Grounding in Healing To Navigate the DEI Landscape in 2024

Feb 7, 2024 11:00 AM ET
Grounding in healing to navigate the DEI landscape in 2024

Dr. Sally Saba, Medtronic Chief Inclusion and Diversity Officer and Medtronic Foundation President

Healing means different things to different people.

For me, healing means going from a place of judgment, questioning our self-worth, body-mind dis-ease, and lack of inner vitality, to a place of acceptance, self-worth, mind-body wellbeing, and the reignition of that internal life spark — the vital energy that drives our passion, purpose, and sense of fulfillment.

And in a corporate context, the principle of healing can apply if you translate it into intentional initiatives that address and repair the psychological, emotional, and cultural trauma that relate to workplace exclusion, intolerance, toxicity, and discrimination. Employees contribute more of our effort and best thinking when we are in an environment that fosters what healing and true belonging brings to our lives.

As a physician, and avid learner on human healing, this is how I approach my role as Chief Inclusion and Diversity Officer.

Inclusion, Diversity, and Equity (ID&E) practitioners know the value of fostering a more inclusive and equitable workplace, addressing systemic inequities, and promoting a sense of belonging among employees. At the same time, it’s no secret that companies are facing increasing challenges — including DEI backlash, the rollback of civil rights legislation, and extreme polarization.

I believe that during challenging times, it is more important than ever to see each other as humans.

To understand each other as equally worthy.

To recognize that what ails one group in our society ails us all.

To lean into the power of collective healing. 

At Medtronic, we’ve seen how ID&E not only inspires our employees but supports our work in service of our Mission (you can read highlights of our work here). Our pledge to contribute to a more equitable, healthier world is stronger than ever.

Why are we staying committed and how do we evolve?

Our Why: ID&E is about people – and innovation is a people-powered business 
Every person has a unique background, perspective, and lived experience. And everyone needs — and deserves — to be respected, feel valued, and feel they truly belong. Different perspectives make teams smarter, and smarter teams are more creative and better problem-solvers.

How we treat each other matters. 

How we are treated is reflected in our performance.

There is real and tangible business value (e.g., lower attrition, higher engagement, greater collaboration, improved productivity, increased innovation, and better performance) in bringing our authentic selves to work – especially when you consider that’s where the average person will spend one-third of their lives.

And for an individual, the value is more wellbeing. If you don’t believe me, just think about the last time you felt excluded and be honest about how well you functioned in that moment.

Our commitment to ID&E at Medtronic is anchored in this simple but profound principle that inclusion directly supports our business strategy by driving new ideas and innovations, and ultimately helps us serve more patients.

People expect companies to care about the things they care about 
Societal challenges are not going away, and neither is bias (as long as we are humans, we will have bias). People want companies to play an increasingly active role in addressing equity issues.

In fact, business remains the only trusted institution globally (yes, that’s above government, media, and NGOs) and 62% expect CEOs to manage changes occurring in society, according to the recently released 2024 Edelman Trust Barometer. More and more customers, as well as current and prospective employees, are looking for their companies to be good corporate citizens.

Also, those prospective employees want to know they will have equal access to opportunity. When considering a job, 69% say societal impact is a strong expectation and 80% say inclusion is important.

That said, opinions about the value of ID&E vary widely along demographic and political lines. As ID&E practitioners, how can we help bridge this gap?

Cultivating an inclusive culture for ALL

Let’s be clear. Diversity for diversity's sake should not be the objective. While tracking representation can help an organization measure progress in advancing equity for underrepresented populations, how you foster an inclusive culture is not just as important but even more critical.

Help employees see how equity is for everyone — truly. 
And most importantly, engage with curiosity in a meaningful dialogue along the way.

We all benefit when we work in places where different perspectives are heard. It’s not just what you do, but how you approach ID&E that matters.

Everyday behaviors that contribute to inclusive culture are 
key to making meaningful, sustainable impact the right way — 
and not merely check a performative, short-term box.

At Medtronic, we’re focusing our ID&E efforts on effective, research-backed practices to build diverse global teams and inclusive environments. This includes governance, leadership accountability, inclusive hiring practices that reduce bias at each stage of the decision-making process, and equitable access to career development and sponsorship opportunities. 

The call to action for all of us: Don’t shy away from ID&E concepts because of current pressures. Let’s stay deeply curious and keep this challenging conversation alive, on all sides. Through dialogue, understanding, and listening we can indeed create workplaces that truly benefit both humans and drive economic vitality. And along the way, my hope is that we can all find some healing for ourselves and each other.

Follow Dr. Sally Saba on LinkedIn for additional insights and commentary: