How Companies Are Integrating DE&I Into Their Business Strategies
It’s not just smart business, it’s good business.
Across the board, it’s understood that diverse and inclusive workplaces are positive for companies and employees alike. A 2019 study showed that companies with higher levels of gender diversity and with HR policies and practices that focus on gender diversity were linked to lower levels of employee turnover, while another study showed that organizations with strong diversity are likely to increase employees’ job satisfaction and commitment to the company. Add to that the fact that companies with strong DE&I see higher revenue, and you’d think that all companies would be incorporating DE&I practices.
But many companies out there are all talk about DE&I and no action. In a recent group session at Digiday’s Media Buying Summit, operated under Chatham House rules, participants anonymously shared their insights about DE&I in the workplace. “I think it’s all talk to be honest with you,” said one participant. “We’re not doing enough. I don’t think it’s going to happen.”
Fortunately though, there are companies and organizations out there who are making moves in workplace DE&I, and working to create real change.
Last year, Johnson & Johnson created more multicultural content and measured the results. This content included the Tylenol “Care Without Limits” ads, which featured more diverse casts and were created from diverse agency and production teams. The ads center on the theme of how pain affects everyone and isn’t selective. Since 2019, Tylenol has grown household penetration by 5 percentage points, and 57% of that household penetration growth was within Hispanic and African American households, according to Manoj Raghunandan, Johnson & Johnson’s global president of self care. In 2020, the company also launched the Ourtone bandage line for people of color after the focus on social justice that framed the year. Proceeds from Ourtone bandages provide scholarship funds to Black nursing students.
Television and movie execs have also been incorporating diversity more on and off screen. Last year, Disney created Onyx Collective, a content brand producing original programs by creators of color and underrepresented voices that will run on Hulu and other Disney-owned ventures. Participating creators include Black Panther co-writer and director Ryan Coogler and Insecure writer and comedian Natasha Rothwell. The CW network is also adding some diversity onboard, as the network’s Kung Fu reboot stars Asian American newcomer Olivia Liang in the lead role and series adapter and executive producer Christina Kim headlines a diverse production team. MediaVillage also reports that Lifetime Television will be making over 200 made-for-TV movies next year, with “a burst of diversity on both sides of the camera,” says Sapna Vyas, senior director of original movies. And Crown Media Family Networks will be producing more films next year inspired by Mahogany, Hallmark Cards’ line of cards directed at African Americans.
And it’s not just race representation that companies are working on. Numerous organizations are striving for better inclusion for their LGBTQ employees. The Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s most recent Corporate Quality Index report shows that a record-breaking 767 out of 1,142 surveyed businesses met all the criteria to earn a 100 percent rating and the designation of being a “Best Place to Work for LGBTQ Equality.” Out of the total respondents surveyed, 91% of them said they offer at least one transgender-inclusive healthcare plan, while 94% have an ERG or diversity council that includes LGBTQ and allied employees and programming. Major companies that scored a 100 include Walmart, Apple, McKesson Corp., Google, JPMorgan Chase & Co., and Chevron.
While sometimes the DE&I journey can be challenging for organizations, some are embracing their past faults in order to build a more diverse and inclusive company. At Sodexo, a global French food services and facilities management company, the diversity journey began about 20 years ago after a class-action lawsuit. The company’s global CEO decided it was time to go to work on Sodexo’s DE&I initiatives.
When Gloria Puentes, Sodexo’s director of DE&I External Strategic Partnerships, joined the company 7 years ago, she noticed a disconnect between the company’s strategic partnerships with community-based organizations and their company engagement. “At the time, we were so focused on just getting the brand out there to the public about who Sodexo was, that we weren’t really getting a strong ROI on engagement with them,” she shared during a presentation at the Summit on the Future of Communications Measurement for Paine Publishing. “Then I learned that many of these organizations had job readiness and workforce development programs that we hadn’t even tapped into.” Today, Sodexo partners with more than 60 national organizations for professional development and as a resource for their workforce needs. Current partnerships are serving LGBTQ, disabled, veterans, refugees, Black, Asian, Native American, and more employee communities.
And how would a business gauge whether their DE&I efforts are making a difference? Employee retention. On average, the cost of replacing one employee can range from one-half to two times the employee’s annual salary. But employees who benefit from ERGs, professional development, and DE&I initiatives generally don’t leave, which means companies don’t have to replace them. “When you have a revolving door of employees, that impacts the bottom line,” says Puentes. “But putting money towards employee engagement and professional development where employees feel they’re receiving opportunities for growth, feel their voices are being heard, and are being treated with fairness and respect is worth the investment.”
The most important thing you can do while taking DE&I initiatives though? Do them for the right reasons. “Don’t just implement DE&I measures performatively,” says Puentes. “If you’re going to do it, do it to enrich your employees, the company, and improve where there are gaps. Not just to check off a DE&I box.”