Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

D&I during a Crisis: Four key insights from leading D&I Advocates in APAC

 



The recent racial unrest has revealed deeper inequities in the US and closer to home, within APAC, we are seeing the need to continue advancing our Inclusion and Diversity agenda more than ever. While the crisis may have diverted the focus away from this as leaders grapple with trying to manage new economic realities, it is clear we do not have the option to leave these issues unaddressed. Russell Reynolds Associates’ hosted a webinar with leading D&I advocates to hear their insights, learnings and practical tips on building inclusion and leveraging diversity while navigating a crisis ridden world. We’ve summarized the key talking points gathered from this discussion:

  1. Sustaining the D&I effort in a crisis — working remotely has created a greater push for inclusive leadership
  2. Changing D&I mindsets takes work and time — understand your audience and their concerns
  3. Evaluating the business impact of D&I agenda — the importance of data and measurement
  4. Driving the D&I agenda forward — harness the full potential of the workforce

1. Sustaining the D&I effort in a crisis - working remotely has created a greater push for inclusive leadership

  • Inclusive leadership is essential to building a resilient organization in the current climate and environment. Working remotely (as a consequence of COVID-19) has accelerated the need for inclusive leadership to combat feelings of alienation. Without face-to-face meetings, leaders have to be creative in how they actively engage and connect with their people.
  • Leaders are compelled to be more empathetic, authentic, compassionate and inclusive in the way they manage people and support them through ambiguity and changing circumstances.
  • The line between professional and personal is blurring and leaders are forced to recognize their unconscious biases and the need to cater for individual needs in order to support them.
  • Working remotely has created a more level playing field for employees who live in in remote areas. Activities typically carried out by ‘head office’ are now being conducted virtually, which opens up opportunities for people in other locations to participate.

“Leaders are forced to recognize the complete individual for who they are and not just a slice of the image they present in the workplace. There is such an appetite for inclusion and leaders are hungry to lean in.”

Sophie Guerin, Head of Diversity and Inclusion, APAC, Johnson and Johnson

“We recognize that people need to talk and be heard, to process what is going on around them. We are embedding inclusive leadership and the appreciation for the benefits it brings to the individual and our businesssuccess.”

Kristina Hermanson, Managing Director, FMC

“What we drive relentlessly is inclusion and how we become more inclusive.”

Priyadarshini Gupta, Diversity and Inclusion Lead, Tata Group

2. Changing D&I mindsets takes work and time - understand your audience and their concerns

  • Changing mindsets is a journey. Have one-on-one conversations to understand what is holding them back from adopting the D&I agenda. It is a process of education and reframing to help them rethink D&I in a way that is aligned to their own values.
  • D&I should be discussed in the context of how it drives innovation, engagement and productivity—using business language and outcomes that leaders can relate to. Frame your D&I strategy to address their concerns and integrate D&I within the business.
  • Position yourself as a trusted partner to the business and show you are interested in their business and concerns. This will help you to establish a common ground in finding a way forward.
  • Find opportunities to have conversations across the business—big or small and demonstrate how D&I can solve business problems and build resiliency (e.g. alternative staffing models). The fact that others are engaging in dialogue is a small win and a step forward.

“5 profiles of resistant leaders—those who have particular beliefs, those who don’t see the value of D&I, those who are not sure what to do, those who see it as reverse discrimination and those who say the right things but don’t think D&I is important. Figure out which personas you are dealing with.”

Sophie Guerin, Head of Diversity and Inclusion, APAC, Johnson and Johnson

“An inclusive culture creates an environment where we can pause and catch each other, when unconscious bias gets in the way.”

Kristina Hermanson, Managing Director, FMC

“Inclusion is still the issue—it’s the white elephant in the room—we have a long way to being inclusive and accepting people who are different to us.”

Priyadarshini Gupta, Diversity and Inclusion Lead, Tata Group

3. Evaluating the business impact of D&I agenda - the importance of data and measurement

  • Leaders need to see D&I as the driver of business success and understand that D&I is directly linked to the  bottom-line. Measurement is important to ensure the sustainability of a D&I agenda. Data drives progress.
  • To do that, organizations need to have the fundamental mechanisms in place to measure and validate D&I’s impact—pulse surveys and engagement surveys. Organizations should look at how D&I correlates with productivity, retention, innovation, customer engagement scores, and shareholder value—data that is readily available in most organizations.
  • Next, organizations need to have or employ the right capabilities (e.g., data scientists) to make sense of the data and tell a broader story around the impact of D&I in the medium- to longer-term and link it with broader strategic initiatives.
  • Data that relates to D&I efforts should be shared with business leaders opportunistically (e.g., during business reviews) to provide them with a picture on what is happening on the ground. Support them with the tools to help them make the change and cascade the message downwards.

“It is important right from the get-go that leaders see D&I as a driver of business success. I think that is the right way to approach it and the right way to start. Start by thinking how you would measure success in a business unit and apply that same rigor to measure the impact of D&I.”

Sophie Guerin, Head of Diversity and Inclusion, APAC, Johnson and Johnson

“Keeping a focus on the diversity numbers helps to maintain momentum and to understand if you have the
leadership buy-in to truly make progress against a target.

Kristina Hermanson, Managing Director, FMC

“D&I has to be linked to business impact. Organizations should not be driving D&I only because they want to be fair to
underrepresented groups, but because D&I impacts their top and bottom line.”

Priyadarshini Gupta, Diversity and Inclusion Lead, Tata Group

4. Driving the D&I agenda forward - harness the full potential of the workforce

  • D&I should be led from the top, but there also has to be emphasis on middle management—how to support them to drive the D&I agenda on a day-to-day and tactical level as that is where the change really happens. Identify role models, sponsors and champions at different levels in the organization and push leaders into the spotlight.
  • Inclusion is about enabling meritocracy and that means having the right sponsorship and mentorship programs to enable less-privileged groups to succeed. A truly diverse and inclusive environment is about creating a levelled-playing field to enable meritocracy.
  • Organizations should ask themselves, “how are we looking at our Employee Resource Group (ERG) programs?” ERGs are great ‘grassroots initiatives’ and platforms for individuals to practice and flex their leadership skills in a relatively low risk environment. There is also a unique opportunity for ERGs to become strategic partners to the business and reframe how they engage with different stakeholders internally and externally.

“Driving D&I does not need an immense budget. Now is a great time to evaluate your D&I approach and challenges and pivot.”

Sophie Guerin, Head of Diversity and Inclusion, APAC, Johnson and Johnson

“Leadership consistency and behavior through tough times is free.”

Kristina Hermanson, Managing Director, FMC

“Driving D&I is driving change. It doesn’t show results overnight.”

Priyadarshini Gupta, Diversity and Inclusion Lead, Tata Group

AUTHORS

  • ANUPAMA PURANIK is a senior member of Russell Reynolds Associates’ Healthcare sector. She is based in Singapore.
  • DEE FITZGERALD co-leads Russell Reynolds Associates’ Diversity, Equity & Inclusion practice in APAC and is a member of the firm’s Leadership and Succession practice. She is based in Sydney.
  • PAMELA YAU is a member of Russell Reynolds Associates’ Leadership & Succession practice. She is based in Singapore.
  • JASMINE CHUNG is a member of Russell Reynolds Associates’ Leadership & Succession practice. She is based in Sydney.
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D&I during a Crisis: Four key insights from leading D&I Advocates in APAC