More than two years after the national reckoning on racial injustice provoked a wave of corporate reforms, the business world continues to grapple with its understanding of diversity, equity and inclusion. It is work that has never been more vital to business success, as DE&I increasingly takes center stage among the expectations of today’s employees, who still largely hold the power in a candidate-driven labor market.
So, what have HR and DE&I leaders learned this year as they work to meet those expectations? That’s what HRE recently asked three leaders whose organizations have heightened their work around DE&I. Here’s what they had to say:
Executive Vice President, Chief Legal and Human Resources Officer, Corporate Secretary
Like many companies, after the murder of George Floyd in 2020, CEC Entertainment—the parent company of brands Chuck E. Cheese and Peter Piper Pizza—sharpened its focus on diversity, equity and inclusion. Among its recent initiatives, the organization created a diversity statement and engaged with DE&I experts to advise on the future direction of its DE&I work.
“We wanted to learn how to improve in every aspect of the employee- and guest-facing experience, from a DE&I lens,” Rodriguez says. On the employee side, CEC recently rolled out a tuition-assistance program and continuously works to raise awareness about its early access to earned wages, both of which have underlying goals of supporting the experience of a diversity of employees.
CEC has also leveraged its DE&I Council, composed of employees across levels, from both brands. Being agile and open to new ideas about the future of the DE&I strategy has been key, Rodriguez says.
“They’re learning, just as I am, as we go along about how to improve, where there are opportunities and how we can continue to make an impact as a council and a leadership team to drive the company forward,” he says. “We’re pleased at [the DE&I strategy’s] direction, and I see it getting even stronger in the coming year.”
Vice President, HR, Chief Inclusive Diversity & Equity Officer
Over the last year, insurance giant Allstate has marked a number of DE&I milestones, which, Domingo says, were cause for celebration—but also illustrated the need to keep pressing for continued progress.
Just two-thirds of the way through 2022, the organization hit its diversity representation goals for the year. Allstate also found that it was on track to meet its 2025 diversity representation and supplier diversity and investment goals—perhaps even sooner.
“Those were amazing and critical wins,” she says.
Central to those victories was data, which has been a driving force behind the company’s DE&I strategy. For instance, Domingo says, the analysis of an engagement survey found that participation within one of Allstate’s employee impact groups correlated to higher engagement, promotion and retention rates. It was a finding that the organization used to successfully encourage even more EIG participation.
The value of transparency when it comes to DE&I work has been evident this last year, she adds. And it was a major focus of her September testimony before a Congressional subcommittee that was exploring the state of DE&I at the nation’s largest insurance companies.
“We testified about things we’re doing well as well as things that haven’t gone as well,” she says, noting that degree of transparency was another way for the organization to hold itself accountable on its DE&I goals. “When you believe in diversity and in what you’re doing, you have to lean into the hard conversations and be very public about it.”
Principal and Chief Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Officer
Commitment to DE&I is a long game—and it must be played as such for real, lasting success, says Prabhakar.
“You could do this work—and do it well—for short-term results. But if you don’t do the quiet, hard work on structural change, it’s not sustainable when it comes to the generation-over-generation impact,” she says.
So, what is the “quiet, hard work?” Prabhakar says it involves not just launching a new initiative or revamping a policy—but bringing an equity lens to the entire organization, across all business process: talent acquisition, onboarding, benefits, purchasing.
“We’ve been looking at these processes and saying, ‘What needs structural change?’ We have had to flip some orthodoxies, push ourselves to think differently,” she says. “It’s about bringing that lens to the core, core structures in a business. That, to me, has been our strength on this journey.”
But, it’s an approach that requires patience and perseverance on the part of business leaders.
“It’s going to take a long time,” she says, “but I feel hopeful that, if this focus continues, it will bring about real, sustainable change.”