June 18, 2021
HR Policy Association’s Council on Inclusion and Diversity hosted its inaugural webinar, which featured chief human resources officers and general counsels who candidly discussed the importance of senior leadership taking on diversity as a business objective, building broad support internally, and working closely with the general counsel and legal team.
Cheryl Johnson, Chief Human Resources Officer, Caterpillar, Inc., started the session by noting that the presenting companies “come at this issue influenced by our different business motives, stakeholders, talent needs, and concerns about possible legal and culture challenges.” Yet, she remarked, some common themes emerge from the individual company stories. A full summary of the webinar will be available here next week.
Cultivating leadership and employee support by making a business case: Lucien Alziari, Executive Vice President, Human Resources, Prudential Financial, explained that CHROs alone can’t move the needle, but CEOs and senior leadership teams working together can be very effective. Ellyn Shook, Chief Leadership and People Officer, Accenture, explained how she used data to demonstrate the need to retain more of the company’s talented women as they progressed in their careers, and the importance of diversity to innovation in the company. Janice Dupré, Executive Vice President, Human Resources, Lowe’s Companies, used data to demonstrate how the company’s more diverse stores performed better and were rated higher by customers, cultivating manager buy-in.
Working closely with the legal team to set realistic goals over reasonable timeframes: Joel Unruch, General Counsel and Corporate Secretary, Accenture, noted that the diversity and inclusion focus helps to ensure that all qualified and eligible employees—regardless of race, ethnicity or gender—are considered, while looking at the labor pools from which potential talent is drawn. Anne Kappler, Executive Vice President and General Counsel, Prudential, explained that setting diversity goals should be like setting prudent sales goals to avoid the potential that the goals will be considered quotas.
Beyond the numbers – inclusion a key focus: All three company executives explained that focusing on the human side of diversity—inclusion—was essential to success. Ms. Shook emphasized listening and acting. Mr. Alziari explained that Prudential assessed the “lived experience” of its Black employees based on employee feedback, and Ms. Dupre indicated that the approach at Lowe’s was premised on talent, culture, and the business.
Thanks to everyone who attended and stay tuned for future programs hosted by the Council exploring additional aspects of diversity, inclusion, and belonging.