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Chief Human Resources Officer
“Diversity” is more than a buzzword or corporate line item. Being around people who are different from us makes us more creative, diligent, and hard-working as we learn from each other. In an environment that emphasizes Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging (DEI&B), we become more empathetic, which enables us to better understand each other’s feelings and circumstances and often leads to more innovative thinking and improved outcomes. This shapes not just a better workplace, but a better world. And it’s why, as Avaya works on transformation across our business, DEI&B is a major focus in our pursuit as a Destination Place to Work.
As a global technology company, Avaya has always benefitted from having representation of diverse cultures. Leading the way in collaboration solutions and living our own technologies, we have been seeing the benefits of bringing teams together across geographies for years, with varying perspectives leading to speed and more innovative ideas in solving challenges of all kinds.
We’ve seen exponential value as our focus on DEI&B has grown with the individuals in these diverse teams increasingly comfortable being their authentic selves and feeling greater acceptance, value and belonging — which is strongly correlated with higher engagement, performance, and innovation. All of this helps build a better work experience, and better solutions, better customer support and service, and better outcomes for all.
You’d think that as our world grows increasingly diverse, we would naturally grow more diverse in thought. Unfortunately, the opposite is happening. One study published in 2020 found that as diversity increases, people paradoxically perceive social groups as more similar. In other words, people lean more into learned attitudes and stereotypes in diverse contexts.
This needs to be combatted, and organizations – especially global enterprises like Avaya – have a great platform to do so with programs that celebrate and amplify diversity. We do this through a variety of Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) that bring together our team members who identify as a member of a represented group, as well as those who advocate as allies. Over the past year, Avaya ERG members spearheaded efforts to drive change while fostering cultural learning and supporting inclusion across our teams.
Fortunately, from executive leadership on down at Avaya, we fully believe in and actively promote the importance of DEI&B. Our goal as a Destination Place to Work is to create a culture of belonging where every person feels equally included, valued, heard, and respected. In Avaya’s recent employee engagement survey, an overwhelming majority of Avaya employees said they value the progress the company made in DEI&B in 2022.
Avaya’s seven Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) are core to our DEI&B strategy:
In 2022, each ERG spotlighted areas for change and created opportunities for learning. For example, WIN@A hosted self-love and body acceptance workshops for employees, young adults, and teens. API@A celebrated Asia Pacific Heritage Month through education, prizes, and publications. ABLE continues to educate internally on Black History Month, Juneteenth and sponsors the engagement of black leaders like Dr. Sian Proctor, a geoscientist, explorer, space artist, and astronaut who shared her experiences as a keynote speaker at our Avaya ENGAGE 2021 customer conference. And last summer, the Avaya PRIDE Network hosted a virtual panel discussion on the topic of belonging and the importance of acceptance.
Each of Avaya’s ERGs are strong in their own purpose, but strongest when working together. This was evidenced at Avaya’s inaugural SPARK WEEK 2022 — a week-long internal event hosted by representatives from each Avaya ERG and was open to all employees who wanted to invest in their well-being and professional development.
The response was unbelievable, and it proved the power of a collective ERG effort in addition to the independent work of each group (we’re already collaborating for SPARK WEEK 2023). But our efforts can’t stop here. While DEI&B continues to be a priority focus internally, we have a responsibility to do whatever we can to create a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive world, especially at a time when these traits are so very needed. Avaya’s response to this is Avaya United.
As Avaya refocuses under strong new leadership to help our customers to “innovate without disruption,” we’re also reimagining our ERG program while retaining its core focus of DEI&B. We are proud of all that we have accomplished, but we have many opportunities to build on our successes. To take things to the next level, we are launching Avaya United, the official shared voice for Avaya’s equity and inclusion initiatives. Each ERG’s identity will remain but will also be part of a larger collective to position Avaya as a Destination Place to Work that values a variety of voices and open sharing of ideas, as well as one that influences change outside of company walls.
Promoting our external impact can be achieved in several ways: by connecting members to business stakeholders who want to embed diversity into their operations and core strategies, participating in volunteer activities and charitable giving aligned with each ERGs mission, and leveraging the collective voice of Avaya United to better understand our customers and serve underrepresented groups.
Internally, Avaya United will provide a broader platform to represent both the identities of our existing ERGs and the intersectionality between them. It serves as a thought leadership hub, where all ERG members can come together to create value, build, share knowledge, spearhead collective action in support of DEI&B objectives, and to create an environment where both people and innovation can thrive.
The name “Avaya United” captures our vision for 2023 and beyond:
Our efforts are making a difference! Team members who participate in our ERGs and learning sessions become more fully engaged and feel more empowered, in all aspects of their work and outside life.
As a company, the more voices we bring to the table the better. Supporting an environment for open dialogue provides an opportunity for greater understanding and perspective, which in turn sparks innovation, and supports better outcomes for all. It can also fuel transformation — as is the case for the important transformation journey Avaya is on right now.
Together, we can work toward a more diverse, inclusive, equitable and effective workplace and ultimately, toward a more united global society. And a brighter future for all. It all starts with us.
Let’s all work to make 2023 our best year yet by being #UnitedinPurpose!