DEI needs the same level of emergency and action as ESG

Stephanie Hyde, Chief Executive of JLL UK shares her thoughts on DEI.

Most recognise the existential threat of climate change – the literal burning platform – and their responsibility to mitigate it. This pressure has resulted in a desire for change. Now across all aspects of society, measurables have been put in place to track progress. Similar action at pace is needed for DEI and I believe our future leaders can be DEI catalysts in a sector in need of change.

Put simply, the benefits of embracing difference to business and colleagues can’t be underestimated. Given the economic outlook, it is vital that our future leaders are more equipped than the current cohort to evolve and accelerate DEI initiatives because we risk losing some of our best people. To ensure our workplaces are fully inclusive and that company culture reflects this, DEI needs be a top priority. In my view, it must remain part of the conversation so DEI can be embedded into everything we do.

This can’t be done overnight and, like many of our contemporaries, JLL is on a journey to achieve this. We understand that challenging ourselves is key to making progress and part of that is admitting we do not always get it right. I am first to acknowledge that and am always seeking ways to improve and learn.

Our goal is to reach a point where we no longer need to raise negative issues connected with DEI because it is so ingrained in our company culture. This can’t just be seen as a tick-box exercise; everyone should see the value that DEI brings. No colleague should feel labelled, but instead should feel like they belong for the talent, knowledge and expertise they can bring.

Soft skills to the fore

When I meet clients and contemporaries, I’m struck by how what were traditionally soft skills of leadership are becoming much more evident. The conversations I’ve had, during and since the pandemic, demonstrate a shift towards honing communication skills, demonstrating humility, having the ability to take people with you and being more comfortable to discuss life outside of work. This makes me hopeful about our ability to have the tough DEI conversations and put ideas into action.

Here are some pointers that have helped me:

1. Take individual responsibility to improve your culture through DEI and galvanise other leaders to step up – develop a plan to bring that to life and measure it.

2. Consider your own difference in relation to others. 

3. Be curious, immerse yourself in issues and when you don’t understand, ask – where necessary use real-life experiences or role play with actors to bring it to life.

4. Create an environment where you can receive challenges and suggestions openly or on a confidential basis – collaborate with networks, listen to focus groups, and capture and act on the exit interview data.

5. Call it out – know you will be judged by the worst behaviour you tolerate. This is a collective responsibility not just that of HR, so be prepared to stand by your values.

Cultivating future leaders

I am proud that we have a growing number of younger leaders in our organisation and across our JLL DEI networks. These individuals empower us as a business with innovation and, furthermore, set an example for bravery in the workplace calling out intolerable behaviour. However, this marks only the start and there is a long way to go, especially in an industry that is considered at times to be insular. Likewise, networks shouldn’t have to do all the leg work. As leaders we need to meet those most committed to DEI halfway and collectively create an environment where all colleagues feel the positive impacts of embracing difference.

If we are going to accelerate the same level of emergency and action to DEI as to ESG then we need to regularly ask ourselves “am I doing enough?’. Knowing there’s always more to be done, we need to focus resources on creating an environment for future leaders to challenge and succeed. The impact of successful leadership in DEI can drive positive change throughout an organisation for the benefit of everyone. It’s time we all held the mirror up.

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