Take Action to Boost Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI)

Strengthening your culture starts with commitment to change

 

7 minute read

 

Fostering different perspectives is key to attracting and retaining talent, and there is growing evidence that embracing diversity can even boost bottom-line results. Recently, Bank of America convened a panel discussion of clients who shared concrete steps for improving DEI. Following is a summary of this conversation.

 

Getting the C-suite involved

As with any company-wide initiative, the panel participants all agreed that change starts from the top. Getting company leadership involved can create visibility and momentum for DEI initiatives and help instill culture change that can permeate every level of the organization.

 

According to Christine Wojcik, Human Resources Director at Blanchard Machinery, education is key. “It’s important that company executives fully understand dynamics such as unconscious bias, micro-inequities and living in a system of privilege so they can help meaningfully address them in your workplace. Increasing DEI will require you to set tangible goals. What will success look like? Having senior leaders manage the agenda, milestones and projects is essential so that they can help the rest of the workforce complete the journey together.”

 

Taking a data-driven approach

Irene Birbeck, who leads the PRIDE+ Network at Clarkston Consulting, uses data to drive the firm’s culture forward. “Data you already have in your ERP and HR systems can help you create positive change and focus on tangible goals for every aspect of DEI. Additionally, conducting anonymous annual surveys can help you benchmark where things are, create a roadmap and measure progress over time.”

 

Measuring inclusion

For Khemari Cook, Chief Diversity Officer at Red Ventures, it can be a challenge to measure inclusion, since it’s more of an intangible feeling than a hard metric. “But there are ways to do it,” she notes. “Take inventory of employee background data and go from there. Create Employee Resource Groups, and then track participation, engagement and interaction. Make sure each group is adequately funded and staffed with an executive sponsor who makes it a priority. Form a communication plan to build awareness and encourage people to join. If possible, carve out regular time during the day so that employees understand it’s OK to devote part of their work hours to the group.”

 

Wojcik also espouses teaming up men with minority and underrepresented groups, so they can help champion them and set an example for the rest of the organization.

 

 

Employee Resource Groups

 

Here are some examples to consider at your company. Look closely at your people to decide how to best represent them.

 

People of color | Women  LGBTQ+ | People caring for elderly family | People caring for disabled family | Veterans

 

 

Modeling vulnerability

How can leaders create open dialogue about the DEI issues on their employees’ minds? George Johnson and Frank Tart, BofA’s Carolinas Market Executives, have begun facilitating honest discussions by modeling their own vulnerabilities. Johnson and Tart hold regular unscripted employee DEI listening sessions with no expectations or agendas, opening the line for their teams to share what they’re thinking. “These calls always go well,” Johnson adds. “They’ve become a fantastic forum for getting everyone on the same page.”

 

Wojcik emphasizes how small gestures can really go a long way. “Finding ways to seek out and interact with those you would like to understand better is essential. Asking sincere questions about life, listening attentively, sharing at the beginning of meetings, that’s how companies spark dialogue and build real connections.”

 

According to Birbeck, people need to be careful about requiring others to be vulnerable. “You can’t force openness,” she cautions. “Do it yourself and then others will follow.” Cook concurs. “Start by modeling the behavior you want to see in another person. At Red Ventures, we hold 4,000-person, all-employee meetings during which we emphasize that people shouldn’t be afraid to speak openly. If you feel safe showing vulnerability, others will feel safe as well.”

 

Leading by example

 

Bank of America has 11 Employee Networks with more than 280 chapters made up of more than 140,000 memberships worldwide. These networks coordinate thousands of events each year, focusing on career development, courageous conversations and giving back to communities.

 

 

Looking toward the future

Cook’s DEI efforts are evolving right alongside Red Ventures’ business strategy. “That’s the next step for other companies to model,” she predicts. “Today they’re often separate, but over time they will continue to converge. DEI will start to exert a stronger influence over job postings, and the companies that excel at DEI will separate themselves in finding the best talent.”

 

Wojcik agrees. “At Blanchard, we put in a lot of work so that our DEI policies are always aligned with business goals. For us, DEI excellence and bottom-line success go hand-in-hand.”

 

Conclusion

As these panelists show, focusing on DEI can help create a stronger workforce and a lasting competitive advantage. Change that starts at the top can transform workplace culture for the better and drive tangible business benefits. From analyzing data to forming employee groups, there are many ways to take immediate action and accelerate your company’s DEI journey.

 

Contact us to learn more

To discuss these topics, or ways we can help your business, contact your Bank of America representative.

 

Moderators

Frank Tart | Carolinas East Market Executive, Global Commercial Banking, Bank of America

George Johnson | Carolinas West Market Executive, Global Commercial Banking, Bank of America

 

Participants

Irene Birbeck | Partner, Clarkston Consulting

Khemari Cook | Chief Diversity Officer, Red Ventures

Christine Wojcik | Human Resources Director, Blanchard Machinery


 

1“Everybody Counts! Diversity & Inclusion Primer” BofA Global Research, March 2021