At Achievers’ renowned annual event, ACE, HR leaders gather to network, share learnings, preview innovative employee engagement technologies, and hear new insights from industry experts.
This year at ACE 2021, a group of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) experts gathered virtually for a frank discussion led by Achievers Customer Success Manager, Wayne Wiley, on the state of DE&I in organizations today and the way forward for better inclusivity.
The conversation centered around:
- Getting started and overcoming obstacles
- Building and sustaining positive momentum
- Measuring success
- The crucial role of recognition in nurturing a sense of belonging, and
- How to create a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive culture
The starting point: DE&I advocates and experts weigh in
During their 60-minute open discussion, three panelists discussed what led them to their current roles as DE&I leaders within their respective organizations. For each of them, a common thread emerged — a lived experience and an innate desire to support equality in both their personal and professional lives.
For panelist Katrina (KT) Thornton, Senior Director, Global Equity, Diversity, and Inclusions at Kellogg, 2020 was the year that ignited new DE&I awareness and propelled the advancement of inclusivity initiatives within organizations globally. “It was a very intentional year — not just by the numbers, but by the practices that drove a culture shift,” reflected Katrina.
Co-panelist, Thaiz Chanman, VP, People Experience and Organizational Effectiveness, Remitly (formerly a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Leader at Amazon) echoed similar sentiments. She noted that many organizations took 2020 as an opportunity to reflect and renew their focus on DE&I, and to take new initiatives that would drive change.
Marcos Pesquera, the Systems Vice-President, Community Benefit, Healthy Equity, Diversity and Inclusions at CHRISTUS Health spoke about how he draws on his previous experience in healthcare to help the organization drive positive DE&I change — something that’s often easier said than done. “Your resilience muscle needs to be well developed,” he said. “You represent everyone, not just those who agree with you. Try to remain neutral and comfortable with incremental progress.”
Marco’s top three pieces of advice for DE&I advocates beginning their organization’s journey:
- Connect what you’re doing with the organization’s mission — Why is it important?
- Have a direct line of communication to the CEO with regular meetings to move initiatives forward and remove barriers
- Represent all sides and remain neutral
“See yourself as a culture architect. Share your experience and encourage others to do the same,” suggested Thaiz. “There is power in the stories you have to tell.” Each of the Achievers panelists agreed that being an agent of change requires weaving DE&I through all that they do and taking every opportunity to have the conversation, no matter how difficult, to move the needle towards positive change.
Overcoming expected (and unanticipated) obstacles
Passion may be the driver that helps you succeed, but you will no doubt encounter obstacles to change within any organization. To be effective, Katrina suggests developing other key competencies within your skill set, including:
Courage: As a general rule, 1/3 of individuals will be excited by new DE&I initiatives, 1/3 won’t believe in it, and 1/3 will be afraid or unsure of how to engage. Your role is to clearly articulate concepts to each of these distinct groups, with the goal of nurturing alignment and advancement.
Cultural intelligence: Continue to gut-check your motives. DE&I is a hot topic today but requires a great deal of ongoing behind the scenes work to continually challenge your organization to do (and be) better.
Walk the talk: It goes without saying that you must lead privately what you preach publicly. Stay the course and stay true to your guiding principles no matter who is (or isn’t) looking.
Tools and systems to get you there
Employee resource groups provide the bedrock of safe spaces where employees can share their stories and become allies. More than just a social club, these forums help people connect, leverage their diversity, and support the organization in it’s DE&I evolution.
Tactically, surveys are another key tool for gathering and actioning employee feedback around DE&I. For instance, Achievers Listen™, part of the Achievers Employee Experience Platform™ not only provides a summary of employee sentiment, it helps leaders take immediate action on hot button issues as well as plan and execute longer-term initiatives to drive sustainable change — an invaluable tool for those focused on DE&I.
We know that feeling heard and included helps to nurture a sense of belonging, which correlates positively with productivity, job satisfaction, culture fit, and sense of purpose. In fact, belonging strongly correlates with every positive behavior or sentiment that was surveyed for in Achievers’ 2021 Culture Report. Frequent real-time pulse surveys are a great way to keep pace with the sense of belonging within your organization and to course-correct your DE&I initiatives as needed.
It’s also important to have a central location in which all your resources and supporting communications are stored and updated — readily accessible to all employees, whether they’re in-office or accessing via mobile. The Achievers Employee Experience Platform™ acts as a single source for recognition, rewards, and gathering your employee voice. It’s also a resource hub for your employees and a communication channel, removing barriers by providing equitable access and support across your workforce, no matter where they work.
The role of recognition
Combining recognition with diversity and inclusion efforts can triple the likelihood of achieving your DE&I objectives. For many leaders, it’s the missing piece of their DE&I puzzle. The Achievers Workforce Institute’s 2021 D&I Insights Report outlines why organizations who align their DE&I efforts with their recognition strategy see improved results for both programs.
In the report, we learn that this integration drives significant feelings of inclusion and belonging that lead to greater employee satisfaction and business outcomes.
2x as many employees feel a strong sense of inclusion at companies where recognition incorporates DE&I
Quick tips to integrate D&I with recognition and rewards:
- Bring your programs together: unite leaders of both programs to discover how each set of initiatives can work together
- Add recognition to existing DE&I initiatives: Encourage employees to recognize DE&I efforts among their peers
- Create DE&I recognition opportunities: Consider adding a recognition specific to DE&I into your program
- Use recognition data to assess DE&I trends: Achievers’ data science team helps organization identify key data, such as language trends, to understand and address nuances in how certain groups recognize which in turn informs recognition training programs.
For more on mapping the path to DE&I and recognition integration, download the complete 2021 D&I Insights Report.
Creating a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive culture
At a moment when many organizations are putting out public statements, our ACE 2021 DE&I session panelists emphasized that it is time to put talk aside and to demonstrate action. Accountability is key. Our internal customers (employees) come first, but we also have to be sure to show our external customers what we are doing as organizations to recognize and address inequalities. This includes being open to potentially uncomfortable conversations, and an understanding that action is critical.
Here is a list of quick tips from our panelists:
- Recognize and address all audiences and perspectives: Employees, business, and community
- Don’t get stuck in neutral, but recognize that progress takes time
- Incorporate a holistic approach with all that you do
- Balance the qualitative with the quantitative
- Embrace your opponents and bring others into the conversationThe work that DE&I specialists are doing today is difficult, complex, and challenging. It’s also rewarding. It isn’t about dividing people into groups. It’s about promoting unity and inclusivity. It’s an endeavor that organizations everywhere are undertaking, each at different stages of their journey.
Let Achievers be your ally as you work to progress diversity, equity, and inclusion within your organization. Listen to the ACE 2021 DE&I session on-demand then continue the conversation with one of our employee experience experts.