Leaders who want to help make diversity and inclusion a more integral part of their company’s business strategy should concentrate on three things: empathy, problem solving and transparency.
When talking about D&I at work, it’s important to understand how the person you are speaking with will feel about and think about what you saying, according to Julie Sweet, CEO, North America of Accenture, who participated in “Executive Conversation: Leading Diversity” with Nellie Borrero, Accenture’s senior global inclusion and diversity managing director, at the NEW Leadership Summit, Sept. 29, 2017 in Washington, D.C.
“For example, many people you will have a D&I conversation with will be white males,” Sweet said. “Are they going to be thinking, ‘Am I saying the right thing?’ Understand it may be a difficult conversation for the person you are speaking to. It’s critical to have empathy and know how people experience change and to take them on a journey.”
The value of D&I
While D&I is the right thing to do, it’s also core to the success of a business, especially in this time of market disruption, something c-suite leaders are starting to recognize, Sweet said. “[To make D&I a priority,] you need to show the value of D&I. What problems are your company facing and how does a focus on inclusion and diversity solve them? For us, it’s about talent and connecting to clients.”
Even with company leaders on board, changing corporate culture is very difficult, unless employees understand the reason change is needed. “That’s why transparency is so important, “Sweet said. “And it’s hard for some companies to be transparent, because some of the reason for change is negative.”
Accenture was the first professional services firm to publish the demographic breakdown, including gender, of its employees. “We’re proud of where were we are, but we didn’t put [the information] out there because we’re proud — but because we’re not making progress fast enough and we want everyone [to understand] and make inclusion and diversity a priority.”
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