Achieving Diversity on a Global Scale

In a new report, Dwain Celistan, diversity practice group leader at DHR Global, spoke to culture leaders from Colgate-Palmolive, John Deere, and KPMG U.S. to better grasp how their companies are evolving and maintaining diversity, equity, and inclusion. They offered five key ideas to help guide and encourage DEI.

May 3, 2023 – Diversity across the globe is an ongoing and evolving conversation. Keeping diversity at the center when it comes to people is key to building a successful and sustainable business strategy. To explore this topic deeper, Dwain Celistan, managing partner, diversity practice group leader at DHR Global, spoke to culture leaders to share insights into how their respective organizations are evolving and maintaining diversity, equity, and inclusion. The resulting report features Derek Gordon, chief of diversity officer at Colgate-Palmolive; Andrez Carberry, head of global human resources at John Deere; and Elena Richards, chief diversity, equity, and inclusion officer at KPMG U.S.

“Through a global lens, the simplest definition of diversity is gender. But it is much more complex,” said Mr. Celistan. “Diversity also encompasses ethnicity, disability, religion, introverts, extroverts, and a whole host of personality characteristics. Sometimes, these traits and characteristics provide privilege, while some create barriers.”

The leaders that DHR spoke with produced five key ideas to help guide and encourage diversity, equity, and inclusion:

1. DEI is Not an Initiative, It’s Who You Are as a Company

What can you accomplish if you don’t have the influence of leaders and your entire organization? “One of the keys to having diversity, equity, and inclusion represented throughout your organization, from the top-down, is to have the support and commitment of your C-suite level leaders,” Mr. Celistan said. “When organization leaders begin to demonstrate what it means to be a part of DEI, teams will follow. diversity, equity, and inclusion should be a part of the definition of who you are as a company.”

“We talk about the frozen middle,” said Mr. Gordon. “It’s like you can’t unfreeze the middle if you do not have real belief being delivered from the top part of the organization.”

Dwain Celistan serves as managing partner and leader of the global diversity practice for DHR in the firm’s Chicago office. He has conducted searches for senior leaders across a range of firms and industries. His clients have included over 25 Fortune 500 firms, an assortment of family-owned, private equity-backed firms, and universities. 

When leaders don’t demonstrate or have tough conversations about DEI, managers and employees can begin to believe that DEI is not important or that it is not valued, causing what Mr. Gordon referred to as a “frozen middle.” C-suite leaders are role models and must set the example for what it means to be diverse and demonstrate equity and inclusion, according to the DHR report. “Once employees see their executives represent what it means to be part of DEI, they start to understand that this is more than an initiative, they see the impact and potentially become part of the change,” the report said.

2. DEI is Front and Center When it Comes to People

The employee journey begins with talent acquisition and onboarding, as the candidate’s first glimpse into your organization and what DEI means to your company, according to Mr. Celistan. “Many organizations talk about how passionate they are about DEI or the importance and depth of their commitment,” he said. “But instead of talking about what diversity means to your company, imagine the impact of seeing DEI in action, by implementing and incorporating the language into conversations. Having demonstrable evidence of what DEI means to you and developing diverse people across all teams, across all diversity spectrums, will help the candidate and employee experience.”

“At every gate in the process, DEI is going to be front and center of decisions that you have to make when it comes to people,” said Mr. Carberry

3. Diversity Is Putting the Best Team on the Field

“When we are talking about inclusion, we are talking about everyone currently in your workforce and any candidate that you are looking to add to your team or talent pool,” Mr. Celistan said. “Having a pipeline with diverse and developed candidates makes it easier to fill an open role. Candidates are more likely to be successful in higher roles because they have been provided the opportunity to prepare for the next step in their careers.  They become the highest qualified for the position, based on talent, skill, and knowledge, not based on identity characteristics.”

“I’ve had this conversation with leaders, when they aren’t willing to engage in those difficult conversations and give the direct feedback and speak with a certain amount of conviction with respect to their decisions,” said Mr. Gordon. “That’s when you see this narrative of distrust and what DEI is bringing vs. what it is bringing is the best talent to bear and putting the best team on the field in order to succeed.”

Related: Strategies for Diversity Talent Acquisition Planning

It can be difficult to hear that one candidate is more qualified than another, but you must look through a diversity lens to put the best team on the field, according to the DHR report. “All candidates should be evaluated and considered for a position or promotion because of their demonstrated skill-set and proven results,” the report said. “This consideration includes all candidates; no group is excluded. And in all cases, the best candidate should win the role, regardless of gender, sexual orientation, or identity characteristics. If a candidate is advanced but is not the most qualified, distrust can be created around the DEI process.”

4. Talent Planning Must Include Accountability

DHR’s report laid out two factors to consider when creating a talent pool, the candidate profile and how they will perform. “First, the leadership approach to creating talent pools is looking at how the candidate profile is created and being transparent about what it means to be successful in the role,” said Mr. Celistan. “Once the profile is developed, creating clear metrics and then measuring and tracking progress is what makes sure that your system is as equitable as possible. Having metrics in place keeps leaders accountable, balanced, and successful, and provides a better understanding of how each employee and potential candidate will best serve in your business strategy.”

Finding HR Leaders and Diversity Chiefs Remains Hot Spot for Executive Recruiters
More and more, chief executive officers have recognized the strategic role that the human resources function plays in the core strategic issues their companies face, including growth strategy, mergers and acquisitions, restructuring, increased board oversight, and evolving governance and reporting. HR can also ensure that clear changes are made to recruitment and capability-building processes by determining the characteristics of a “purpose driven” employee and embedding these attributes within recruitment, development, and succession planning.

At the same time, diversity and inclusion executives have emerged as key leaders during this period of transition. With a global workforce shifting in complexity, there is a growing need for diversity experts who can shape the vision, culture and very face of organizations. Recruiting these senior leaders and their direct reports remains a key reason why search firms are so busy today.

Ms. Richards said to ask: “What are the actual steps we’re going to take to credential someone – and who’s accountable for that?”

5. Be Cautious About – and Consider Eradicating – the Phrase ‘Culture Fit’

Finding the best candidates for your workforce or talent pool should be based on their experience and accomplishments, not how they might fit into an organization or how the candidate may become accustomed to working and functioning every day, according to Mr. Celistan. “New leaders to an organization bring in new perspectives and ideas that will disrupt the way teams currently think and possibly change the behavior of the team for the better.”

“Fit is about, how do they fit in helping us to drive the strategy and it should not be about how do they fit with respect to the team or the dynamics of how you have become accustomed to functioning and working,” said Mr. Carberry

The DHR report explains that when searching for talent, consider a mapping exercise to help you understand what the talent profile looks like outside of your company. A crucial factor when searching for talent is finding candidates that share a commonality in values, not just cultural “fit.”

“While DEI is an evolving environment, navigating diverse characteristics and various perspectives, it becomes more manageable when leaders can define what DEI means to the organization,” Mr. Celistan said. “Keeping diversity at the center of recruitment and retention of candidates and employees is pertinent to building a successful business strategy.”

Related: The New Business Imperative: Diversity & Inclusion

Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief; Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor; and Stephen Sawicki, Managing Editor – Hunt Scanlon Media

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