Jorge Kraljevic is a Managing Partner at Signium Brazil, responsible for Consumer & Retail, Education and Leadership Consulting. Before his professional career in executive search, Jorge worked for multinational companies such as Hewlett- Packard...
17 August 2023
In the ever-evolving corporate landscape, the importance of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DE&I) has gained substantial momentum, with savvy businesses leveraging innovative initiatives to develop culture that respects and values diversity in its myriad of forms.
Informed leaders know this is a business imperative while also being the right thing to do. In consultation with Jorge Kraljevic, Managing Partner of Signium Brazil, with additional viewpoints from Fernando Luciano, HR Director of Vivo, here are some of the latest strategies companies are implementing to make progress on their commitment to DE&I.
Integrating DE&I into corporate strategy: A holistic approach
Rather than treating DE&I as an isolated aspect of Human Resources policy making, firms integrate their commitments into overall corporate strategy impacting hiring practices, workplace policies and even marketing approaches to foster an inclusive culture.
This involves acknowledging diverse perspectives, promoting equal opportunities and consciously integrating these values in decision-making processes, thereby facilitating innovative ideas, enhances employee satisfaction, and improving overall business performance. DE&I should be central to all strategic planning for sustainable growth and competitive advantage.
“A case in point is that of Vivo, where HR Director Fernando Luciano has highlighted that DE&I is at the heart of the company, bringing with it immense competitive advantage,” Kraljevic says, noting that Vivo has created a strategy that has seen the company make great strides in the advancement of diversity, equity and inclusion and its sustainability.
According to Luciano, there’s an increasingly strong commitment that begins with the C-Suite. “We constantly work to involve all our leaders in reflecting on their role in advancing the inclusion of minority groups at all levels of the company.
“For example,” he says, “we have been working through what we call our ‘diversity roadshow’; including meeting sessions in which we are talking to every one of our directors and their teams to align our DNA strategy and our main commitments and goals.
“At the end of this session, each area presents their commitments to expanding diversity in positions, and we monitor everything in agreement with those directors.” This shows our team the progress of the commitment to promoting people, with diversity being a key driver.
Unconscious bias training programs have emerged as a popular and effective tool in the arsenal of companies championing DE&I. These programs aim to enlighten employees about their implicit biases – the subconscious prejudices that influence actions and decision-making processes within the workplace.
Starbucks’ CEO Kevin Johnson explains the challenge inherent in unconscious biases, saying, “Bias is a part of the human condition; it’s not exclusive to one person or one company.” Starbucks responded with an unprecedented move by closing 8,000 stores for an afternoon to provide unconscious bias training following a racial incidence at one of its locations.
Employee Groups: Fostering connections
More companies are establishing Employee Groups – internal networks formed around shared characteristics or experiences such as race, gender, sexual orientation or disabilities. Those groups provides exchanges of experience among employees and contribute significantly towards creating an inclusive work culture where each individual feels valued.
The heartbeat of Vivo lies in reflecting the same diversity that can be seen in society. “People are very different from each other and when we employ someone, we invite them to be themselves; to show their personality; wear what they feel good in; show their tattoos and favourite hairstyles.
“This is carried over in our bricks-and-mortar retail stores, where employees and our customers can feel comfortable that we reflect – and celebrate – who they are in the broader community,” says Luciano, adding that the company is building “a safe environment for everyone”.
Personal expression policies
Companies like Google and Zappos have instituted policies that encourage personal expression. These policies acknowledge the diversity of their workforce by creating a safe environment for individuals to express their unique styles, removing any dress codes or appearance norms.
Mental health support
Mental health awareness has gained considerable momentum in recent years. Companies such as EY and Starbucks have implemented mental health support programs, offering therapy sessions and promoting mental health days. This enables employees to openly address mental wellness without fear of stigma.
Utilizing AI in recruitment process to mitigate bias
To counteract intrinsic bias in hiring practices many businesses have turned to Artificial Intelligence (AI) recruitment tools designed to assess job candidates objectively, based on skills rather than subjective factors like ethnicity or gender.
Cathy Engelbert, CEO of Deloitte, notes this transition, saying: “Creating an unbiased talent process requires innovative thinking — sometimes that involves using AI so our own human biases don’t get in the way.”
These modern initiatives constitute significant strides toward improving DE&I but also underscore its complexity. They require thoughtfulness, dedication and long-term commitment from leaders across all levels in organisations who must recognize that genuine change mandates continuous effort beyond mere compliance.
Says Kraljevic: “Signium Brazil did market mapping, specific to our clients. Our solutions are designed to bring diversity to the process, in every sense, including ideas, profiles and training, with the guarantee that all aspects correspond to DE&I best practice.”
Evidently, all efforts are not without obstacles – tackling unconscious bias requires confronting uncomfortable truths; establishing effective ERGs necessitates dedicated resources; and integrating DE&I into corporate strategy invariably involves sensitively navigating differing opinions.
Implementing the use of AI implies grappling with technological nuances, while offering flexible arrangements demands leaders trusting employee integrity implicitly without micromanagement tendencies clouding judgement.
Even with these additional efforts and new knowledge, business leaders unanimously agree that advantages far outweigh challenges, making these initiatives vital for not simply surviving but thriving in today’s globalised corporate landscape.