Inclusion and diversity: Getting the hard work done
- Posted on June 16, 2021
- Estimated reading time 5 minutes
The following blog post was co-authored by Avanade alum Renée John.
In an earlier blog post, Renée John and Stella Goulet talked about their mentoring (and reverse mentoring) relationship and how they’ve focused especially on racial equality in the workplace. In this current post, Renée, manager of alliance marketing at Avanade, and Stella, chief marketing officer, dig deeper into what it really takes to build an inclusive and diverse workplace.
The topic is particularly relevant as we celebrate Juneteenth. Also known as Freedom Day or Emancipation Day, Juneteenth (June 19) commemorates freedom and the end of slavery in the U.S. When we think about what it means to be free in the workplace, the key is being able to bring your whole self to work. And that lies at the heart of inclusion and diversity, the focus of this conversation.
Why is inclusion and diversity so important for organizations?
Stella: Inclusion is important because it brings the diverse thinking that’s necessary for real innovation. That’s good for our people, our clients and our business. Many job seekers evaluate potential employers based on their track record in diversity, corporate social responsibility and ethics. And increasingly customers consider these factors when selecting organizations they want to do business with. So having a strong focus on I&D is more important today than ever.
Renée: Having a commitment to I&D is a win-win for all involved. Research proves that companies that get I&D right have healthy cultures, high employee retention and outperform competitors. There’s really no downside to striving for inclusivity and creating a workforce that reflects the diversity of society.
It’s one thing to talk about the importance of inclusion and diversity and racial equality, but how do you start walking that talk?
Renée: Getting the hard work of I&D done takes time and commitment. It’s important that the burden isn’t placed only on those in underrepresented groups. Everyone needs to be involved. Often diversity programs put the responsibility for taking action onto the underrepresented groups. But diversity work can easily become a full-time job, which can result in burnout among people of color.
Stella: I agree. That’s why our I&D north star is “Everyone, everything, every day.” We all share in the responsibility. An important first step is realizing that each of us has some form of privilege that we can – and should – use to advocate for others. Within an organization, executive buy-in is also essential. In addition to executive leadership, it’s important that companies create concrete plans with goals around equitable hiring, pay, promotion and giving people a voice.
What are some of the actions Avanade has taken to address racial equality in the workplace?
Renée: Our employee networks are key to our inclusion and diversity commitment. For example, INSPIRE, our Black Employee Network, is focused on issues of equality and inclusion and ensuring that all employees are aware of social issues that impact them – both at work and in life. INSPIRE regularly hosts a variety of programs ranging from educational to social that are very popular and well attended.
INSPIRE is also partnering with our Talent Acquisition team to directly achieve our goal of having a more diverse workforce. For example, we have a new opportunity that enables people to be recruiters for a month to focus on attracting candidates in underrepresented groups. They can charge their time to a special code, as they would with any client project. This means they can focus on just this role for that month so they aren’t trying to do two jobs at once, thereby helping to address the issue of burnout.
Stella: Talent acquisition is very important because we can’t increase diversity without having a diverse pool of candidates for open roles. And that means looking in different places to find different people. One way we’re doing this is by actively recruiting at organizations and colleges and universities with a large Black and African American population. For example, we’ve added Prairie View A&M University as one of our partners in our STEM Scholarship program.
We’re also investing in a bigger I&D team, including a Chief Inclusion & Diversity Officer, which is a new role. Among some of the activities, he recently led I&D workshops for our Executive Committee. Our EC members have committed to taking action related to I&D. And we’ve buddied up to help each other stay focused on I&D. We’ll also be launching an I&D commitment framework for each EC member that will complement existing regional and functional I&D plans and is intended to create consistency, accountability and visibility of our progress.
I committed to meeting with all of our marketing team members in underrepresented groups within a specific timeframe. I want to better understand their training and development goals and their career aspirations. My goal is to help them on their journey and establish stronger relationships so they feel they can come to me regarding any topic.
You mentioned that everyone has to be involved in building an inclusive and diverse workplace. What does it take to be a good ally?
Stella: Mentoring is an important part of allyship. I’m mentoring and sponsoring Renée as well as others. As a result of our mentoring conversations, Renée has made me more aware of things that I hadn’t previously thought of – like compensation and promotion histories among different populations, including Black people and African Americans. This enables me to take actions that can help drive a more inclusive environment.
It’s also important that allies help employees tell their stories by providing safe forums for discussions and community building. In this regard, we’ll be expanding the reciprocal mentoring program currently being led by our North American leadership team with INSPIRE to other underrepresented groups and more broadly with our EC and other executives.
Renée: Allyship is essential to advancing the I&D agenda because people of color can’t tackle the burden alone. Real change can only be achieved when everyone champions equity, denounces inequality and encourages all voices to be heard.
Learn more about Avanade’s approach to Inclusion & Diversity.