Deloitte U: How To Do Inclusion Right

Creating an inclusive workplace means more than appointing someone as Chief Inclusion Officer. Here's a look at how Deloitte, one of the world's most forward-thinking firms, does it.

A lot of companies talk about inclusion, and yet it takes most of them years to make even small strides. I believe this is so because this job is usually assigned to someone in the organization who is forced to push a large ball up a rather large hill with little support from those at the top.

Now compare this to the approach at Deloitte, where inclusion is being woven throughout every thread of the organization, from the top on down to the bottom. I recently got to experience this first hand when I was invited to participate in the launch of Deloitte University's Leadership Center for Inclusion. The purpose of the event was to bring together Deloitte professionals and leaders, clients, and thought leaders to engage in an interactive dialogue around inclusion topics and to launch the Deloitte University (DU) Leadership Center for Inclusion. The first clue that this event would be different than all the rest was the mention that the chairman, president and former chairman would all be in attendance. I wondered when the last time an inclusion event at any company included more than one representative from the C-Suite.

As a part of Deloitte's ongoing mission to foster an environment where leaders thrive, they are putting their money where their mouth is. The firm has recently appointed four executives with a wealth of knowledge and experience across multiple industries to the organization's evolving inclusion efforts. I asked why Deloitte chose top people to handle what is typically done at a lower level. I was told that these executives were chosen specifically because of how much influence they hold in the firm. The chairman wanted to send a message that the firm was serious about inclusive leadership.

One appointee, Kelvin Womack, managing principal for diversity, notes that retaining and developing of the people of Deloitte is job number one. "We have approximately 60,000 people in the firm," Womack said. "Their number one job is to be happy. Happy employees give great service, and we are a service firm. Our job is to make our people feel good about their work so they never want to leave this place." There are a number of strategies that Deloitte is incorporating in order to make this so.

Sponsorship is a big part of the culture at Deloitte. Having worked in the corporate world without an advocate, I can personally attest to the frustration one goes through when trying to navigate an ever changing landscape. Deloitte is attempting to make it easier for employees to maximize their contribution through their corporate sponsorship programs. "We train sponsors here at Deloitte. It's not just about guiding their career. It's about being a table pounder and an advocate. Spouses are welcome and encouraged to participate as well. The mentoring and sponsorship isn't a one way street either. "I have a digital mentor. We meet every two or three weeks," says Womack, who adds that they're working on improving this use of social media.

Deloitte is also making it easier for employees to bring their whole selves to work. Men and women no longer have to hide the fact that they are leaving early to attend their child's soccer game, nor do they have to pretend they are straight at work, when their same-sex partner is at home. Within five minutes of my first meeting with one of their executives, our conversation turned to family. We chuckled when we shared how we used to say that we had a "meeting" when in fact that meant that we needed to leave early in order to make it to the school pick-up line on time. Women typically knew the word "meeting" was code, and we hoped and prayed our male bosses or colleagues would never find out. Happily, those days are behind for Deloitte employees and for me as well. But what about those in the workforce who are still trying to juggle work and family and doing neither very well?

Christie Smith, who was recently appointed as managing principal for the Deloitte University Leadership Center for Inclusion and I spoke in depth about what it's like to have to show up for work everyday leaving a part of you outside the door. Smith has been a passionate supporter of women in leadership since joining the firm in 2001. She has also been involved in Deloitte's LGBT community for about five years. In a recent interview on Glass Hammer, Smith, who is openly gay, stated the following. “For lesbians, the issues that women face are heightened. When you can be your full self at work, you can see greater productivity and impact for the organization than when you’re still closeted. But if you are not bringing your full self to work--it can impact how invested you are, if you have to hide part of your life.” Smith is fully engaged at work and at home. In fact, she proudly shared with me a photo of her two beautiful children with partner Kelli.

"If every business thought about how can I develop my professionals on the job, where I'm mentoring you, shadowing you and debriefing afterwards and giving people the specific coaching they need to achieve personal success, they would be able to move their businesses forward like Deloitte is doing," says Diana O'Brien, managing principle of Deloitte University and talent development. O'Brien reminds us that a life long commitment to life long learning benefits more than the organization. It also benefits society.

[Image: Flickr user Splityarn]

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