'Women leadership is a really important focus area for us': Cathy Engelbert, CEO, Deloitte

Employee turnover within the organisation is at an all-time low, which means that investing in its people, in the lifecycle of employees, is reaping dividends, says Englebert.

Looking at diversity very holistically, obviously women leadership is a really important focus area for us, added Engelbert.
“We want our employees to be colleagues for life,” says Deloitte chief executive Cathy Engelbert, adding that employee turnover within the organisation is at an all-time low, which means that investing in its people, in the lifecycle of employees is reaping dividends. Engelbert, who was in India recently, spoke to Sreeradha D Basu on looking at diversity across a multi-generational workforce and how it plans to focus in a bigger way on their recently-launched inclusion councils. Edited excerpts:

What are the main focus areas going to be for your diversity inclusion agenda for the coming year?

We are facing about five generations in our workforce today. So anything we do around inclusion or diversity has to consider that we have a multi-generational workforce, that you have to put in programmes for that to resonate across the life cycle of these employees – be it the 20-somethings off campuses, or the people who are a few years from retirement.

Looking at diversity very holistically, obviously women’s leadership is a really important focus area for us. As a female leader, I think people look to female leaders to make sure that they are paying it forward and making sure that we are driving a robust pipeline of female leaders to the next generation leaders.

We just helped to launch an effort that we call RI — Reimagining Inclusion — so really reimagining what inclusion means for our people. That’s because a lot of our young people that are coming into the firm today that are not identifying with one cohort group. They are not saying: ‘I am this’. They are saying: ‘I want to actually be in an environment where there is a diverse set of people and ideas so that I can learn from them and I can have allies in the network around who sponsors me, who I look to be the role model for me’.

Tell us about the inclusion councils that you launched last year.

Everybody wants to be part of a diverse environment, not just with people who look like them or think like them. It’s actually been an interesting shift and we are kind of the first ones out there with this idea called Inclusion Councils. We piloted it in some of our offices including Chicago, San Francisco and New York, but it is something we are talking about bringing into some of our own offices in India as well. It works because instead of bringing people together from one ethnic group or one what we called cohort groups, which they may have identified with previously, it actually brings all of them together in a room. Participation in these groups has gone up. Digital natives are growing up in a much more diverse world, so they just feel like they are more connected.

This is happening across groups and levels: from junior to partners. The old thinking was just be with your cohort group. But what’s happened is just being with your cohort doesn’t give you sponsors outside your cohort group and if the powerful people in the organisation are people of one cohort, then you are not getting diversity and leadership because people tend to pick people who look like them. This is an attempt to put everybody together as they drive the programmes that they want to participate and it’s voluntary. So far we are seeing a huge uptick in participation.

So they are basically the voice of the group they represent and then they take forward the ideas to the leadership team, which decides how to take those initiatives forward…

Exactly, and then you get a broad view of the issues facing them versus just as a cohort group. In the old thinking, people said ‘OK but that’s just one group’. Now you can’t say that anymore. Now it comes from this very inclusive group. We are pretty excited about this initiative and a lot of our clients are now asking about it. So that is something in 2018 that we will be looking to really roll out both in India as well as in the US and determine whether this is a global thing we should do .

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