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DEIB: transforming organisations, driving results

Cegos Team

In a recent Cegos “Global L&D Talk”, we looked at the theme of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging (DEIB). Two keynote speakers from leading global companies – L’Oréal and Xiaomi – shared perspectives and experiences on the matter, and our team put forward the business case for investing in DEIB initiatives. Here, we share key insights from the presentations and hopefully provide inspiration for your own work on this important subject.

Embracing diversity in a multicultural environment

Flavio Cavalli, Head of WEU Retail Training and Fieldforce Operations at Xiaomi, straddles the divide between East and West. Technology giant Xiaomi is a relatively young company – founded 10 years ago in China – but has already expanded into Europe. As such, there is a lot of cultural diversity within the company, along with variances in mindset between management in the mainland and those in Western countries.

“We serve a wide variety of customers, so diversity is at the heart of our company,” says Flavio.

Indeed, Xiaomi has several initiatives in place to bridge the gap across the diverse cultures of their teams. One is leadership commitment, with leaders setting the tone for embracing diversity and prioritising inclusion as a company value. In addition, a variety of communication styles are encouraged, with employees given training on how to navigate differences in a professional setting.

The company also promotes creativity. “We match people in same role from different countries and get them to work together on the same project,” says Flavio. “The clash of different cultures helps them come up with exciting new ideas.”

But diversity also brings its challenges. “One of our central goals is to create speed and efficiency,” he says. “It would be much easier to achieve this in a monocultural workplace, and can be quite difficult in a diverse one.”

The Xiaomi culture is very much based on sharing and that extends to cultural activities. All company employees celebrate Chinese holidays and festivals, with associates and partners invited to join, too. Flavio, an Italian, also does his part to share the different approaches of his fellow Europeans with his Chinese colleagues. They are often intrigued and like to discuss different methodologies.

“Active listening is key,” says Flavio. “Be open to other people’s differences so that you can enrich yourself and create something new. You can also encourage cultural exchanges by eating together or travelling a lot with a positive sense.”

Read also: How managers can tackle diversity and inclusion

Digital accessibility for all

Axel Rakotonoera, IT & Tech Sustainability Program Manager at L’Oréal, is passionate about digital. But, more than that, he is keen to ensure everyone has access to digital technology, including those with hearing or vision impairment.

Although beauty conglomerate L’Oréal would not define itself as a tech company, it wisely uses digital tech to promote and sell products, as well as internally.

The company has rolled out several initiatives to help promote digital accessibility.

“We leverage the tech that already exists,” says Axel, noting they choose software that already includes accessibility functionality – such as translation, live subtitles and voice dictation – but may augment it to improve usability.

Any tech that is specifically designed for the company automatically involves accessibility for the vision or hearing impaired. They also monitor and assess accessibility issues, ensuring improvements are made.

For consumers, a QR code behind all products offers additional information and access. Standard voice tech helps hearing impaired people access product information, for example.

Axel hopes to act as a champion for the cause of digital accessibility, encouraging tech companies to prioritise the issue instead of making it a nice-to-have.

“There is much work to do,” he says. “Many solutions offer the very basics. For websites, in particular, there is room for improvement. Most are not compliant, so this is a cornerstone of the battle. Legacy platforms may need extra bespoke solutions, too.”

Read also: Survey shows workplace discrimination still a problem

The business case for investing in DEIB

Chiara Barbieri, Subject Matter Expert in DE&I at Cegos Group, is keen to encourage more companies to invest in and act on DEIB initiatives.

Studies show that companies who practice inclusivity are far more profitable than those who do not. DEIB is not a phase. Rather, it is a pillar of good business in the modern world.

“It’s like a travelator at the airport,” says Chiara. “We have to move fast. Some companies still discriminate, in gender pay differences or racial bias for example, and they are walking in the opposite direction of the travelator. Others are passive, not actively discriminating, but simply standing still and being led by others. The companies that walk forwards on the travelator are the companies who are active in DEIB. They get to their desired destination quicker.”

It is crucial, however, that companies do not view DEIB as simply a box-ticking exercise. For example, LGBTQIA+ employees must feel empowered to be themselves in the workplace by being protected from prejudice. Simply adding a rainbow flag on your logo to show solidarity is not enough.

Business leaders should believe in DEIB because it is the right thing to do. It must be authentic and needs patience because incorporating DEIB takes time, especially across large organisations.

“We need to remove walls and create bridges,” says Chiara. “You start by identifying internal and external walls, such as processes. Then you can build bridges beyond bias and privilege. Accept discomfort when speaking about these things and ask: ‘what can I do to build a more inclusive culture, with colleagues as well as customers?’”

Leaders must set an example in the way they manage their teams and how they communicate with them, helping to transform mindsets and behaviours.

DEIB is a complex topic and encompasses many human traits. It is impossible to be completely unbiased or one hundred percent neutral. But when a company promotes inclusivity and embraces a diverse workforce, it will help attract and retain talent as well as build a good reputation among its customers.

Not every DEIB initiative works and not everyone is a willing participant. That can change over time, however, providing there is the will and the desire to make it happen.

If you would like to know more about how to incorporate DEIB initiative within your organisation, contact us today.