Three strategies critical to crafting a diversity strategy that drives real results:

  • “Build a knowledge base about employees’ concerns so you know where to make improvements,” said Sheri Crosby Wheeler, Global Vice President of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at design company Fossil Group.
  • Make sure your company’s DEI strategy is more than just recruiting, but also promoting: “Address an employee’s entire lifecycle. People need to feel they belong and can succeed,” said Dionna Smith, Global Head of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at home services tech platform Thumbtack.
  • Tap data to chart your DEI path: Measure and monitor diversity metrics with respect to pay equity, retention, new hires, internal promotions, and identified successors, said Antonio Robinson, Senior Vice President of Corporate Social Responsibility for children’s apparel brand Carter’s.

For top executives at children’s apparel brand Carter’s, home services tech platform Thumbtack, and Fossil Group, the global design firm known for its watches, diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) is much more than a feel-good philosophy or a passing trend. They know a commitment to DEI backed up by action is a business strategy that pays off in a concrete return on investment, executives told CO—in its feature series on big brands’ diversity strategies.

Here’s how three executives are leading their companies’ quest for DEI via employees, customers, products, processes, and in the communities they serve.

 Headshot of Sheri Crosby Wheeler, Global Vice President of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion for Fossil Group.
Sheri Crosby Wheeler, Global Vice President of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, Fossil Group. — Fossil Group

Strategy: Create safe spaces for employees to learn, connect, and share their knowledge and diversity

Sheri Crosby Wheeler, Global Vice President of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, Fossil Group

“Employees need to learn, connect, articulate their creativity, and share their knowledge and diversity,” Sheri Crosby Wheeler, Global Vice President of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion for the Fossil Group, told CO—.

Last year, the design firm synonymous with watches established Fossil Group Gatherings to facilitate just those interactions. “They are a safe space to talk about society, like after the Chauvin verdict [in the murder of George Floyd] and anti-Asian violence, or deepen knowledge on something DEI-related,” said Crosby Wheeler.

Results: The response was tremendous. “Employees say they feel seen, heard,” said Crosby Wheeler.

The company also launched six Employee Resource Groups [ERGs], whose purpose is to build a more inclusive environment and build community among those with a shared identity, such as racial or sexual identity. Combined, the Fossil Group Gatherings and ERGs boosted employee engagement, which proved integral to retaining and recruiting a diverse employee base, said Crosby Wheeler.

While some companies form councils and groups before creating a road map, Crosby Wheeler calls that strategy flawed.

At Fossil Group, “We didn’t just start ERGs. We dug into our data, talked to people. We found out what types of ERGs were wanted by employees, where we should focus, what was needed,” she said. “You don’t want to just throw something together to say you did something, that’s not effective.”

[Read: Fossil Exec Shares 5 Best Practices to Crafting a Diversity Strategy That Drives Real Results]

 Headshot of Dionna Smith, global head of diversity, equity and inclusion at Thumbtack.
Dionna Smith, Global Head of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, Thumbtack. — Thumbtack

Strategy: Ensure leaders are empowered and enabled to lead DEI

Dionna Smith, Thumbtack's Global Head of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

Dionna Smith, Global Head of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion for Thumbtack, is a big proponent of “leader-led DEI.”

To that end, every department at the tech company, a marketplace where you can hire local professionals for home improvement and other services, has a dedicated DEI ambassador that spearheads diversity initiatives for their unit. “They partner closely with the departments’ senior-most leaders to help ensure that leaders stay focused on our DEI commitments. Ambassadors meet regularly with the DEI team,” she said.

Diverse recruitment attracts employees, and a culture perceived as a place where all can succeed helps with retention.

Dionna Smith, Global Head of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, Thumbtack

Last year, Thumbtack established an Executive Diversity Council co-chaired by Smith and CEO Marco Zappacosta, which meets quarterly to share updates on DEI efforts and make recommendations for the next quarter.

There is also company-wide diversity training for all employees and in addition, the Executive Diversity Council hosts executive-level DEI and inclusive leadership training.

Results: Leaders groomed to be inclusive yield dividends, said Smith. Thumbtack’s demographics have expanded and the company is more diverse in its employees and leaders, she said.

“Diverse recruitment attracts employees, and a culture perceived as a place where all can succeed helps with retention.”

[Read: Thumbtack’s Global Head of Diversity Shares 5 Best Practices to Crafting a Diversity Strategy That Drives Real Results]

 Headshot of Antonio Robinson, senior vice president of corporate social responsibility, Carter's.
Antonio Robinson, Senior Vice President of Corporate Social Responsibility, Carter’s. — OshKosh B'Gosh/Carter's

Strategy: Be guided by data

Antonio Robinson, Senior Vice President of Corporate Social Responsibility for Carter’s

Research and data insights are critical tools that help companies chart their DEI path, Antonio Robinson, Senior Vice President of Corporate Social Responsibility for Carter’s, told CO—. “You have to do your homework,” he said.

For its part, Carter’s regularly measures and monitors diversity metrics with respect to pay equity, retention, new hires, internal promotions, and identified successors.

The brand’s internal analysis revealed that in 2020, 52% of its vice presidents and directors were women. Although Carter’s has been recognized as one of the best employers for women, Robinson said the company has been striving to obtain more racial and ethnic diversity at the vice president level and above.

Results: In 2020, 65% of Carter’s new hires for U.S. roles were racially or ethnically diverse. As a result, “We have gained more perspectives on how to serve our [diverse] consumers,” said Robinson.

[Read: Carter’s SVP Shares 5 Best Practices to Crafting a Diversity Strategy that Drives Real Results]

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Published September 14, 2022