How To Break DEI Efforts Out Of The Permafrost

Executive Insights5 minutes readJun 22nd, 2021
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What does the future balance sheet look like?

It’s not going to be heavily weighted with tangible things like property, plant and equipment. Instead, knowledge will take center stage.

By knowledge, I don’t just mean artificial intelligence (AI). Knowledge is all about the people.

Every organization says its employees are critical. But where’s the proof?

Is your organization paying attention to statistical measures related to your employees? We have a diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) effort at Unisys, too. I’m the co-chair of that.

I believe that we have inequities and biases. I see it all the time. It’s a big issue. After years of suppression of Black communities, other minorities and women, problems persist.

We’re all pretty intelligent human beings. So, why in the last 50 years — let’s just start there — has it felt like such little progress has been made in bringing this ongoing issue to a sustainable conclusion?

I believe it’s a combination of factors, most of which fit into the permafrost category. By permafrost, I’m referring to the legacy structures and behaviors that keep businesses and people locked into the legacy ways of doing things — and prevents them from making progress.

Commit Yourself To The Cause

My company just hired a new DEI leader. When we met recently, I asked her: Why can’t we get this right? How hard can it be? We send people into space and put a rover on Mars to take pictures and collect soil samples. Why can’t we solve this problem that’s right here, right in front of us?

People were more committed to going to the moon and putting a rover on Mars than they were to this. Had we all approached DEI with the same resources, talent and priority we committed to our space missions, corporate America wouldn’t be discussing DEI right now.

Play Catch Up As Needed

Reports indicate (paywall) that women must work around 448 days to earn what men earn in 365 days. The Economic Policy Institute’s Racism and the Economy report revealed that in 2019 the average hourly wage of Black workers was 26.5% less than that of white workers.

This signals that leaders need to do more than just talk about DEI; they need to take action. Review the salaries of every minority and female of your staff and compare them to their peer sets. Make adjustments immediately as needed, and you’ve put project catch up in motion. Don’t just give a bump in pay — get them on equal ground.

Provide Equal Opportunity And Visibility

Leaders need to recognize when their associates are ready for a new job. They need to provide them with opportunities to succeed. This requires visibility.

We recently had an internal requirement. Not one of our 17,000 associates applied for it. The problem was that most of our associates didn’t even know the opportunity existed.

Sometimes it seems like companies intentionally make it hard for associates to get a job, so they can just pick who they want. Consider using a platform to share opportunities with all associates to increase visibility and decrease bias from existing mindsets and structures. Push opportunities to associates, don’t make them look.

Be Transparent And Accountable

Transparency and accountability are also key. You can say you’re doing something. But that’s different from being measured and held accountable to prove that you’re delivering results.

But you can’t hold people accountable if you don’t know how they do things. Review candidate slates and notes on why human resources managers and team leads decided to hire or promote a person — or declined to do so. This will help you better understand if you’re providing a fair and equitable process for anyone to achieve success in a role.

As the value of companies shifts from tangible to intangible assets like people and knowledge, there’s a move toward greater accountability relative to human capital. The Securities and Exchange Commission now asks public companies to disclose far more detail about human capital metrics related to employee attraction, development and retention and more.

Reward Top Talent That Takes Initiative

People who have gone years with the door of opportunity being shut can’t simply and politely knock at the door. That doesn’t work. They need to be emboldened to kick the door down.

A business could look at this from a talent retention angle. But to me, it’s less about talent acquisition and retention. The guiding principle here is to be open-minded in your structure to allow talent to rise up, bring ideas and let them take their shot at success.

Talented, highly-rated people shouldn’t have to go through the bureaucracy. They should be seen and heard. That’s how we can address the DEI challenge — and allow businesses to reap the financial benefits of employee diversity. If you focus on the “E” and the “I,” you’ll fix the “D.”

Tags-   diversity equity inclusion


About The Author

Eric Hutto

Eric Hutto was elected president and chief operating officer effective March 2020. From September 2015 to March 2020, he served as senior vice president and president, Enterprise Solutions. Eric joined the company in April 2015 and previously served as vice president/general manager, U.S. & Canada, Unisys Enterprise Solutions.

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