Monday, October 4, 2021

The Undeniable Benefits of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

Wendy Karlyn, SVP and Managing Director, Boston
Culture / Strategy

After the racial justice reckoning in the summer of 2020, companies across the US placed renewed emphasis on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) initiatives—adapting recruitment efforts to include more people of color, offering in-house training on microaggressions and, ultimately, nurturing a workforce that best represents the melting pot of our country.

These efforts have the potential to produce undeniable benefits for both employees and companies. According to data compiled by Built In, companies with a high rate of diversity and inclusion enjoy 35% better performance and a 120% higher chance of meeting their goals.

At Rightpoint, we strive to incorporate DEI into everything we do—here’s more on why you should, too, with advice from Wendy Karlyn, SVP Managing Director and our Global DEI Lead and Joseph Lee, SVP Digital Operations.

How do you define Diversity, Equity and Inclusion initiatives, and what do those look like at Rightpoint?

Joseph Lee: DEI is where you’d like to get to as an organization rather than something you’re constantly pushing. I’ve seen DEI initiatives achieve different degrees of success, but the most successful are at places where it's a natural and effortless part of the natural fabric of work culture. As a leader and a minority, I know I have a unique opportunity to foster DEI within my business unit at Rightpoint. 

Wendy Karlyn: We have employee resource groups (ERGs) for people like parents, women, POC and Pride folks—they host speakers for the company and work on education and awareness tied to the larger DEI team. We also host company-wide listening sessions; we had one around the murder of George Floyd and explored how the event impacted employees in different ways. We’ve also rolled out companywide training around unconscious bias, microaggressions and other topics to keep the DEI dialogue and education going.

Why are DEI initiatives important to an organization?

JL: When DEI is a natural part of an organization’s culture, it becomes part of who we are, what we say and what we do. DEI allows our team and individuals at Rightpoint to contribute, grow and make an impact to their maximum potential without artificial barriers.

WK: Underrepresented groups, in general, don't have the luxury of not talking about DEI because it impacts every facet of their daily life—which is why these initiatives are important to an organization and to Rightpoint. Organizations need to be willing to have tough conversations to make an impact.

When you have an engaged employee, who understands their value and feels they can be their authentic self at work, you're going to get the best outcomes from that employee. DEI plays a role in driving performance. If you don't feel like you can be your authentic self at work, and you don't feel understood and heard, you're not going to share ideas, take risks or collaborate because you're holding back.

What are some mistakes you have noticed when companies try to implement a DEI mentality?

WK: To change representation issues at an organization, you need to recruit differently. A lot of companies will say there are no female software engineers, for example. Wrong! There are organizations that we are partnering with that are working on this very problem, and we're investing in recruiting talent so we can change that. For an organization to be truly diverse, you need to address issues of inclusion, as well. One underrepresented team member in a room is just that, two is presence and three or more is where you start to see organizational impact.

If you're not uncomfortable, it’s not working. If you're keeping it topical, it's not working. If you can roll up your sleeves and have a tough conversation about why this is hard to talk about, then you're going to drive change. Do you really want to hear what your employees feel, or do you want to put the pressure on the underrepresented groups to fix everything? It's a shared responsibility.

JL: I see a lot of organizations focus on recruiting to increase representation and form a diverse group. But then the tenure of the new employees falls short. What it shows is that there's a lack of engagement once they're inside the organization. Your promise of engagement and inclusion must extend beyond the hiring process.

How did the pandemic influence DEI?

WK: I call the pandemic, “The Great Equalizer.” As a working parent, I have a busy, demanding job, and I don't want to disappoint anyone at work—and I don't want to disappoint my family. A lot of us were home with kids, without childcare. Because of the pressure, we all became our authentic selves as quickly as possible, which cracks open real conversations about diversity and bringing your authentic self to work.

Why do these initiatives need to be tied to revenue?

WK: DEI ties back to the employee experience: If your employees are engaged, and they feel like they can bring their authentic selves to work, they're going to bring great ideas, great collaboration, and great work to deliver for our clients. It’s also tied to revenue in attracting and retaining great talent, and how your teams work together. Also, diverse thinking is so powerful. If everyone thought the same, we would never bring big ideas to clients. It is literally a growth driver for us.

I'd say our clients are demanding it. Almost every RFP we get has DEI questions. It’s just the way of doing business these days, and it’s not optional.