-Conroy Boxhill, MD, Atlanta office, Porter Novelli
-David Casey, VP of workforce strategies and chief diversity officer, CVS Health
-Mary Lee Chin, chair of the diversity and inclusion committee, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
-Balaji Ganapathy, chief social responsibility officer, Tata Consultancy Services
-Kimberley Goode, SVP of external affairs, chair of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Leadership Council, Blue Shield of California
-Angela Guy, SVP, diversity and inclusion, L’Oreal
-Jeanine Liburd, chief social impact and comms officer, BET Networks
-Michele Moore, VP of global comms, Ford Foundation
-Michael Nehoray, VP, head of global talent and inclusion, Mattel
-Sandy Skees, global lead, purpose and impact practice, Porter Novelli
There is a seismic shift happening throughout the world when it comes to race and ethnicity. In fact, the composition of the U.S. will be more than 50% racial minorities by 2045, according to revised projections in 2018 by the U.S. Census Bureau.
Simultaneously, more and more individuals and organizations are welcoming the challenge of working toward a more just, equitable and inclusive society and workplace – meeting the needs of a more diverse world.
This new reality also underscores the rationale behind Porter Novelli’s late-January launch of its JEDI Advisory Service (Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion). In addition to meeting a growing business imperative, the offering was specifically created to help leaders and businesses integrate JEDI into every aspect of their organization.
And that “J” in JEDI is very intentional, as is its placement as the first letter in the acronym.
“We've codified our years of experience in diversity, equity and inclusion work by adding the ‘justice’ component,” explains Sandy Skees, global lead of Porter Novelli’s purpose and impact practice. “We want to help organizations start with justice because dismantling injustice is our first task. And building just, equitable systems that are diverse and inclusive is mandatory for any advancement to be made.”
Increasingly, organizations are recognizing that diversity, equity and inclusion are integral parts of their overall purpose initiatives. With that in mind, Conroy Boxhill, MD of Porter Novelli’s Atlanta office who co-leads the JEDI Advisory with Skees, shared some proprietary data that underscores the risks of not heeding the JEDI call:
•38% of Americans said the primary reason they will cancel a company is for it to change its ways.
•73% of Americans say they are less likely to cancel a company if it's purpose-driven.
•66% of Americans say that even if they love a company's products and services, they will still cancel that company if it does something wrong or offensive.
“Cancel culture has made a shift from a popularity-driven initiative to a true change initiative,” explains Boxhill. Purpose, which strongly incorporates JEDI activity, can prevent cancellation. Even that, however, can’t be taken for granted.
“If your company is purpose-driven, you’ll have equity in the bank with consumers,” he adds. “It might even allow you to get through an elongated period of pressure if you've done something wrong, but it won't necessarily preclude you from being cancelled or feeling acute pain while you're navigating a crisis.”
One of the most glaring mistakes a brand can make is not fully espousing a culture that is just, equitable, diverse and inclusive. Most companies wish to make progress, but a scant few know how. And we’re past the point where wishing is enough – if it ever was in the first place.
It’s time to move the needle now. The insights and tactical counsel shared by the leaders who gathered at this exclusive roundtable will help all brands, at various stages of their journey, take the necessary actions to do so.
Below we share key highlights from the conversation. First, however, a list of 10 specific recommendations that you can act on immediately:
Roundtable participants included (top row, l-r) Boxhill, Casey and Chin; (middle row l-r) Ganapathy, Goode, Guy and Liburd; (bottom row l-r) Moore, Nehoray and Skees.
TEN TACTICAL TAKEAWAYS
The roundtable was rife with counsel for new ways for everyone and anyone to think and act to move the needle right away on JEDI. Below we present 10 such tips.
•Admit, and learn from, your errors. Nearly three-quarters of Americans (73%) wish more companies would be honest about their past mistakes or biases in addressing or talking about race (according to recent Porter Novelli research). Learning from errors is often the catalyst for real change. Furthermore, mistakes can be forgiven and overcome, but failure to acknowledge them has far longer-lasting consequences.
•Measurement plus transparency. Consistent assessment of where your organization stands on diverse and inclusive staffing is crucial, as is being open and honest about the subsequent data – good or bad. This builds trust, drives accountability and, most of all, crystallizes your performance so that you have tangible targets to attain.
•Who hires is as important as who you hire. While everyone in an organization has a role to play in establishing a culture that welcomes all, hiring and advancement decisions mostly lie with a few people. Make sure your hiring managers and/or the search firms you work with have strong records on identifying and placing diverse candidates.
•Look beyond education in recruitment. Emphasize life experience in job postings. This will broaden and ensure a more diverse candidate pool. It is also conducive to a more inclusive culture.
•Educate your leaders. JEDI must be part of all management training and development activities. As those who occupy senior-level posts discuss management and business-building plans, equity must become a staple of those conversations so that it permeates all aspects of an organization.
•Activate your leaders. For companies with diverse representation at the senior level, forming councils to whom the CEO is accountable can facilitate a true commitment to further advancement in the company.
•Ensure diverse voices are in the room when creating communications strategies. It’s critical to have a range of lived experiences and perspectives that mirror the changing demographics of your consumer base. Not having such voices in the room is what often causes brands to make major mistakes.
•JEDI must be embedded in your products and services. Don’t just think about JEDI in terms of talent and human capital. A company’s products and services significantly contribute to a more just, equitable and diverse world.
•Focus on justice externally to create a better internal network. Efforts to change the inequitable systems that disproportionally affect underrepresented segments of society correlate directly with lifting up diverse talent inside your organization.
•Diversity without intersectionality will never lead to full equity. Diversity is not about one group. It’s about the intersectionality of multiple identities. At times the focus might need to be placed on one demographic, but your overall JEDI strategy must include all races, ethnicities, gender classifications and disabilities. Everybody must be able to see themselves as part of the strategy and part of the solution for your organization.
Publishing workforce data – the good, the bad and the ugly – builds trust, drives accountability and focuses organizations on exactly where they stand on diverse and inclusive staffing, counsels Casey.
HONEST ASSESSMENT PAVES WAY FOR ACTION
To tackle a problem, you must first recognize and understand what the problem is. Measurement and benchmarking is the best means to that end.
•David Casey, CVS Health: So many companies have not been held accountable because nobody really knows what they need to be held accountable for. So we're going to publish a larger amount of our workforce data – the good, the bad and the ugly – than we've ever done because we believe it will help build trust and drive accountability. I recently spoke to a diversity leader at another organization and they did the same thing a couple of years ago – with a very interesting byproduct result. Upon seeing the data collected, a lot of the white male leaders in that company said, “I need to sign up to be an ally. These numbers are not good enough.”
•Angela Guy, L’Oreal: We created an equity dashboard based on the percent of representation within the company. We benchmark it against each one of our brands in our business functions. It allows us to dive deeply into whether or not each of our groups is equitable in terms of hiring across gender and race. We look at pay, promotions and terminations – voluntary or involuntary. Are they disproportionate in any way based on either race or gender? The numbers speak loudly as to how equitable we say we are versus where we really are. And you can go even deeper to study how we are measuring people's performance, who gets more comments of “exceeds expectations” as opposed to “not meeting expectations.” This is the essence of equity. This is how you define what equity looks like.
•Mary Lee Chin, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: We have 100,000 members, 81% of them are white women. So when the racial issues came up last year, there was a lot of questioning about why that is the case with our team. “Why?” is such a crucial question to ask as you embark on the journey of self-awareness necessary to start tackling the issue. Equally important is the identification of barriers. This is where benchmarking helps. Moreover, you must look at your talent pipeline and develop avenues where you can attract a broader group of professionals into your industry.
Nehoray notes the benefits Mattel has gleaned from its recent decision to strip education requirements out of its job postings, thus increasing the focus on life experience.
A WELCOMING, SAFE ENVIRONMENT FOR ALL
In order for any actions to take hold, the environment in which you operate must be conducive to them. The assembled leaders shared some thoughts on how such a culture can be created.
•Sandy Skees, Porter Novelli: Intersectionality is an area that needs more attention in this conversation. Some data: 35% of Gen Z say they know someone who is, or are themselves, non-binary or gender-non-conforming. One in four adults have a disability, while 44% of millennials are part of a minority race or ethnic group. So many people identify with multiple groups and employers must create space for them.
•Michael Nehoray, Mattel: One of the things we’ve done more recently was strip education requirements out of our job postings. We did this to broaden the pool based on the idea that life experience means more than your education background. This was a gargantuan shift, as some leaders are always looking for the college a candidate went to or those three letters indicating a certain degree. Those still mean something, of course, but if you want to create a truly inclusive culture where everyone feels they can bring their whole selves to work, focusing on life experience is very conducive to that.
•Michele Moore, Ford Foundation: A functional challenge for many organizations is how to articulate their values around equity. How does equity show up on a day-to-day basis? Are the choice assignments spread around equitably? Same for the opportunities to head up the coordination of key meetings? It’s not just about equal pay. It’s about equal access. In terms of talent acquisition, if and when you use a search firm, you must do your due diligence to find out their record on identifying and placing diverse candidates. Such decisions must be made very intentionally.
•Conroy Boxhill, Porter Novelli: You can't have inclusion without psychological safety. You can't say you're trying to drive inclusion if people don't feel safe. It's one thing to tell employees you will put all the infrastructure and systems in place to facilitate that, but if every employee doesn’t feel safe being themselves, it doesn't matter what steps you took.
Inasmuch as so many people identify with multiple groups, Skees insists that "intersectionality is an area that needs more attention in this conversation.”
OPPORTUNITIES CREATED FROM WITHIN AND WITHOUT
The pursuit of JEDI does not end with hiring. Not even close. It’s just as important, if not more so, to ensure progress can be made by all of your existing talent. And there are steps to be taken internally and externally to that end.
•Kimberley Goode, Blue Shield of California: We sometimes are able to diversify by bringing in talent, but we don't create the opportunity for leadership roles. That role modeling is essential to sustainable diversity and inclusion. We need to expand our networks when it comes to filling those roles. We need to be much stronger advocates for folks that are in the system by wrapping our arms around them and ensuring that they have surround-sound coverage. That means once you get these folks in the system, give them great assignments, mentors, exposure, and sponsorships so that you are able to identify exactly where that diverse talent is and you can move them through the organization. Diverse leaders are the great amplifier to not only attract talent, but grow and retain it.
•Balaji Ganapathy, Tata Consultancy Services: You want to walk the walk before you talk the talk. Consumers are holding companies’ feet to the fire, as are employees. However, beyond your own walls, it is crucial to look at this issue from a societal perspective and understand what are the systemic issues that are preventing the recognition of underrepresented groups. In late 2020, Bill Gates famously said, “We’ve been set back about 25 years in about 25 weeks [of the pandemic].” And he wasn’t just talking about health. Actions are needed on a holistic front – and the actions you take with your talent practices go hand in hand with the actions you take to bridge the gaps that exist in society.
•Jeanine Liburd, BET Networks: We’re a content company. Last year, after the George Floyd incident, we created “Content for Change.” We sought the best way to use our superpowers for good, so we started creating content to try and shift majority bias. We invested a lot in research to discover what we could do to counteract racism in our content beyond positive images and the like that we have all seen. It didn’t take long for [parent company] ViacomCBS to adopt this and make it an even broader companywide priority. And that led to other great results internally. Every part of the company was invested in this, but many quickly realized they didn’t have the optimal team members to produce the content that could lead to change. As such, numerous pros of color were elevated to work more closely on this.