Ranjit Dhindsa, Head of EPIC at Fieldfisher, had the great privilege of interviewing Francisca Beloso Garcia, Global Head of People at CBRE regarding some of the initiatives that they have taken to improve diversity, equality and inclusion within CBRE.
CBRE is a global organisation with over 105,000 employees and Francisca is the Global Head of People responsible for the Division of Data Centre Solutions at CBRE with employees in North America, Latin America, Asia Pacific and EMEA. She has approximately 7,000 employees in her division.
CBRE Group, Inc. is a Fortune 500 and S&P 500 company and is the world’s largest commercial real estate services and investment firm. Global Workplace Solutions (GWS) is a division of CBRE uniquely positioned to provide a complete set of services to occupiers of commercial real estate around the world. GWS is redefining ‘workplace’ because they believe every place of work can become a competitive advantage for their clients. Data Centre Solutions (DCS) delivers fully converged real estate, facilities, and technology solutions for data centre owners, occupiers and investors across the globe.
Francisca, when did CBRE start their focus on diversity, equality and inclusion issues and what is the structure of the diversity, equality and inclusion team?
Like most organisations, there was increased focus on diversity, equality and inclusion issues after the George Floyd murder in 2020. Like other companies, grass root pressure from employees, as well as from clients meant that companies had to react. CBRE acted swiftly and employed a Global Diversity, equality and inclusion and ESG head.
A deliberate decision was made to combine both functions and was named the Corporate Responsibility Office. Thereafter dedicated diversity, equality and inclusion heads were created for each region in the world. Each of our regions (Americas, APAC, and EMEA) has dedicated subject matter experts for on-the-ground leadership and support. and each country manager and other leaders were tasked to ensure the global and regional initiatives were being implemented at a local level.
Was it hard to recruit diversity, equality and inclusion experts?
The company was very clear that these were specialist roles and recognised that it had to spend time developing the correct skills, which may not have been available internally. It was necessary to hire people and to ensure that the job role and descriptions were specific, particularly in a global organisation. Under our Corporate Responsibility Officer’s guidance, the enterprise DE&I team has grown nine times larger. Members of the DE&I team offer a wide range of skills from data analytics, program management, talent acquisition, communications, and marketing, to community management and operational excellence.
How does the diversity, equality and inclusion strategy impact you in your role as a Global Head of People?
I am one of the leaders who has been tasked to ensure that I have implemented two or three diversity, equality and inclusion objectives. As such, I will be asked to discuss this as part of my annual performance review.
Most managers will have one objective to achieve. However senior leaders are expected to achieve two or three diversity, equality and inclusion objectives over the course of the year.
There is therefore a very clear connection between the global diversity, equality and inclusion strategy and what is being implemented on the ground in each region, country and department.
As of 2022, every employee has been asked to include one diversity, equality and inclusion goal as part of their performance reviews. It is important to CBRE that DE&I is a responsibility for everyone.
What have been some of the challenges that you have identified?
There have been three key challenges.
The first is collecting hard data in different countries. It is extremely difficult to collect the same data in different jurisdictions given the variety of local laws that exist. I have been an advocate of collecting soft data through the voices of employees. This could be through networks or employee surveys, it is not necessary to rely on hard data all the time.
The second big challenge has been the cultural context of diversity, equality and inclusion issues in each region and country. One of the most controversial topics has been classifying people according to their ethnicity. The UK and US tend to dominate with their classifications which may not be appropriate across Europe or the rest of the world. I am of Spanish heritage. In the US I can be classified as a Latino. However, I do not view myself that way. Many Spanish people may view themselves as being White, while others do not accept the classification of White, Latino or Hispanic. This is just one example of some of the issues that can arise when trying to collect standard data globally.
Lastly, it is important to remember that diversity, equality and inclusion is a journey. At CBRE we do not want to take cosmetic steps but make real change and that will take time. We recognise we have come a long way but still have a lot of work to do.
What have been the employees reaction to what the company is doing?
Like many companies there was a lot of energy and focus on diversity, equality and inclusion in 2020. Public statements were made which I do believe were branding exercises in many cases. In CBRE we try to be honest and transparent. Not one person is an expert in diversity, equality and inclusion. We are all learning and try to be open and transparent with what the company is doing. However, there is a balance and we have to be careful not to create inclusion and diversity fatigue.
Is there a business case to carry out diversity, equality and inclusion initiatives?
Businesses exist to make money. However, businesses are being influenced to focus on diversity, equality and inclusion because of consumer, employee and client demands. Consumers are demanding that companies operate in a diverse and inclusive way. In turn, our clients are making the same demands on us. There isa very clear business reason to take the steps that we are taking. However, we are also conscious that we have to take a long-term view rather than a short-term view and things will take time to improve.
How will you measure success?
We have set certain objectives on diversity. We will measure success using both hard data and soft data. Some of our goals include:
- Creating an inclusive culture: Authentic feedback from our people is a big part of our culture. Employees have been sharing their perspectives more regularly and this indicates that they feel safe and valued and believe our company will take action on their feedback. We leverage our annual employee engagement survey as well as required inclusion training to measure and address areas of opportunity and recognize progress. Input from the more than 17,000 members of our employee business resource groups also inform and contribute to our DE&I strategy for cultural change at the enterprise and regional levels.
- Attracting, retaining and developing talent: Across CBRE, we are an increasingly diverse workforce as a result of strategies to attract and retain top talent. In 2021, we began leveraging Talent Source, a technology to help us better capture the diversity of candidates and track their recruitment journey.
- Investing in our marketplace: Our marketplace efforts include accountability through reporting and performance -- specifically, supplier diversity. In late 2020, CBRE pledged to spend $1 billion with minority- and women-owned suppliers in 2021 and $3 billion by 2025, and our team has made strong progress toward those goals. As of 2022, we have surpassed our 2021 goal by 20%.
On soft data vs.Hard data
In conclusion my general view is that diversity, equality and inclusion is a complex area where many organisations can have high aspirations but then fail to deliver. It is better to focus on one or two initiatives and implement them properly. Organisations should also make much better use of the soft data they have available especially if hard data is not easy to obtain or standardise across different jurisdictions.
Thank you again to Francisca for taking the time to speak with me. Her profile and contact details are available here: CIPD People Management Awards (cipdpmas.co.uk). To contact Ranjit Dhindsa, please email Ranjit.Dhindsa@Fieldfisher.com.
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