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Inclusion around the World: 4 Ways to Take a Global Approach to DEI

I had a great conversation with Malcolm Bates for an episode of our livestream video series, Better Humans @ Work (BH@W).

Malcolm is the director of diversity, equity, inclusion (DEI), and belonging at GFL Environmental, Inc. GFL does all things environmental on a global scale and Malcolm has brought over 15 years of experience in the DEI space to his work helping organizations have a diverse, equitable, and inclusive working environment across the world.

During our talk, we discussed what it means to take a global perspective to DEI, some challenges in doing so, and some of Malcolm’s successes in this area. We finish with some points from Malcolm on how to excel in your DEI efforts globally.

What is Global DEI?

Often, when we discuss DEI, it is usually from a US-centered perspective. Often, however, organizations span national boundaries and that perspective falls short. Malcolm has experience with multiple international companies, which requires him to adopt a more global approach. What does this mean?

Global DEI takes into account the structures of oppression that exist in different cultures as well as subcultures within those cultures. It is complex and challenging and it requires constant learning and evaluation of your own biases.

How do you manage a global DEI program?

Malcolm advocated for the importance of making global partnerships with people who have the same passions as you do for creating more inclusive and equitable workplaces. While the language around the concepts of DEI may differ internationally, once it’s clear what passion motivates your work, other people with similar passions will be drawn to working with you.

Relatedly, it is essential to build your initiatives from the bottom-up. While we often talk about the importance of top-down executive level buy-in. You also need a strong grassroots base to make real progress, too. Organizing the foundation allows you to then provide clear guidance to middle management, who have the power to make and break the culture of an organization. Management can then move the initiative to the executive level, having tied the work to the company’s core competencies and values and giving the leadership something real to invest in.

Further, it can be helpful to rebrand DEI to resonate more with a global audience. Malcolm, for example, has rebranded the work to “culture and engagement” rather than DEIB when working at a global scale.

Sometimes DEIB can be difficult to understand and can lead some to put their guards up. Culture and engagement can be easier to understand but tied back to the same ideas of a focus on humanity.

4 Ways to Take a Global Approach to DEI

Malcolm concluded with giving four pointers on how to be successful taking a global approach to DEI:

  1. Collaborate

    1. Working with people within your organization, across different areas can be essential in order to “know what you don’t know”

  2. Build political and professional capital

    1. “Trust, follow through, follow up, say what you’re going to do, create partnerships, create allyships, and create strong bonds”

    2. This network is essential to finding success in DEI regardless of where you are

  3. Be a continuous learner

    1. Take the time to learn more about the business, work closely with HR to learn about what people operations looks like in the organization. Often DEI practitioners fall short in knowing how the business operates and how that affects each employee.

  4. Strategically create spaces that support DEI progress

    1. In order for DEI to mature, there needs to be a space that nurtures its progress. Without this space, your DEI progress will always be halted by the question of “what’s next?”.

For more information on Malcolm and his work, connect with him on LinkedIn.

Looking to cultivate and grow DEI in your organization? Contact Mattingly Solutions today to learn how we can partner to advance your DEI goals. Together.


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