Meaningful Cultural Change Beyond Policy

August 10, 2021 | Diversity & Inclusion | 4 min read

Over the past year, organizations around the world have committed to meaningful change and reshaped their Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) policies to reflect the evolving needs of their employees. But, many leaders are still struggling to move beyond policy and to create cultures of allyship, inclusion, and belonging. In fact, when we asked some of our Skillsoft customers what they needed, this is what we heard:

"I need practical strategies and tactics that I can apply in my organization. It's all a bit overwhelming. Help!"

So, when I was asked to moderate a panel for a recent People Matters DEI Leadercamp, "Working Towards an Equitable Future," I leaped at the opportunity to speak with three women who could lend perspective — through sharing their unique experiences and the steps they're taking to create a more just and equitable workplace.I hope you'll take the time to watch these inspiring Leadercamp sessions in their entirety. Meanwhile, I thought I'd share just three of my favorite questions — and quite a few "aha" moments — with you here. (Questions and answers have been edited/condensed for length and clarity.)

My esteemed panelists included: Carine Rolland, People & Culture Leader (APAC & ME), ManpowerGroup; Fiona Sheppard, DE&I Leader ANZ, Johnson & Johnson; and my colleague and friend Rashim Mogha, Customer Market Leader & GM, Leadership and Business, Skillsoft

How has this challenging year impacted the perception of and commitment to DEI in your organization?

Carine: Manpower saw the need to plan for uncertainty, and "build for change." We started a 12-month "conscious inclusion" initiative to support upskilling and reskilling underserved employees for future fitness. Finally, we've added "belonging" to the DEI framework, which was a natural progression from inclusion. Belonging is the next level of DEI.

Carine made a powerful point that I want to underscore here. There’s a reason we add the “B” to a DEI strategy. Belonging is about emotional engagement, making people feel like they matter. And we do that through inclusive acts, like onboarding programs, mentorships, and buddy systems.

Fiona: Johnson & Johnson global health care has embraced DEI and moved into what equity means to different nations. We've committed to investing $100 million over five years to build alliances and invest in health equity solutions for underrepresented peoples. ROI is a driving factor, but now there is a broader vision of success. People come to work for us because of our values alignment and culture of allyship. The business case and human case are inextricably tied.

Rashim: The pandemic and — political events as well — have moved people back into the forefront. Business was "humanized" again. There's a pressure now to evolve fast, and the consequences are huge if you don't. Skillsoft is in a unique position to help our customers with training and solutions that serve as change agents — to view diversity not as a separate HR unit, but as part of their DNA

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Let’s talk about allyship; it’s a concept that is easy to define, but complex to implement. Our own personal biases, our experiences, and our innate perspectives all play a role. How are you all encouraging allyship in your organizations?

Carine: First, identify the problems: what obstacles exist for under-represented employees? Who are the ones we don't hear from? As a leader, you must ask yourself, "How am I personally engaging and participating?" Only then can you educate others. It's a conversation that requires humility.

Fiona: At J&J, we've developed robust employee resource groups with 240 chapters and more than 20,000 employee members — from women's leadership, to "open and out", to the alliance for neurodiversity and more. They are "psychologically safe" spaces where people can express themselves.

Rashim: Remember to provide psychological safety to allies as well as those we are trying to help. DEI can be a volatile space, and we hear from allies that they feel they are walking on eggshells, afraid to get things wrong. We are human. We're born to make mistakes. We need to have compassion for others who are still learning.

Aptly coined the "Pink Pandemic," COVID-19 has had a profound impact on the economic and social power and influence of women across the world. Of course, diversity extends not only to gender, but to culture, ethnicity, sexuality, age, experience, ability, and education. How are you prioritizing the recruitment of diverse talent?

Carine: We have a global objective as we work towards gender parity: we are aiming for 40% female leaders in our organization. But regionally we have to be realistic: you can't change society if you're not setting smart goals. For instance, in Japan, 20% female leadership vs 50% in Australia.

Fiona: There is unconscious bias woven through so much of what we do. I find massive value in de-identifying resumes: for instance, take out names and education before you evaluate a candidate. Look at language you use in job descriptions and benefits, such as "part-time" or "parental" vs "maternity" leave, that might discourage some candidates.

Rashim: We need to do away with the concept of "Tier 1" and "Tier 2" applicants. Personally, I have never hired a candidate based on what college they attended! When I look for what I want to hire for: what is their attitude? Do they have a hunger for learning? Do they have a growth mindset? Skills will change, but those things won't.

As you can imagine, we could have continued the discussion well into the evening. After all, this very "human" work is most powerful when we do it together.

Now, the challenge before us all is to bring words to life — to translate dialogue into action and commit to progress and meaningful change. How have you made progress in your own DEI (and B) journey? I'd love to hear from you, too. And, if you'd like to explore how Skillsoft can help, sign up for free access to our groundbreaking new DEI curriculum here.