Cultural intelligence consultancy, sparks & honey, recently announced the launch of its DE&I Consulting Practice, following the appointment of Davianne Harris to the role of Chief Client Officer and Head of the Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Practice. We spoke with Davianne about DE&I as a critical component in driving impactful solutions, and going beyond representation for systemic change.
Tell us about your role and your approach to improving diversity and inclusion at your agency.
I am Chief Client Officer and lead the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Practice at cultural intelligence consultancy, sparks & honey. My hybrid role is designed to create a new model of Inclusive Consulting by driving organizational transformation through an equity lens. By embedding and operationalizing diversity, equity and inclusion into the organization’s infrastructure, companies can experience the systemic level change that is missed when DE&I is a Human Resources, or siloed, initiative instead of at the core of business practices and offerings.
We talk about the need for organizations to develop a Diversity Operating System when it comes to DE&I — that in addition to considering People, you have to assess how your Practices, Products and Partnerships are delivering on equity and consistently calibrating accordingly. While my remit focuses on external consulting, I work closely with our COO and Chief Talent Officer to ensure our “4Ps” (People, Practices, Products and Partnerships) align with the ethos that we bring forth to our clients.
When collaborating with a new client, how are you evaluating whether a company shares the same values of diversity and inclusivity?
Building upon the idea of the 4Ps, and particularly thinking about our Practices and Partnerships, sparks & honey assesses clients and other partners we work with on both their internal commitments and external actions. It’s not enough to want to only work with ethical companies that prioritize DE&I, but the standards must be clear and measured like anything else. This means that prior to agreeing to work with a given organization or on a particular engagement a series of questions must be answered around the company’s mission and intent, corporate sustainability practices, product offerings, leadership team values and behavior, and more. Ultimately, we’re looking to work with clients that aren’t statically measuring DE&I solely in terms of talent acquisition, but dynamically seeking ways to break down systemic inequities inside and outside of the organization.
How does your agency help clients navigate and implement DE&I measures that accurately represent their regional market?
There is no one-size-fits-all approach to DE&I and this extends to how organizations think about it across various aspects of the business, designing custom approaches to embedding and activating DE&I within the organization. This includes accounting for regional and local nuances in the approach to driving inclusion. Between our global presence and data-driven cultural intelligence, sparks & honey has the advantage of partnering with organizations to parse apart differences in need, perception and best practices between markets that would impact a particular organization’s DE&I strategy. While there are core principles and practices that we believe are foundational to an organization’s approach, the importance of local relevance is paramount.
What are some steps companies can take to avoid appearing as though they are pandering rather than authentically improving their inclusivity?
Many companies think about diversity, equity and inclusion as a box they need to check as opposed to a system they need to build. Inclusivity goes beyond representation and optics. Traditionally, DE&I was about showing diverse faces - whether it be on screen, in advertising, or within companies, and assuming equity and inclusion would somehow follow. In reality, it requires hard work, dedication, and commitment beyond HR and DE&I leaders. Diversity, equity and inclusion must be on the agenda of the CEO and a KPI for every business leader by which to be measured.
The first step to avoiding inauthenticity is to authentically do the work. One of the biggest mistakes companies make with DE&I is to make it about appearances instead of actions. If an organization invests in operationalizing DE&I and ensuring underrepresented groups are not only being seen but heard and respected, then showing up authentically becomes less relevant.
In your efforts to champion DE&I, what have been some of the most promising results so far?
I’ve been in my role a short time, though I have already seen significant traction in the types of conversations I’m having with C-Suite leaders by the sheer nature of my role and perspective about business transformation being driven by DE&I. Instead of being channeled to an HR or DE&I leader within the organization, consulting engagements my team is receiving are being commissioned by the CEO, COO or other revenue-generating department seeking to dismantle systemic inequities within their respective industry or organizational practices. When there is investment, urgency and action follow.
In a year’s time, how will you measure the impact of these policies and initiatives you are putting into place today?
Measurement must come in many forms, but the most significant change I yearn to see is a world where DE&I is no longer being treated as addressing a problem affecting a select few, but rather a critical component in driving solutions that impact everyone. When DE&I becomes a top agenda item for the CEO and COO as they look at their strategic vision, organizational KPIs and growth opportunities, when DE&I shapes how department heads and teams operate on a daily basis, we will be getting on the right track. For as long as DE&I is measured solely on diverse hires or ERG participation, we won’t be solving systemic level issues that preclude diverse talent to not only stay, but thrive and excel within organizations.