Client roundtable: An opportunity for many DEI experts to come together

client roundtable dei diversity and inclusion inclusion sonova Apr 23, 2024

Following the success of our Client Round Table with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in Lausanne in June 2023, Thriving Talent, in collaboration with Sonova, hosted the next edition on February 29th. Sonova and Thriving Talent extended invitations to the "DEI - Leading with Disability Inclusion" client roundtable, an event that brought together a diverse group of employees and leaders from 16 companies to discuss Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI) strategies and share insights on Disability Inclusion. With the changing landscape of DEI due to CSRD regulations, this event provided participants with the opportunity to learn from others and explore how to integrate Disability Inclusion into their DEI initiatives.

Setting the stage

The event kicked off with a warm welcome from Sonova, a global leader in innovative hearing solutions. In introductions by Katya Kruglova (Group Vice President Human Resources & Communications), Christiane Jelinek (VP Group Communications & Branding), and Isabel Imhof (Global Head of Talent, VP) Sonova provided insights into their innovative solutions for hearing instruments and cochlear implants, which are utilised by millions worldwide on a daily basis, and shared about their DEI journey so far and the importance for them of hosting events to network and learn from each other as part of that journey.

Following this, Deborah Croft, Co-CEO at Thriving Talent, emphasised the importance of cultivating an inclusive culture where all employees feel valued and represented. Creating a workplace culture where all employees can navigate moments that matter in their lives, through the years, without fear, failure, overwhelm and regret, is imperative. To achieve this, leaders from the top down need to actively champion the adoption of policies, benefits and resources. This also includes thinking about the needs of (future) employees with disabilities.

Insights from the presentations

Three inspiring speakers from Merck, PwC, and Sonova, shared their proven practices on the theme of Leading with Disability Inclusion. 

Jasmin Danzeisen from PwC explored Disability Inclusion and Sustainability Reporting, emphasising its growing importance for businesses due to regulatory requirements and stakeholder expectations. European regulations like the Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD) mandate companies to disclose their social and environmental impacts. Implementing CSRD requires a holistic approach involving legal analysis, materiality assessment, and strategy development. Companies are urged to integrate sustainability into their business strategy and monitor the impact on employees and the environment. The importance of including people with disabilities is highlighted in recruitment, employment, and creating accessible work environments.

Navleen Kaur, Global Head of DEI at Sonova, underscored disability inclusion within CSRD, advocating a human rights-based approach. Supportive measures include implementing policies like reasonable accommodations and accessibility inclusion, alongside integrating disability awareness into language and conducting building assessments. Sonova emphasises enhancing disability inclusion skills for all employees and providing guidelines for appropriate language and behaviours to avoid common misconceptions and false assumptions about disabilities.

Merck Switzerland's representative, Antonio Pavese, shared insights into their standout approach that includes the organisation "," which assists people with disabilities in securing jobs in the Swiss job market. Despite the acknowledged challenges such as accurately assessing capabilities and fitting into team dynamics, Merck highlights the benefits of welcoming and supporting new colleagues with disabilities. 

Adding a unique touch to the event was the synchronicity with the "World Hearing Day" celebration at Sonova. Additionally, Sonova role-models inclusive technology as the speakers' microphones were equipped with special enhancements, allowing individuals with hearing impairments to receive a clear and tailored audio message during the presentations and Q&A sessions. 

Interactive session: brainstorming for change

After the presentations, everyone took part in a brainstorming session. Split into groups, participants reflected on which proven practices discussed during the event could be effectively implemented as well as which practices already existed in their respective organisations.

The participants were particularly impressed by several initiatives, including the use of inclusive language, collaboration with external recruitment agencies such as to integrate people with disabilities, ESGS reporting, and the emphasis on accessibility and accommodation in company facilities. Creating an overall culture of inclusion and equity and especially involving middle management in driving inclusion efforts, was identified as keys to success. Many took away these practices as potential follow-up actions within their companies.

Last but not least, participants shared their existing best practices. In addition to ensuring physical accessibility in buildings, they highlighted efforts to ensure digital accessibility by designing websites to be compatible with tools like screen readers. Additionally, companies maintain inclusion dashboards to collect data and metrics for informed decision-making. Employer Resource Groups (ERGs) emerged as vital platforms within companies for people with disabilities, allowing their voices and needs to be heard. Furthermore, companies enforce supplier diversity through certifications, providing guidelines to suppliers regarding diversity and inclusion criteria to be considered as a supplier for the company.

Be a host, lead the conversation: elevate DEI with your company

This event provided a wonderful opportunity for like-minded DEI experts to reconvene and exchange insights, fostering a hopeful atmosphere as the event concluded. These roundtables serve as a great platform for our clients to meet, exchange ideas, and learn from each other. If you're interested in joining future events, we'd love to collaborate with you. Please book a call to discuss how we can help you achieve your DEI goals and become an integral part of our ever-growing community of DEI expertise and leadership.


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