HRE Soundbite: Making diversity, inclusion an “ongoing journey”

CSAA CHRO Melissa Jones on the organizations strategies to weave D&I and CSR into the company culture.
By: | August 6, 2020 • 2 min read
(Photo by Mario Tama/Mario Tama/Getty Images)

CHROs and executives across organizations are facing crisis after crisis, and need to make decisions under pressure, often virtually.

While the pandemic has dominated headlines in recent months, diversity and inclusion in the workplace has also become a priority for leaders wanting to ensure belonging is woven into the fabric of the company’s culture.

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We recently caught up with Melissa Jones, CHRO at CSAA Insurance Group, a AAA Insurer. She shares how CSAA has internally addressed the ongoing national discussions about racial inequalities, and the impacts the current environment will have on CSAA’s long-term D&I strategies.

Company CEO Tom Troy emailed all employees and contractors condemning the recent killings of Black Americans and affirmed the company’s commitment to racial equity, she says. “We reject racism, injustice and the senseless violence that has resulted in the death of so many Black Americans, including, most recently, George Floyd,” Jones notes. On June 1, Troy posted a LinkedIn blog that addressed CSAA’s solidarity with itsBlack employees and the Black community at-large and highlighting the actions it’s taking to demonstrate the core belief in the power of inclusion.

Melissa Jones

“We have also offered virtual, facilitated conversations for employees exploring the impact of current events on ourselves as individuals and on our communities, in support of processing current events and our collective learning in inclusion and belonging,” Jones adds. “We are taking steps to improve Black and Latino representation at the manager and above levels, and we continue to require diverse slates for all manager and above positions. The current social climate has underscored for us, and for our future candidates, how serious our company takes its social responsibility.”

In terms of D&I strategies, inclusion and belonging is an ongoing journey, requiring continuous improvement and trying new things, she continues. “A culture in which everyone feels a sense of inclusion and belonging doesn’t happen by chance—it needs to be intentional and requires multiple strategies to source diverse talent.”

Read more about Melissa Jones in this #InsightsfromaCHRO

Our No. 1 source of new hires is employee referrals; yet, we’re also aware that people tend to refer friends and family from within their own circles, which doesn’t always encourage growth in diversity,” she says. The company, therefore, is partnering more closely with its employee resource groups to increase the diversity of referrals.

The talent group is also conducting focus groups with some of the ERGs to better understand their experiences at the company, she adds. This qualitative data is helping CSAA to identify the next areas of focus in how the organization recruits, trains managers and develops diverse talent.

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We also measure our candidate pipeline diversity at the applicant, candidate and hire points,” Jones adds. “This provides insight to the rate at which groups are applying for roles, making it to the viable candidate stage and then being hired. This has provided insights into where we can improve—for example, we do not get enough women applying for people-leader roles, so we need to focus on improving the pipeline of women for leadership roles.”

Jen Colletta is managing editor at HRE. She earned bachelor's and master's degrees in writing from La Salle University in Philadelphia and spent 10 years as a newspaper reporter and editor before joining HRE. She can be reached at hreletters@lrp.com.