Emma Codd was my boss when I worked at Deloitte, so I was looking forward to catching up with her. Back then, Emma was the managing partner for Talent, for the UK firm. Emma is now the Global Inclusion Leader within the professional services firm. This role gives her great insight into how important it is for senior leaders to be accountable for D&I in the workplace.

I started by asking Emma about her career background and how she got into her current role.

I sort of got into it by stealth. I joined Deloitte back in 1997 with a game plan of staying there for three years. I was in the Forensic Department, so I’m actually a risk consultant by background. I loved it and thought I would never find anything else that I loved as much.

In 2013 our then CEO of Deloitte UK, David Sproul, offered me a position on his leadership team and join the executive committee, taking on the role of managing partner for Talent. That meant I was responsible for everything that we did on people.

Before that, my only talent experience was leading a large team that I’d established when I joined Deloitte. I’d managed to retain most of them and keep them very engaged, productive and happy. I’d also been a sponsoring partner of our women’s network for a good few years. I was passionate about culture and needing to love where you work. I was lucky enough to stay in that UK role for six years, which is pretty unusual. Normally, the roles change every couple of years.

I am very purpose-driven and a change maker. Despite thinking I would never find a job that engaged me as much as my old client service risk job, within a few months of doing the UK Talent role, I realized how much I loved doing this work. And that hasn’t changed, it gets better every day. In summer 2019 I went into a global inclusion advisory role and I’m now Global Inclusion Leader.’

Global Inclusion

Global is a big job, and the Deloitte organisation has over 300,000 people, operating in over 150 countries, so I was interested to hear what kind of things Emma does in that role.

You can just imagine the complexities that are involved in that level and spread of operations. When I was leading Talent in the UK, I remember always thinking we had a huge mountain to climb and we did manage to climb a big part of that mountain.

Moving into a global role has opened my eyes. I’m more aware of cultural issues and national cultural issues, legal issues too. From a global perspective, LGBT+ inclusion is a critical pillar of our global inclusion strategy. We’re proud to have signed up to the UN standards against discrimination of LGBT people and to be implementing those.

The challenges involved are where you are operating in countries where same-sex relationships are against the law, in some places punishable by the death penalty. That’s a whole different ball game to dealing with the challenges that I dealt with from a UK perspective, but I love it.

The Importance of Culture

One of the reasons why I was drawn to working at Deloitte, was because Deloitte had much more of a focus on culture change than where I had worked previously which felt a bit more kind of tactical. Having worked with Emma, she is an authentic leader who gets the importance of diversity and inclusion for business performance but also the individual. I had wanted to come and work for Deloitte to understand why culture was so important. I asked Emma why she thinks it’s key to building inclusive workplaces?

‘What I always said when I was leading Talent for the UK firm was that inclusion is about how people feel when they come into the workplace, or log on, in the days we’re currently living in. It’s whether you feel included or excluded; whether you feel respected or disrespected.

Do you feel happy? Or do you feel sick? In my career, I’ve felt both. I’ve also spent most of my career being in a minority, being in meetings where I’m either the only woman, or I am in a minority. For me, culture was those things that get built in over time that become acceptable. They aren’t made acceptable formally, it’s when people think, “Oh, that’s just the way it is. That’s just the way they are.”

When we first started looking at this in the UK all we could measure at that time was gender. We could see we had a challenge at the top of our organisation. We did not have enough women in the most senior roles. We could see exactly where we were losing them. When we analysed the data, there were two reasons. There was work-life balance and there was culture.

When you looked at work-life balance, despite policies and procedures, did anyone believe that they could progress in their career and work in an agile, or as we called it then, a flexible way? No, of course, they didn’t. Because the subliminal messaging was there. For example, doing the walk of shame at 5 o’clock in the afternoon when you have to leave work for whatever reason.

The work-life policies didn’t work because of the culture. It was the same when we then looked at why people were leaving us because of culture. Those that I was able to chat to, made it very clear to me that their reasons were to do with everyday culture.

Everyday Behaviours

We talk now about microaggressions. The term has been around for so long, yet we’re hearing it so much more these days. That’s what people meant by culture. They were telling us loud and clear when I asked women and others in the minority that were in our organisation, “Why would you think about leaving us? Why did your friends leave us? Why may this not be the place that you want to spend your career?”

It was always the same. It was that everyday culture. It was banter, comments. I would always ask, “Why didn’t you report it?” And the individuals would say, “Well, it’s not big enough to go to HR, it didn’t feel big enough,” or they would say, “But the person that this relates to is someone that basically can decide my career, so why would I?”

I did the same in the early days of my career, so I know why people felt that way. I knew we had to work on our everyday culture. We came up with our amazing Ask Yourself film, and we came up with constant messaging. We took action. We created ways to speak up.

So to me, inclusion is about an inclusive everyday culture, where you can go to work, you can be as much of yourself as you choose or want to be, and you are happy, engaged and want to be there. I think too many workplaces even now jump straight down the route of policy. Or they take a “fix the person” approach, which is my big bugbear.

We can make a sweeping assumption like, “Women don’t have enough confidence. Let’s set up a programme to give women more confidence.” I would rather we were looking at our everyday culture and fixing that before we start trying to fix the people that we employ. In reality, people tend not to need to be fixed. It’s the culture that needs to be fixed in most cases.’

Changing the Culture

When I wrote my book, there’s a whole chapter on culture. It was probably the hardest chapter to write because it was hard to define. I think it was something that Emma had said when we worked together that inspired me to write that chapter. Her description of culture as the sum of our everyday behaviours.

I asked Emma what advice she would give organisations that want to change their culture to become more inclusive? How do they go about that culture change?

The first thing that’s needed is leadership buy-in. In my experience, there will be leaders that instinctively listen and will just get it. They’ll know that there are things that need to be done to change. There will also be leaders who are all about “show me the money”. Why is it good for business? That’s the reality. The world is full of brilliant people and we think differently.

Data is key, but do not get caught up in analysis paralysis. I think some people can use data gathering as an excuse to put off doing something else. My approach was to work quickly. We looked at our exit data, reasons for leaving and our engagement survey data. We asked a simple question, one question, and the verbatim answers gave me a real insight into how people were feeling.

For the leaders I needed to talk business case to, I calculated the cost of replacing everybody that we had lost in one financial year, at manager and senior manager level, due to work-life balance and or culture. That number came out at £68 million.

I used that number ruthlessly. In every conversation I would have or if I could feel that the room was moving away, I would say, “Right, I’ve got £68 million on the table, should we just chuck that out the window?”

Then we took everything we had learned and worked out, “Right, what’s the answer?” People were telling us that they were experiencing these everyday behaviours that were non-inclusive, they were telling us that they didn’t feel stuff was big enough to go to HR. They were telling us that they were worried about a career penalty.

So we changed things. We developed inclusive leadership sessions, and not unconscious bias training, but sessions where we sat people in a room, 20 people at a time and played them some home truths. Then we got them to talk and listen and think, and think about some of the stories that they were hearing, were the stories ones they could recognise?

Since we’re all accountable for our behaviour, we also needed to get people to realise the need to call things out. We knew that we had to create additional ways for people to call things out. This was back in 2013/14 and we introduced a hotline. We created respect and inclusion advisors. These were trusted people within the business that people could go and talk to and work out, “What’s the best route for me to raise this?”

The Role of Leaders

We in-built everyday behaviours and our expected everyday behaviours into 360-degree leadership feedback. Annually leaders got a detailed report about their leadership. Like do you call things out when you see things? That would go into a development report. We built that in before director promotions and before partner promotions.

Finally, the one thing we saw as this messaging started to go through, was that our CEO had a consistent message which was, “We will not tolerate behaviour that’s counter to our values, regardless of the seniority of the person, of those involved.” As a hierarchy, that was important.

I[CE1]  always say to my clients that diversity and inclusion is not a project. It doesn’t have a beginning, a middle, and an end. It’s a way of being, it’s a way of conducting yourself. What I like about the Deloitte way of doing things, is that it was all about getting into the fabric of the organisation. It wasn’t a box-ticking exercise.

I asked Emma why it is so important for a chief executive and their senior leadership team to be accountable and take responsibility for inclusion?

Walking the talk is critical. The research McKinsey does on this shows, without doubt, that diverse and inclusive organisations outperform those that aren’t.

You can’t argue with that data. There’s so much of it out there. So how does an organisation make sure it’s within its DNA? Well, the same as with everything else. If your focus is on enterprise risk, who owns that? Ultimately the CEO and the leadership team own that. It needs to be the same with diversity and inclusion. I think sadly, there are so many organisations where that isn’t a reality.

Ispeak at various events where I’ll talk about what we’ve done, what needs to happen. Yet the number of conversations I have with people who lead on D&I, who are striving against all the odds to try and bring about change, who feel that they do not have the support of their senior leaders. If this is something that’s important to an organisation, it should be up there very high on the CEO’s agenda.

To want to outperform the norm but then give that role to somebody who won’t be given a lot of support or budget to do the work. I mean, who would do that? That just makes no sense at all.

I could not have achieved any of what I have achieved within the UK or my global role now, without the support that I have from my Global CEO, from my Global People and Purpose Leader, and others in leadership, such as our Global Chair. You can’t achieve it without that, it’s just that simple.’

The Importance of Sponsorship

I asked Emma what her advice would be to that HR director or diversity and inclusion leader, who is trying to get the chief exec to take more responsibility and accountability for D&I?

‘It depends on the type of company that you’re in. I would always say get a senior sponsor who wants to see things happen and sits on your board or your Executive Committee, or both if you have both. If we’re talking about a company that has a board as part of its governance structure, then the chair.

Those allies and sponsors are important because you do need somebody sitting around that leadership table to be there, to advocate, to help make change happen. Achieving change when it comes to diversity within an organisation is about the inclusive culture, so it is about your ‘everyday’ culture. That means some really tough decisions and actions.

None of that will happen unless you have that buy-in. How do you get that buy-in once you have senior sponsorship? It’s also thinking about the approach. I spoke about my “show me the money” approach. Quantifying why having a diverse business is critical for business success, in my case with that £68 million number. Then for others who got it, there were real-life stories from our people. Honestly, all I had to do was read out one and that was it.

It’s finding the right way to do it. It can feel relentless and overwhelming. Everyone will have a new programme they want you to do, whereas, in reality, the real change will come by ensuring the culture is really inclusive.’

When I worked at Deloitte, I felt fortunate in my role as a diversity and inclusion practitioner that I could make an impact in the workplace, because I was reporting to Emma in her position as one of the top partners in the firm. In previous places that I’d worked, I hadn’t had that level of sponsorship. Reporting into a middle manager, we just couldn’t have that impact in the organisation.

The Effects of the Pandemic on Women in the Workplace

The pandemic has had a huge impact on all our lives. Emma has been working on a research report looking at how this has affected women in the global workplace. I asked her to tell me a bit more about that.

‘We have recently produced a Woman@Work report, surveying 5,000 women across 10 countries and asking them about their experiences in the workplace and the experience they have had during the Pandemic.

We all know how horrific it has been and I’ll be honest, I’m one of those women. My two children, they’re now 12, and started secondary school this academic year and all the ups and downs of that. Back in March 2020, I had childcare. I had a whole support structure around me that enabled me to be happy, to be engaged, to be doing a good job whilst making sure that my children got the best bits of me. That all went down the toilet. So many of my friends that I was speaking to were and are on the verge of dropping out to the workplace because of the load. And I am lucky as I work for an incredibly supportive company – so I have been able to make things work thanks to this support. But many haven’t.

I’m not suggesting it’s only mothers that look after children, believe me. We all know the data that still shows at the moment that child care, caring for others has women disproportionately performing those caregiving roles.

When we explore what has happened to women, it’s stark. The majority of the women we surveyed told us that the Pandemic had brought a ‘prefect storm’ of an increased workload and greater responsibilities at home. Many are feeling over-whelmed and burned-out – feeling unable to switch off from work, feeling judged on hours online and not on output. And many are thinking about leaving their current employer, or the workforce entirely. And, despite so many not working in the office, women still told us that they encountered non-inclusive behaviours at work – ranging from being belittled by senior colleagues or experiencing jokes of a sexual nature; unfortunately, many of the women who experienced these behaviours didn’t report them to their employer, with the main reason being for fear of adverse career impact.

But we did find some respondents who were working for companies that are getting it right; while only a small percentage, these women were all more productive, engaged and loyal. These women all shared the fact that they had confidence about reporting non-inclusive behaviours; all felt supported by their employers and all believed their careers were progressing as fast as they wanted them to.

Inclusive Growth

As I was in conversation with Emma on the Inclusive Growth Show I asked Emma what inclusive growth means to her. Why does she think it’s important, particularly in the professional services sector?

From a professional services perspective, as a client-serving business, we are our people. That’s what we have, a large number of absolutely amazing people. Our people will be at their best if they are engaged, feel included, able to be themselves at work.

Having an inclusive culture enables all sorts of things. I was talking to someone the other day about an incredibly high-performing team with an inclusive leader. Everyone wants to know, “What’s the magic there?” The magic is, that you don’t just have this diverse group of people on paper, you have a diverse group of people who are led in such a way that all their voices are heard. And if there is a quiet voice, then there’ll be a way that this leader will bring that voice out.

You look at teams like that, and you just see that with an inclusive culture, there is the foundation for diversity. Respect is the foundation that sits below inclusion. It’s the one word I haven’t really mentioned, but the big push for me was that word “respect”.  Respect for each other, frankly. And that to me is what inclusive growth is all about, it’s about enabling a business, enabling a team and enabling a business to be the best that they can be, where they knock the ball out of the park.’

To find out more about Emma Codd’s work visit her LinkedIn page. You can also download a copy of the Deloitte report on ‘Understanding the pandemic’s impact on working women’