Multiple studies have shown that diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) isn’t just the right thing to do, it’s good for business. Taking a multifaceted approach to DEI is essential, and success in this space requires approaching it from all sides. From top-down leadership support and executive sponsorship to grassroots employee involvement and robust community partnerships, weaving DEI into the fabric of the organization is critical to creating a culture of inclusiveness and building a sustainable business for the future 

Starting at the Top: Weaving DEI into the fabric of the organization

Leading organizations place their commitment to DEI at the forefront. This starts with the tone from the top and is backed by actions that are easily recognized by employees and measured for their success. A DEI scorecard which is transparently shared with employees and shows progress against targets is an effective tool for leaders to showcase the firm’s commitment. Leaders should then be held accountable for delivering on the firms’ DEI strategy and driving a culture of inclusiveness across their organization.

The introduction of an Executive Diversity Council (EDC) can ensure leaders are focused on guiding the DEI strategy and remain accountable for performance against initiatives and targets. EDCs should consistently review progress against the DEI strategy, look for new ways to drive inclusivity, and course correct as required.

“Taking a multifaceted approach to DEI is essential, and success in this space requires approaching it from all sides.”

It’s important however, these Councils serve as mechanisms for two-way communications and remain connected to the needs of employees. At Colliers, our EDC has representation from each of our Employee Resource Groups (ERGs). It’s important for ERGs to feel they are making a meaningful impact and have an opportunity to influence organizational practices and ways of working.

Employee Involvement: Creating an engaged workforce

The heart of any organization is its employees. Employees need to feel a sense of belonging and allyship and in doing so can become strong advocates for DEI and the brand

An effective way to put employees at the centre is through the establishment of ERGs. These employee-led groups seek to promote diversity and inclusion through recruiting, mentoring, networking, and professional development, while continuously working to amplify the reach and influence of our underrepresented populations.

At the core, ERGs are an important function to champion the voice of underrepresented employee groups and create space for allyship and learning across the organization. Involving professionals across all business lines and levels of the organization gives your employees the opportunity to learn from one another and acts as a development tool for emerging leaders within these groups. To impact traditional corporate norms in a positive way, think about ways you can creatively leverage your ERGs so they are actively engaged in meaningful change to create an inclusive culture and foster belonging. Consider how ERGs can support hiring practices such as diverse employee referrals, participating in equitable interview panels, or leveraging their networks to access diverse and untapped talent pools.     

At Colliers, we have six ERGs (with two more starting in 2023) that represent more than 1/3 of our employee population.

Community Partnerships: Championing DEI outside the organization

Establishing relationships with external organizations and industry associations gives firms a chance to learn best practices from groups at the centre of the DEI space who are leading the way for change. Partnerships must be meaningful in terms of the alignment to your firm’s strategy and ESG vision. At Colliers we focus on several community partnerships including Catalyst, CREW (Commercial Real Estate Women Network), REAP, and the BlackNorth Initiative. We take direct action in supporting underrepresented groups and pledge to improve our representation across our organization.  

Partnering with CREW, who is at the forefront of achieving gender equity and greater diversity in the commercial real estate industry (CRE), holds our leaders accountable to helping advance women in CRE and increase diversity, equity, and inclusion overall. As part of our ESG strategy, we have announced a goal to have 40% female employees overall and in manager+ roles by 2025. Our pledge to organizations like CREW keeps us accountable and committed to creating equity in CRE. Through the BlackNorth Initiate CEO Pledge we have committed to addressing anti-Black systems and barriers, a charitable spend with black organizations, and improving our representation of black leaders and interns.

Making sure there are meaningful and intentional connections to community partnerships can foster learning and offer different perspectives to help an organization think differently, seek support, and drive meaningful change for their people, clients, and communities.

It takes all these elements – executive leadership, involvement from employees across the business, and community partners – working together in an environment where meaningful, complex, and sometimes difficult conversations can take place, to make tangible progress towards your goals and doing what’s right.