To make a persuasive case for the value of DEI in today’s shipping industry, ‘believing in it’ as the ‘right thing to do’ is unlikely to be enough. We also need to be able to make a compelling, evidence-based case that DEI is also good business. This was one of the key themes of the day and something we discussed in our previous article on the conference. https://diversitystudygroup.com/dei-conference-2022-moving-from-intent-to-action/
For any organisation that relies on its people, it should be a strategic priority to broaden your talent pool, enlist a diverse range of skills and perspectives, and make the most of their potential. One of our speakers – a shipping leader in their own right – put this powerfully when describing their people as “our biggest asset and our highest yield return.”
We shouldn’t shy away from making the case for DEI in business terms or in the value it can add to all facets of business operations. As we touch on below, the commercial case for DEI will be important in securing the support of senior management. It will also help to highlight the value of placing a DEI lens on everything we do, spanning recruitment and retention, talent development, succession planning, and far more.
In our last article, we shared five themes that emerged from our conference. Here, we share five more insights that struck a chord with us.
6. The importance of senior level buy-in
To succeed, DEI needs the full backing of the organisation’s leadership team. This includes a commitment to long-term support, that includes learning from failures, as well as successes, as progress is likely to be ‘two steps forward, one step back’ at times. What’s more, encourage them to move from being a bystander to an ally, dare them to lead, and coach them as needed in how to be an effective champion for DEI.
7. The power of good communications
As well as learning from successes and failures, we all need to talk about the progress we’re making, so we can learn from each other, and be nudged into action. A clear, cohesive communications plan, spanning internal and external audiences, and targeted in support of your DEI strategy can make a huge difference to your ability to make a persuasive case for the changes you want to see.
8. Embedding DEI requires cultural change
Long-term, embedded change takes time and cultural change. To deliver on this, we need to understand the factors that drive change throughout your organisation. This requires us to think about ‘the why’ for each department, business line and office, in order to make it relevant to them. This will then influence ‘the how’; the levers we can pull for each group you want to reach. Cultural change also requires zero tolerance in order to set the right examples and we all need to get better at calling out unacceptable behaviours.
9. Harness the external pressures
Pressure is coming from society, but also across the supply chain. For example, consumer-facing customers such as Amazon and Ikea are taking a far greater interest in human sustainability, and it is in our interests to be responsive to that pressure. Pressure is also coming from elsewhere, including other customers who increasingly require evidence of DEI activities in their tender processes, and financial institutions taking DEI into consideration in their investment and lending criteria.
10. Do larger organisations have a greater responsibility to lead the way?
We often look to larger shipping organisations to be lead the way, but there is also a vital role for smaller organisations. Large organisations may have more resources, but they sometimes face additional challenges. It is just as possible for smaller entities to innovate and to be DEI role models.
This is just a snapshot of the breadth of the debate and discussions during this year’s conference, but all ten of these themes provide useful signposts for how we can all contribute towards advancing DEI in our organisations. The title of the conference was ‘DEI in Maritime – Playing Your Part’ and we firmly believe that every one of us has a part to play in helping to turn good intentions on DEI into meaningful action.