By: Daniel Stewart - President & Executive Consultant
As leaders continue to balance DE&I initiatives with other business demands, it can be helpful to examine the successes of other organizations for lessons on how to achieve DE&I goals. The Forbes fifth annual America's Best Employers for Diversity list can give leaders some essential tips and inspiration for achieving their own goals—and what to do if they don't meet them.
Here are four important lessons we can learn from some of the companies on the list:
ChristianaCare, a 13,000-person healthcare provider in Delaware, set a goal to increase its percentage of non-white employees at the director level and above by 15% in three years. However, despite other improvements, the company fell short of that goal and actually decreased the number of non-white employees in leadership in that time. The organization still has managed to move up the Forbes list to number 40, though, and the chief diversity officer says she is "encouraged" by the system's progress.
Companies setting DE&I metrics would do well to remember that despite the best efforts and intentions, progress may still be slower than hoped or even one of "two steps forward, one step back." Looking at metrics from year to year is helpful, but it may not tell the entire story or reveal all of the improvements made. Look at the big picture, celebrate wins, and reset to make more improvements.
Progressive, the number one company on the list, has a robust collection of Employee Resource Groups and promotes a variety of workshops and speakers bureaus that encourage and facilitate conversation between different groups of people. Employees do not have to be members of the demographic to participate in ERGs, and in a video on the company's website, several employees talk about how much they've learned by participating in these groups.
As important as it is to set hiring goals, it may be even more important to encourage connection and conversation within existing employee groups to create a culture where people can learn and even safely disagree with each other. These conversations support inclusion efforts across the organization by creating an organic human connection that allows everyone to look beyond stereotypes.
At VMware, the number two company on the Forbes list, DE&I includes a significant commitment to disability, wellness, and neurodiversity inclusion. As a software company, this commitment isn't just about ensuring accessibility in the workplace; it also means driving innovation that guarantees accessibility for end-users. The company recently joined the Valuable 500, an organization on a mission to "drive lasting change for the 1.3 billion people worldwide" who live with some disability.
While all aspects of DE&I are important, VMware offers a powerful reminder that inclusion not only involves people with different physical, intellectual, or learning functionality within the organization. It also affects those outside the company who consume the products and services of an organization. By bringing those with disabilities into the conversation inside the firm, VMware is also improving the lives of those with disabilities outside the firm.
IT consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton, number three on the Forbes list, has prioritized diversity for some time. Under the leadership of CEO Horacio Rozanski, who took the company public in 2010, the company shifted its focus from counterterrorism to cyber threats, executed a strategic growth plan, and increased its emphasis on DEI initiatives and charitable endeavors. As of 2020, 31% of employees identified as Black, Indigenous, or people of color. At the same time, the company was setting record-high stock prices and reporting earnings that outpaced the competition.
While there are many factors behind growth and earnings, Booz Allen Hamilton proves that companies don't have to sacrifice DEI to hit financial goals. Rozanski's own experience fuels his passion for diversity; as an immigrant from Argentina, he joined the company in 1991 as an intern and rose to the position of CEO. In a 2020 interview with Forbes, he said, "When I first joined my knowledge of English, this country or politics wasn't as good as it is now, but what mattered was 'Can you do the work?', 'Are you willing to work hard?'" The company values hard work and diverse voices, and it shows in the bottom line.
While all of the organizations on the Forbes list are to be commended for their efforts, these lessons offer compelling arguments for the importance of DE&I efforts going forward. Steady progress is still progress, and organizations that pursue DE&I will reap countless benefits to company culture and the bottom line.
Contact Usadmin@sewi-atd.orgPhone: 608-204-9815Association ManagersSeth TrickelHeather L. Dyer, CAE