From a corporate buzzword amounting to little more than annual compulsory training, diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) initiatives have morphed and grown tremendously over time. With regulatory measures, like the Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive by the European Commission bringing the significance of DEI to the forefront, companies are taking the necessary steps to collectively contribute toward sustaining an inclusive environment within an organization. Yet whenever they are about to include DEI in their principal values, they press for quick wins and fast results and end up with unfavourable outcomes, often forgetting that DEI is long-term work. Inclusion Now has set out to change this approach to DEI initiatives by supporting clients in building sustainable DEI results.

In an exclusive interview with Manage HR magazine, Michele Mees, Co-Founder and CEO of Inclusion Now, shares her insights on how her company is helping organizations execute thoughtful, data-driven DEI implementation strategies to create a more progressive and inclusive culture within the confines of the organization.

How is your company positioned in the DEI implementation space?

Changing an organization’s status quo of DEI initiatives is difficult and is typically a long-term project. But the reason behind their slow progress is that companies resort to one-size fits-all solutions. There is a lack of strategy and resources to find and implement the appropriate DEI strategies. Inclusion Now is moving the needle in the company-wide DEI implementation space by looking at initiatives through the lens of cultural transformation. The company is on a mission to accelerate inclusive attitudes and behaviours to bridge the knowing/doing gap and help organizations break down barriers to equal access for all their employees. We help companies build a solid data driven DEI strategy with co-creative solutions that enable them to bring positive change throughout the organization.

We always co-create with clients to find bespoke and very creative ways to work on their company culture. I guess there is a very personal way of working, based on our solid, tested methodologies of course, but with a positive, encouraging, uplifting spirit. Creating something unique, a tool or product that is fun to work with is what gives them the confidence. It really makes them feel like it is their own responsibility to strengthen their organizational culture with much needed diversity and inclusion.

Could you shed light on your flagship services that assist organizations in breaking down barriers to equal access and opportunities for all while driving revenue?

Inclusion Now is offering state-of-the-art proprietary methodologies and frameworks, such as DEI Scans, Hack Your Bias program, Strategic Debate, DEI Strategy & Action Plan, and Balanced Leadership Models, along with interactive games that help companies uphold strong organizational values and increase revenue and customers.

In a world where most organizations are convinced that reliable, accurate data is becoming critical to driving DEI decisions, Inclusion Now’s DEI Scan methodology, developed in concert with the client’s objectives, makes a huge difference. As data is not always collected, structured, or accessible for DEI professionals, Inclusion Now offers DEI Scans based on the insights drawn from qualitative and quantitative data sources and policy evaluations. It results in a DEI Index that offers clients clear, ready-to-use directions and recommendations for the DEI Action Plan, and a dashboard to identify the biggest gaps in DEI initiatives and measure progress.

Likewise, Inclusion Now’s in-house Hack Your Bias program is intended to eradicate the adverse effects of unconscious bias in an organization’s systems and business processes. Comprising customized videos, eLearning assessments, trainings, regional webinars, and coaching interventions, the blended, evidence based, hands-on program bridges the knowledge gap by exemplifying real-life situations encountered by Inclusion Now during in-company programs. The case studies are provided alongside exercises, checklists, toolkits, conversation starters, and multiple courses, with each course dedicated to a specific bias. It allows business leaders to identify and eliminate biases to increase individual and team performance.

Based on your experience, what would you say are the personal traits you’ve brought into Inclusion Now, and how do you encourage your workforce to stay ahead of the curve and help the clients achieve their outcomes?

The basic trait that I find valuable in this space is always approaching this subject as a coach rather than a mere service provider. When you work in the DEI space, you are always an activist as you are driven by the desire to overhaul company culture, change the way business is conducted, and make the organization more inclusive, equitable, and fair for all. So, to drive results, you also need to find your inner coach to ignite that fire in everyone to help spread that same level of enthusiasm and energy for DEI initiatives.

Another beneficial trait is maintaining transparency with clients, which we wholeheartedly follow. We are not the black box. We share all our methodologies with our clients as we want to be open to feedback so that we can constantly learn from them and accordingly improve our practices. I would say that being open-minded and nonjudgmental can be a key trait for effectively handling these kinds of tasks.

Please share a few client success stories to further substantiate the value proposition of your company.

Among a plethora of cases where we helped companies bridge existing gaps in their organizational culture to promote a more diverse workplace environment, a case in point is a Germany based global chemical and consumer goods company with 52,000 employees worldwide. They needed a creative, out of-the-box solution to garner managers’ attention to biases in order to disrupt them. By deploying Inclusion Now’s innovative Hack Your Bias online program with an array of videos, eLearning assessments and webinars, the organization witnessed company-wide appreciation and enthusiasm towards DEI initiatives, with the program ranking as the most-viewed and most-liked by their employees.
  • We help companies build a solid data-driven DEI strategy with co-creative solutions that enable them to bring positive change throughout the organization

Along the same lines, our Hack Your Bias online program also found utilization in a Belgium-based R&D Hub for nano and digital technologies operating with close to 2000 employees globally. The blended and interactive Hack Your Bias® program with online and offline training and intervisions was voted as the best DEI initiative by their employees in 2021.

On another occasion, a North America-based global biotechnology company was hesitant to kickstart the DEI journey to avoid the pitfall of setting up ad hoc initiatives. On top of that, the company’s leadership was not quite convinced that there was a problem to solve. This was when we recommended a DEI Scan. The fully customized scan immediately identified key areas for improvement, with the results directly supporting the DEI Strategy and Action Plan and ensuring top-level alignment on the as-is situation.

Looking at the next 12-18 months, how do you think the future DEI trends will evolve and what are your strategic plans to address those trends?

Moving ahead, with newly added directives and local legislations highlighting the importance of DEI now more than ever before, we are willing to lend a helping hand to all the companies that are looking to initiate their DEI journey and create cross-functional inclusion networks in which employees and leaders from every department can contribute. Additionally, we plan to sharpen our focus on inclusive community building to create as many DEI ambassadors and advocates in the company as possible and assist DEI teams in engaging with all stakeholders. In essence, Inclusion Now will be purposefully striding ahead with the sole vision of opening new windows to a far more inclusive and harmonious business world.