As an ever-evolving organization, ISS sees how the increasing globalization has meant that time, place and the workspace interactions have taken on a new meaning and different characteristics. With the advancements in technology and digital communication, many employees are not as physically bound or even personally attached to their space of work and environment. This could result in that organizations perhaps see greater distancing between employees and lesser sense of community. At ISS, however, this has not been the case in our work with diversity and inclusion. The notion of a globalized mindset is intrinsically a part of being an international organization consisting of about 470,000 employees operating in 44 countries. Thus, we have taken an innovative approach to launching a global diversity & inclusion community, through which employees are given empowerment to collaborate on various diversity & inclusion initiatives on a global scale.

The current diversity and inclusion journey at ISS demands an agile approach in the sense that we are creating a community based entirely on voluntary resources. This means that employees in the community are solely driven by their passion and desire to create a positive impact within ISS and beyond. With our global D&I Community being launched in January 2020, more than 150 employees have signed up already and 14 voluntary working groups are established collaborating on various Diversity & Inclusion initiatives.

A Shared Purpose And Empowerment Is Key

The D&I Community is based on communication and networking in the sense that it relies on the partakers to form connections with colleagues that they would not otherwise be connected with and hereby share knowledge and best practices across countries. The community-building process and the viability of the established working groups hinges on digital and technological platforms, and these are essential to the process of creating a community from within our organization. The ability to collaborate in global teams, furthermore, strengthens the intercultural ties and improves the quality of the initiatives as more diversity and perspectives are included.

The main aspect as to why we consider our community-building process successful, so far, is that we have tried to engage our employees through a strong sense of shared purpose and by granting full empowerment. While the foundation of our business consists of creating great physical spaces where people can work and interact efficiently, our diversity & inclusion agenda is centered on relations between employees, along with well-being and inclusiveness in the working environment. The purpose of our work with diversity and inclusion is that every employee and customer – no matter their location, position, age, gender, religion etc. – should be able to bring their ‘authentic self’ to work. We hereby see an overlap in our purpose and the approach used within the D&I Community, in that partakers are encouraged to work authentically with initiatives. The role of our D&I Community is to be a hub of creating awareness and sharing experiences across our organization. The roots of the Community are not based on socialization or monetary compensation, but rather formed by the desire to make a difference. Thus, all partakers uniqueness and passions are the driving force.

Using Social Media

In this initial part of our journey, social media has proven to be quite effective expanding and engaging with our D&I Community. Social media provides the forum wherein nudging from key individuals and the mindset of empowerment in the D&I Community forms the perfect combination for employees to authentically engage with the agenda. We have chosen to use the UN international days related to Diversity and Inclusion – including celebrations and events – as a vehicle for emphasizing our agenda. Our efforts in the celebration of International Women’s Day 2020 flourished on the digital platforms and emphasized how individual employees can achieve impact through social media. By passing a digital baton and nominating colleagues across the globe to share their #EachforEqual poses, we found a way to spotlight our global diversity and inclusion target of achieving at least 40% gender balance across all leadership roles at ISS by 2025. With few tools and rules, the D&I Community did a massive amount of work in creating awareness and having an impact, merely by authentically being themselves on social media.

The journey ahead

Even with our current successful outlook, launching a D&I Community across a global organization is inevitably a process that contains many emotions and will continue to be a journey with challenges to be addressed. We expect to be challenged by the nature of dealing with an agenda with many various stakeholders – and by the mere fact that we are a multicultural organization. This can all affect how we create and implement the changes necessary to move the agenda forward. People are always at the core of our business and our primary role will therefore be to foster the genuine human interest that reaffirms how the efforts we make have actual impact and go beyond the borders of ISS. We remain very optimistic, as the amount of interest and willingness to participate in various capacities indicates a platform for success. We also sincerely hope to be able to share many more experiences as our D&I Community continues to grow and create real impact.