VICE Media chief people officer: The role of L&D in belonging

Belonging isn't just being invited to the table – it's being part of the decision making

VICE Media chief people officer: The role of L&D in belonging

As the world begins to return to something resembling normality, HR practitioners are finally looking to reinvigorate their development programs. The pandemic pressed pause on any individual upskilling, with 46% of employers dramatically decreasing their L&D initiatives. While this was necessary to accommodate overnight digitization, it was also frustrating for employees – many of whom felt their careers had stalled in remote work. But this pause didn’t just impact professional development, it also hampered diversity, inclusion, and equity in the workplace.

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An often-underrepresented area of development is its role in furthering organizational D&I. The intrinsic link between workplace equality and education is sometimes overlooked by the C-suite, which can be more concerned with hard data and metrics. However, as Daisy Auger-Dominguez, chief people officer at VICE Media Group told HRD, you ignore this partnership at your own peril.

Diversity as a business model

“L&D plays a fundamental role in promoting belonging at work,” Daisy explained. “What predates this work is affirmative action - government policies that were made to create access for predominantly Black and Hispanic talent at organizations. We went from that compliance driven stage of work to the realization that it’s actually good for the organization.”

As Daisy told HRD, hiring diversly isn’t just the right thing to do, it’s sheer business sense. A report from Glassdoor found that 67% of jobseekers consider workplace diversity when looking at a new role – with 50% of employees wanting their current employer to do more to increase D&I.

“Organizations will continue to have a revolving door of talent if they don’t start educating people on how to include individuals properly.” Daisy added. “HR leaders have to become more adept at fostering a culture of belonging – one where individuals feel empowered to speak up and speak out. It's really only in the last five years or so that we've been seeing belonging as the higher order state. Diversity is the mix – it’s the compositional representation of an organization. Inclusion is how you make that work, how you ensure you're creating spaces and opportunities for people to thrive and operate. Belonging isn’t just being invited to the table – it’s being part of the decision making.”

The price of diversity

As with all things HR, quantifying is key to funding. It’s all well and good touting the ethics of D&I but proving the returns is something else entirely. While every company will have their own induvial budget for D&I, HR research body SixFifty estimates companies spend around $8billion on diversity training each year. This figure should include all consultation fees, training day expenses, technology implementations and workshops. The average cost of creating and rolling out an up-to-date, comprehensive DEI program is anything between $25,000-$450,000. While this may seem like a lot – the benefits speak for themselves. McKinsey & Company found that companies which choose to embrace diversity enjoy 21% more profitability – with a 27% higher likelihood of outperforming competitors.

Misleading hiring promises

Oft vilified as an HR ‘buzzword’, diversity is anything but. Setting the obvious advantages aside, leaders would be hard pressed to deny the benefits it has on culture, retention, and morale. Making false promises of inclusivity isn’t enough – and in fact it can be even more damaging than just keeping your mouth shut. Companies can make the mistake of promoting ‘a culture of belonging’ and a ‘diverse and inclusive staff base’ during the interview process, only for the new hire to realise it was all just talk. And while this might succeed in getting top talent through the door, it certainly won’t entice them to stay.

“A lot of organizations have told people ‘oh, yeah, please bring your authentic self to work’ – and then when they do have to back peddling, saying ‘oh, we didn’t actually mean it’,” added Daisy.

With a team of over 50 employees spread out across the globe, including several HR executives, Daisy knows she has to manage each and every one of them differently. There’s no ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to L&D – just as there isn’t a D&I blueprint HR leaders can roll out indefinitely. It takes time and practice. Evolution and flex, to see what means and methods work best for your organization.

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“This requires a lot more time and effort from a leadership perspective, but it’s well worth it,” explained Daisy. “What emerges from this process is so much more valuable. “I’m a strong believer that the D&I isn’t just my responsibility, it's not just my team's responsibility, it's everyone's responsibility. My role is to ensure that leaders and managers have the tools to make this possible.”

Uncovering your allyship

And Daisy tales this very seriously. She revealed that when a manager once came to her asking her to do an initiative for her, she simply turned around and said ‘that’s not actually my job – it’s yours’.

“My job is to be your sparring partner, to provide you with some talking points,” she continued. “My mission at VICE is to engage in an inclusion revolution – which is actually the name of my upcoming book. The whole intent of this is that anyone should be able to figure out how they can dismantle inequity in the workplace, whether it's being an ally, being a champion, being a supporter, whatever role you choose to take, that you take it and you drive action.”

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