New tools for building a diverse workforce: An executive discussion

As workforce demographics shift and global markets emerge, workplace diversity has become a business necessity. In the past several months, it has become more important than ever.

“When you reflect on all that’s going on in our current environment and the social awakening that’s impacted our neighborhoods, our homes and our businesses, it’s had global reach,” said Brian Lamb, global head of diversity and inclusion, JPMorgan Chase & Co., as part of a recent executive panel entitled “New Tools for Building a Diverse Workforce,” which was sponsored by JPMorgan Chase.

Lamb was joined by several prominent diversity and human resources experts in the discussion, including Jay Bailey, president and CEO, H.J. Russell Center for Innovation & Entrepreneurship; Carla Chaney, chief human resources officer, Equifax; Douglas Cooper, executive director, career development and engagement, Morehouse College; and Mark Adams, Chase regional director for Georgia and North Florida.

“What JPMorgan Chase has done to respond is get proximate to the situation and have those conversations that really help us have a deeper understanding,” said Lamb. “To listen, to learn, so that, both as leaders and as colleagues, we are in a better position to create an inclusive experience for everyone and drive a culture of respect throughout the entire firm.”

Diversity and inclusion have been a longstanding part of Equifax’s purpose. Still, recent events forced the company to dig deeper to articulate why it’s important — and how it can go further to create a culture that is attractive to employees of all backgrounds. “The intensity and importance of the conversation over the last few months has been unlike anything I’ve seen in my career,” says Carla Chaney, chief human resources officer, Equifax.

As the demand for diversity increases, Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) such as Morehouse College are seeing more interest from firms that want to create opportunities for its students through internships and employment. While the interest is welcomed, Morehouse is mindful of its longevity, gauging companies’ willingness to help develop students by supporting scholarships, infrastructure development or initiatives that improve education.

“Is this something that is happening within the framework of events of the day, or are these organizations genuine about building more long-term relationships?” says Douglas Cooper, executive director, career development and engagement, Morehouse College. “We are making some real efforts to vet that and determine whether or not firms are committed.”

As Jay Bailey, president and CEO of the H.J. Russell Center for Innovation & Entrepreneurship, puts it, “You’ve got to look at more than just picking the fruit off the tree. You’ve got to think about the soil, the rain and the cultivation that gets to that product.”

Forming and maintaining relationships with organizations that develop a diverse talent pipeline is essential to JPMorgan Chase’s diversity mission. For more than a decade, the firm has built a strong relationship with Morehouse. In 2017 they committed $400,000 to the Morehouse College Entrepreneurship Center to help launch and grow early-stage companies. More recently, they donated $75,000 to improve the Career Center. To retain diverse talent, the firm has developed Advancing Black Pathways, which nurtures and develops employees through their career and identifies and sponsors external diversity initiatives as well. The company has also invested in business resource groups (BRGs) to drive inclusivity and awareness programs for the LGBT+ community, for veterans, for Hispanic and Latinx employees, for Asian employees, and more. These groups are open to anyone who wants to join as allies, as well.

“We’re encouraging people who don’t belong to a particular demographic to join a BRG outside of something that may be their comfort zone,” says Mark Adams, Chase regional director for Georgia and North Florida. “That is something that helps to foster that inclusive environment, and it helps us learn about one another as well.”

Transforming the company culture to be more inclusive eventually trickles down to a more engaged workforce and higher revenue growth, but it’s important to make sure all components of the shift are working together.

“You have to think about your culture holistically — the people, the capability, the process, the metrics,” Chaney says. “That’s one of the things that Equifax is doing. We are having a holistic look from the top down, all the way through, saying, ‘Is our culture consistent with what we say we want?”

Looking ahead, panelists stress the importance of keeping the current momentum behind diversity going. Adams suggests embedding the efforts into the business infrastructure and holding leaders accountable through metrics and incentives. Panelists agree, analytics will make it clear whether a company is making progress, but none of the success will come without some difficult conversations.

“We’re going to have to break some eggs. Race is a really uncomfortable conversation,” Bailey says. “The kind of courage and intentionality that we’re going to need from our leadership has to be more than just a fleeting moment. Because when it ceases to be uncomfortable and we go back to what was normal and what was comfortable before, we’ll see a lot of these gains that we’ve had up to this point erode very quickly.”

By Mecca Holts-Caldera | Morehouse College
Mecca Holts-Caldera | Morehouse College Recruiting Coordinator