November 18, 2021
Chief Scientific Officer, Syneos Health
In recent years, many businesses have taken a greater interest in fostering diversity and inclusion within their organizations. To do this, leadership must develop a strong diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) framework.
During a panel at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s 2021 Business Solves conference, leaders of successful companies shared how they have prioritized this critical work, as well as how other organizations can successfully replicate their DEI models.
DEI Must Be Embedded Within Company Culture Across the Organization
Marsha Jones, chief diversity officer at PNC, noted that diversity, equity, and inclusion must be recognized as a core value of an organization.
“As we put those values as a mirror up against any environment that we’re in, we ask ourselves … what our values indicate is the right thing for us to [do],” said Jones.
For this process to be successful, DEI must be embedded within the company culture across the organization.
“With the strong support and advocacy of the C-suite, particularly our CEO, that really motivates us to create this scalable global DEI platform across the enterprise,” explained Joe Simms, chief diversity officer of Stanley Black & Decker. “[It] permeates the entire management team and leadership team, that focus, and commitment.”
Companies Must Listen to Employees and Realize Opportunities to Implement DEI Initiatives
Simms credited his company’s use of employee resource groups (ERGs) — specifically, “authentic, transparent listening sessions” within and across groups — as a means of supporting and educating the entire team.
“Much of what we do with our ERGs … starts with a very consistent repeatable model,” Simms said, citing the listening sessions as a means of understanding how to best act on the issues faced by different minority groups. “[Then] we speak out on things when we know we can do something about it.”
Chris Winton, senior vice president of human resources at FedEx Ground, emphasized the importance of “duplicating and creating intentional pathways” to success. One way to do this is removing access barriers, such as degrees for certain jobs that can be trained for within the company.
“When you’re in a labor constraint market, go straight to the bottom line,” Winton said. “Our DEI strategy is connected right to our profitability because we’re improving retention, creating pathways, and diversifying our white-collar workforce and our executive team at the same time.”
Allyship Is Essential to the Success and Impact of DEI Efforts
The creation of inclusive corporate culture is everyone’s responsibility, said Jones, and a few individuals will not have the widespread impact necessary to create real, lasting change.
“We have to create an army of inclusion champions across the organization to be able to help us,” Jones said.
She added that in order to create these champions, leaders must “create … a culture where people feel that they can contribute and that their opinions matter.”
Winton also noted the importance of allyship in the efforts and impact of DEI initiatives across organizations.
“There’s a picture that I keep hanging on my wall as a constant reminder: ‘He Ain’t Heavy’ by Gilbert Young — it’s a hand reaching down from a cliff and a hand reaching up,” Winton shared. “I would challenge everyone to always be both hands: reach down to pull someone else up, but always keep a hand reaching up so that you can continue to gain new insights. Then, we all stay connected to create the pathways of making a difference.”