What I’ve learned in my first two years as Avanade’s Chief Inclusion & Diversity Officer
- Posted on January 3, 2023
- Estimated reading time 3 minutes
This November marked my two-year anniversary as Chief Inclusion & Diversity Officer of Avanade, and what a journey it has been. In that time, I’ve had the opportunity to learn from many of our 60,000 colleagues in 28 countries across the world. When I joined, we were almost 39,000 professionals, and to see our growth has been inspiring. And when I say growth, I don’t just mean our size – I’m also referring to our journey to becoming a more diverse, caring and inclusive organization.
Every day, I feel lucky that I have been set up for success at Avanade. Our Chief Executive Officer Pam Maynard and Chief People Officer Caroline Fanning truly support my vision to make Avanade one of the most inclusive employers in the world, and they show that support through real investment. The global I&D team has grown to include over 15 dedicated people worldwide – when I joined, there were just three. My team’s work is furthered by employees at all levels across our orange family. A few years ago, there were four Employee Networks at Avanade; now there are 14 unique Employee Networks with 45 chapters globally, led by 350 different employees. In October we hosted our first-ever Global Inclusion & Diversity Awards to honor the important work that our people deliver on top of their day jobs, and we received 330 nominations. In the last year, Employee Network membership increased 641% and now 1 in 6 of our employees are members of an Employee Network. I share these numbers to emphasize that there is buy-in across our organization, regardless of level or tenure.
So, what have we been doing for the last two years? It’s been my privilege to lead our global I&D team and expand our strategy. Inclusion & Diversity is not limited to gender, or race and ethnicity, or sexual orientation. It’s about making sure everyone at Avanade feels a true sense of belonging and that they are supported in who they are – so we had to think bigger about how we were talking about I&D. We have Employee Networks and programming for military veterans, people with disabilities, Jewish employees, Muslim employees and more. We’ve also expanded our I&D focus to include well-being and we’re working to normalize conversations about mental health, working with disabilities, menopause, men’s health, to name a few.
In this time, I’ve also learned. The pandemic has emphasized the need for human-focused leaders, and I’ve learned that leading with empathy and a willingness to listen to understand is crucial for success in I&D. We want to move fast to make progress, but inclusion, identity, and belonging are complex topics with no quick fixes. There have been moments where we got something wrong and caused people to feel unseen or misunderstood. When that happened, being open to their perspectives, accepting their criticism without defensiveness, and learning from mistakes has enabled us to get better at what we do. I’m not alone in this experience – our entire Executive Committee has created their own I&D commitment frameworks, and they’ve had to embrace uncomfortable moments to acknowledge areas where they want to grow.
We have exciting plans and opportunities on the horizon. We’re pursuing an integrated talent management strategy. We want to continue to educate our people, from LGBTQ+ terminology to disability etiquette. We are going to assess our paid parental leave policies to ensure gender neutrality. I’m looking forward as we launch our “Winning with Well-being and Inclusion” workshops to all leaders, to help demonstrate the value of that empathetic approach, especially as we navigate the changing expectations of our people and the need to have more personal and sensitive conversations in the workplace.
I know it can be hard for people to accept that there is never a finish line with Inclusion & Diversity. It’s natural to want to feel like there’s an end point that we’re working toward, but the truth is that there’s always room for growth. It’s my hope that in another two years, we will be taking strides that seem unfathomable now.
Thank you for all your work and leadership, Hallam. Incredible progress. The actions Avanade takes towards diversity and inclusion made me proud to work here. Let's keep it going.
Heather- Thank you for your kind words. Let's keep it going indeed!!
Congrats, Hallam! You are doing some inspirational work.
Thanks Nilay. Hope you're doing well.
Thank you for sharing Hallam! Love to hear the emphasis on the journey - we all always have room for growth!
Sonia- Thank you for your always on support.