On this 24th episode, and one of the last of the 2nd season of the All About HR podcast, Tom sits down with Britt Griffin, VP of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging (DEIB) at Infrastructure & Energy Alternatives. Britt gives us a masterclass on all things DEIB, from developing strategies to navigating implementation, and how to measure outcomes. He shares the three pillars of strategy in his own organization and describes the difference between DEI and DEIB. We finish off the episode with what Britt thinks is the biggest untruth of diversity.
VIP Guest Britt Griffin
Britt S. Griffin is a Human Resources and Diversity executive. Currently he is the Vice President of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion & Belonging for IEA (Infrastructure & Energy Alternatives) which is a $2.5 Billion-dollar, 6,000 employee national leader in the Renewable Energy and Construction industry headquartered in Indianapolis. Britt has over 25 years of experience leading Human Resources and Diversity initiatives for many companies throughout his career. Currently, he is developing strategies and initiatives to create a culture of Belonging at IEA where all people can be seen, heard, understood, and valued.
Outside of work, he enjoys spending time with his wife and daughter, as well as cheering on the Chicago Bears, Bulls, White Sox, and Blackhawks.
Background and Exploring the Differences Between DEI & DEIB
Britt kicks us off by telling us more about his role at Infrastructure & Energy Alternatives, an organization that is at the forefront of clean energy alternatives like solar and wind power. He was brought on about a year ago to build and develop a framework around diversity and put together the strategy of execution. Britt mentions that originally his role was just labeled as VP of Diversity & Inclusion, but after meeting with leadership, he asked if it could encompass equity, and belonging as well. Oftentimes these words—diversity, equity, inclusion, belonging—start to be used interchangeably, and they shouldn’t. They each represent something unique and Britt wanted to make sure that he and his leadership were clear on those definitions before moving forward on their strategy planning.
Diversity refers to the characteristics that make people unique, such as physical features, elements of personality, and culture.
Inclusion refers to the behaviors and cultural norms that make people feel welcome. Creating the distinction between diversity and inclusion is important to note because diversity can, and often does exist without the act of inclusion.
Equity refers to the quality of being fair and impartial, which includes fair treatment, access, and advancement for each person in an organization.
Belonging refers to an individual’s sense of acceptance. Belonging can be thought of as the result of the level of inclusion and equity an individual feels in their environment.
Three Pillars & How they Impact Attracting, Developing, and Retaining Talent
After giving us some background information on DEIB and his organization, Britt explains the three pillars that he is using as the guiding principles of his strategy. People, Culture, and Community. He explains each pillar in detail in the quote below:
“We really felt that for us the first thing to focus on was People. So, the first pillar is creating an environment that will allow us to attract talent. For us, it’s about attracting, recruiting, and developing diverse talent and we also want to retain diverse talent. We believe this is extremely important for us that we have strategies for attraction and recruitment, and those two things are different.
Attraction is how we attract different people to come to our organization. So, our advertising may be different, and how we go to market for talent may be different. Our recruiting may be different as well, because now that we’re actually engaging with people, what does that look like? How does that show up when we go to job fairs on college campuses and for the military, and so on and so forth? There’s a difference there.
In addition to that, it’s important that once we have diverse talent in the organization, we have programs that help develop people. People want to come to companies, but people really want to come to companies to grow, so it’s important that we have development opportunities for folks. And then the last thing under People is retention. OK, we’ve attracted, recruited, and developed them. But how do we retain people?
That then leads us to our second pillar, which is Culture. To sum it all up, we’re trying to create a culture of belonging where people can be seen, heard, understood, and valued. We believe if we create that, it will help us retain people, it will help us attract and recruit people. It will increase engagement. Show me somebody who doesn’t feel like they belong in the company, and I’ll show you somebody who’s not engaged, or disengaged. The two go together. Anybody who feels like they belong and are engaged, and most likely are not leaving a company. So, we want to create this culture of belonging where all people feel this way, and I use the word all because it’s not for some or for the few, it’s for all people.
Then the third thing for us is Community. How can we give back to the community? How do we partner with diverse organizations and the cities and communities in which we do business? We’re highly focused on developing relationships with diverse organizations. We’re focused also on trying to find other organizations that maybe we haven’t heard of, or other organizations that we feel that we can contribute to by many different things we do, from donations to donating our time to so on and so forth. For us it’s about people, it’s about culture, and it’s about community.”
Putting the Pillars into Action
Tom and Britt spend the first half of the episode talking about strategy and framework and then transition into how to actually execute and put it into action. Britt mentions a handful of key points and walks us through all the steps to carrying it out. The first big piece he mentions is meeting with leadership and making sure that everyone is on the same page as far as goals, timeline, and expectations. One thing that he stresses throughout the episode is that DEIB is a journey that takes time—years of continuous effort to get it engrained into the organization. He mentions how you can’t expect to grow diversity 50% in one year, and how it is important to make that very clear to leadership from the start.
Next, he describes how crucial it is to bring in the right resources to help with the effort. In a nutshell, it is not work you can do on your own. You need to identify what can be done in-house, and where you need to pull in consultants or thought leaders. Most organizations will need to skill-up leadership on DEIB best practices, and then implement ongoing training and educational resources for the whole organization. Along with this, he talks about how you really need to get other departments involved so that it isn’t just the “Diversity Department” leading the charge but everyone working in tandem. In his own company, he mentions how closely he works with Talent Acquisition, Learning and Development, and Marketing & Communications to bring the strategy to life.
Once you have those pieces in place, he lays out the four levels or milestones that he is following to help gauge and measure progress:
“For us, Level 1 was compliance, which is where we want to make sure we’re compliant and make sure that we’re doing all the things we need to be doing.
Level 2 was programmatic, which means we’re beginning to look at different programs we can put into place, we are posting on diverse websites, we’re introducing some actual education.
The transition point happens at Level 3, because now it becomes leader led. Getting it to the point where your leaders are now looking at diversity, understanding it, and linking it to the business is when you really start to take off. Now it’s no longer an HR or diversity initiative, it’s a leadership initiative.
Then Level 4, which is really the Holy Grail, the goal, the finish line for us. Which is when we feel like we’ve integrated it into all the things we do and we’re leveraging diversity to create business value. That journey of compliance, programmatic, leader led integration sometimes takes a long while. You want to get it to the point where your leaders are really leaning into this diversity work, and it’s no longer just being led by the diversity team or by human resources. That’s when your leaders are taking an active part in it.”
The Biggest Untruth of DEIB
Tom finishes off the episode by asking Britt what he thinks the biggest untruth or myth around DEIB is:
“I think the number one [untruth] is it has no impact on the bottom line. That’s just not true. Don’t take it from me, research it. Look at McKinsey and Company, they’re a very well-known consulting firm that does reports on diversity quite often. Deloitte, look at the reports they put out and go look at the data. The data will tell you that organizations that are more diverse are oftentimes and are more profitable. In addition to that, organizations that are more diverse are more innovative. Companies that are more innovative are more profitable. Companies that have diversity within their organization have higher engagement and higher retention. All the data is available for you today.”
Diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging are key to not only a great company culture and environment, but also tangible business outcomes across the board.
Read below for a full transcript of this episode.
Welcome to All About HR. I’m your host Tom Horne and I’m on a journey to learn about all things HR. I’m documenting my conversations with thought leaders, HR professionals, and real employees about everything from recruiting, workplace of the future, benefits, you name it. We’re all about HR. Let’s go.
All right, here we are for our December episode of Tom learning all about HR. It’s been an awesome year. I’m super excited about this. It might be the last episode of the season we’ll see. I’m super excited about the conversation today with our guest.
Our guest is Britt Griffin. He is a Human Resources and Diversity Executive. He is currently Vice President of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging for IEA (Infrastructure and Energy Alternatives) which is a $2.5 billion-dollar, 6,000-employee national leader in the Renewable Energy and Construction industry headquartered in Indianapolis. Britt has over 25 years of experience leading human resources and diversity initiatives for many companies throughout his career. Currently, he is developing strategies and initiatives to create a culture of belonging at IEA, where all people can be seen, heard, understood, and valued.
Outside of work he enjoys spending time with his wife and daughter, as well as cheering on the Chicago Bears, Bulls, White Sox, and Blackhawks. Britt, welcome to All About HR.
Tom, thank you for having me. It’s been a long time my friend. Glad that we were finally able to connect as we close out 2022.
Yeah, I’ve been looking forward to this conversation since I think it first came up sometime in the summer.
That’s correct, yeah.
Due to our busy schedules, I’ve been on the edge of my seat waiting for this one.
Well, I appreciate you sticking in there with me and looking forward to our discussion today.
Well, you know, I think I probably have to own some of that delay, so we’ll call it a draw.
You know there’s a lot I want to talk to you about, but I want to get right to my first question and I think we’ll have a nice flow from there. But Britt, you know we’re always looking to learn, and our ears are always open here at All About HR. What are you listening to right now?
Well, it’s the Christmas season, Tom. So, the radio is full of Christmas songs, each station. But I also like to listen to gospel music. Marvin Sapp and Tasha Cobbs Leonard are two of my favorites currently. Really anything by them, really gets me going. And then I love old-school rap. You know I grew up listening to old-school rap so anything old-school EPMD, Eric B & Rakim, LL Cool J, Black Sheep, Digital Planets. Anything old school, I’m into it and that always is at the top of my list of things to listen to.
I make two different mixes every year. One in the spring and summer, and one in the fall and winter. There are always some Digital Planets, EPMD, Black Sheep, got some Far Side (Pharcyde) on there. In my mind, it’s probably just because of the age I am at, but that was some of the best music.
Well, it was some of the best because the genre was still being created and developed and I think you saw a lot of music. Plus, at that time—a little history here—Indianapolis didn’t play rap music, so I really was getting a lot of my rap music from A) friends back in Chicago, which I’m originally from that area, and then B) one of my other best friends here, who lived in Detroit and he would bring back cassette tapes and we would listen to them and so on.
But music at that point wasn’t digital, so you could only hear it through someone giving it to you or going to a party. So, it just made it kind of unique to say “Hey, have you heard this before?” and “No, I’ve never heard that.” Where now you can Google any music and pull right up on your phone and listen to whatever you want to listen to. A little bit of a different age group.
Yeah, there was something sweet about that. I mean, I can vividly see it in my head right now as we’re talking about it, the very first time I ever heard LL Cool J. We were up in my buddy’s bedroom and of course, there was his older brother that had somehow gotten his hands on a tape, and we were just like, “What is this? This is awesome.” It blew our heads off. And honestly, it blew my head off and I loved it. But I was definitely feeling like man, I’m kind of intimidated by this music a little bit.
Yeah, and I consider myself fortunate in a sense because one of my friends back in that time period, his roommate was a DJ. So, I would hear first-run music that no one else had ever heard that he was playing. Or I would hear stuff on the radio, go over to his house and I would say, “Hey, do you have this particular music? Do you have Black Sheep?”
“Oh yeah, I’ve got that.”
“Oh wow, how about Mos Def?”
“Oh yeah. Mos Def, I’ve got that.” And no one else would have it but he would because he was a DJ.
Those are good friends to have. Yeah, I love this and again, this is why I do this podcast. You and I have known each other for probably I don’t know a year and a half for two years now and there’s some amount of time in there and I don’t think we’ve ever just sat down and talked music like this before.
So, we’re already opening up brand new conversations here. This is great.
So, you and I first met, I worked at People Element and we had brought on your previous employer and you were a fantastic partner within People Element on getting that launched. Then you changed jobs— and you’re one of those great people that stays connected after changing jobs. A little later I see your name pop up on LinkedIn saying, “Hey Tom, let’s chat.”
As a business development person, and as somebody who has a whole career in relationships, it was just great to see that. And I loved working with you.
So, tell the listeners about where you landed, and what you’re doing now. I gave a bit of your bio at the beginning but what are you up to? What’s your job as Vice President of Diversity and Inclusion?
Sure, sure, it’s a great place to start. Really, I’m fortunate and this is the value of relationships. The Vice President of Talent Acquisition here—I had met her at a previous employer when I was interviewing for another position—reached out to me and said, “Hey we are developing a new role here at IEA. We’re looking at launching our diversity initiative.” She had recalled our conversation from four years ago and had been following me on LinkedIn, and that’s what got me here.
So, IEA, Infrastructure Energy Alternatives. What we do is we’re a clean energy organization, so we work with municipalities. We work with developers on putting together clean energy solutions from solar, also to wind as we call it. So, if you walk by or if you happen to be riding by and you see a wind turbine— they’re not windmills, they are called wind turbines. We do that work.
Also, we do construction as well. Some road construction, rail, and other things. But really our bread and butter and what we’re known for—and what my role is—is to develop the foundation and the framework for DIB. In fact, when I first arrived here, it was just Diversity and Inclusion. I had a really good conversation after I received the position with our leaders around if they would be open to looking at calling this Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging. And I really had to explain what that was because I wanted them to lean into it. But most importantly, I wanted them to understand the impact of adding the “equity” and the “belonging”.
So, my role today is to lead our organization on that journey. The first two years are really built upon just laying out the foundation framework for diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging. I’ve been meeting with leaders, developing content, and putting together the strategy, which is what our first year focused on. Additionally, these first two years are around awareness. How do we create awareness around diversity? We’re 11-12 months into our journey. Just had my first-year anniversary last week, so looking forward to continuing.
Thank you very much. Looking forward to years to come.
In a nutshell, building a framework around diversity, and putting together the strategy is our focus for these couple of years. We’re really focused on three areas. We’re focused on people, culture, and community. We believe those three things are things that our organization really values closely.
I want to start at the beginning and say I love the clean energy, and I appreciate what you’re doing out there. I think that it’s vitally important, and that’s a great place to be really building a strong base of diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging because my guess is there’s a pretty long road map for clean energy here. It has needs over the next 20 years, so I think it’s probably a great place to be right now.
That is true, and if you follow politics, you know there has been a lot of discussion around clean energy and we’re at the forefront as one of the leaders in the United States as it relates to that type of work. So, we’re excited to be a part of it. I’m excited to be a part of it. I’m new to this industry, learning each and every day about what we do and how we do it. It’s great to be a part of something in which you could see a future. As you say, clean energy is the future of our world and I’m just happy to be a part of an organization that’s leading that at the forefront.
It sure seems that way. I want to dig into another part that you talked about. You changed from DEI to DEIB and at People Element, we love the belonging part. We’re totally aligned with you that if you do all those things right, people feel like they belong. And if you’re doing some other things, people aren’t going to feel like they belong. Belonging almost feels like an output of the other pieces, but what’s right? I see DEI, DI, or you know DEIB. Is there a difference? Why was it so important for you to change it? And do you think it’s important just in general conversation about how we talk about DEI/DEIB?
Yeah it is, and it’s important for several reasons. I think the very first one is really being able to define what’s great for your organization. You know one of the things I’ve learned in this journey—what I call my own personal journey of learning about diversity versus the company’s journey. What I’ve learned In this journey is every company is different. Each company may have a different focus. So, some companies may just be focused on equity and inclusion, while others may be focused on diversity, equity, and inclusion or others may be focused on appreciation.
After dialoguing with my leader and other leaders in the company, I came back to them and said, “What do you think about this, and what would be your impression if we made these changes?” Because the first thing I did when I got to the company was meet with our five executives to really understand why diversity is important. Then I came back and said, “What if we put our strategy under these four areas, diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging?”
So, it goes back to what is good for your organization and if it fits into the framework you are trying to build as a company. That’s where I started at, and then I began to build out the other part of it in a lot more detail so that they could really understand and say, okay this is what this means, and this is how it could help us in the future.
That makes a lot of sense. It’s not even as much about preference as it’s about what matters to you? What are you trying to accomplish? What’s the culture? What are you doing? So that that helps.
Yeah, let’s just say if you’re a McDonald’s and if you watch McDonald’s and you listen to their commercials, they’re selling fast food to the consumer. They have a variety of commercials that speak to many different audiences because they’re trying to sell to that customer.
Well, we are not who they are, so we really felt that for us the first thing to focus on was people. So, the first pillar, the first thing that we’re focused on, is creating an environment that will allow us to attract talent. For us, it’s about attracting, recruiting, and developing diverse talent and we’re also retaining diverse talent. We believe this is extremely important for us that we have strategies for attraction and recruitment, and those two things are different.
Attraction is how can we attract different people to come to our organization. So, our advertising may be different, and how we go to market for talent may be different. Our recruiting may be different as well, because now that we’re actually engaging with people, what does that look like? How does that show up when we go to job fairs on college campuses and for the military, and so on and so forth? There’s a difference there.
In addition to that, it’s important that once we have diverse talent in the organization, we have programs that help develop people. People want to come to companies, but people really want to come to companies to grow, so it’s important that we have development opportunities for folks. And then the last thing under People is retention. OK, we’ve attracted, recruited, and developed them. But how do we retain people? And that then leads us to our second pillar, which is culture.
To sum it all up, we’re trying to create a culture of belonging where people can be seen, heard, understood, and valued. We believe if we create that, that will help us retain people, it will help us attract and recruit people. It will increase engagement. Show me somebody who doesn’t feel like they belong in the company, and I’ll show you somebody who’s not engaged or disengaged. The two go together.
I can’t disagree with that.
Yeah, anybody who feels like they belong and are engaged, most likely are not leaving a company. So we want to create this culture of belonging where all people feel this way, and I use the word all because it’s not for some or for the few, it’s for all people.
Then the third thing for us is community. How can we give back to the community? How do we partner with diverse organizations and the cities and the communities in which we do business? So, we’re highly focused on developing relationships with diverse organizations. We’re focused also on trying to find other organizations that maybe we haven’t heard of. Or other organizations that we feel that we can contribute to by many different things we do, from donations to donating our time to so on and so forth. For us it’s about people, it’s about culture, and it’s about community.
I’m already feeling a bit inspired here. I absolutely love that, and I think one of the things that also fits around those pillars that you mentioned right off the bat was people want growth and if you’re not engaged it’s hard to focus on growth. If you’re not feeling like you belong, it’s hard to focus on growth. The fact that you understand that piece when you’re trying to find talent, and that talent is finding you by what you’re already doing. Understanding that that is a big need at the onset is huge.
We talked to a lot of companies about that who think it’s pay, it’s this, it’s that. Growth is always one of the biggest pieces, so I think I think you and your company are well on your way to identifying that as the first piece. Then having the pillars to support that and provide the environment to where you can grow, that’s awesome.
Yeah, and to add to that, I wanted to make it simple for people. People, culture, community. You can remember those three things—most people can. In addition to that, I wanted it to be easy to understand. Easy to connect to in terms of your business strategy, and your talent management strategy. No matter which strategy you have, it’s going to involve people. You need to have a great culture for people to thrive. Community is just all the things that we do that align with our ESG strategy—environmental, social, and government strategy as well.
So, it just made it simpler for people. I think if you can make this work simple so that people understand that and say, “Oh, this is what you’re trying to accomplish. Yeah, I can lean into that.” Make it simple for them. Make it also easier for them to understand. It’s very easy to understand that you’re trying to attract, recruit, develop and retain people. OK, yeah. We’re doing that anyway, but let’s look at doing it more in this particular area and then developing a culture where all people feel like they belong. Yeah, yeah, people can lean into that. And of course, community work speaks for itself. So, I want to make it easy for people and not overcomplicate this.
Another big area—if you’re at home taking notes—that’s another big one. Simple wins. People ask me what management books I read. Almost all of them are less than 200 pages because I will take them and fly through them and absorb them and keep going on with my life. Simplicity. Get it. Make it easy for people to get your knowledge and you’re going to get that knowledge there.
So, we’re going to take a quick break. When we come back, I want to talk about how you implement this. We’ve got a great structure and a great philosophy, but how do you build this system? How far have you gotten? Where are you going to take it to? What does this arc look like?
I want to get into all that. The last quick question, before we go on a quick break is—you’ve told me some of the truths about DEIB. What are a couple of quick untruths that we might be able to just throw out there and eliminate? Then we’ll go on break and talk about building on this structure you talked about.
I think the number one is it has no impact on the bottom line. That’s just not true. Don’t take it from me, research it. Look at McKinsey and Company, they’re a very well-known consulting firm that does reports on diversity quite often. Deloitte, look at the reports they put out and go look at the data. The data will tell you that organizations that are more diverse are oftentimes and are more profitable. In addition to that, organizations that are more diverse are more innovative. Companies that are more innovative are more profitable. Companies that have diversity within their organization have higher engagement and higher retention. All the data is available for you today. That’s the great thing about this topic is that the data is out there. So that’s a big myth.
I think the second myth is, it’s hard work. It’s not hard work. It’s not. I mean, it’s hard work in terms of doing the work. But it’s not hard to get started because you need to start first with developing one big question, which is what are we trying to accomplish? No different than you would with any other strategy. No different than what you would with any other plan. Then you start developing your plan. Oftentimes what happens Tom, is diversity is a topic that people get so personal about that they have a hard time seeing past their own personal beliefs and thoughts or others’ beliefs and thoughts. They don’t get to the business strategy part of it.
If you look at this as a business strategy and you take out a lot of the emotion and personal things around it, then what would you do first? Hey, what are we trying to accomplish? Then you put your plan together, your strategy together, and then you start to go through and implement it like you would anything else. Those would be the things in which I would say are myths that are easily debunked if you do your research and if you start from a great place.
Those are big. Those are big myths, so that’s great. We’re going to take a break. We’re going to get back with how to build this business strategy. We’ll be right back.
All right, it is time for the HR Hot Sauce. Britt, are you ready?
I am ready.
Let’s do it.
What’s the best job you’ve ever had?
I would say my first real leadership position.
Awesome, I had a very similar experience myself.
What’s the one phrase at work that drives you nuts?
“I could do it myself. I don’t need your help.”
Do you like working on rainy or sunny days?
How can someone make your day at work?
Contributing to something I’m working on, asking me to contribute to something that they’re working on. Collaborate. I really get a lot of energy from that.
Big pivot here, what’s your best useless skill, Britt?
Best useless skill today would be anything sports related. I pick up sports very easily—except for golf.
I don’t think anybody picks that up fast.
Mild, medium, hot, or nuclear? favor interview question to ask or be.
I would say nuclear.
Favorite interview question to ask or be asked?
Give me three examples of how you would make our organization better.
Finally, name a song that you always go to, to bring you out of a funk.
“Ain’t No Joke” by Eric B and Rakim. Rap song, old school, always gets me fired up.
That is a great song, and you are done with HR Hot Sauce.
Let’s get back to the show.
Alright, we are back talking with Britt Griffin about creating diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging in the workplace. Honestly the first half of this episode, I could put a bow on it and send it out to the market. It’s been fantastic.
When we last spoke, you took me through the process of how you’ve built this idea, this philosophy into an actual business strategy. That’s really where I want to spend the whole rest of this conversation. How do you implement this into work today? You’ve got the cultures and pillars, and we’ve seen that and they’re great, but I think that’s where most companies stop. And they don’t know how to do the next part. So, talk to us. I’ll go on mute. I’ll let you go here, but how do you implement this into work today?
Well, the very first step in the process that I’ve used—it’s been successful and I did that here at IEA—is first having that conversation with our 5 executive leaders around what we trying to accomplish. What really do we want to see come out of this? What are the outcomes do we want to see come out of this. I met with all five of them individually for about 45 minutes to an hour, just having a discussion about diversity and where they saw that, and how they saw it in terms of attaching it to the business strategy.
I also wanted to get their own personal beliefs and commitment to the work, and then find out okay, now that you’ve given me that, let’s talk about what it’s going to take to take the next step. So, I did that with them first.
I came back and summarized the results because I wanted to make sure—it’s very important that your executive team is aligned. If you’ve got five executives and four say, “Well, we’re not interested in this work at all.” Then you’ve got an issue. So, after I met with them then I was able to come back, summarize the results and say, “Okay, we are aligned on this work. Everyone is very interested in it.”
The next thing was to talk about what we want to accomplish and then begin to put together the action steps. If we want to be an organization that attracts recruits, develops and retain diverse people, if we want to be an organization that really has a family culture, then here are the things we’re going to have to do. 1) You’re going to have to partner with your talent acquisition team to develop your diversity recruiting strategy. Okay, how do we go after talent? How do we go after diverse talent? That’s going to be a key part of it. So, now you’re developing and partnering with your Talent Acquisition team on recruiting.
In addition to that, how do we increase cultural competence? Of our leaders who have not had any sort of diversity training, we’re going to need to train them. We’re going to need to put together curriculum and content to assist them in becoming more culturally competent around this. Which means we’re going to have to either A) buy some stuff off the shelf, B) train up our training and development team or C) we’re going to have to partner with the consultant that can actually deliver this training for us. Your Learning and Development team and your Talent Acquisition team are two of your key partners in this particular work. So, those are the first two things.
In addition to that is looking at resources. What am I going to need on my team to really take this 6,000-employee organization to the next level. So, I put together a proposal for my manager to add a Diversity Manager who could help manage employee resource groups, that could work closely with talent acquisition, to work closely with other leaders because you’re going to need consultants. Consultants in the sense of people will come to you and say, “How do I handle all this?”
What I’m saying in a nutshell is it’s not work that you can do by yourself. 1) building a team of people that can help you and 2) partnering with other people in the organization, Talent Acquisition, Learning and Development, and then Marketing and Communications was my other partner. We work very closely together, we meet every other Tuesday. In fact we just met this morning because they help us by communicating the work that we’re doing, they help us in the events that we’re having, and they also help us from a social media point of view because you want to be able to show the community, candidates, stakeholders in the community, that you actually are doing this good work.
Once you have those pieces in place, you then start to put together action plans by working with each of those individuals. Let’s talk about what it’s going to take. Learning and Development, let’s now get down to the details of what kind of courses, when they’ll be offered, and which level of the organization receive what kind of courses. What courses do individual contributors receive? What courses do others receive who don’t manage people at all. Start to put together your Learning and Development strategy for how you’re going to take the organization forward.
The key piece to remember is diversity is a journey. It’s not going to happen in 12 months. It’s not going to happen in 24 weeks. So, we started with just building the framework and the foundation. Where we are, we’re 12 months into this—we’re off to a great start. This first year is really focused on awareness. Part of our strategy was to say, “OK, we don’t actually have the internal resources to do diversity training, but how can we bring awareness?” So, every month I bring in diversity speakers who speak on many different dimensions of diversity. These are educational opportunities for our employees.
Speakers come in, we stream it live on our platform that we use called Empower where employees can look on their app, laptop, or desktop and watch a video. We actually stream it live, but they also record it so they can go back and watch it. What that does is bring awareness because when you’re watching and listening, you’re learning. In addition to that, we take questions at the end where you can actually type in questions in the chat, and the speaker will answer those questions.
Also, each month we put out resources for people to learn about diversity. So, if you’re unfamiliar with what pronouns are, you can go to our site. You can go to the place we keep our resources and you’ll learn all about pronouns. If you want to understand more information about the disabled community, we have resources there as well. We do all of these things that create awareness.
We’re hyper focused on knowing that our starting point is from scratch. We’re also focused on the fact that we know that it’s going to take a while. So, our first year is about awareness, and building the framework. We’ve got the three pillars and I’m working with our leaders to develop the other content under Talent Acquisition, under Learning and Development, and Marketing and Communications is helping as well.
The other thing we’re working on and what you need to have as part of your strategy is understanding what your goals for that year are. What do you want to accomplish in your first year, in your second year? Be realistic when you’re putting your plan and your goals together. Short wins. I’m a big believer in that. Keep in mind this takes time. The other thing you want to focus on as well is how you are going to measure your success. So, I have a person on my team who also was in—
Anything that’s a long arc actually—if I could jump in real quick. But then I want to dig into that.
You’re a year in, and you say it’s not immediate and you’ve mentioned that arc a couple of times. What does an arc look like? And there’s no one shoe fits all, kind of thing. Are you talking three years? Five years, 10 years, forever? Would you mind just talking about the arc for a for a minute?
Sure. It really depends on where your starting point is. Part of that initial discussion I mentioned with our five executives. I’m also assessing the company because I’m meeting with different people, talking to different people. If you’re further ahead on the assessment, which means maybe your company has done some things related to diversity, you’ve had some education, you’ve had some starts and stops. Then you might be further ahead. If you are with an organization who is starting from scratch, then it’s probably going to take you a lot longer.
So, part of your assessment is really learning your company. I have a two-year strategy that is all about the foundation and then after two years I think we should start getting into implementing. You have to integrate diversity into all the things you do in a company. Into your Talent Management strategy. Into your business strategy. Into all the things in which you’re doing. Which is why this work is so different. If you think of it through the lens of integration it becomes, how do I integrate diversity into our marketing strategy? How do I integrate that into our values? Into our Talent Management strategy? It has to be integrated. It can’t sit alone in a place in the organization by itself, which is why you don’t see diversity departments that have 50 to 20 people because they work with others in the company to get it integrated into that.
So, a part of the journey is you assessing. “OK, I believe this is going to take us a little bit longer.” Or “Wow, seems like our folks are really prepared to move to another level.” In that way, you can take another level. You can start quicker and you can end quicker.
Here’s probably a better example. When I first got here, I wanted to make it simple. People, culture, community. But I also put together four levels. I wanted to make sure that we had a starting point and an end point.
So, for us the first level was compliance, which is where we want to make sure we’re compliant and make sure that we’re doing all the things we need to be doing.
Level 2 was programmatic, which means we’re beginning to look at different programs we can put into place, we are posting on diverse websites, we’re introducing some actual education.
The transition point happens at Level 3 for us because now it becomes leader led. Getting it to the point where your leaders are now looking at diversity, understanding it, and linking it to the business is when you really start to take off. Now it’s no longer an HR or diversity initiative, it’s a leadership initiative.
Then level 4 for us, which is really the Holy Grail, the goal, the finish line for us. Which is when we feel like we’ve integrated it into all the things we do and we’re leveraging diversity to create business value. That journey of compliance, programmatic, leader led integration sometimes takes a long while. You want to get it to the point where your leaders are really leaning into this diversity work, and it’s no longer just being led by the diversity team or by human resources. That’s when your leaders are taking an active part in it. Once you get to that point, you really start to move things forward much quicker, because now you’re moving people versus just one or two people.
Yeah, and that makes a lot of sense. When I talk to people and when I listen to a lot of people talking about diversity, inclusion and belonging…It’s that time frame of like how long and how do we measure? And it really is a long, slow process because it has to get through. It’s culture. It has to get through, and permeate how you talk, how departments talk. It permeates every bit and that takes time, and you can’t rush it.
Well, as you know the business you’re in at People Element, you help organizations in many ways with surveys and so on. Think of it through engagement. Think of it as, “Wow. How do we get to 100%? All employees engaged?” Well, that’s going to probably take a while. And we’re probably going to have a plan and the strategy to do that. Diversity is the same way as well. It’s going to take a plan and a strategy to do that, and it may take you 5 or 10 years.
Many of my friends who work at larger organizations who have received awards have always told me you’ll never get to the point where it’s 100%. But why? Because your organization is always evolving. People are coming and going out of the organization and this work is all about people. Many people, not one person, it’s really about all people.
It’s important that you set realistic goals when you’re putting your goals together and that you set realistic expectations for others outside of the Diversity Department, and outside of HR. You communicate those and say, “This first year we want to do these three or four things. That’s all we’re doing.”
For me the next two years are built on doing two things, developing the framework and the strategy. We’re just building this. So, I talked to people and I said, “Yep, we’re still building. It’s everything we’re doing, we’re just building it.” That sets people at ease plus, it puts realistic expectations on it. You’re not going to go from an organization that’s—whatever your percentage of diverse representation is—to 50% by next year. That’s impossible, so set real expectations.
Go back to McDonald’s, right. Like what was that arc? I’m sure McDonald’s didn’t just do a two-year diversity program. You can tell now at this point that it is through their culture and their system, and there’s no way that was a quick process.
That is so true. It takes some time.
And I feel you’re bringing us back to where I cut you off, which is quantifying that success too.
You were bringing us back there. I’m just acknowledging that so yeah, keep going.
The measurement piece, Tom, is one that I enjoy talking about because it is unique to you. You, as an organization. If having a certain representation of people within a certain department or a certain level of organization, means something your organization, then that’s a goal you set. But it may not be the goals that other companies set. It might just be, “Hey, we want to introduce diversity as a goal and train 100 managers in the first year.” The second year may be, “Hey, we would like to participate in these types of job fairs or hiring events.”
It’s very important that you align your goals to what you’re trying to accomplish as a company. And that your goals align to the talent management strategy in HR, and that they align to the business strategy. But make them about your company, not about what you see other companies do, because you’re not that company and they’re not you. Which is why you have to meet with them about that and then make them small. I wouldn’t do ten. Three is a good number to start off with.
Then the other piece is to determine how we’re going to measure that. Oftentimes we jump into things. I’ll say that as an HR professional, “Oh, let’s measure this.” OK, but how are we going to measure that? Ooh, that’s right. We don’t have the systems or the process to measure that. “Let’s do exit interviews on everybody.” OK, well how are we going to measure that with what we’ve got? We can’t do that by taking notes. That was how you and I met. We were taking notes and got folders and spreadsheets. How can we automate this? Which is how we got introduced to People Element. Now we have a dashboard and action plans and survey questions. So, be realistic about what you can accomplish. Develop a group of people inside and outside of HR that you can bounce things off of before you actually put something into action, that’s realistic.
This is a master class in making DEIB effective, and to getting that B, to getting that belonging. So, I’m now going to do something that I’ve just as recently as yesterday been talking about how much I dislike. We’re at the end of the year running into 2023. The predictive next year, crystal ball question that I disliked right up until I’m about to ask you that. I think it’s important, especially with this conversation because I don’t want to call it Ground Zero, but we’ve had diversity, inclusion, belonging surveys, and been helping organizations with that for years and years.
It wasn’t until June 2020 everybody started asking, “Hey, do you have that? Can we have this, can we buy this?” So, I don’t want to call it the Ground Zero, but that was a huge moment in time for this. And naturally, the next year everyone’s talking about it. Companies are building diversity and inclusion committees and saying, “Oh, we’ve got this committee and we’re going to do this, and we’re going to focus on that. We’re going to hire somebody dedicated to that.” Where are we at right now? Is it working? Is it moving forward? Is it losing steam, or is the slow game that you just described starting to really take root and we’re going to continue to see progress in 2023? What is your prediction of where we’re at? Are we fading or are we accelerating in the workplace with diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging?
That is a great question. You know, I attended the SHRM Inclusion Conference in San Diego last month in October, it was amazing with having some conversations with some folks around that. I would compare it to this. If you’re serious about working out and getting in shape, then you’re going to eat the right things. You’re going to hit the gym. You’re going to do all the things you need to. But if it’s just the fad of the day that you want to work out and look slim because you want to head to Hawaii in March and then after that you’re done, then that’s exactly what’s going to happen.
So, what you’ve seen now is organizations who are serious about diversity, continue on that journey. Where you’ve seen organizations who jumped in to say, “Hey, we want that. We want to be that organization. Oh, we need that” are now starting to fade because what happened Tom, is they jumped in without a plan. They didn’t have any sort of outcomes identified. They didn’t have any priorities. They just started to put together committees and employee resource groups. What happens in the workplace as we all know, when you start to do busy work, eventually it impacts your real work. And eventually, it’s “Hey, wait a minute I’m spending all this time, I’m not even sure what this group is. I need to get back to real work” and it fades away. Also not having commitment from your executive leaders oftentimes leads to these programs failing.
So, in summary, those organizations who really see this as being valuable and see leveraging diversity to create business values have said, “OK, we’re in this to win this.” For those organizations who jumped in because they saw other companies jump in and they wanted to get a quick start and thought they could lose 20 pounds in a week. Guess what? Those are the companies who now are no longer going to the gym and their workout equipment is just collecting dust.
That’s what happens in this world, because it does take time. It’s not a quick fix. It’s not a quick win. And you’re working with people. When you work with people, it’s going to take time because philosophies around diversity are different.
For us, it’s around looking at behaviors. We’re not here to change people’s minds and hearts. We’re really focused on changing behaviors and maybe that will lead to people’s changing minds and hearts. Because if you come in saying, “You know what, I’m going to change your heart and mind by this program.” People will not lean into that. But if you say, “Hey, let me expose you to some things, let me provide some opportunities for us. Here’s what we’re trying to accomplish”, then people will slowly walk into the diversity work. So, those who are committed are committed. Those who are not, diversity was something of the past for them.
Million dollar question, and I was going to end it there, but I can’t not ask this million dollar question.
Go right ahead, keep going.
How do we keep this front and center for companies that had fallen off or haven’t even started yet, or still thinking about it without having a disaster and without having an incident? I feel like so much of this is driven by reaction to something bad that happened. What are some strategies outside of just your workplace? I think you’ve done a great job describing how to do it in the workplace, but just in general, in a broad way to end this conversation. How do we keep this conversation broader and not just based on reaction? Based on just what it needs to be, which is us all coming together and evolving and moving forward.
Any organization that cares about people and says they care about people needs to care about all people. Any organization that values engagement, values retention—which most organizations do—values talent. The biggest challenge for all companies today is how do we gain talent and retain it? That is the key and core to this diversity work. Oftentimes we get clouded by our personal feelings or beliefs of what diversity is versus what it’s not, and that then becomes a barrier to us getting to the real core of “Oh wow, if we create this work environment where all people feel like they belong. Yeah, we all want to do that right then we’ll have higher engagement, right? If we have higher engagement, we’ll have higher retention eventually. We’ll have more innovation, which will then affect the bottom line.”
I think if we get back to focusing on people and bringing all people together to create this culture of belonging, to create this culture that people want to come and work and stay, and not get caught up on what they think diversity is or caught up on other types of stereotypes then they’ll be successful. If you talk to any executive, any HR leader, it’s all about the people. And if we just get back to that, diversity is a great opportunity for organizations to move ahead, to stay ahead, and to also have some bottom-line impact.
Britt, phenomenal conversation. Genuinely appreciate the work you’re doing out there. Genuinely, I love this. I would imagine people will have some questions about this. It’s going to spark some fires. I’ll put it in the show notes, but where can people find you?
Yeah, they can find me on LinkedIn. Feel free to reach out. Just plug my name in the search. Feel free to answer questions. One thing I believe highly in this work is how I learned to reach out to many people. Feel free to reach out to me. We learn from one another. The diversity community is typically very wide, open, and giving because I think most diversity leaders see the impact or the benefit of diversity, not only in the workplace but also outside the workplace. There’s many of us who are at the same starting point, just getting started, a year or two in and always looking for resources. So, feel free to reach out to me and I’ll be more than happy to respond.
Fantastic. Britt, I appreciate you taking time today. Without a doubt I’m learning all about DEIB. I appreciate it. Be well, have happy holidays Britt and we’ll see you back out there soon.
You do the same Tom, enjoy your holidays. To everyone else out there, enjoy your holiday as well and Happy New Year.
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