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Actions speak louder than words when it comes to diversity and inclusion

Many companies looking to focus on DEI for the first time don’t know where to begin to truly make positive change. As we’ve discussed in previous blogs, sometimes it can be the smallest changes that have the biggest positive impact on your team members and their perception of your organization. But these changes need to be the right ones, delivered at the right time, and in the right part of the business to inspire meaningful transformation.

DEI should not be a macro-buzz focus for any company, it needs to be personable. This is particularly important in larger organisations where there can be a lot of nuanced bias to overcome, so where do you start?

Translating words into action

Above all, it is crucial that talk about DEI translates into action that ultimately improves employees’ day-to-day lives.

To deliver such a positive effect takes more than a simple one-off decree from the board. There needs to be a strategy in place that takes into consideration the genuine experiences and needs of all employees. This strategy needs to be coordinated and monitored by a committed team who can not only see the big picture of what needs to be achieved but can also be responsive to changes and issues “on the ground”.

Before embarking on any DEI strategy, it’s important to establish an effective governance structure within your business to set objectives and oversee the creation of an authentic and impactful culture of inclusion. As with any transformation, DEI requires structured oversight that supports – from the top down and the bottom up – the significant shifts (in mindset, in process, in policy, in culture and in performance) that define sustained success.

Oversight is key

The DEI governance needed to establish this oversight is something that we at UDG Healthcare and Ashfield care passionately about, and was one of the first and most important steps we made when embarking on our DEI journey. Before going any further, we felt it was vital to have the systems and processes in place to set our desired destination, monitor our direction of travel, and ensure we take all our employees with us every step of the way.

This is why we have established a DEI Council within the UDG Healthcare and Ashfield businesses. This comprises of representative top executive management from across UDG Healthcare and Ashfield and is dedicated to sponsoring the delivery of our DEI goals. The Council sets the DEI strategy and agrees an aligned prioritization of DEI proposals and initiatives. It acts as both the voice and challenger of global DEI strategy and oversees DEI execution, ensuring the required advocacy and resource allocation to set up the DEI strategy for success.

Supporting the DEI Council in ensuring our strategy truly considers employees’ lived experiences are our DEI Champions who are drawn from every part of our business. They represent their colleagues within their division at regular DEI Partnership meetings with the Council, driving the implementation of initiatives locally, and challenging them to ensure they meet the needs of their colleagues. They are dedicated to sharing best practice across our DEI governance system to ensure that future initiatives are delivered even more effectively with even greater impact.

Time to act

When embarking on a DEI journey for the first time, it can be tempting to begin with a grand gesture, or to endlessly debate where to begin. However, it is not possible to build a truly sustainable diverse and inclusive culture without having a strategy in place, and the will and drive to deliver it.

The first step on the path to diversity must be to establish a robust governance structure, one that reaches and engages with all levels of the business.

A Council and Partnership structure is an ideal way of achieving this. It can provide the oversight needed to ensure that an effective strategy is in place to achieve DEI objectives across a business, and to monitor its delivery and results. Most importantly, it can provide the insight from across the business to ensure DEI efforts truly meet the needs of all employees, wherever they are based. In doing so, it can ensure that any business has an authentic and impactful DEI strategy capable of truly transforming team members’ working lives for the better.