Webinar: Authentic Commitment: How to Stay True to Your Diversity Statements

August 19, 2022

We have all seen it. An organization that jumps on the bandwagon in terms of diversity, but fails to create a true program that enacts positive change. Maybe they saw it trending and wanted to show that they are relevant. Or maybe they had issues within their own ranks that came to light, so as a reaction they utilize a new title or initiative as a PR Band-Aid. These “check the box” tactics not only fail to address the core issues that create the need for a diversity program, they could cause more harm to the organization and their workforce.

Instead, we need to focus on integrated inclusion and how to take diversity out of the workshop and into the workforce. On this webinar, we will be examining a number of ways to avoid a lip service approach. With actionable steps, an authentic commitment and a dedicated approach you can get past the box and stay true to your diversity statements.

Transcript for Authentic Commitment – How to Stay True to Your Diversity Statements

Giovanni Gallo: Hello, everybody. Welcome to the webinar today, I’m so glad that you’re joining us. We’re just gonna wait a few moments for the room to load up and everyone to get on. This will be our webinar, “Authentic Commitment, Staying True to Your Diversity Statements.” So, we’re really exited to give you some actionable advice. We have an expert panel on issues of diversity and inclusion.

So, while we’re waiting, let’s go around the horn real quick, and tell us where you’re calling in from. I’m here in Charlotte, North Carolina. Gail, where are you right now?

Gail Burgos: In Georgia. Savannah, Georgia.

Giovanni: All right. Solomon, how about you?

Solomon Carter: I am in Atlanta, Georgia.

Giovanni: And next up Melyssa.

Melyssa Barrett: I am in the Bay Area, California.

Giovanni: All right. Welcome to all of our panelists. I’m so excited to have this discussion with you. We’ve been doing a bunch of prep, there’s plenty to discuss and a lot of great mind share on this panel for all of our audience. So, we’re really excited to get this information to you. Our goal here is basically a pretty simple thesis that just saying something, just making a statement, whether it was the middle of the year last year or whether it was during black history month, just saying something, making a commitment is not the same as following through on it. And, you know, we believe that these issues of diversity, specifically today around race, they’re important, they’re big, they’re impactful, they change people’s lives in the workplace a lot of times for the worse. And we can make that better if we stay true to our diversity statements.

So, we’re excited to jump in. Our goal here is gonna be to have a great discussion, open your mind, and deliver some information that can help you be a better leader in your organization, whether you’re a DEI leader, whether you’re a compliance and ethics leader, or whether you’re just somebody who cares about this issue, we hope that today’s discussion can help you make a positive impact to make the world a better workplace. So, let’s jump in and do some intros.

So, I’m your host, I’m Giovanni Gallo. I’m co-CEO of ComplianceLine. I’m excited and honored to introduce you to Solomon Carter. Solomon leads Emory Healthcare’s Physician Group Practices, Patient Financial Services, Office of Professional Development, and he’s the executive director of a mission to Haiti called All Power in His Hands, a Christian mission. Thank you for joining us today, Solomon.

Solomon: Thank you for having me. I’m honored to be here.

Giovanni: It’s an honor to have you. And next up we have Dr. Gail Burgos. Gail is the former senior diversity and inclusion officer for T-S-Y-S, TSYS. She has been there for over 20 years and served in various capacities. And she was…you know, part of what we wanted to bring is practitioners who have done this, and she established the first diversity-and-inclusion program there. And she brought a wealth of knowledge and experience to that, to the payment industry, and she’s gonna bring a wealth of knowledge and experience to our discussion on diversity today. Gail, thanks for joining us. Welcome.

Gail: Thank you so much for having me. I’m honored.

Giovanni: And finally, I’m very excited that we have Melyssa Barrett on the panel today. She’s a vice president at Visa. And she has an overall product responsibility for several related products and leading the risk product excellence, which encompasses a bunch of things there. And she’s also a member of Visa’s Black Executive Council and a sponsor of the Visa Black…sorry, Visa Black Employee Resource Group. So again, she has direct knowledge and experience in making an impact on this issue at a large organization. Welcome, Melyssa, thanks for joining us.

Melyssa: Thanks for allowing me to be part of this fantastic panel.

Giovanni: Awesome. So, let’s jump right in, everyone. We’re so glad that you’re here, we’re glad that you care about this and we’re excited to talk about some of these things. So again, what we’re going at here is it’s not enough to just know about this, it’s not enough to just care about this. If we’re going to make the workplace better for employees, if we’re gonna make it more inclusive, make it more a place where people can shine with their authentic actual persona and background, we need to take some steps and need a plan.

So, you know, as we go through this, we want you to be thinking about this framework. Right? We’re gonna start by setting goals. So, you need to integrate your attitudes, your values, and efforts across the whole company and understand, “Well, what do I actually wanna change?” It needs to not just be a desire but a plan. You need to include leaders. So, you wanna ensure that your leaders are on board prior to rollout, you can’t just be kind of a voice crying in the wilderness.

Also, we’re gonna talk about how this is not a one-time rollout, this is not, “Hey, we made a press release and, you know, we got the CEO to speak on a video.” It’s not a one-time rollout, you need to know your steps for the next whole year, and then after that. Because, as we were talking about in our prep for this, impacting this issue about diversity and race in the workplace, this is a marathon, this is not a sprint. There’s no panacea, there’s no kind of quick-fix silver bullet. But if you work at it and you get on a continuous improvement path, you can make a difference.

And finally, this effort needs to be tied into your mission. It’s not just separate from the culture of your organization, it’s not something that just comes from your panel or your task force or your DEI office, it needs to be part of the fabric of your entire culture and tied to your mission. And we believe that, if you do that, then you’re gonna start making actual progress here.

So, those are some of the things we’re gonna be talking about today. I wanna remind everyone that we, as much as possible, wanna make this conversational. It’s not totally easy across the screen on Zoom but you do have a chat function available to you. We’ll be monitoring that throughout the discussion. So please, make sure that you find that chat on your screen and know that we’ll be looking for those to see if we should dig deeper in on something. If you’d like us to clarify something and help you take action on it, please use that chat. We’ll be looking for it and we can kinda have a bit of a conversation even on this format. So, with that, let’s jump in. Next slide please.

So, the first thing we wanna talk about is communicating your commitment loudly. So, some people did this, some people see it and they think that, you know, maybe it’s just hollow words, but being transparent and taking your plans out of the workshop and into the workforce is gonna help you actually start getting some traction so people know where you’re going. I think previewing that and letting people know that we’re gonna be putting effort into this is a good first step.

So, you know, one of the first things about that is you wanna get leadership onboard and secure your senior commitment. So, I’d love to start with Melyssa, and then we can go to Gail. Melyssa, tell me a little bit about how important this is to get that senior commitment and maybe some ways that people can engage in a way that can make some progress here.

Melyssa: Yeah. Thanks, Geo. So, I can’t even begin to overstress the fact that it has to come from the top. I mean literally, it must come from the top. And I think part of the challenge is, as things flow down, that you will find that the folks that are coming into an organization early, there is a desire for them to get to the top. They wanna be promoted, they wanna be advanced. And as much as there is so much important work being done in the middle, there tends to be kind of this, what I call, “the frozen mill.” The frozen middle where there’s a lot of work that needs to be done and the work gets done but there is less intentionality, perhaps, that happens at that level because they’re trying to get all the work done. Right? There’s lots of things to do, we’ve got business to take care of. But there are so many different things we can do from diagnostics, from really, you know, setting the priorities.

And the priorities have to come from the top. So, as you’re thinking about your own intention, listen to your employees and really understand how your business can make a difference, not only from an HR and a talent perspective but really throughout your business as a whole. Who are you talking to? Who are you including? When you’re creating your software or your services, all of those things become much more important. And they must be intentional from the top.

Giovanni: That’s a great point. Gail, anything to add to that?

Gail: Just a couple more points, Melyssa stated that very nicely, but when you think about also your leadership from the top and your senior management, you know, that’s where your culture and your tone is set. And it’s driven throughout the entire organization. So, having that buy-in, not just a PR message but the true buy-in, from your senior leadership is absolutely crucial. You know, it impacts your leadership level throughout the organization, how your employees actually feel that they have the buy-in and support is absolutely critical.

And then the policies that are impacted. The policies and procedures throughout the entire organization have to be modified and inclusive of diversity and inclusivity practices throughout. And those changes cannot simply just be done unless senior leadership is, again, all on board and you empower your fellow leaders and your employees to follow suit.

So, it has to be authentic. You know, they have to feel that their leadership is truly behind a diversity and an equity and inclusive journey that is going to happen. And we will talk a little bit later on about there’s the corporate strategy but there’s also the individual journey. And so, therefore, every person, including your executive leadership, has to also follow suit on that as well. So yeah.

Giovanni: Yeah, that’s a great point. This is not just the entire organization, this is not some disembodied plan. There are people who mess this up, there are people who need to be part of the solution, and everyone has their own personal journey to, you know, figure out how they can contribute to this.

Gail: Absolutely.

Giovanni: Solomon, I’d love to get any perspective you might have on this concept of getting leadership on board. You know, we’re talking about communication on this portion, and communication is always two ways. Right? There’s something that we, as leaders, can do and there’s something that, you know, we’re trying to get our senior leadership, our executives to change or get a perspective. Do you have any input on how, you know, maybe where we go wrong sometimes and misread it or, you know, where we can be more effective there?

Solomon: Sure. Thank you for that question. So, I’m going to say that, you know, when incorporating an effective DEI program, I really like to use the blend of motivational and compulsion techniques. As with most things, I am a firm believer that it is motivational techniques that will yield the greatest results. However, as it relates to DEI, I have a slightly different take. And I do believe that there needs to be more compulsion in this area. And so, that is through the policies and the procedures and through a very clear message from leadership.

And, you know, when that message is not as clear as it should be, that’s where when we start to have some of the failures that we have. In essence, what I would say is, you know, probably an oversimplification to a certain degree, but really it’s profoundly true, people treat you the way that they feel about you. And so, if you are a leader and you make it known talking about the intentionality and the authentic nature of what needs to be done, as stated by my fellow panelists, then that helps you to not have some of the pain points that you have when you don’t have that kind of commitment upfront.

So, specifically to your question, I think that, if we can have the kind of commitment that we need upfront and people know that you are authentic and that it is something of a passionate or a serious and a professional nature and that anything outside of what you desire is gonna be unacceptable and to be succinct that they’re going to be promoted to the unemployment line if they don’t do what you’re asking, which is a compulsion technique, right, we’re gonna have motivation as well but there needs to be a little bit more of a compulsion technique, particularly within the leadership core. Right? So that everyone believes themselves, so that they’re believable.

If we can have that, I think that we can avoid some of the pitfalls that many organizations have upfront. No one needs to feel like they’re being heard from or that a leader is saying something to them and it’s kind of like, “I’m telling you this because I was told to tell this to you.” So, that sense of being authentic is really needed in order to have the kind of successful outcomes that we desire.

Giovanni: That’s great. Thank you for that, Solomon. Yeah, this is too important of an issue to just leave to do it if you want. And I think that that compulsion can be an important piece of that to, you know, kind of walk the talk from a senior level.

So, just to prove it to everyone that we actually are monitoring this chat and taking questions, we have a question from the chat, before we move on from this leadership point, and I’ll just open it up to anyone who wants to jump in. The question is, “You mentioned buy-in from senior leadership, what does that look like specifically?” I think people get, you know, broadly the concept of, “I should have some support,” but, you know, maybe it’s, “how do we measure it?” maybe it’s just, you know, “what should we be shooting for and when do we know we have it?” Anybody have a perspective on that?

Gail: Sure. I’ll jump in real quickly and just say, you know, understanding your culture of the organization, first and foremost, is absolutely essential. So, you know, the leaders are the ones who set that tone and orchestrate the culture of the company. And so, when you look out over the vast, you know, thousands of companies and organizations, each is going to have their own journey. Each is going to have their own distinct diversity-equity-and-inclusivity corporate strategy. I think what has to happen you can take the best practices from the industry but you have to be able to effectively marry that to the culture of that organization and ensure that the leaders understand their employees, where they are, their landscape, and it’s not a cookie-cutter approach. Because, if you are a global company and you have various locations, then you have to understand that applying that is going to vary as well.

So, when we say, “We need buy-in from the leadership,” is an understanding of who we are as a people, who we are as a company, and who we are as our culture so that you can apply and implement that strategy appropriately. Again, the execution is the critical part. And so, having your leadership understand that and be on board with that in order to empower the people that are going to implement those things, whether it’s HR, whether it’s actual individual contributors, whether it’s volunteers, ERG groups, and so forth, they have to understand that they are empowering and influencing their entire organization to be able to implement that strategy and to be able to modify that by each location. So, the other panelists may have some input on that answer as well.

Giovanni: Yeah, I think those are great points, Gail, about, you know, “Are they empowering you? Are they helping you execute it?” I think those are some ways that you can see it. Melyssa, did you wanna jump in?

Melyssa: Yeah. I was just gonna add, you know, from some of the practicality components that I think, you know, the rubber needs to meet the road somewhere. And I think probably one of the best places to start is to really, you know, allow the space, have some very specific conversations or meetings where you’re talking about diversity, equity, and inclusion, and whether you break that down into smaller groups, whether you’re engaging your employee resource groups to provide feedback on how they feel and what they’re doing. And quite frankly, senior leadership, how about you show up to some ERG events and participate?

Giovanni: Maybe not under compulsion. Right, Melyssa? Like, if you have the buy-in, maybe they wanna come sit in on the town hall or, you know, the discussion.

Melyssa: Absolutely.

Giovanni: That’s great. Yeah, you know, as I think about this, this is subjective, but I think you can ask yourself, “Does my leadership care?” I think you just ask yourself that and see what pops up. Like, you know, “Did they force something into the board meeting where they have to put a slide about this?” or, “do they care?” and that’s gonna show up a bunch of different ways. Right? And your funding is gonna show up how dynamic they are in your execution, it can show up in, you know, their personal participation as a participant, not just a sponsor.

But, you know, I think that, to Gail’s point, that personal journey within your culture is gonna be different but I think that buy-in looks like them caring because, you know, you kind of can tell what the CEO and the board and the execs care about. It’s the stuff that they fund and they spend time on and they, you know, give people the stage for and things like that. And if you’re seeing that happening, then you might have that buy-in. If you’re not, then those are some things that you can either work for distinctly or you can look for to see if, you know, “When I have that buy-in, when they care, then I’m there.” Anything you wanted to add, Solomon?

Solomon: If I may, those two wonderful points. The only thing that I would add probably is, from somewhat of a purist standpoint, I think that diversity, equity, and inclusion, once you have a firm understanding of it, is so prolific and so profound and so wonderful that, if the concepts and the nuances and the intricacies of DEI can be properly explained and distilled in a way that everyone would have that branch knowledge, I really think that’s a wonderful way to get the buy-in. I think a lot of it goes in the explanation and in some of that foundational training and expertise that is poured into the staff so that they, again, have that root knowledge. And I think that the more people who have a profound understanding of what it all means is really a strong basis in a motivational technique as to how people buy in the way that we would like them to.

Giovanni: That’s great. Yeah, that motivation comes from understanding how this matters, how it’s gonna happen, how it’s gonna benefit. And when you can speak that language to the executive group, then they can say, “Okay, I see how this aligns with the other things that I want, I’m motivated.” I love that, Solomon.

Solomon: Absolutely, absolutely.

Giovanni: So, let’s jump into the second point. We have a bunch to cover here so we’re gonna start moving a little bit faster, everyone. But the second point on here for communicating your commitment is think about your organization. So, have a clear rollout and have multiple steps in your plan. You know, it may start with a commitment, it may start with a statement or a video from the CEO or something like that but have a clear rollout. Gail, can you give us any perspective on kind of where people maybe trip up over this or what it means to kind of, from an organizational integration standpoint, how we can do this well?

Gail: Sure. So, you know, setting that foundational tone and determining what it is that you, as a company, as an organization, want to do and to be able to accomplish. And you have to be real. You have to understand that it has to happen in phases. So, what are you gonna want to accomplish in the, you know, next 3 to 6 months? In 6 to 18 months? And then 18-36 months?

And stage it out in project work so it can be accomplished. It’s absorbable that way, people can see tangible results, and then they can also understand that it is a journey. You know, you communicate what it is that you want to do in the stages that you want to be able to accommodate that in. And it makes it real, it makes it tangible, and people, you have that buy-in from your organization.

And then I will just add just a little smidget from a global perspective, in case we have organizations that have various, you know, locations throughout the world. You have to be able to also apply that strategy and your goals to the area and to the region and to the location. So, that’s where it becomes also very fluid and transparent and receivable for them as well. So, your communication strategy, having an understanding of your culture within that location is absolutely critical. And then the ongoing support and communication from the leadership, not only at the top but then within those various locations, if it’s a global company as well, are also important, ensuring that is ongoing and is continuing.

Giovanni: That’s great. Thank you for that, Gail. So, the other two points here are kind of tied together but we wanted you to think about them separately because your approach for them is, potentially, different. But this is kind of getting outside the people who get paychecks from your organization and realize that your impact and the way you’re impacted by these diversity-and-inclusion initiatives is tied to your market. So, let your partners and your vendors know what you’re committed to and how they can contribute to this. Whether it’s deciding who you hire or how they behave in your workplace or anything like that. And then also communicate to your customers.

But, you know, one point we wanna make around the customers piece, and then I wanna go to Melyssa to see any perspective you have on these two points, you should communicate to your customers last. If you are trying to do this just as a PR stunt, just as a way to try to curry favor with your customers and just put on a face as if you care about this, then your program’s gonna fail. And, you know, ultimately, I think, increasingly in this culture that we have, people are gonna sniff out that inauthenticity. And if you’re not actually living it out and you’re just telling people that you care about it, I think it has a potential to come back and bite you. So Melyssa, do you have any perspective on how partners and vendors or customers can be part of the solution?

Melyssa: Yeah, absolutely. So, when you think about supplier diversity, for example, and who your current suppliers and vendors are, some of the things that I know folks are looking at today is, you know, “How diverse is that set of vendors and suppliers that we’re using and are there ways to tie information? The fact that I’m securing services from this particular supplier, are there ways for me to create a bigger effect by ensuring they’re also looking at their own suppliers and the diversity around those suppliers?”

So, essentially, you have opportunities to really, you know, forge new relationships, new partnerships and provide opportunities for vendors that maybe you aren’t doing today, from a supplier standpoint. So, that would be one aspect. I think, you know, again, as we think about some of the, you know, definitions and language that we use, both to our market and to our customers, there are things that we can do to change the way that we’re really speaking about our business and how we are…you know, if you’re in technology, for example, and you’re looking at some of the language. We talked about white papers and blacklists and, you know, things of that nature, those are things that, you know, you can start to impact how people are thinking because you’re creating more awareness about exactly what you’re doing in the marketplace. So, those are, you know, just some things that, you know, are very practical. They may be small but they can actually create big waves of difference, as you move throughout your business.

Giovanni: Great, thank you for that, Melyssa. Anything else to add, Gail or Solomon, on bringing your vendors and your partners in or communicating this to your customers?

Gail: No, I think Melyssa did a great job of covering it very nicely.

Solomon: She did, absolutely. These are wonderful slides. And so, I think that, for the interest of time, also because this slide is really dynamic and we could probably make a whole discussion just off of this alone. So…

Giovanni: Yeah, sure. So, we’re gonna get moving here…oh, sorry. Thank you, Solomon. We’re gonna kind of get down to brass tacks a little bit more throughout the rest of this. So, we’re seeing some questions come in, people are really hungry to see something actionable, something tangible that they can do. So, we’ll circle around to some of those things about leadership and involvement toward the end.

But let’s talk about metrics. Okay? So, this is one way that we can get out of the ephemeral, we can get out of the, “Hey, do people understand this?” and what action is actually being taken. So, you can’t interpret what you don’t measure so you need to create metrics that measure your goals correctly. So, one way that you can do this is measuring your program and your activity. So, those are things like your communications, your activities, and participation in this. Gail, do you have any perspective on how you can measure, how you can see if you’re making progress from a program and activity level? What would people be looking at to see if they’re heading in the right direction here?

Gail: Sure. So, you know, the first practice that most companies look at, of course, is their diverse management and the demographics from an ethnicity, gender…those are the most that are readily available. But there are over 50 dimensions of diversity that can be measured. I mentioned here just recently global diversity, your age, your tenure. And there’s just a broad spectrum, again, of diverse aspects that you can look at. But the company has to decide, first and foremost, what their goals want to be around diverse aspects and look at those values. And again, ethnicity and gender tend to be the ones that are recognized by the company…and better strive to do. You turn to your HR department or your data analytics and they run that information for you.

I think it’s also very important, number two, that you have a transparent method to be able to show that not only to your leadership but to the entire company of, “Here’s where we are, here’s our baseline, and here’s where we want to go and to be able to consistently communicate that,” not only have the accountability that falls on your leadership but it falls on every person that is a part of that and understands what that information means and how they play a part in it. You know, those are some of the very critical things that has to be done. Run the data, show your transparency, don’t be afraid of your numbers wherever they may be if you, again, are measuring ethnicity and or gender, and then communicate those goals on a regular basis. And it has to become indoctrinated into your policies, into your procedures of how we’re going to strive and meet those metrics and those goals.

But you have to remember, and I’ll say this really quickly, that the journey is not just at your hands. And if you think about a DEI component and how people embrace it, the journey starts from your mind, your heart, and your hands, not the other way around. People want to see, and I call hands as the output, right, they see the representation change. And that’s the first thing that people gravitate to, it’s like, you know, “When am I gonna see more representation in our senior leadership?” and so forth. And they want to see it now. But the real journey starts in your mind. First, you have to be embraced if you have to desire in the one, that’s your heart. And then the hands take place so that it will sustain itself. You don’t want to just do representation or change representation just because just to satisfy that goal because, if you do it that way, it becomes this ugly affirmative action and people don’t like to say, “These numbers are just changing just to be changing,” but you have to have the entire process and the entire buy-in, that mind, heart, and hands incorporated into your metrics so that people will understand that it’s not just moving of the numbers but it is a sincere process that we have.

Giovanni: Yeah, I love that, Gail. I mean you’re talking about that head, heart, and hands piece. And as you measure these metrics, I love that you said like you don’t need to be afraid of wherever you are. Right? Like you have to measure it, reality is your friend. If you have poor representation or people of color never get promoted or whatever it is, start by measuring it, see where you are, understand that there’s a problem. And if you start measuring this and you’re not seeing the results, you’re doing the program piece, you’re doing activity and it’s not changing on headcount or it’s not changing on, you know, people having a perception that you care or that they’re included here, you may not have followed that through. Right? That head, “Do you understand it?” that heart, “do you want it?” and then that hand, “are you doing it?”

I think a lot of times, if you don’t get that buy-in and this is just a DEI-led effort that is not important to the whole organization, then you can have the activity without the results that you want. Solomon, I’d love your perspective on this issue of perception. I think, you know, we wanna get hard facts, we wanna get, you know, “What is the head count?” “how many people of color do we have?” “how many,” you know, “women were promoted this year,” things like that but there’s a piece of this that’s important to the organization is “how is participation in these programs and activities, what incidents are reported where people feel like this?” Some of this soft stuff of what comes up at town halls when we’re, you know, opening up a conversation about it. Talk to us a little bit about how measuring some of these soft things can integrate into an overall effective program.

Solomon: Well, thank you for that question. So, you know, when you’re talking about the metrics and you’re talking about making change within an organization, one of the things that I like to ensure is that, when we are having…let’s say, you know, we want more blue M&M’s to be here, we want more red M&M’s to be there. Right? Have we given them the tools to succeed? It’s not enough to simply look at the metrics and say, “Here, look at many of the changes that we’ve made. We are now in compliance.” Right? We have to be able to give the people, our staff, right, the tools that they need to be hyper successful.

And so, sometimes we have a move in the metrics, we have all these positive gains but, unfortunately, we haven’t necessarily given them the tools to succeed. Right? And that affects perception because, in theory, if we don’t give a certain demographic the tools, then they are not moved into, let’s say, a leadership position and then they are less than astute or less than successful in that position. Right? It would cause someone to then say, “Look, we’ve made the changes but now, as a result, we’re having these pain points when that’s really not the case.” They weren’t mentored in the way that you were mentored. They didn’t receive training, professional development over the last 3 years that you have.

So, all of these things are really important in order to kind of move the measurements in the way that we’d like. Perception is really really important. Perception sits at the seat of all judgment and it is judgment that sits at the seat of all leadership. It’s not accountability, it’s not integrity. All of those things are a subcategory. Ultimately, it is your judgment that sits at the seat of all leadership. That’s why, if you go for a background investigation, a serious one, right, one of the things that they’re looking for is to determine your driving record over the last 5, 10, 15, 20 years. Right? So, why do they look at your driving record? It’s not because they want you to do a too fast, too furious Tokyo drive at the company picnic, it’s because they want to look at your judgment, how you drive deals with your judgment. So, it’s your judgment that sits at the seat of all leadership and the decisions that you make. And of course, it is your perception that sits at the seat of all judgment.

Giovanni: I love it, that’s great. Melyssa, I wanna move on to our next topic about conversations but I’d love to just check with you if you have any input on, you know, this critical issue of metrics, what can and should we put into a spreadsheet really, right, that’s gonna be some measurement. What can we record around our DEI program to express our success to find out where we are and to see if we’re making progress?

Melyssa: Yeah. I think…so, you know, there’s a lot of folks that are specifically focusing on headcount representation as kind of one of their main efforts. “We’re going to increase representation in a particular time period,” which is a great metric to measure, certainly depending on kind of what your goals are. I think part of it also though is, when we think about talent, to me, talent kind of sits in the middle between compliance and revenue generation where you’re actually reaching out to new markets, you’re providing inclusive design for your products.

And so, talent has so many different ways of being measured. Certainly you have to have them at the table, a diverse element at the table. You have to be collaborative. But I think also you have to be able to reach into the organization and really understand who you have at the table. So, don’t be afraid to really incorporate it…it’s great to have quantitative metrics. But think about some of the qualitative aspects as well. You know, I think some of the other panelists talked about, you know, how are they feeling. You know, check in. You know, when you think about an equity audit, some of those things that you might be looking at, if you were to do an equity audit, is really about identifying places that you can make a difference.

And so, I think, you know, when we talk about it in the context of compliance and you really, you know, kind of extend the view of the journey from a business perspective, that business integration gives you all these other initiatives to measure as you are reaching out and delivering business to the marketplace.

Giovanni: I love that, Melyssa. And it’s a great point to consider operationalizing this a bit. Right? As compliance leaders, as ethics experts, we love our programs, we love our benchmarks, you know, we do audits of our vendors and we do audits of our policy adherence and we do audits of, you know, how much of our training and E-learning is done. And bringing that framework into this DEI effort can help get it out of the head and heart into your hands.

So, it’s a great thing to consider getting some of that leadership buy-in to hire someone to come in and do an equity audit and find out, “Okay, what metrics should we be tracking? Where do we stand on some of these? If we don’t know where we stand, how do we start measuring them?” And that’s a service that’s available. And you’re welcome to get in touch with us, we can help put you in touch with some people who can do that for you. But that equity audit is something that can give you some tangible things to say, “Okay, there’s a way to operationalize this. There’s a way to fit this into my framework, as an ethics expert, to measure it, take some action, see how it happened, and then move forward.” And if you can get that into place, then that’s one way that you can kind of get your metrics set and then start moving those forward. Thanks for bringing that up, Melyssa.

So, as we move into this next slide, we’re gonna be talking about conversations. I’d love, Gail, if you could share with everyone the analogy that you make about someone visiting your home.

Gail: Sure. So, you know, there’s definitely a difference in being invited and being made to feel welcome. Inclusivity, you know, you hear that word go hand in hand with diversity, equity, and inclusion. And so, you know, that environment truly, it’s not cliche, but how do you really help the inclusive journey of people, not only just from a corporate journey, a corporate strategy, but individually?

And so, I try to break it down into thinking about, if I was to invite you into my home, I’m not just inviting you, I’m also putting forth the effort to make you feel welcome. Right? What do I do to really make you feel welcome? If I sent out the invitation and I said, “It is a formal attire and I have diverse representation of my guest, do I ask my African-American or my black attendee, you know, if he shows up or she shows up in a dashiki? Do I look at them differently that they were not informed that it’s formal, because that is formal attire?” Or if I have an Asian person who shows up and they have on a sorry, you know, in their formal attire, that is still an act of being formal.

So, you have to really put forth, again, the effort of welcoming and taking the time to educate yourself on various cultures, on people, who they are, getting to know that person. And it doesn’t happen overnight but you really have to work on welcoming and creating an environment and getting to know someone sincerely. Regardless of what level you are, whether you’re at top leadership, all the way down to the entry-level worker. It takes time to get to know someone and to ask those questions. And that’s where inclusivity really comes into play. And it has to be done because, again, diversity cannot live where inclusivity does not reside. People will not stay, your retention records are going to show, and people are going to leave if they’re not made to feel welcome. So, don’t just start your diversity management journey and set those goals, you also have to set goals on creating inclusivity. And that’s where not only your ERGs, your business resource groups but the tone and the culture from your leaders has to be done as well.

Giovanni: That’s great. Thank you for that, Gail. So, part of what we wanna bring into this, right, part of the way that you can follow up your commitment with authentic action, is to facilitate two-way conversations. If your DEI program or your commitment is just a megaphone, if it’s just a press release that you’re posting and you’re telling people what’s going on, if you don’t also have your ear open and you’re not listening to your employees, then you’re gonna be missing the mark. There’s so much that we’ve talked about about localizing your efforts for the culture, about, you know, getting your efforts appropriate to the culture within your business, the state that you are at, and people, you know, kind of moving from that head through to the hands. You need to speak and you also need to listen.

And then you need to follow that up with action. Right? Based on what you hear. And people say, “Hey, that didn’t land. I don’t really believe that you care about this. Well, I’m still seeing problems here,” then you need to listen, pivot on your actions, and ultimately circle back and close the loop on what you’re doing with suggestions that people make in requests that they make. Melyssa, do you have any input on, you know, how people can effectively open up this conversation rather than just, you know, running programs and making statements? I think you’re on mute, Melyssa.

Melyssa: Sorry. I love the Zoom. I think part of what we and I spoke a little bit about just giving the space, I think a lot of times we get into a meeting and we’re so quick to dive into whatever it is we wanna talk about, but sometimes just allowing people to speak and you listen is an actual action. So, whether it be a town hall, some of the things, you know, to consider might just be, “Have a meeting and just talk about this.” You know, just how can we be more intentional? Be collaborative with the groups, utilize your employee resource groups to see what their needs are. And then don’t be quick to say you’re not gonna implement something, actually take the feedback and figure out how to prioritize what they’re asking you.

And so, you know, it’s funny, when I look at this slide and I see “converse in 3D and 4D,” I always think of like converse three deep and four deep. Because a lot of times we do one-on-ones or maybe skip levels but, heaven forbid, we go four deep and really understand what’s happening. So, those are some ways to have some different conversations but to also make sure that you’re being curious. Ask questions and just open yourself up a little bit, from a vulnerability standpoint. You don’t have all the answers, nobody does, so, allow people to give you information that you may not be aware of.

Giovanni: That’s great. Thank you, Melyssa. Solomon, I’d love your perspective on this 3D and 4D thing. Melyssa, I love that additional dimension that you added of, “Don’t just talk to your direct reports and don’t just skip level, go further down in the organization and speak to the front line,” and things like that. Solomon, as I turn it over to you, this concept of 3D is not just “I speak and I listen” but speak up to the executives in a third dimension and speak down into the organization. We need to be speaking and listening in all of those directions and make sure that you’re both listening to people of color, as you’re doing workshops or having these conversations, and also have this consistent cycle of hearing this, taking action, teaching. What perspective can you give us on how to do that well or what to look out for?

Solomon: You know, I’m gonna say that my panelists have done an outstanding job of covering all the bases in this area. You know, I think that listening, just to piggyback a little bit off what Melyssa said, is really underrated. It is a profound element of communication. And so, we’ve all had an occasion where we were talking to someone and they’re shaking their head, “No,” just, you know, like frothing at the mouth to respond, as opposed to really listening and, you know, taking the time to really take in everything that we are trying to communicate to them.

So, I think that listening is underrated. It’s not, you know, the lower portion or the side component of communication, it is a major component. Listening and then, of course, within that, being able to distill, “Okay, I have heard you but do I really understand everything that you said?” And so, certainly one thing, the technique that I like to recommend at times is that, after that period of listening, then I would then say, “I want to be clear on what you have said,” and then to go over that again. And if you do that at times, you’ll be very surprised you’ll have situations where someone will say, “Oh no, yes, I said that but that’s not what I meant. This is what I meant.” But that really takes again that conversation piece, not just the checkbox saying, “You know what, I allow them to speak and I did hear them and they said these things.” So, you may understand that they said these five things but did you really really understand the meaning and the nomenclature of what they were saying to you, right? And so, there’s a difference in levels of understanding. “I understand you, I heard you,” right, “I heard you and I can regurgitate that back to you but do I really have the knowledge of your sentiment? Of how, when I’m treated this way, the way that that makes me feel as a woman,” you know, “as a black man,” you know, “all the wonderful things that we are.” So, I think it really has to be that healthy back and forth.

Giovanni: That’s great. Thank you for that, Solomon. So, we’re getting more functional here as we go in. So, as we go to the next slide, I wanna talk briefly about how people can report these issues. And then we’re gonna go back to the panel and talk about consequences and barriers. So, get ready for that.

As we talk about reporting, I wanna encourage you to think, “Right, so, we’re getting kind of tactical. We’re talking about, as a compliance program, how can you use your tools to impact this DEI progress?” So, you know, a first step in it can be to standardize your process, make sure that you have a fair and thorough process for people to report something to your hotline, to their manager, to the compliance office, whatever it is. Make sure that you close and resolve those things and let someone know, “I hear you, we’re working on it, we did something about it.” And, you know, that’s the process of sharing your progress.

So, let people know your outcomes. Let people know that you have a win that someone spoke up about this and we fixed it. That’s gonna build a groundswell, that’s gonna build norms, as you think about the behavioral psychology of this diversity-and-inclusion effort, sharing those wins and your learnings and telling people, “Hey, we, as a leadership team, we, as an organization, are learning from you. We heard what you said,” to Solomon’s point, “we understand what was wrong and we’re starting to fix it,” is gonna be helpful.

And then, ultimately, you wanna set up that process, set up a cycle where you have goals, where you have benchmarks and you make sure that the way that people can report something, you know, where a comment goes after someone drops it in the comment box, make sure that that’s convenient and contextual and those are things that, you know, compliance leaders have a lot of experience with and we can lend specifically to focus on this diversity effort to help move this thing forward, to partner with the diversity office or the task force or just someone on the executive team who cares about this.

So, moving on, we wanna talk about knowing the consequences. So, this kind of gets to the framework that Solomon brought up of make sure people know what to expect when they violate some of these norms. Right? So, we’re getting deeper into the compliance and the consequences and what’s gonna go wrong. So, Gail, I’d love to hear how we can communicate and let people know in an effective way that, if you violate our principles around diversity, there’s gonna be a consequence.

Gail: Yeah, absolutely. And this goes back to making sure that your policies and your…are already adapted with diversity, equity, and inclusion in line. But your HR and your leadership has to, first and foremost, uphold those policies and thought process of diversity, equity, inclusion, and making it fair. That, if issues are reported, if concerns are brought to their attention, that they’re gonna be taken seriously and they’re going to be investigated.

And so, that process that you just shared before in the previous slide has to be, first and foremost, laid out very, you know, open and transparent and then enforced and executed on by your HR and your leadership to ensure that it is fairly done, that voices are heard, and that that commitment to not being afraid for people to express themselves and have any type of unfair repercussions, that that tone is set from leadership and from HR to enforce on it.

Giovanni: Great. Thank you for that. And, you know, I think another element of that is avoiding this, quote unquote, “slap on the wrist.” Right? If your CEO is repeatedly apologizing for multiple different gaffes and offensive behavior then your program isn’t working. If, you know, someone on the front line has a negative consequence for violating this but a high performer or a senior person just gets a slap on the wrist and they say, “Hey, try not to do that anymore,” then this isn’t really working and that’s a clear measurement, you know, it’s not a trend that you can see clearly all the time but that’s an indication, and that should be on your metrics, of, “How often are we consistently following through on these pieces?”

So, let’s go to the next slide. And we wanna talk a little bit…I’d love to go to you, Melyssa, and see if you have any input on these three barriers to incorporating a DEI program. You know, these are some things that, you know, can lead people astray or keep them from implementing this properly. Anything here stand out to you that you wanna make a comment about?

Melyssa: Well, it’s a great question because I think, you know, certainly, when we talk about perception versus reality and the assessment of where you are in the journey, there are aspects of, you know, delivering, you know, information that is false or poor. And, you know, certainly, in this line of business, you see lots of things where you have to investigate and determine, you know, kind of where to go and how all that works together.

So, I think a lot of times what happens is people perceive a certain thing, you know, maybe differences in pay equity, and they may or may not exist. And so, being able to validate certain information empowers people. And, you know, allowing yourselves to be transparent with some of that information allows people to understand where we are and where we wanna go. It also eliminates that whole basis for false information because where information does not exist, or transparency doesn’t exist, people will make up stories. I mean that is just the nature of us. We like stories, we like drama. Right? And so, to the extent that you are transparent, it becomes very helpful.

I think the other thing I would say is your employees are, in fact, your ambassadors. And so, to the extent that you utilize your employees in ways that allow them to thrive, you have opportunities to really highlight not only, you know, some of the challenges but some of the successes that you will have. Because you will have people that really want to engage, they wanna work on this, they wanna be allies. Put them to work and make sure that you are influencing others within all areas of your business.

So, you know, you might have employee resource groups and now they roll into functional resource groups because people are looking for further development. You know, in my business, there’s, you know, lots of focus on cyber security. And, you know, what does cyber security look like when you break it down by ethnicity? You know, there’s a lot of underrepresentation. Is there a place that you can, you know, play a role there?

So, I think, you know, the perception…and when we talk about check-the-box hiring, there’s a lot of folks that will say, “Well, you know, we’re underrepresented, so, I need to hire this kind of person,” or a black person or, you know, a Latin person, whatever. And at the end of the day, nobody wants that. We want the best person for the job no matter what they are. The question is are there barriers to getting those folks in the door, onboarded, and developed, and promoted? And that is where the challenge is, not in, you know, kind of eliminating those barriers by really pulling back the curtain and seeing, you know, “Where am I recruiting from? Where is my message going out and how do I shift some of those things to make sure that I am kind of broadening the net so that I can get the best candidates in the door for the position?”

Giovanni: That’s a great point, Melyssa.

Solomon: Excellent, excellent.

Giovanni: Yeah. As people of color, we don’t want someone promoted into a position to represent us who is bound to fail there. We don’t want unqualified people doing the job for our company but there are structural things that you can analyze and figure out, you know, “What’s keeping that from happening and keeping us from finding a qualified person to fill this role?”

Solomon: Absolutely. I’d like to just piggyback off that.

Giovanni: Yeah. Please, do.

Solomon: Sure. So, I think that’s somewhat dynamic because we have situations where someone will say, “Okay, I’m going to,” you know, “why don’t we have black people in this position? So, what I’m going to do, my wisdom is I’m gonna put a black person in this role. Right? Or I’m going to put 10 black people in this role,” and they think that that is what has made it better. You know, being able to use critical thinking skills within our leadership, the first thing that we should say perhaps is why do we not have more black applicants? What is happening that more women don’t want to be an astronaut or don’t want to be a chef or don’t want to be a surgeon? Why is it that we have this demographic that is not applying the same way? As opposed to saying, “Look, we don’t have,” you know, “as many applicants, and so that’s why we don’t have as many A, B, C, D,” which is really a cop-out. Right? That’s a lapse in leadership.

So, it’s really about distilling concepts and doing due diligence and then having experts like on the panel, right, to then come together and then do a deep dive and do an analysis to really have knowledge as to why we’re in the situation that we’re in. I think it’s really important to do that because, when you’re able to start peeling the layers back, it really helps to get to some of the issues that you’re facing. And then that is when we can best apply diversity, equity, and inclusion to those pain points and have the kind of successful outcomes that we are looking for.

Giovanni: Thank you, Solomon, that’s a great point. So, we have just a couple minutes left, and I wanna touch on this next slide. I think this was your framework, Gail. And I’d love you to just kind of bring us home on this and talk about this framework. I think a lot of us know about unconscious bias but we need to not let it land there and stop there. Can you tell us about that scale?

Gail: Sure. So, you know, many organizations have gone through the measures of, of course, conducting unconscious-bias assessments and training as part of their diversity training. But the next question that comes up and that rests on people’s mind is, “What do I do with it?” right, and, “how do I continue to apply that each day and that it just doesn’t go on the shelf?”

And so, the movement then becomes, “How do I go from unconscious bias to conscious inclusion?” Because inclusivity has to be fostered, it has to be worked on every single day to ensure, you just mentioned, that diverse representation feels welcome and it is not just a checking of the box and just placing a diverse representation in positions and it doesn’t gravitate or doesn’t reside there. So, it has to be worked on, it has to be a conscious inclusive effort to happen.

And so, it’s just simply not enough to know what your unconscious bias is. And I equate it to that invisible backpack that we all have. Right? I have baggage, you have baggage, every one of us has some unconscious bias that we bring with us every single day. And as the world continues, you know, the things that we see in the news and things that are happening, that is also information that is impacting our bias as well, and we have to be open, receptive of that. But you have to work on it, you have to understand where you are and then be okay with being uncomfortable to challenge yourself. And there are steps that you can do.

And real quickly, here’s some things. You know, evaluate your own circle. Right? Your own immediate circle, whether that circle is within your family, whether that circle is with your organization or your community. But how diverse is your circle? And I’m not just talking about your skin color, I’m talking about, you know, from walks of life. You know, do you take…each day that you’re here and you’re blessed to be on this earth, do you take an intentional action to diversify your circle with someone who is not like you? That is one critical step that you can do. And we can all be, you know, receptive of that.

And that played such a huge part, again, in that journey of how do we continue to move from the unconscious bias and say, “Hey, that’s not me,” you know, “I’ve got this down pat,” to, “here, I’m working on making a better version of Gail Burgos so that I can be better as a leader, I can be better as a person around me.” And I think that that’s where each one of us, regardless of where we are in the organization or what our titles are, that we can be better humans in order for us to be better people to those that we interact with every single day.

Giovanni: I love it, Gail. Thank you so much for sharing that with us. I think it’s a powerful framework. And, you know, I think you’re actively talking about moving this from your head, of you understand conscious bias, into, you know, you need to consciously take actions to include people.

So, we’re a minute over right now. So, if people need to drop off, you’re welcome to. This is recorded and we’ll send the recording around to all the attendees. But listen, there’s a lot to talk about here. I wanna note to everybody that the slides that you’ve seen today, we’re gonna be sending around a more filled out slide deck that has more actionable stuff within this that explains some of these frameworks for you to take some action. And, you know, please, if you have another meeting to go to, please feel free to catch the rest of this on a recording. But I wanna see if we can just spend a couple minutes talking about the next slide about some things in the news and also, you know, see if any of the panelists can stay on and we can get to some of this Q&A.

Obviously, everyone, this is a big conversation, I want you to know that ComplianceLine is committed to continuing to amplify voices in this discussion and continuing to help you, as a leader, make a difference around diversity in your workforce. So, we’re gonna be doing a series on this. We’ll be following up with a diversity webinar about sex and gender and women in the workplace. We’ll have one that is very focused on metrics and driven by some surveys of millions of employees around these things. So, we’re gonna keep coming with these things to help continue this conversation. Follow us on LinkedIn and check out “ComplianceLIVE Podcast” for more discussions about this.

But if you can stay on, I wanna talk a little bit about…I think, Solomon, you can start us off on this. There’s a lot of these things in the news that we can learn from. Right? We never wanna skewer somebody for making a mistake or even being bad, we all have our own baggage to deal with, but talk to me a little bit about this kind of gaffe that came out from Coca-Cola recently, Solomon. Again, so we can learn from it, we’re not trying to skewer anybody.

Solomon: Sure, it would be my pleasure. So, this is an example of poor communication. I don’t believe that it was nefarious but nonetheless it can have a devastating effect on an organization’s or a leader’s decision within an organization, I could argue the same thing, right, to say, “We want diversity, equity, and inclusion here.” In this case, we have a course that was being taught to Coca-Cola that, essentially, said that white people needed to be less white. That is not what is needed in order to have greater diversity, equity, and inclusion. Right? I want white people to be as white as they can be, I want black people to be as black as they can be, whatever you take that… I want women to be all that they could be within being a woman. It’s about embracing that.

You know, one of the things that you’ll hear people say is, “I don’t see race and I don’t see color.” And so, what I would say to that is, though well-intentioned, does it make you more comfortable to see me as being blank than being seen as a black man? Right? So, I don’t want you to see me as a neutral anything, I want you to embrace who I am and I want to embrace who you are. Speaking specifically, telling a white person or anyone to be less of that in terms of their color, right, “Be less white,” or, “be less anything,” that’s not what it takes to have an effective outcome.

And so, the thing that’s so hurtful about that is that someone is looking at that, again, who’s on the fence, and then it would cause them to say, “This is exactly why we don’t need diversity, equity, and inclusion here. Because if we would have that kind of training here, it would make us feel,” you know, “A, B, C, D, E, F, G.” Now, I apologize, did you want me to speak to all three or were we just starting with the first one?

Giovanni: Yeah, let’s just start with that. I think there’s plenty to discuss there. Thank you, Solomon.

Solomon: Sure. So, essentially, that is my take on it, that’s an example of poor communication. Yeah, it’s false, I could argue false, right, but it’s a methodology and training that is wrong, that is off. Right? The standard of professional development is not quite where it should be.

And then, lastly, may I add, one thing that has been talked about here somewhat extensively, your policies and procedures. Right? In everything that you teach, you should be able to…that into a policy and procedure. Right? There should be no daylight between what is written and what is taught. So, what does that policy look like? What is that policy gonna look like, telling someone to be less black or less Asian or less white? Right? And so, quite frankly, that’s ridiculous. Right?

So, it’s important that we, you know, look at our policies and procedures and then match that to our training and make sure that there’s no daylight between the two. And if you are going to put something in a policy or procedure that’s utterly ridiculous or that makes you feel uncomfortable, at least from this perspective, then that would certainly not be the kind of thing that you would want to include in your training. And the caveat to that is, when we’re talking about diversity, equity, and inclusion, there are going to be some uncomfortable moments. But as it relates to this, I mean uncomfortable in another way, and we’re quite frankly saying that is ridiculous.

Giovanni: Yeah, there’s a difference between it’s uncomfortable because we’re getting better and we’re uncovering this thing that’s hard. Right? It’s uncomfortable when you’re exercising and getting more healthy. There’s some uncomfortable stuff that’s just, you know, you shouldn’t be doing. Gail, did you wanna jump in? I’d love to get your perspective.

Gail: I was just co-signing on things that Solomon was saying about making sure that there is no gray area, that it is very closely aligned with policies and procedures being executed. I think, you know, back to the conversations, the candid conversations, the crucial conversations that are being held, you know, the underlying question that may be on someone’s mind should not be watered down or suppressed just simply because, you know, I don’t know what to say.

And I think, you know, last year, doing the uprising that happened across the United States with the murders that occurred with African-Americans and blacks, it pressed the question, you know, for people to come forward and want to raise their hand. And you had this whole range of emotions that were being displayed inside of corporate America. You had anger, you had surprise, you had, you know, “Hey, I’ve been feeling this way for a very long time but I still have to show up at my job each day as a black and as an African-American and still put on my face and be able to work and to operate. But I’m angry, I’m upset, I’m hurt.” And if you have someone who happens to be white, or your leader, and they say, “Well, I don’t know what to say. I don’t know how to address that,” I have team members or employees that, you know, are uncomfortable in that situation.

I think that’s what you have to be able to, of course, apply the training and have the understanding that you may not come out and say and have the right answer. You will make a mistake in something that you will say or convey and express yourself but I think that’s where that safe space has to be provided for that conversation to take place. And whether you bring in an expert to help facilitate that or you have guidance in order to create that safe environment, that still has to be done. Because I always say people never turn off who they are when they walk through that door of corporate America. Right? When you show up at your job, you’re still who you are and you still bring all of those feelings of emotions, that baggage with you, your own bias with you every single day. And so, you have to create a real space in order to deal with that.

And so, what you see in the news is reflection of that. Right? It doesn’t turn off who you are and those emotions just because you come into work. And so, we have to be able to deal with that in the right manner.

Giovanni: Thank you for that, Gail. Melyssa, I wanna jump into some of these questions, but do you have anything that you wanna add about the things we see in the news, what we can learn from, you know, other people’s experiences?

Melyssa: Yeah, I think one of the things, and I’ll just touch on them quickly, in terms of…you know, Gail just mentioned the creation of a safe space and, you know, the workplace should be a place, a safe place for people to kind of give their best talents. Right? To your mission of, you know, making the world a better workplace. Right? But when we talk about inclusive leaders, inclusive leaders are collaborative and transparent. They’re also culturally agile. Right? They’re vulnerable in the way that they’re not enforcing their own views on the company or the people that they interact with. And really, being able to create that safe place means you’re checking in with people around you to make sure that they have that safe place to thrive.

And I think that is where some of the lessons we need to learn are about, “How do you safely practice inclusion?” Because, you know, and I kind of liken it, in some ways, to the privacy incidents that are occurring. A lot of times people will say, “Oh, you know, there’s no privacy incidents.” And now a lot of times you’ll hear people say, “We’re just not tracking them or they’re not being reported or,” you know…and so, you have to be able to start to really kind of understand what the root causes are and how you can get the information that you need in order to shift the culture of your company in a way that is very positive and creates that safe place.

Giovanni: That’s a great point, Melyssa. Yeah, I mean, as leaders, whatever your role is in an organization, you need to be culturally agile, as you put it, you need to be listening to figure out, “Hey, am I picking this up properly?” And to your point, you know, some people are willfully ignorant but I think a lot more people are unconsciously ignorant. They don’t know that it’s a problem or they don’t know how, you know, tone deaf they are or whatever it is. And just having some of those conversations, doing listening, having a town hall or a safe space are some ways that you can figure out, “Okay, where do we, as a family, as an organization, as a combined culture, stand on this?”

So, before we get off this news topic, someone said, someone had a question about, “How leaders should weigh or review something before deciding whether to address or respond to something in the news, something locally or globally across the organization?” What advice can you give for how we decide whether to kind of jump in on a topic? Anybody who wants to jump in?

Solomon: Sure. I think that honesty is key. Right? You wanna tell it, you wanna tell it first and tell it all, to a certain degree. Right? And then looking at your policies as well. Right? If there’s been a policy violation, I think that it’s important to be able to say, “This is our standard in excellence. We strive for excellence. And in this case, we have fallen short.” And then to make the appropriate apologies and then, in transparency, to let them know what you are going to do to fix it. As opposed to, what often happens, which is circling the wagons and then hiding certain elements of the event we’re engaging in, a lack of integrity and a lack of accountability…those things tend to exacerbate the situation and make it worse often really than what it would have been had you simply been more inclined to tell the truth.

I believe that the truth is underrated. And I can tell you that I’ve been involved in several meetings where everyone is talking in a circle, right, we’re in a staff meeting and everyone’s saying, you know, “What can we do? How do we address it? What should we say?” And then I would say, “How about let’s just say the truth?” And then everyone just kind of… “I said just say.” And once you’re able to explain what the truth looks like in your honesty and being humble and sincerity and striving for excellence, normally, what the thing that you’re trying to secrete is normally not as bad as what you think. And if you’re honest, you know, we all make mistakes. And so, if you’ve made a mistake, you own it and you act in professionalism and accountability, you show superior judgment by the decisions that you’re making to mitigate that issue, and then you move forward.

Giovanni: Great. Thank you, Solomon.

Melyssa: Yeah, I was just gonna add, I think…because, you know, there are times when everybody’s not always gonna agree on what you should do and what you shouldn’t do. You know, tension can be a good thing. It can give you an opportunity to understand what the different and diverse perspectives are related to a particular issue. But many times, when you have the issue, you don’t have time, as Solomon said, to start circling the wagons and figuring out. You have to have some understanding of what is important. And, you know, ultimately, at the end of the day, somebody has to make the decision on, “Is this important enough to be out here and to respond to?” And if somebody doesn’t like your response, is there a follow-up you wanna do? You know, or is it a dialogue you’re creating in the space because of your position in the market and the influence that you have?

So, you know, I think, in some ways, you can look at it in lots of different ways because, ultimately, people are trying to tell you what their expectations are. And again, we need to listen to what that is and then decide if that is in fact a place where we think our business needs to go.

Giovanni: Excellent. Great point, I love it. Yeah, nobody’s trying to hide the truth from you, nobody’s trying to hide their expectations from you if you’re willing to listen. You know, they may need to process it or they may need to kind of figure out where they feel comfortable saying it but, you know, we want positive change and you can find those people who can engage around it.

So, I wanna jump to another question that we have. It says…so, you know, I think people are really hungry to get tactical, people are hungry to figure out, “Okay, like what should I do? I understand that it’s a problem, I understand that, you know, these things are wrong but, you know, how do I make some progress?” So, one question was what are some good first steps to either drive DEI within the org, as first steps, or, quote unquote, “value” to provide to other departments that might be like-minded like HR. So, it’s kind of steps or collaboration that can move this thing forward for someone who maybe, you know, doesn’t have a big program in place.

Gail: I’ll start. And then, of course, the other panelists, feel free to jump in. But, you know, the starting point is just really, with the senior leadership, having a candid conversation and understanding and commitment as to what they want their diversity, equity, and inclusion to be. The budget needs to be considered, along with head count and support, how will it be indoctrinated into the entire organization, setting the vision and the goals that you’re going to establish along with transparency and your communication strategy. All of those aspects make up at least the initial start of your diversity, equity, and inclusion program.

And then you decide from there where, tangibly, from a project execution, what are you gonna do in Phase 1, what do you want to accomplish in Phase 2, and what do you wanna accomplish in Phase 3 and so forth. And you really map it out over a 2-5-year or 3-5-year journey so that things can be implemented and executed and measured, and then come back and say, you know, “Here’s where we can continue to evolve and improve.”

The last thing, your council. You know, having a council established is also a best practice. They’re your sounding board, your advisory, they also reach into the other aspects of the organization, regardless of how small or how large you are. And then, of course, if you are global, I keep harping on this global diversity because organizations are not just located in one space, right, they’re in various places across the world. So, you have to take that into consideration in making sure that you have the communication and the empowerment in each one of those areas.

So, that’s just a very high level of, “How do I start?” and where do you start. But those are some of the bubbles that go along with having a thriving program.

Giovanni: That’s great. Thank you for that, Gail. That’s a great framework to make sure that you’re moving in a few of these different directions. Right? Like, if you’re trying to get healthy, you can’t just drink water, you need to look at your diet, your exercise, your sleep, and all these things. And we need to be making progress on several different fronts. And you’ve given us a good framework to start and say, “Hey, do I at least have something in these areas?” Melyssa or Solomon, anything you wanna add on first steps? And then I think we should probably wrap up after this and, you know, we can get a final word from any of you.

Solomon: Sure. Melyssa, did you have something? I want you to go first. You go, Melyssa.

Melyssa: I was just gonna add, Gail did a marvelous job, I think the one thing I was just gonna add though for emphasis is consider diversity, equity, and inclusion. The business case and the use case for diversity, equity, and inclusion is diversity, equity, and inclusion. So, literally, as you think about your leadership team, look at your leadership team first. What does that look like? How are they doing? What are their beliefs? How are they dealing with unconscious bias? Do they need training?

You know, I mean it starts there, you know, from the board down. You know, like, “Do we have representation on the board?” I mean there’s so many questions you can ask as you look around to create your own awareness. And I think that’s what people are looking for is how do you create your own awareness so that you understand how equity can be intentional to create the equality that you truly desire? So…

Giovanni: That’s great, I love it.

Solomon: Excellent. Such wonderful panelists. The only thing that I would add on about communication is, in lieu of communication, the communication that you want, you’re going to have something, so the transparency within communication is the key because, if there’s a void there, then the boogeyman is coming. Right? Because secrecy equals the boogeyman. Right? And so, it’s really important initially, during the rollout, that we communicate effectively and help our employees, our colleagues, to have a firm understanding as to what we are doing, of course within that professional development side, and why we’re doing it so that they may be best equipped in order to do the things that we’re asking them. So, communication is really key.

And then the only other thing that I would add to that are the policies and procedures. I know that we’ve discussed it before but, you know, one of the best ways to insulate an organization from risk is to have robust policies and procedures. And so, just to ensure that every single element of everything that you’re doing has a robust policy and procedure behind it, supporting it, so that it may be highly effective. And in addition to that, should you have a less than compliant team member, you could then have that policy to lean back on in case there needs to be some compulsion, you know, or anything else that’s needed in order to have a successful outcome. That’s it.

Giovanni: Thank you, Solomon. Yeah, that’s a great point. If you’re not joining this conversation, the conversation is happening without you. And as leaders, you know, our goal isn’t to control the conversation but, if you’re not letting people know what you’re doing, what progress you’re making, you know, telling them the truth about, “Yeah, we messed up,” then someone’s gonna tell that story for you.

Solomon: Absolutely, absolutely. There’s always gonna be a void in that gap. If you don’t feel it, someone else will.

Giovanni: Yeah, that’s awesome. Okay. Well, let’s wrap up. I appreciate anyone who…we still have a bunch of people who have stayed with us. I so appreciate Gail and Solomon and Melyssa, I wanna circle back to you in case you have any final words or you wanna tell us something that you’re involved in. But I’ve been your host, Giovanni Gallo, co-CEO of ComplianceLine. We’re proud and excited to have had this conversation and hope that this is something that has helped you envision and visualize steps, actual steps that you can take to be authentic and follow through on that commitment that you have to diversity. I’ll go to you first, Gail. Any parting words or anything you wanna tell us about?

Gail: Well, Giovanni, thank you so much for the opportunity. I was humbly honored to be here today and to serve along such prestigious panelists, along with Solomon and Melyssa. And I love the insight and the questions that were generated. I hope I was responsive and I answered as much as I possibly could out of the chat. And if you would like to, you know, communicate even further, please feel free to look me up on LinkedIn and send me a message there. I’ll be happy to respond. So again, thank you so much for the opportunity. I enjoyed it.

Giovanni: Thank you so much, Gail. Melyssa, any parting words for us?

Melyssa: Well, I echo Gail’s, you know, appreciation for what you’re bringing to your industry, Giovanni. It’s bold and it’s wonderful. So, keep up the great work. I would just say I am continuing the conversation. I have started a podcast called “The Jali Podcast,” it’s J-A-L-I. And so, I am interviewing generally lots of different people in the market, people that are doing things from social impact to diversity, equity, and inclusion, but really, at the end of the day, how do we shift gears and build that momentum. So, join me for the conversation.

Giovanni: Great. Yeah, it’s a great podcast. You guys gotta check it out. And Solomon, thank you so much for joining us. Any parting words for us?

Solomon: I just want to thank everyone for your kindness. I really hope that we were able to offer the kind of expertise and guidance that people were looking for. I certainly want to thank Gio and the team from ComplianceLine for putting on this wonderful event. It’s what’s needed, and they are really showing that they are the tip of the spear and presenting the kind of information that people need in order to be successful. And yeah, just feel free to reach out to me anytime. If I can be a resource to anyone here, I would love to do that. I wanna thank Dr. Gail and… I wanna thank everyone. Certainly I want to thank the audience. And that’s really it, I appreciate all of you. It was a wonderful discussion and I look forward to perhaps doing it again.

Giovanni: Thank you, Solomon. Thank you, Melyssa and Gail and Solomon for joining us. The voice that you have in this, the input that you have, the knowledge and expertise that you have makes a difference in the world. And when we can all come together, share our expertise, and help empower leaders to make the world a better workplace, I’m confident that we can continue to move this ball forward and continue to make a positive impact so people are treated with more dignity and more fairness in the workplace and people can shine with their true greatness of who they really are as they join a team and a culture.

So, thank you, everyone, for joining us. It’s a gift that you share some of your day with us. We hope this has been helpful. Please, stay tuned for some follow-up webinars that we’re doing and some additional conversations that we’ll continue to have around diversity, not just, you know, on the race aspect but on gender and other things as well. We hope that this has been a benefit to you. Thank you for joining us and we’ll see you next time.