Jesse Bridges

Featured during a panel at EVERFI’s Financial Capabilities Network in Puerto Rico. 

Question prompt: Many HR departments find themselves overwhelmed by directions to handle unconscious bias in the workplace. What are foundational ways that companies can demonstrate their investment to drive change towards incorporating DEI initiatives and how are leaders important in that?

There’s a very simplistic phrase: “You measure what matters.” 

Often times the conversation around diversity, equity, and inclusion feels very much like a moral imperative. But there are tons of statistics that really underscore the idea that focusing on diversity, increasing representation of the voices that are at the table, and layering that with a culture where people can speak up—they feel at liberty to not only give voice to but then also to throw the bad idea at the wall when that happens—that’s where there is a comparative upside and a business advantage to focusing on diversity, equity, and inclusion as a workplace culture imperative and align with business strategy. 

The first step is to measure what matters, to understand deeply, by putting your organization under a magnifying glass to say: ‘Where do the best practices exist and where are the gaps? And then let’s compare ourselves to the industries around us.’ 

Importance in Transparency

There’s been a lot of movement and conversations about diversity report cards that folks are putting out. Accenture is a great example of an organization who is really leaning into and being transparent about not only pay data but also representation data. Really putting metrics around big opportunities to influence and inflect—not just focusing those metrics on the representation issue—certainly is an important and key critical component. Through focusing where there are opportunities to increase representation, organizations like Fun II and their InternX program become increasingly important by increasing the number of voices that are at the table. 

Looking at other employee experiences like engagement, retention, and advancement, are all talent employee practices that we should be investigating and exploring as a part of a strategy aligned with overall talent management.

A study by Deloitte prompts the questions:

  1. Do you have a strategy in place that intentionally focuses on diversity, equity, and inclusion as related to the business?
  2. Do your senior leaders behave in alignment with your organizational values? 

It’s not just in your leaders’ language. It’s not just seen in your leaders’ elevator pitches. But, rather, are they behaviorally aligned with our focus, our vision, mission statement, and that they care about diversity, equity, and inclusion. 

Tone From the Top

I think tactically it is the upskilling of our senior leaders and, in particular, managers of people that become critically important in this overall scope. Having those courageous conversations and having the ability to step into vulnerable conversations and say “Here’s my intention. I want to ask you this question. I’m doing so with intellectual curiosity and I’m asking you for permission to mess it up if I want to; but in this brave space we will talk about some of those difficult conversations.” 

Giving feedback and giving feedback equitably to your entire workforce is another piece of that puzzle—because we oftentimes will shy away from folks who are different from us. We are fundamentally hardwired to do so. But if we can upskill our senior leaders and our managers to be able to give critical feedback, to have difficult conversations, to really “walk the talk”, and articulate the organizational value of diversity, equity, and inclusion, that’s where you can really start to upskill and have those folks serve as role models and advocates and champions of DEI.

Holistic Focus on the Employee

The last piece is focusing on work-life sustainability and work-life integration. Institutionally, are we focusing holistically on the employee?

After reading a recent study about parental leave policies, I thought it was an interesting place to investigate and explore. If you have very binary maternal and paternal leave policies, you are therefore indicating and assuming some things about where people want to spend time bonding with their new child, and how they “acquired” the new child—whether that was through adoption or surrogacy or birth.

Practices and policies—the infrastructure of your organization—really brings to life whether or not you are treating every employee at your organization equitably. I think the focus now and where EVERFI focuses on content, thought leadership, and courses that were produced in 2020, is really around upskilling and supporting managers and senior leaders and having this conversation of stepping into it.

Jesse Bridges

SVP of Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion

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