While every organization can have a signature strategy or a technological vision – these can be easily emulated. Culture is what sets us apart and there is simply no shortcut to it. Therefore, my favorite motivational quote remains “Culture eats strategy for breakfast”. In short, we can be certain that people are the X factor in the success of every organization. They are the soul, spirit, and life force that drive the vision.
How we bring EY people together is diversity, how they come together, in reality, is the culture, the effectiveness of this is a measure of success, especially in a world that is disrupted.
People, including you and me, want a workplace where our point-of-view matters, we feel embraced and, have a profound sense of belonging. Where we feel empowered and heard every day.
Organizations want their people to feel like they are a part of the company. At EY Global Delivery Services (GDS) too, we want our people to feel belongingness because their uniqueness helps them and us stand apart.
Therefore, organizations should look at democratizing the process and encourage everyone to take ownership in building a safe space
The layers of our diversity fabric
An unwavering commitment to diversity and equality should and must be a priority for all.
Organizations — which have a strong commitment to a culture of diversity and equality —enable their people to grow and innovate. This creates an environment where everyone has an equal opportunity to advance and thrive in the workplace.
At EY GDS, as we enable every one of EY people to be and bring their authentic selves to work, we have constantly pushed ourselves and our understanding to evolve.
The diversity dialogue: Diversity and inclusiveness should be at the core of every organization and how they operate. We did, like many others, start by measuring diversity as statistical evidence of our commitment. It remains a critical yardstick, even today.
For instance, we have a healthy gender ratio within EY Global Delivery Services. As we bring in more women into the workforce, we are able to consciously do so across the skill pool. It helps us push for parity in newer ways – like, we recently introduced gender-neutral job descriptions to address unconscious biases we tackle in certain skill pools like technology. It helps us level the playing field in our own ways. When we hire today, we give a gender representative talent pool – for every single role.
Expanding inclusion agenda
Greater diversity and inclusive environments drive better decision-making, stimulate innovation and increase organizational agility – crucial to helping stakeholders respond to the now, prepare for the next and reframe their future.
Inclusion moves beyond statistics, to culture. As we onboarded more women and analyzed the data – we landed on the most obvious question of representation – qualitative versus quantitative. This is how we started a journey of using the gender lens across all people decisions – hiring, learning, growth, to even compensation.
Here we made a combination of fundamental to radical decisions. The fundamental would be the policies and programs that we have in place. It could be something as simple as maternity leave. How do we elevate it to be truly inclusive?
We added coaching for counselors to address the break from work, created formal and informal mentoring networks to prepare the women and their counselors for the change, diversified the scope when we rolled out the same benefits for adopting mothers or when we acknowledged benefits for the same-sex partners in primary caregivers.
The radical decisions test our commitment, as we disrupt our own practices, and this requires both unflinching leadership commitment and organizational intent. From experience, the most challenging one was when we introduced a decision to address unintended inequities in pay for all EY women employees. The decision was bold, as we extended it to existing and new hires. Today, when you join EY GDS, your pay is influenced by role and skill more than any other factor.
While the above two examples come from different spectrums of the inclusion conversation – most of the story and action lie in between.
Meaningful career conversations should be driven by programs designed specifically to accelerate women in the leadership pipeline including learning programs, experience opportunities, access to networks, mentoring, etc. Of course, inclusion is more than just a bunch of programs and policies. And meaningful career conversations are not just about putting someone on a leadership trajectory, as much as it is to empower them to own and define their career. It means real conversations on flexibility, work-life balance, varied opportunities, support circles, etc.
Belonging at the workplace: Organizations also need to be cognizant about consciously creating a culture that’s truly inclusive of differences, wherein everyone feels welcomed, and accepted. This will enable people to be their true self in the workplace. And this can be achieved by ensuring collective ownership.
Like in any evolution story, in diversity too, the biggest push comes when one’s own understanding is disrupted. For instance, organizations should acknowledge gender beyond its binary definitions – letting their people express their gender identities and sexual orientation with more confidence. And along the way, new dimensions should be added – ability, generations, race, and even thought.
The bottom line—to enable every single person to bring their true selves to a safe workplace—you need a cultural empathy that can be defined as a sense of belonging.
We know that traditional resilience planning doesn’t do enough to prepare for a pandemic. And let me state up front that what we saw last year is a black swan event, that we were all prepared for in theory but never thought of having to deal with.
What are the ground realities? We are increasingly working in a virtual environment, teaming together to create solutions to real-time challenges.
The cultural fabric is stretched with limitations to social interaction and the very definition of the workforce continues to change. Today, we see a democratized workforce, with both a clear vision and a voice. People, especially in the post-pandemic era, are contemplating work-life balance. It is no wonder that hybrid work models like gig working are coming out strongly as we see a rise in digital nomads.
We have an agile workforce, working in a very dynamic marketplace as the business continues to change with technological leaps. How do we bring together such a diverse set of people, scattered virtually, to come together and deliver on a shared purpose? This is the question that drives all our decisions in this dynamic environment.
What determined the success, and continues to? The organizations which had already adopted flexibility, agility, and innovation fared better. This does not mean just virtualization of the workspace. It means EY people are equipped to work remotely while balancing work-life, and the cultural sensitivity to work with diverse teams, spread across geographies. A culture of empathy, gratitude, and belonging is what brought people together as we continued to help deliver on our shared vision at work. Even in the future, the workplace will have a hybrid definition that continues to emphasize on flexibility.
My instinct and the data we see indicate that our workplace genetics have changed. More so in the last year, where several latent trends emerged to the forefront, like remote working, gig working, mobility, personalized career paths, the realization of individual purpose before aligning it to an organization one, and wellness – both physical and mental.
Adapting to this changing environment will be essential for any organization.
(The views reflected in this article are the views of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the global EY organization or its member firms.)