When is it time to look outside your org to resolve culture challenges?

September 29, 2022
When is it time to look outside your org to resolve culture challenges?

Stephanie Redivo is based in Vancouver and is the former Senior Director for a D&I at SAP (she worked at SAP for 18 years!) and is now spearheading the Equity Diversity and Inclusion program at TransLink. She's a renowned expert in the D&I and HR and speaks at conferences on this topic around the world. She's lead various teams and has also acted as an outside consultant. She has key insights into how People Leaders should approach unique culture challenges to emerge successful.

Know when to get outside help.

"external expertise is often beneficial because internally you may not have that expertise"

What have been some situations you've encountered where you either reached out for external help or wish that you had?

That's a great question, external expertise is often beneficial because internally you may not have that expertise. A prime example, is a topic I reached out recently for external help on, was a session on LGBTQIA+. Through a workshop, my team learned about language, allyship and terminology. I found having an external speaker come in to present added credibility. It also allowed me to see the questions and comments that were asked by my team. So I would say that’s one example of where it’s beneficial to have that additional expertise.

How should organizations prepare third parties before bringing them?

The first way to prepare the 3rd party would be to convey any recent leadership changes. For example, if you have a new CEO or have had a lot of experienced people leave the organization. Also, it’s important to discuss internal influencers in your organization. Who are those people that are crucial and have a lot of influence on internal culture?

I remember when I started working at Translink, I was faced with the decision on whether or not we should do high importance emails. It seemed like a small thing but it forces us to ask ourselves ‘Do our employees work early? Or late? Do they like to work in person or do they prefer to work online?' All these small details are important as well when bringing in a third party, and making sure I give them enough background information to get my money's worth.

When an HR or a Diversity & Inclusion professional is thinking of bringing in a third party, what are some common situations where that may be particularly helpful?

I think workshops can be helpful, such as for Indigenous culture or about terminology (as I mentioned before). Another example would be if you want to bring in someone to look at your processes or if you're looking at creating a leadership program. These are all classic examples where you may want to bring in an external consultant.

Third parties can include certifications too. At SAP we went through the Edge certification (EDGE stands for Economic Dividends for Gender Equality). This certification was one of the most comprehensive certifications because it used surveys to engage our employees on this issue. We also had to pull data and review our policies. At the end of the program, you had to create an action plan to accomplish your set goals. You could only keep the certification for a couple of years before having to do it again. Another certification we did at SAP was the Rick Hanson program, and we had somebody come in and look at our ‘built in environment’ which essentially means looking at how a person in a wheelchair would be able to get around. This is another great example of an external certification that helps ensure your environment is safe and supportive for people with disabilities.

And then of course if you’re a smaller organization there will be times you’ll need legal advice or require change experts in the case your organization is going through significant changes. Finally, software is another option for a 3rd party. If you need to be collecting data on an issue you might need an external vendor. However, I think our expectation of software is that it’s going to ’save’ us but it's important to be realistic of what software can and can’t do. For example, collecting data isn’t going to be helpful unless there is an action plan around how to use it.

What are some important methods or metrics when looking for external expertise?

Even before you go out and start looking for that external expertise, your team needs to be clear on what's critical for the external expert to bring to the table. Is it the number of years they’ve been working, is it the location? Will it be virtual? I mean last year if you were to have a face-to-face session you might not be paying for an external consultant to come from Ontario but nowadays having a virtual session is okay. I honestly don’t think location or industry is too important in my experience. Yes, the industry is important, but having expertise from a different industry can be hugely helpful. Even my own experience went from technology to the transportation industry and utilizing those transferable skillsets.

Learn more about Stephanie's journey in DEI and access all of her recommendations here.

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