What leading brands do differently to build an inclusive culture

Mindset, responsibility and difficult conversations. Certainly, no one ever said it would be easy to evolve into a more diverse and inclusive workplace. After years of process, employers are investing more effort and resources to move beyond talking and taking action on diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging (DEI&B).

In fact, companies can no longer ignore DEI&B. The cumulative crises of the pandemic, rising awareness of racism, climate change, and the Great Layoff have led organizations to look for new ways to unlock the human potential to address these challenges. One solution is to democratize opportunity.

The business case for DEI&B is compelling. Inclusive teams make better business decisions up to 87% of the time and make those decisions twice as fast in half the number of meetings. Businesses with diversified leadership generate 2.3 times more cash flow.

“Now is the time [for DEI&B] because employees are demanding more. Customers are demanding more. The planet is demanding more. The bonus is that it works,” said Baratunde Thurston, New York Times Best-selling author, Emmy-nominated storyteller, and podcast host As a Citizen. Thurston is the moderator of Forward Live, a vibrant new series sponsored by SAP SuccessFactors that brings together thought leaders for unfiltered discussions about how to change work forever.

High-performing teams thrive on belonging

Human connection is critical to building high-performing teams, and belonging is a vital part of an inclusive employee experience. Not just improved performance, but increased revenue comes when you have a great employee experience where everyone feels like they belong and can bring all their strengths to work.

During the premiere episode of Forward Live, Beyond the conversation with the businesses Beyond the prejudice, three global brand executives who are leaders in inclusion and diversity shared their advice on how to drive DEI&B in the workplace.

Know your why

Each organization will have a unique approach to DEI&B. It is important to understand your inner motivation and what you want to achieve with your DEI&B initiatives. Why is this important for your business?

“Moving the needle in DEI&B requires a lot of effort. If you don’t have a why, you’re not going to support yourself,” said Oris Stuart, chief people and director of inclusion for the NBA. “The game of basketball is inclusive, accessible and global. Our motive is to make sure our organization works the way the game works.”

Stuart started working in the NBA seven years ago, when only one team had a director of diversity. Today, as the NBA celebrates its 75th year, 23 teams have executive-level diversity and inclusion directors. “Diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging are strategies that allow us to grow our game and be relevant for the next 75 years,” said Stuart.

“Our why is in our name: Tapestry,” said Sarah Dunn, global director of human resources for Tapestry, the international fashion brand comprised of Coach, Kate Spade and Stuart Weitzmann. “We really put inclusion at the heart of our purpose and how we talk about working at Tapestry. We believe that difference awakens brightness.”

But what do you do when you find a knot, or resistance, in your tapestry? Dunn believes that tension is a natural part of the plot: “For a tapestry to be bright and beautiful, you have to deal with those tensions. That’s part of having the right conversations, being honest, open and transparent to work things out – and that’s where weaving creates magic.”

Adopt a growth mindset

DEI&B champions will need to prepare for a marathon, as a growth mindset is the catalyst that will make change possible over time. Jason Williams, senior vice president of Global Inclusion Strategy at Paramount, a media conglomerate that delivers content to audiences around the world, believes in transparent data and accountability to create change. “Change will eventually begin if you measure each step along the entire employee experience lifecycle. You are in a good place if you can measure from the beginning.”

At Paramount, DEI&B’s initiatives focus on inclusive hiring, access to employee opportunities, and partner accountability. “One of the things we do for our employees is make sure people have access to mentorships and sponsorships,” Williams said. “We stopped this [process], which has been really informal in the past. You had to meet someone.”

Think beyond the walls of your business to include suppliers, customers and partners in your DEI&B goals. “We bring new partners to the table. We try to expand the pie,” Williams said.

Take time to listen to your employees

In the Great Job Market Reshuffle, 33 million people left their jobs and 44% of people say they are looking for a new job or plan to do so soon. “People have choices,” Stuart said. “The desks have changed and we have a responsibility to ensure that when employees walk in, they feel valued, are bringing their authentic selves to work, and have a voice.”

Listening sessions give employees the opportunity to speak openly, share feelings and be heard. Organizations will also need to take a deep, introspective look at the role of privilege in their corporate culture, said Dunn, who noted, “Listening is at the heart of DEI&B.”

see the repeat from this episode, Beyond Talk to Business Beyond Bias. Learn more about the Forward Live series.

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