Diversity Executives are Rewriting Corporate Organizational Practices

By Advancing Diversity Archives
Cover image for  article: Diversity Executives are Rewriting Corporate Organizational Practices

Diversity executives (or more accurately DEIB executives -- diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging) are thoughtful, passionate, articulate and committed to their specialty and cause. They describe with pride the initiatives that they and their CEO leaders have taken in corporate or agency settings to make diverse employees feel more valued and welcomed. They survey employee satisfaction and show the progress that they are achieving. They humbly describe how much more they want and need to achieve.

Corporate organizations are built to achieve growth and profitability for shareholders; employee satisfaction is a secondary consideration. DEIB initiatives go a long way to rewrite organizational theory and put empathy, humanity and employee satisfaction at center stage.

DEIB executives recognize that the typical decentralized corporate structure is not built to foster a sense of "belonging" for employees, or to provide a safe space where people can support and learn from one another — to empathize, listen and understand behavioral issues that fall outside of the narrow performance focus of corporate organizations.

During Advancing Diversity Week (September 20-23), Shelley Zalis, CEO of The Female Quotient, moderated a panel titled "Spotlight on Leaders Effectively Using Their Influence to Champion Inclusivity" in which executives discussed DEIB innovations that could overcome the limitations of corporate cultures. Some of their thoughts and innovations are noted below. (You can view the panel in its entirety in the video at top.)

Dominique Worship, Vice President of Diversity & Inclusion at National Basketball Association (NBA), promoted Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) and Employee Resource Teams (ERTs) that "create safe spaces where employees can come together to process and support one another and have meaningful dialogues about really tough issues that they may not have otherwise been talking about in their day-to-day workplace." Dream in Color, the black ERT at NBA, was established in the summer of 2016 in the wake of the number of police shootings of unarmed black men and women. "ERGs and ERTs are the best practices we have, and we certainly take pride in them," Worship noted.

"We have something similar in our Affinity Groups at Citi," remarked Chinwe Esimali, Managing Director and Chief Anti-Bribery Officer at Citi. "We have a black heritage Affinity Group, a veteran's group and many others -- and senior members of the Citi organization oversee these groups and make sure that they are accountable. They are both bottoms-up and top-down to make sure we have a very integrated end-to-end approach. ERGs are also essential for younger team members to use as resources for sponsorship and mentoring. We encourage individuals to leverage these groups and build relationships with seniors that they might otherwise not have established in their normal management workings. Our new CEO, Jane Frazier, has made it clear that "empathy" is now integrated into our core values and leadership principles at the bank. She recognizes that as we come out of the pandemic, individuals are navigating various personal circumstances, and it's important for managers and leaders to have the ability to listen and understand. We strive to see employee satisfaction rise to higher levels."

Marcien Jenckes, President of Advertising at Comcast Cable, confirmed that Comcast had ERGs as well, and he added that they have introduced "Interview Allies" to their recruiting processes. "Whenever we are in the process of hiring a new employee, we bring people in from outside the direct reporting chain in order to check for unconscious bias and to make sure we are not going for an easy, quick hire. After a hiring, the ally picks up the role of being an ongoing mentor once he / she is brought into the organization. We make better decisions this way and provide ongoing support for new hires."

Aline Santos Farhat, Chief Equity, Diversity & Inclusion Officer at Unilever, weighed in on the need to create "Inclusive Leaders" who see their jobs as going beyond meeting performance goals. "We have to have leaders who understand the importance of inclusion. At Unilever, we attack this issue on four fronts: 1) We create policies, procedures and practices to improve the employee experience. 2) We lead with our brands, because the way we communicate our brand values demonstrates how we deal with diversity and inclusion internally. 3) We choose our suppliers carefully, and we invest in underserved communities. 4) We work on community equity, which means investing in initiatives that promote a fair and inclusive society."

Taken as a whole, it seems clear that corporate organizations, which were originally focused profit centers that strove only for improved performance, are being humanized through DEIB initiatives that add empathetic and humanistic dimensions to their frameworks. Diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging contribute to increased employee satisfaction across existing structures.

We owe our DEIB executives and their CEOs a vote of thanks for their organizational innovations.

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