DEI is key to retaining talent as ‘Great Resignation’ continues

Change is driven by us all permeating IE&D into every part of our business

The ‘Great Resignation’ had a severe impact on businesses in 2021: 4.5 million people quit their jobs in November 2021, with the exodus expected to continue well into this year. From COVID-19 concerns to demands for better workplace policies, there are several reasons why millions of workers are quitting en masse.

Nikki Wilson, Chief Talent and Culture Officer at The Richards Group(TRG), shares some effective tactics for retaining employees in 2022.

Nikki, how did your career start in inclusion, equality and diversity (IE&D)?

IE&D has typically been part of the roles I’ve held, or I pursued it on my own because of my interests. I’ve helped with attracting and retaining a diverse workforce, crafting leadership development strategies, engaging with local community partners to advance philanthropic efforts, or supporting the future generation of talent, in addition to the nonprofit work I enjoy outside of my professional career.

What led you to TRG (The Richards Group)?

The opportunity to help shape the agency’s future and transform the culture – a challenging yet exciting opportunity to be part of a success story – led me to TRG. I wanted to contribute and experience something different: new industry, environment, and business. That’s what I found at TRG.

You were hired following a difficult IE&D period at the company. How did you approach this challenging time?

I listened a whole lot at first, learned as much as I could about the business and the people (and I still am every day), then started to look at the IE&D (we lead with the “I” – an inclusion-first approach) work that was started a few years ago. After looking at our data and assessing our current state, I started collaborating with many others in the agency to forge a path forward.

How did you go about engaging the whole company into IE&D?

By using some of our existing feedback and decision forums such as our Leadership Advisory Council, tapping into our employee resource groups, and using our employee engagement survey for additional data points and action planning. The survey has been a beneficial tool for ensuring that all voices are heard.

Also, by developing our plans with several leaders and employees and then sharing them broadly with the entire agency. I’ll be asking for their help and support along the way through continued listening by encouraging employees to use our multiple open feedback channels. Change will be driven by all of us to permeate IE&D into every part of our business.

What initiative have you been most proud of at TRG?

We have a lot to be proud of. Most recently, we completed the first part of a third-party compensation assessment. We weren’t afraid to ask for help, understand the data, and make changes to ensure competitive pay practices. It’s an important step for us in building a total rewards philosophy and programme that fairly and equitably recognise the awesome work of our people.

What do you feel is the best starting point in initiating IE&D?

Lots of self-reflection and assessment to understand where you stand as it pertains to IE&D. This means looking at your data, programmes, policies, business processes, and actions to see if there are gaps and opportunities – then developing a shared strategy and plan at all levels of the organisation for alignment that can drive results.

As Chief Talent and Culture Officer, how does a company attract and retain more women?

First, by examining whether your company is a place where women are celebrated and championed. We can attract and retain great female talent by having an environment that supports the flexibility they need as working moms or caregivers and developing and advancing women in their careers (early and often), so they see themselves in leadership or technical roles. They don’t have to look far for allies and advocates, either formally or informally; for resource and network groups; and for opportunities to try out their vast skills cross-functionally, in a key project role, or in a role that men have predominantly held. And of course, by asking them what’s important to their careers and seeing how we can make it happen for the good of them and the company.

At TRG, we have eight resource groups – a community of allies and activity groups formed by our people for our people. These groups foster a more inclusive and supportive environment, providing great learning opportunities and professional development and paying it forward with our community partners. Two of the eight groups are She@TRG and, specifically in support of our working mothers, Moms@TRG.

How essential is supporting the community and issues of importance to employees in furthering IE&D?

It’s what many employees are looking for: to do good work while also doing good in their surrounding communities. Employees don’t check their values or passions at the company front door. We must find creative ways for them to co-exist. Our Yo Ayudé Hispanic vaccination initiative and the Hope Rises project are great examples that showcase efforts inspired and led by our employees regarding important issues to them and to us to tell the story.

How do you measure a company’s success at IE&D?

We’ve heard the saying that what gets measured gets done. You must evaluate how you lead with inclusion first through employee pulse or feedback mechanisms, the frequency of reward and recognition within the culture, changing workforce demographics and recruiting sources. You should also look at the number of new partnerships formed, track career progression, how IE&D shows up in your products and services, and how you create opportunities internally for more diversity in decision-making and externally with your vendors and suppliers. The measure of success will manifest itself as you see a shift in your environment that makes the company better overall.

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