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Diversity and inclusion in the workplace – one year later

A year ago, I was appointed to a ground-breaking new role as Diversity and Inclusion Ambassador for Fujitsu. I embarked on an exciting and thought-provoking year, to drive the evolution of our program and help accelerate digital transformation. My mission was to identify and nurture global best practices in diversity and inclusion. It’s now time to report on some of my findings – and to share the highlights and recommendations.

Understanding diversity and inclusion, and why both are important

It’s worth starting by distinguishing between diversity and inclusion. Diversity means having a workforce that reflects the societies that one operates in and serves, and includes the richness of human difference. Inclusion means having a corporate workplace culture that allows everyone to be himself or herself, to be fully engaged, enabled and able to perform at their best. A magic combination of the two enables delivery of the corporate strategy and generates real enterprise value.

While it may be relatively easy to describe the challenge, it is not so easy to understand the issues to be addressed, and then resolve them.

For example, many employees have personal characteristics that they can choose to hide or reveal. Whether or not they do so at work can be hugely influenced by corporate culture, and their sense as to whether sharing will have a detrimental impact.

The obvious examples include whether people feel comfortable discussing issues in the workplace such as religion, belief, or non-belief. Taking this one step further, are people ready to divulge their gender identity or sexual orientation, or whether they have a mental health condition? Some of the less obvious examples I’ve heard include an expectant mother who chose to delay telling her employer that she was pregnant, for fear of how she would be treated at work.

Why diversity and inclusion makes such a difference – for people, society and your business

The benefits of enabling a workforce to discuss these topics include a greater sense of engagement and enablement at work, and this helps people to release their discretionary effort. It goes beyond that, however: People may also have insights into particular corporate or customer situations that could be highly valuable – such as the person with a disability who offers insight into product accessibility, or someone from a less privileged background who can discuss issues around access to financial services.

This is one of the fundamental reasons why companies should pay more than just lip service to topics like diversity and inclusion. This is not a box-checking exercise, nor should it be quota-driven. It requires more than that: a true change of thinking.

I’m often asked how companies can make a start in positively promoting change. My answer is that this is about realizing that this is a strategic issue. Companies deliver corporate strategy with their people.

It is essential therefore to have a people strategy that is firmly grounded in delivering that corporate strategy. It is that strategy which informs the types of skills needed, where, and when and determines the types of insights that are needed both now and for the future. A people strategy highlights the locations where recruitment will be needed or is desirable, due to availability of skills, and it provides insights into the customers who are being served now, and the customers the company intends to serve in the future. All of those have a perspective on workforce diversity and inclusion.

Based on such a strategy, all of the engagement points or pathways for employees, customers, suppliers, partners as well as key business processes should then be reviewed and understood, in the context of the continual questions of “will this ensure a diversity of workforce?”, and “will this enable an inclusive workplace?” – as well as determining what needs to be changed to enable these things. It’s essential to conduct a real appraisal of all of the interface points where a diversity of candidates can be attracted to the company and then retained.

How can diversity and inclusion be effectively measured?

That brings me to the topic of measurement. A frequent question is: How do we prove that this diverse approach is actually working, or are we simply checking the boxes?

The reality is that there are some aspects of diversity than can be measured – notably where they are declared and where it is permitted to store that information. However, with data regulations varying widely between legislations, there’s no common answer. Many aspects can’t be measured or stored, and therefore proxy measures may be needed – certainly for aspects of intangible inclusion.

Over the last year, I’ve developed a framework that creates the context for a global diversity and inclusion strategy.

This starts at the global HQ level by connecting corporate business strategy to a diversity and inclusion mandate and programme, alongside responsible business and other global focus areas, such as productivity. A set of internal and external commitments, such as targets around representation of different groups in the workforce, and adherence to the UN Global Compact, should also be included.

This helps define a set of charters for an inclusive corporate culture, and focus diversity areas, and creates a really clear context for regional or country-level business operations to develop locally-relevant programs that also take local corporate and business culture into account. It is only when all this is defined within a framework that local programs will genuinely support and enable a corporate business strategy.

I’ve also created an online knowledge exchange within Fujitsu, to share best practice and connect our global D&I community, as it is important to enable co-creation internally, as well as learn from and engage outside the corporate boundaries.

Building a future strategy based on diversity and inclusion

As my assignment came to an end, I provided our executive leadership team a strategic analysis of the opportunities available to Fujitsu, along with recommendations on how to realize these.

What I’d like to see happen next is for Fujitsu to drive a deeper culture of inclusion across worldwide workplaces and to enable even more diversity within our workforce – and in doing so, we can enable increased people engagement, higher performance, and of course greater digital benefit for our customers.

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