Ellavated Learning: Developing a Global DEI Approach
By: Hildana Haileyesus
For many companies, developing a DEI strategy and rolling it out to an office of employees is in itself a delicate and challenging process- so what are global organizations to do!? When we think and talk about DEI and strategy, we tend to lean on the U.S context for discussing issues. We prioritize race and gender in many cases and often hold conversations in a black/white binary. In addition to this our focus often ends up being on hiring “more diverse candidates” without always giving much thought to how exactly we can define diversity. We miss the breadth of marginalized perspectives and identities our organizations can benefit from and overlook how diversity can look different in the global space. While there is nothing wrong with this initial approach, we must consider the implications of a narrowly scoped strategy when it is being rolled out to a global organization.
The histories of discrimination along with the principles of patriarchy and white supremacy exist across the globe in various forms, but this does not mean that they show up in the same way in all countries and cultures. Therefore it is vital that the DEI strategies organizations build are inclusive of the numerous global lenses that exist within the organization. So how exactly does this come to life? A strong approach to DEI begins with a firm and clear mission and vision from the leaders of the organization. The most senior leaders should develop a collective vision for who they want to be in the coming years. This vision should be broad and inclusive and be rooted in the values of the organization. For example, your vision might be to become an industry leader in employee inclusion or to center equity as a key pillar of all business functions. Because this vision will be the guide of the subsequent DEI strategy, it is key that leaders are aligned and clear on the message and intention.
Once the vision across senior leaders is aligned, the organization can develop a strategy for DEI with their global population in mind by identifying common areas of improvement or shared business functions. For example, an organization might determine that supplier diversity, excellence in employee inclusion and mentorship are the areas of focus for the company across all functions. With this directive, local leaders must then develop their own strategy on how to focus on these areas in the way that is most effective for their region or business unit. This is different from a leadership team determining that ALL employees must be assigned a randomized mentor for 6 months as part of their strategy. Why? Because there may be certain costumes across the globe that impact how employees relate to each other based on gender, age, religion or otherwise. Allowing local leaders to determine the best approach for their teams, with the vision from senior leadership as a north star, allows for a global strategy to exist with a localized approach. By focusing thematically on what is key to the business across the board, a localized approach allows for alignment without the challenges of culturally incompetent policies. Additionally, a strong localized strategy allows for greater buy-in for the roll out of the strategy as employees recognize the customized and relevant approach rather than a large corporate directive that might feel out of touch.
Whether you lead a global organization or a national corporation, consider your DEI strategy and how inclusive it is of your various markets? Are your business leaders empowered to customize the company strategy or are there challenges with executing that remain roadblocks to the success of your approach? Remember DEI is both top down and bottom up. Once you have set the vision, it is important that the actions and policies are impactful for everyone from your senior managers to your most frontline employees.