Driving better business outcomes and employee engagement with DEI
Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) is not a new concept. It became a buzzword in the workplace more than 60 years ago, at a time when companies were committing to reducing barriers for women, minorities and the elderly joining the workforce.
While it may sound simple to execute, for DEI to work successfully and meet ever-changing employee needs, businesses need to fully embrace and integrate DEI as part of their culture. The return on investment can be realised throughout the business – from improved retention to a significantly more innovative workforce.
The roots of my DEI journey
My calling has been to give people a fair shot in the workplace. This was even before I fully understood the power of DEI.
“While it may sound simple to execute, for DEI to work successfully and meet ever-changing employee needs, businesses need to fully embrace and integrate DEI as part of their culture.” Sophie Guerin, Head of Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion, APAC, Johnson & Johnson.
Early in my career, I met a rural agricultural entrepreneur in China. She had been very successful growing and selling oranges in her local community, but was looking to expand her sales market. I soon learnt that she had a young son whom she has not seen for seven years as she felt obligated to focus on growing her family’s business.
To her, knowing that her work would provide better future prospects for her son through paid education was what drove her to be successful and relentless in her work.
The conversation made me realise that economic equity, particularly for minority communities, had a significant ripple effect across broader society.
It reminded me that marginalised communities often have limited opportunities to tap on for better economic equity for themselves and those around them. It emphasised the immense amount of hard work, dedication, and tenacity that individuals draw upon to uplift themselves and others.
It spurred me to find a way to help people gain access to greater opportunities and tackle barriers which hinder economic equity for minority and marginalised communities.
Keeping employees empowered through DEI at J&J
At J&J, incorporating a culture of DEI starts in our Credo where we showcase our commitment to creating an environment that is inclusive. DEI at J&J means You Belong.
We foster a sense of belonging to unleash brilliance in our people. We do this most effectively through our Employee Resources Groups (ERGs). As an integral part of the new-hire onboarding process, the ERGs have been a platform for open, honest discussions for the past 46 years.
Through face-to-face and virtual meetings, our ERGs focus on shared identities and affinities. They serve as a network to connect minorities such as Asians, women and the disabled with other like-minded colleagues keen to support their causes. These ERGs directly support greater education and employee engagement, driving better outcomes on behalf of our people, our marketplace and our communities.
Our 12 global ERGs have successfully impacted policies and benefits that our employees are passionate about. These topics range from mental health issues and parental leave policies, to enabling girls in STEM – important benefits and support that underpin our employees’ engagement and well-being.
Over the last two years, we have engaged 21,000 colleagues through our ERGs and have created an inclusive environment that empowers our employees to share their unique perspectives and learn from one another.
DEI as a tool to drive better business outcomes
I used to think DEI was a very niche HR conversation, but now I recognise the critical role it plays in driving sustainable economic growth for businesses. It’s not just me that sees the value DEI brings in helping employees and companies thrive – companies with diverse teams are 45% more likely to improve market share and 70% more likely to capture a new market.
Incorporating DEI in the workplace can also increase productivity, creativity, and cultural awareness that in turn bring out the best in employees – increasing retention rates and enabling them to reach their full potential.
How can leaders integrate DEI seamlessly?
As employee needs continue to change rapidly against the backdrop of COVID-19, it is vital that we, as leaders, embrace authenticity to ask the right questions (no matter how difficult they may be) and allow employees to bring honesty to the table, without fear of judgement.
It is also essential to keep the momentum alive. Integrating a culture of DEI is an ongoing practice that needs the support of everyone in the workplace. Set benchmarks for the team and continually measure progress through surveys and informal catch ups with teams and managers alike.
The fruits of DEI labour can indeed be sweet – retaining talent by ensuring employees feel heard and seen, while driving better business outcomes because of a more diverse and creative workforce.
By Sophie Guerin, Head of Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion, APAC, Johnson & Johnson.