For global sports company adidas, ‘Impossible is nothing’ is much more than a tagline. As one of the most recognized and iconic brands in the world, adidas sees endless potential to transcend cultures – both on and off the field of play.

To be the best sports brand in the world, adidas needs to work with talent that reflects the diversity of its customers. In 2020, the company redefined its framework for diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) to clarify what DEI means to adidas as a company: championing individual uniqueness and cultivating a culture of belonging so that everyone can create at their best.

“Diversity means ensuring that we have a plethora of people from different backgrounds,” said Amanda Rajkumar, executive board member, Global Human Resources People and Culture at adidas. “Equity means putting fair processes in place across the board, for all employees. And inclusion means ensuring that the environment at adidas is one where everyone feels welcome. As the first non-white member of our executive board, these topics are close to my heart.”

Taking a Data-Driven Approach to DEI

Historically, our society has been an unequal playing field, and that inequality is still present in our workplaces. To promote equity, adidas is working to diversify its workforce and has set clear targets around ethnicity and gender.

For example, the company aims to fill at least 30% of new positions in the United States with Black and LatinX people. Globally, adidas is reforming its hiring and career development processes to increase representation of women and Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) at all levels.

“We need to ensure that hiring managers and recruiters understand the importance of our DEI imperatives and take affirmative action to support underrepresented groups,” said Rajkumar. “We don’t see it as lowering the bar, but as widening the gate for those who have not had the same starting point in life.”

adidas is one of the first companies on DAX (the German stock index) to collect data on DEI. It uses DEI insights not only to support decision-making, but also – crucially – to measure progress against its targets.

“There’s no point in setting targets if we cannot accurately measure our progress against them,” said Rajkumar. “Line managers can see the current diversity status of their teams, so they can have meaningful conversations with HR about how to improve and to meet their targets. Data is essential to getting this right.”

Creating Real Change

For too long, HR has been denied a seat at the executive table. The tumultuous events of 2020, including the Black Lives Matter movement and the COVID-19 pandemic, have brought HR to the fore.

“There’s no other department that can hold up a mirror to the organization,” said Rajkumar. “HR is the ombudsman between employer and employee. We represent the conscience of the firm, which is why HR has played such a crucial role in the last year.”

That’s why, in the third quarter of 2020, adidas introduced mandatory anti-racism and unconscious-bias training worldwide. The company also defined strategic focus areas to attract, recruit, promote, and retain a diverse workforce at all levels and areas of the business.

With SAP SuccessFactors Human Experience Management (HXM) Suite underpinning HR and talent processes at adidas across the entire employee life cycle, the company can measure progress against its ambitious DEI targets and create a work environment where all employees feel like they belong.

To learn more, watch Forward with Adam Grant in conversation with Amanda Rajkumar.

Deb Lyons is senior director of Global Marketing for SAP SuccessFactors.
This also appeared on SAP BrandVoice on Forbes.