Here at mwah. we are lucky enough to be some of the world’s best thinkers as part of our growing community. This week we speak to Gina De George as she explores What is working in Diversity and Inclusion and what’s not. 

A bit about Gina

Gina De George is the Global Diversity +Inclusion Lead for one of Australia and indeed, the world’s, biggest businesses.

Gina has incredibly deep experience and expertise in all things D+I and Social Sustainability, and has shares her thoughts with mwah. about the ‘real’ current state of D+I and what she sees as the possibilities for the future.

What do you believe is working with Diversity and Inclusion now and what is not?

There is a huge amount of great work being done by many companies and there seems to be an increasing number of CEO’s and business leaders who are more engaged, more aware and taking action in the D&I space.

Some companies have been ‘doing’ D&I for a while and some are establishing their strategy and in the early stages.

Organisations still in the early stages: 

They are getting the foundations of your approach established quickly will enable you to move on to more innovative and exciting stuff. Things like policy and processes are the important foundations (or sometimes I refer to it as the infrastructure) to enable you to reach your bigger diversity and inclusion aspirations.

Organisations who have been working on D&I for a while: 

Right now it is about finding ways to engage leaders of people to lead differently (and be a bit more human). There is a growing amount of work being done around inclusive leadership which has started to shift the dial on how we lead and what is expected. It’s a nice change from the constant talk about unconscious bias.

There is also increasing commentary in media and other circles about many diversity and inclusion efforts being little more than ‘window dressing’ by companies.

This refers to what is perceived as a program-heavy approach which includes offerings such as women’s development programs, unconscious bias training, cultural awareness training etc.

Programs are important, don’t get me wrong.

And you know when they are working because of the feedback you get from the individuals who are positively impacted as well as through the metrics. Those phone calls and emails from workmates who want to let you know how much a program has helped them are what gets us D&I people out of bed in the morning – this is what is it all about.

The small things that make a difference for the people who you work with.

I always ask the same question when work colleagues pitch in ideas for diversity and inclusion – ‘what positive impact will that event, idea or action have for our people?’

The next question is how do we move beyond a program-heavy portfolio and beyond our own domain? Taking what we do within our companies and applying it more effectively and creatively beyond the office walls.

Where would you like to see thinking and efforts in the Diversity and Inclusion space move to?

 I would love to see efforts in the D&I space move toward linking our diversity and inclusion efforts with our external customers and our communities.  This means taking what we do within our office walls and finding ways that can help others beyond our own workforce.

I see a very logical and beneficial link for the teams that manage Diversity & Inclusion, Social Sustainability (including wellbeing), Innovation and Customer-Focus to work together.

  • What is it that large companies (or groups of large companies) can do to provide a greater voice for both their own employees and broader society?
  • What do we stand for?
  • What can we change?
  • Where do we steer clear?
  • Where can we be brave and dive right into?
  • How do we make sure we include everyone and not alienate employees, customers, and shareholders who may have a different view about a specific issue?
While societal issues can seem bigger than Ben Hur, it is better to do something (however small) than nothing at all.

Small actions impact how people think and feel, about you, your company, your products. Showing them real respect and fairness and actually giving a damn about how they feel about their interaction with your company, the challenges they face and actually doing something about it to make your products, services and customer experience more inclusive.

Let’s be practical and honest here – there has to be a logical reason for companies to do this and to invest time and money.

What do you think the business case is for companies to take a broader view on inclusion and extend this out to impact the community and society more generally?

A broader approach has the potential to impact on a company’s brand and reputation, enhance their employee value proposition and increase their customer base and create customer advocates. This approach can also;

  • Demonstrate your company is a great place to work and, as a result, attract great people to work for you.
  • Provide a clear position for your employees on what the organisation stands for and what you are doing about key issues.
  • Shape what products or services you provide to your customers and tap into new markets. For example, are your products accessible to people with disability?
  • Impact customer purchasing decisions and your customer base. Customers who feel included and respected are far more likely to buy your products and services, and they will tell people about a great experience (and importantly, also a bad one).

How do we take this thinking and practically apply it to our businesses and teams?

As a start, find out the priorities for the various teams across key areas of D&I, social sustainability, innovation and customer. Do your research (which is what I am in the thick of doing right now) and float your ideas to key stakeholders.

If you can, get those key stakeholders in the room so you can see the big picture – together. Work out how you can strategically collaborate between key functions to meet the organisation’s collective goals. In other words, move out of silos, understand the strategy for each area and see what can be done together.  It will take time at first but the end results will be worth it.

One example I can share from my days at Luxottica where I was leading the social sustainability program. This was also a great employee engagement and inclusion opportunity. To make it successful, one of the important things I needed was to get the Marketing team on board. They were a little disinterested in the first instance. I had to talk their language so I went and found current research and metrics on cause-related purchasing decisions and I referenced those stats for at least 6 months. I knew I had them on board when the Marketing team spouted those same stats right back at me like they owned them. They could see the potential increase in sales that a cause-related marketing campaign could generate as well as doing the right thing.

Article written by Gina De George