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Cultivating Inclusive Leadership 

Contributed piece by: Heather Gupte, Transformation Catalyst – Samiracles Consulting (FA Consultant) and Debbie Masak, Vice President, Global Talent and Inclusion, First Advantage 

How in the world can we operate in the world without an inclusive culture, where our employees can be themselves, feel a sense of belonging, and have a voice in delivering outstanding customer service?  We hope readers consider this to be a rhetorical question because from our perspective, it’s hard to do. However, we welcome all mindsets and sincerely hope all of you will continue to read about our “why” and our “how” for our diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) journey. But, before we begin, we’d like to acknowledge that these are personal perspectives from our collaborative learning journey. First Advantage has provided us with a platform, through its blog, to share our personal learnings and share them with you.  

The impetus for inclusion 

We began our journey in mid-2020 because we recognized DE&I was an essential platform to propel our anticipated growth.  An inclusive culture was going to be a critical part of the infrastructure we needed to become who we are rapidly evolving into – a publicly traded company approaching nearly $1B in annual revenue.  It also became evident that our leadership team could benefit from understanding and actualizing the “Platinum Rule.”  While the “Golden Rule,” “treat others as YOU want to be treated”, is historically important, the Platinum Rule acknowledges that in today’s industrialized world, we are embracing one of the most diverse workforces in history, spanning gender, ethnicity, nationality, generation, and sexual orientation, just to name a few.   

This increases the likelihood of your colleagues and clients identifying differently than you do as their leader or service provider. If you treat members of your team and your clients as you want to be treated, there is a chance that they may not always communicate the same way as you do.  

The power found in the Platinum Rule 

The Platinum Rule is to treat others as they want to be treated.  This mindset takes into consideration the fact that we are all a bit different – and that’s okay.  Even identical twins have slightly different DNA.  Additionally, we have different life experiences which infuse the development of our brains, a process that extends into our early twenties. Finally, our individual hopes and fears shape the filter through which we experience and interpret the world, personally and professionally. This is especially important when you have customers in over 200 countries and employees in nearly 20 countries. 

These are some of the concepts which have guided our top people leaders since late 2021 in our DE&L Foundational Training workshop, where we explore what makes us the same or different.  Then, we discuss the physiological impact of feeling excluded.  After an insightful conversation about opportunities to activate equity within the organization, the workshop meanders into a science-based review of how and why our brain takes all kinds of shortcuts when it comes to decisions we make. 

Investing in inclusive leadership leads to results  

Developing the capabilities of our leaders is the core of our DEI&I efforts at FA.  We have supplemented the cultivation of inclusive leadership with the five Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) – African, Black and Caribbean, Women @ FA, Generations, Pride, and ¡VIVA! These groups are inclusive, welcoming participation from all company members, resulting in diverse attendance at their events. In fact, their events experience the broadest participation from those who aren’t necessarily members of those demographic groups.   

These ERGs are all led by employees with support from executives across each of our functions and geographies.  Their efforts since 2021 have contributed to dramatic improvements in the results of our global employee engagement and DE&I surveys and contributed to a powerful and cohesive culture. Developed by company leaders, the vision for DE&I at the company is as follows: “Operating with empathy and compassion, First Advantage commits to a global, diverse, and inclusive culture devoted to the diverse voices that make up our talent and products. We believe that inclusion drives engagement leading to the best performing teams where our team members inspire and empower each other to be their authentic selves and treat all with respect, integrity, and fairness.”

Judging by the results of our internal surveys and external recognition, we are making strides, and we hope to continue with the positive momentum. Some highlights include: 

  • Silver Stevie Award: First Advantage Fosters a Global Inclusive Workforce Devoted to Diverse Voices – Achievement in Diversity & Inclusion 
  • Comparably Awards 
    • Best Company for Diversity 2023 
    • Best CEO for Diversity 2023 
    • Best Global Culture 2023

We are proud of our progress and also know that much work remains. At First Advantage, inclusion isn’t just a buzzword, but a transformative force driving our growth and success. Our commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion isn’t just a goal, it’s our vision for a brighter, more equitable future. 

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