Author: Sinduya Sivayoganathan
In the social climate that we face today, I find it comforting to know that conversations about diversity, equity, and inclusion are starting to happen and changes are slowly being made. Organizations around the world are realizing that they have a corporate responsibility to champion DEI in the workplace. In this realization, there seems to be a heavy emphasis on one frontier of DEI: driving diversity and inclusivity to increase employee engagement. This includes a focus on who organizations are hiring, increasing employees’ willingness to stay with the organization, and ensure they are happy working there. While this frontier is necessary, it is important to remember that DEI is not exclusive to employee engagement, just as it is not exclusive to your HR department. We have to acknowledge that DEI goes beyond employee engagement and extends to how a business conducts itself externally and holds itself accountable for its actions and impacts.
So how can you champion DEI beyond employee engagement? While this is a big task, we offer three questions to get you started:
1. Who do we do business with?
Your customers are an essential stakeholder to your organization’s financial success AND your DEI journey. As you work to attract and retain a diverse set of talent, it is important to also consider whether you are doing the same for your customers. While you may have a target market, your practices and processes might be excluding people unintentionally based on selective advertising, support, and language that is harming your bottom line and EDI. A few things to ask yourself are: Are your customers diverse in identity and causes? Are your current processes and practices inadvertently only attracting an exclusive customer base? How do the people we do business with reflect our commitment to DEI? Do you have the support and alignment to provide quality services to all kinds of customers?
Developing a diverse customer base and equitable approach to securing customers ensures that your employees feel represented by who they provide goods or services to. Most importantly, it helps ensure that your organization can live out its DEI vision and mission beyond the internal HR functions.
2. Who do we buy from?
An inclusive approach to procurement has become an emerging priority in the corporate responsibility realm and a big part of championing DEI beyond employee engagement. When reviewing your supplier base, it is important to assess who you are buying from and if there are opportunities for your organization to engage with a diverse pool of suppliers. It is also important to understand if your suppliers’ DEI commitments reflect your own.
A few things to consider are: Are you buying from diverse suppliers? Are you buying from suppliers who reflect and share your DEI values and goals? Is there an expectation for your suppliers to engage with DEI? Does your business support women-led businesses or minority-owned businesses through your procurement strategy? Are there opportunities to support these businesses through your procurement process?
Promoting DEI expectations for your current suppliers and widening your pool of potential suppliers can help promote an inclusive and equitable supply chain that is competitive. You can create a positive domino effect for other businesses and create an expectation that people YOU fund have some form of DEI. This can help ensure that you are buying what is right for you as an organization that actively lives out its DEI vision and mission.
3. Who do we support and donate to?
When giving back to communities, an important consideration is the intersectional ways your donations affect different people. For example, let’s say that you donate to an at-risk youth centre every year and you discover that this at-risk youth centre does not welcome 2SLGBTQ+ youth. While this is a fantastic way of giving back, especially considering the growing need to provide safe spaces for at-risk youth, donating to this youth center sends a few messages to your employees and stakeholders; it says that either you didn’t look into the politics that surround that youth centre, or that the company doesn’t support the 2SLGBTQ+ community. This can impede your ability to live out your DEI mission and can also impact your employee engagement, especially if employees feel like their identities are not respected.
As such, it is crucial to consider the following: What is the expectation for community partners we engage with when it comes to DEI? Do we live out DEI values when we engage with community partners? Do we give charitable donations to partners who also value DEI? Most importantly: how do we decide which community partners we engage with?
When it comes time to make decisions and take responsibility for your actions, make sure you look at things from all angles. This includes looking at who your actions will affect, who it may affect, whether you are considering how different people may interpret the decision and if your actions represent what DEI means for your organization. Being thorough and inclusive is a surefire way to have your corporate responsibility actions make an actual impact. It will help you streamline and frame your processes and practices with a DEI lens and ensure focus and progress towards your DEI goals. It is also how you can start to champion DEI beyond employee engagement.
At Lunaria, in helping you attract and retain diverse talent and increase employee engagement, we encourage and equip you to champion DEI beyond employee engagement.
Interested in learning more? Book a support session with us!