31 August 2021

Workplace Stories Season 2, Integrating Inclusion: Creating Light, Not Heat

Dani Johnson
Co-founder & Principal Analyst
Stacia Sherman Garr
Co-founder & Principal Analyst

TL;DR

  • This is the 3rd episode of our podcast: Integrating Inclusion, Season 2 of Workplace Stories.
  • In this episode, Stacia Garr and Dani Johnson of RedThread and Chris Pirie of the Learning Futures Group interview Jesse Jackson, CLO of consumer and community banking at JP Morgan Chase.
  • “We want to bring light, not heat.”
  • “Two years ago, before the pandemic, all I heard was ‘a Netflix of Learning,’ ‘More is better,’ ‘People can find what they want’… and now I’m hearing just the opposite. Just like you said, more is not better—or sometimes it’s just more!“
  • “We also are helping design meetings in a box that really give leaders—and others—a framework for having these discussions and setting the right boundaries and helping them introduce topics and not get offended by various elements that may come up.”
  • How do we support communities by making products more accessible to them? How can we bring innovation into this workplace in such a way that generates exposure to brand new markets with, for instance, cultural barriers?
  • A special thanks to our sponsor, Workday, for its support of this season!

Listen

Guest

Jesse Jackson, JPMorgan Chase

DETAILS

It’s not unusual to feel as though you’re in the eye of the hurricane: so much is happening in our wider society in terms of rapidly evolving expectations, changing ways of working, changing life choices. Add the potentially explosive compound called ‘diversity’ into the mix, and it can start to feel a little hot in here. But, as Jesse Jackson,  this week’s special guest  (who wears several hats as a DEIB and L&D expert practitioner and is the CLO for JPMorgan Chase with a special focus on the Wall Street giant’s consumer community banking business) advises, when it comes to getting Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging (DEIB) right, it’s not heat you want: it’s light. This is a really fascinating opportunity  to hear from someone  who’s not only deep in the midst of all the changes we’re talking about, but who has expertise in a blue-chip financial services firm that always has to see things in terms of achievable ROI. We’ll let you decide if you agree that’s what Jesse’s achieving: us, we’re hunkering down in the place where it’s always the most interesting… that hurricane’s eye!

Resources

  • Jesse is on LinkedIn here and the organization at which his globally distributed Learning team supports more than 150 thousand employees, the JPMorgan Chase arm of J.P. Morgan, is here.
  • Jesse strongly recommends this excellent Ted Talk from finance professional Mellody Hobson on the difference between color blindness and color bravery. We couldn’t agree more.

Webinar

Workday will also host an exclusive live webinar at the end of this Season, where you can meet the team (Dani, Stacia and Chris) and join in a conversation about the future of DEIB in the workplace. You can find out more information, register for the webinar, and access exclusive Season content, including transcripts, at www.redthreadresearch.com/podcast and thanks again to the team at Workday!

Partner

We're also thrilled to be partnering with Chris Pirie, CEO of Learning Futures Group and voice of the Learning Is the New Working podcast. Check them both out.

Season Sponsor

We'd like to thank the people at Workday for the exclusive sponsorship of this second Season of 'Workplace Stories.' Today, the world is changing faster than ever, and you can meet those changing needs with Workday; it’s one agile system that enables you to grow and engage a more inclusive workforce—it’s your financial, HR, and planning system for a changing world.

As we start to tell the Workplace Stories we think matter, we hope you follow ‘Workplace Stories from RedThread Research’ on your podcast hub of choice.

TRANSCRIPT

Five key quotes:

We also are helping design meetings in a box that really give leaders—and others—a framework for having these discussions and setting the right boundaries and helping them introduce topics and not get offended by various elements that may come up.

I'm not responsible solely for Diversity, Equity, Inclusion or Belonging within the organization. Certainly, I do believe that the L&D department is a key lever in driving it—but to your question, it really requires us to have fairly sophisticated and balanced scorecards in terms of how we are measuring progress on this front, and doing that in a way that, while those scorecards may be different, they still have intersectionality with our human capital measures: specifically, how is engagement showing up across these groups? How is our attrition, how is our mobility and how is our retention doing across all of these segments? And understanding that the levers to drive those may be different within one geography versus another, but really ensuring that we're bringing some commonality.

Sometimes ‘more’ is not ‘better.’

I’m sure all of your audience understands that producing digital, even if it's a virtual instructor-led program, doesn't mean just taking the one that you had in the classroom and then putting someone in front of that teaching on Zoom—it really requires a refining of how we bring adult learning principles to bear in a way that truly is delivering an impactful experience, and one that clearly aligns to business objectives.

Two years ago, before the pandemic, all I heard was ‘a Netflix of Learning,’ ‘More is better,’ ‘People can find what they want’… and now I'm hearing just the opposite. Just like you said, more is not better—or sometimes it's just more!

Stacia Garr:

Welcome to 'Workplace Stories' hosted by RedThread Research, where we look for the ‘red thread’ connecting the humans, ideas, stories, and data defining the near future of people and work practices. 

My name is Stacia Garr, and I'm the co-founder and principal analyst at RedThread Research, along with Dani Johnson, who is also a co-founder and principal analyst at RedThread and Chris Pirie of the Learning Futures Group. We're excited to welcome you to our podcast Season: this episode is part of our second Season called ‘Integrating Inclusion,’ in which we investigate your role in the Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging journey that we believe is a critical force in shaping the future of work. 

We talk to leaders, thinkers, writers, and practitioners about the current state of the art in DEIB, and we focus specifically on what people analytics, learning, leadership and business leaders can do to move the conversation forward—and why DEIB is everybody's business. 

Chris Pirie:

We'd like to thank the people at Workday for their exclusive sponsorship of the second Season of Workplace Stories. Today, the world is changing faster than ever, and you can meet those changing needs with Workday: it’s one agile system that enables you to grow and engage a more inclusive workforce—it’s your financial, HR and planning system for a changing world. You can find out more information about the Workday Diversity, Engagement, Inclusion and Belonging solutions at workday.com/deib.

Workday will also host an exclusive live webinar at the end of this Season, when you can meet the team—Dani, Stacia and myself—and join in a conversation about the future of DEIB in the workplace. You can register for the webinar and access exclusive Season content, including transcripts, at redthreadresearch.com/podcast. Thanks again to the team at Workday for their sponsorship!

If you like what you hear, please follow Workplace Stories by RedThread Research on your podcast app of choice; and it wouldn't hurt to give us a 5-star review and share a favorite episode with a friend, as we start to tell more and more of the Workplace Stories that we think matter.

This episode is part of our Season on DEIB, and specifically one strand of the conversation that's a deep look at the practices and responsibilities of progressive L&D departments as they respond with a fresh sense of urgency around this topic in a post-global pandemic world and in light of the intense reflection on racial and social injustice and the response to the accelerated change in our work.

JP Morgan Chase is one of the oldest financial institutions in the United States: with a history dating back over 200 years. They operate in a hundred global markets—with over 250,000 employees. In the ‘About Us’ section of their website, they lead, with a statement on Diversity—a talent driven company, they state, is by definition, a diverse and inclusive one. They also go on to acknowledge in their statement, that it's a work in progress for them, but they're proud of the progress they've made, and the workplace culture in their organization.

We really learned a lot in this conversation. And as you might imagine for a financial services giant, Jesse operates from—and grounds his L&D strategy in—a very clear sense of the business case, for getting DEIB right, in the organizational culture.

Jesse Jackson:

The world is becoming much more 3D: digital, diverse, distributed. And by understanding what that business case is for…enhancing the calibration of Diversity, of Equity, of Inclusion, of Belonging, in your enterprise, will allow you to build a more responsive, a more durable, framework, that is better positioned for the dynamics attributable to the future of work.

Chris Pirie:

You’ll also hear how he and his team are taking a data-driven approach and working to foster sometimes difficult conversations across a very broad, diverse and distributed workforce.

Jesse Jackson:

Individuals did not know what to say, how to bring it up, how to give each other grace, as we moved through this global pandemic. And we have been very intentional with respect to helping individuals frame those conversations, helping them bring the right level of EQ and empathy into this distributed workforce, to really get at those impediments that could in fact, subjugate engagement, or other aspects that in some way minimize the individual's ability to participate effectively, in the work that we're doing.

Chris Pirie:

We love the metaphorical tools he brings to his global DEIB strategy.

Jesse Jackson:

We really attempt to bring—not a sledgehammer to this work—but really a scalpel, to ensure that we are executing with precision across our geographical footprint.

Chris Pirie:

And we also liked his learner centric approach to developing critical skills and capabilities that can help with a Diversity challenge.

Jesse Jackson:

We really are helping employees understand ‘what are those skills and capabilities they need’, we're giving them a framework in which they can assess themselves in that context, and then based upon that self-assessment, we come over the top with learning journeys that help them increase their proficiency on those capabilities and skills.

Chris Pirie:

And of course, we love his ‘less is more’ approach, a philosophy that became even more important (he told us) during the pandemic, where people were overwhelmed with information.

Jesse Jackson:

Being really clear what the business is going after (is it representation, is it retention, what groups, when, who?), and making sure we could answer all of those questions before we call an instructional designer to help us build something. So, it’s that level of focus that we need to bring to this work.

Chris Pirie:

So, let’s listen in to our conversation with Jesse Jackson, Chief Learning Officer of JP Morgan Chase.

Dani Johnson:

So Jesse, welcome to Workplace Stories and thank you very much for your time and for sharing your insights with the audience today!

Jesse Jackson:

It's a pleasure to be with you today, Dani: thank you.

Dani Johnson:

Just to start, I was wondering if you can give us a quick overview of JPMorgan Chase, its mission, and its purpose?

Jesse Jackson:

Certainly. Our mission really is to help both consumers, small businesses, and large corporate companies realize their dreams, as it relates to expanding economic output, and doing that in a way that really…personalizes and configures it for our clients globally.

Dani Johnson:

How long have you been with Chase?

Jesse Jackson:

I've been with Chase slightly over 25 years.

Dani Johnson:

So just a little while: that’s fantastic! And what is your role, what's your job title, and how would you describe the work you do?

Jesse Jackson:

My job title is Chief Learning Officer. And I describe my role as really helping our employees truly achieve escape velocity in the context of really becoming their best selves with respect to, the jobs that they're in today—but equally important, the jobs that they may aspire to in the future.

Dani Johnson:

I like that a lot. We contacted you because we know that you're a strong proponent of DEIB initiatives and have been for a while. How does that impact how you show up to work?

Jesse Jackson:

In many respects, it shows up very visibly. And I say that not just the physical appearance, but as we think about work that we do—we truly do it across the enterprise. And as a result of that, this notion of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, Belonging is something that we really want to be intentional with, with respect to ensuring every employee in every location we have, understands that we're looking to optimize that employee experience in a way that allows them to show up, with their whole selves, and really lean into the type of work that we do, the type of problems we solve, and we believe that as we calibrate that effectively, we're able to deliver a differentiated output compared to our competitors within our sector, or elsewhere.

Dani Johnson:

That's really interesting. I liked that you tied DEIB to the experience and then to growth. Can you tell us how the pandemic, and the social movements of the last couple of years have impacted how you, and your organization are thinking about developing employees?

Jesse Jackson:

Dani, you have to tell me when you're going to start asking me the questions you asked me to prepare for (I’m only teasing). In many respects, the pandemic has been a bit of a time machine, and what I mean by that is, it has pulled forward what has typically taken five years, to perhaps a fraction of one. And what that means is that as we think about the importance of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging in that lens, it really requires us to further make that core to our framework.
And how that shows up is in some cases we were onboarding individuals without actually physically having them meet their manager or walk into a Chase building. And as a result of that, it really required us to curate what that employee experience looked and felt like, in order to embed—not just a regulatory framework, but perhaps equally important in our cultural framework as well, for those new hires across the enterprise.

Dani Johnson:

Do you feel like some of the philosophies have changed with respect to DEIB, and the fact that a lot of us are working remotely now?

Jesse Jackson:

Many cases as I think about Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging, I really start with the why, why is that important to us as an organization? And I think it's important to say that ‘why’ out loud. And in many cases, it really is associated with our organizational objective of being best in class and being best in class—not just in terms of financial service delivery, but best in class in terms of the type of experiences we want our employees, no matter where they work, to feel and engender and foster across the framework.
And this goes well beyond the philanthropic pursuit; it really goes beyond our corporate responsibility objectives as well. It really starts with a fact-based framework that allows us to understand studies that were done by Harvard Business School, as well as London School of Economics. That evidence by harm, harmonizing Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging in line with best practice, helps us build a first-class, a more durable, and a higher-performing organization.

Stacia Garr:

I want to ask, how do you bring that to life, right? You're the CLO, and you have this opportunity to help influence how this framework gets implemented and how people learn and bring that into their day-to-day life. So how are you to kind of make that more of a concrete reality for folks?

Jesse Jackson:

It starts, I think, Stacia, with this acknowledgement that the world has gotten increasingly 3D. And what I mean by that, is more digitally, more diverse, and more distributed. Those are just the facts—certainly accelerated by COVID, but we were moving in that direction even before that. And as we think about being able to deliver those capabilities, and this workforce where we are influencing our employees digitally, we understand that they are globally distributed and diverse, that it really requires us to think differently with respect to those learning and development levers that we have a privilege of using. And it means, also, that as we think about those learning and development experiences that they have to be more immersive—they have to win not just the hearts, but also the minds of employees.
And that's why tying this notion of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging to the business case associated with it, is equally as important as employees ensuring that they're doing the right thing. So, expressing that in a way that allows employees to see how that impacts individuals within the enterprise when we get it right—but equally important, how it impacts individuals when we get it wrong, and doesn't allow individuals to really lean-in and bring a level of engagement that's necessary to truly differentiate how we want to show up with each other, as well as with our customers.

Stacia Garr:

I think it's good point; a lot of people, particularly with everything that's happening right now, or has happened over the last year and a half, might just say clearly, it's just the right thing to do, but you work at a financial services firm [laughter], and the business case is an incredibly important part of that, that component too, I would imagine, in your context. So, making the, both the heart and the mind reasoning for why DEIB matters is super important.

Dani Johnson:

I was just going to ask kind of following along with that, you said you're making your initiatives a little bit more immersive. Can you give us an example of that, Jesse?

Jesse Jackson:

In many respects, as we think about the work that we do within Learning and Development, we really want to ensure that we are designing in a way that truly is employee centric, and understanding ‘how do we connect with our employees’, beyond just reading something on the screen.
And so what that means is we really want to ensure that we are bringing more diverse spaces and more experiences that our employees are encountering, whether it's with customers or with each other within the organization and doing that in a way that really is authentic, that’s allowing our employees to provide voiceover, by providing high-fidelity video, by bringing in our senior leaders and really ensure that as we think about moving our KSAs [knowledge, skills and abilities] that we're doing it in a surround sound way, that it's not about a computer-based training program, it's not about instructional virtual engagement, it’s not about sending someone a PDF document, but it really is about how do we bring all of those vehicles together to our employees, in a way that really embeds these principles, deep into the DNA of our culture.

Chris Pirie:

That makes me think of omni-channel—the concept of omni-channel in advertising, like constantly coming at people through different channels.

Jesse Jackson:

I think that's right. And one of the benefits of being in this 3D world of work is that in many cases, we're all showing up as a 2-inch-by-2-inch-box on Zoom, right, or whatever the interface is. And what that means is that it is giving employees an opportunity to have a voice where they may not have had a voice before because they weren't in those meetings, or they were not at the head of the table.
There is no more head of the table, as we think about this virtual engagement, right? The real estate that everyone has on the screen is the same, and we're really able to lean in and leverage our thought leadership, leverage our experiences, leverage those sometimes non-tangible factors, that allow us to move the needle—to better understand other experiences in a way that being in a conventional board room, or being in a conventional operational site, may not have allowed us to do that in the past.

Chris Pirie:

That's a really interesting idea that maybe even controversial: that these platforms have levelled the playing field so to speak, because we're all equally constrained by them.

Jesse Jackson:

To some degree, they have.

Dani Johnson:

Kind of along with that, Jesse, I agree with you: everyone's in a two-by-two box now, and there's a lot more Equity because of that. We're also seeing organizations start to focus just a little bit less on the formal types of learning and a little bit more on the, how do we help peers communicate with peers and teach each other, and how do we put mentoring and coaching programs into place so people can learn that way. What is your organization doing along those lines?

Jesse Jackson:

In many respects, Dani, this notion of really helping individuals have what we refer to as 'uncomfortable conversations’, is really core to getting at those intangibles associated with Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging. And it really is allowing individuals as leaders, as managers, as individual contributors, to have conversations that historically may never have come into the working environment because individuals did not know what to say, how to bring it up, how to give each other grace as we move through this global pandemic.
And we have been very intentional, with respect to helping individuals frame those conversations, helping them bring the right level of EQ and empathy, into this distributed workforce—to really get at those impediments that could in fact subjugate engagement, or other aspects that in some way minimize individual's ability to participate effectively in the work that we're doing.

Dani Johnson:

I love this idea, and I love that you talked about grace, because I think the world really has changed in the last two years and we're more aware of each other than we have been before, and we're more aware that we're not all the same and we don't all want to be treated the same. And I think understanding that and figuring out how someone wants to be treated takes a level of grace.
So, I love the fact that you're focusing on this and also focusing on having those hard decisions, because so many struggle with not wanting to offend that sometimes those conversations never happen and then, there's these risks that exist in organizations. Are you doing that through courses, or are you providing aids or how are you helping people have those conversations?

Jesse Jackson:

As it relates to our leadership engagement, without question we're doing that via virtual instructor-led engagements where we're bringing individuals together—but we don't stop there. We also are helping design meetings in a box, that really give leaders and others a framework for having these discussions, and setting the right boundaries, and helping them introduce topics, and not get offended by various elements that may come up. But what we're finding is it really is allowing us to better connect with each other, and with that better connection really deliver more thoughtfully, more effectively, more sincerely in terms of those KPIs or key performance indexes that are so important to go after.

Stacia Garr:

You mentioned a core challenge being having difficult conversations, and that's actually something we've seen quite a bit in our broader research on responsive managers—that just having these conversations, whether it's about the murder of George Floyd and race and ethnicity, or even about well-being with people having been in this pandemic slog for so long. I’m wondering, are there any other kinds of DEIB-related challenges that you all are particularly focused on trying to solve through learning?

Jesse Jackson:

As all of us look forward to the future of work. We understand that the future of work is much more innovative, and it has required us to lean-in to our workforce in a way that has been much more deeper and much more intentional, but has also allowed us to ensure that, beyond the preparation for existing roles that our individuals are in that we are also helping them understand the urgency and the importance of where organizationally the firm's going, organizationally where the world is going, and what are those skills that they need to leg into so they can be a more substantial part of how we move forward.

And as a result of that, we have really increased the amount of just general tuition engagement that we're providing employees, and helping them understand, and become more adept at these skills (whether it's through certificates programs, whether it's through degree programs), but ultimately it's helping them have more career mobility within the context of our organization, and equally important, it’s future-proofing them for the continued high velocity of changes that we're experiencing in this new 3D economy.

Stacia Garr:

And so when you say that you're helping future proof them, how are you doing that? So there was a famous—probably just famous to us [laughter]—case study from AT&T about how they were providing employees with data about, these are the skills and the careers that are kind of ascending within the organization, and these are the ones that are maybe declining that we're not going to be hiring nearly as many people for in the future so that people had data and insights that they could use to go and make some decisions about the development opportunities that they were going to pursue in the future.
Are you all doing anything to kind of guide folks around? This is the type of learning that's going to future proof particularly for folks who may be at kind of the front lines and, and trying to figure out, ‘how I could rise within JPMorgan Chase?’

Jesse Jackson:

Without question, we are doing that and more right. So, as we have surveyed our employees, part of what we've learned is that they suffer from ‘over-choice:’ There’s just too much information; they don't know what to pursue or why. And our ability to be that intentional in terms of letting them know, ‘what are the in-demand skills’, ‘what jobs do those in demand skills leg into’, and ‘what are the curriculum, and certificate, and degree programs that get them there faster? ’ It's really that type of personalization at scale, where we have been developing actual curriculums and what we refer to as learning journeys for employees, so they are much clearer on why specific classes are important, and what those classes translate into in terms of the employment on the other side of it.

Stacia Garr:

And are you all doing any kind of identification of skills across the population to kind of understand where you might need to kind of grow those skill sets?

Jesse Jackson:

Part of what we have done is really allow employees to self-assess skills, and do that across a proficiency scale that allows them to determine what that self-assessment is. And then based upon that self-assessment, we ladder specific learning to help improve them, but that’s not necessary.

Certainly, we benefit from having underlined data, of course, but that is (I think) materially different than an assessment process that feels like it could be a bit more external. So, we're not necessarily doing that external piece yet, but we really are helping employees understand what those skills and capabilities are they need, we’re giving them a framework in which they can assess themselves in that context, and then based upon that self-assessment, we come over the top with learning journeys that help them increase their proficiency, on those capabilities and skills.

Stacia Garr:

We're in the middle of doing a study right now on a DEIB and skills. And the basic premise of the research is that there are certain skills that is present in the organization, and managers, and senior leaders—and if they're present, the organization is more likely to have a culture of DEIB.

And so, in terms of what those might be, and I can't tell you the answer right now because the survey is out at the moment, but things like conflict resolution, potentially, empathy for sure, listening capabilities, et cetera. And I'm wondering if you all are looking at anything similar—so are you thinking about, okay, what are the skills we need in the organization to foster DEIB? And if so, are you integrating that into your leadership profiles and assessments, or are you doing anything with that?

Jesse Jackson:

Without question, we, by virtue of our engagement with external, as well as internal, thought leaders in this space, had formed fairly strong opinions in terms of what those behaviors, what those skills, what that knowledge is that allows us to truly foster and embed this notion of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging across our workforce. And in doing that, we certainly integrate those elements within our leadership as well as our individual contributor training, in an effort to help us move the needle with respect to seeing those types of behaviors resident more deeply within our organization. And then to your point, we have—as all organizations do—a set of human capital management metrics that we measure, on an ongoing basis, to understand how are we progressing, and do those measurements across the various demographic cuts, that are part of any organization, and not just the conventional sort of gender or ethnicity—really doing it over generational cohorts as well, to really make sure that we are showing up effectively or the broader workforce, which is more multi-generationally diverse as well, as it is gender and ethnic.

Dani Johnson:

I think that's a really interesting point. Jesse, when you talked about multi-generational: we’re definitely seeing this—there’s all kinds of, of different types of Diversity being a global company. How are you dealing with differences in DEIB with respect to different geographic locations?

Jesse Jackson:

So, I think the right answer is ‘carefully,’ right? And we understand that there are different legal frameworks around how we measure, manage, and introduce content across our global footprint. So, we really attempt to bring not a sledgehammer to this work, but really a scalpel to ensure that we are executing with precision, across our geographical footprint.

Dani Johnson:

I like that a lot—using a scalpel versus a sledgehammer—because it connotes that there are differences that are subtle, but very important across the geographies [laughter] that need to be taken into account, to make sure that everyone feels included, and feels like they belong.

Talk to us a little bit about how different functions collaborate for DEIB. So for example, I'm sure the, the fact that you're a proponent is fantastic, but I'm sure that you don't have sole responsibility for DEIB in the organization. So, talk to us about how you're collaborating with those other groups to provide a DEIB culture that is worthy of JPMC.

Jesse Jackson:

You're absolutely correct. I'm not responsible solely for Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, or Belonging within the organization. Certainly, I do believe that the L&D department is a key lever in driving it, but to your question, it really requires us to have fairly sophisticated and balanced scorecards in terms of how we are measuring progress on this front. And doing that in a way that, while those scorecards may be different, they still have intersectionality with our human capital measures (specifically, ‘how is engagement showing up across these groups, how is our attrition, how is our mobility, and how is our retention doing across all of these segments?’)

And understanding that the levers to drive those may be different within one geography versus another, but really ensuring that we're bringing some commonality. So that really requires us to spend the requisite time with our Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging leaders to really ensure that we understand how that framework is aligned with the key performance indexes within the business, and then understanding what's the knowledge, skills, and ability that's needed in order for us to optimize those objectives. And that's really where the L&D department can shine.

Stacia Garr:

Absolutely. You mentioned something that just made my ears wildly perk up now—which is some of the scorecards and metrics that are associated. Are you able to talk to us a little bit about how you're thinking about the measurement of this and how you know you're actually getting better with all this effort you're doing?

Jesse Jackson:

As you might imagine, it's an organization that really attempts to measure and manage sort of how we are progressing across multiple dimensions, and we view DEIB to be sort of one of those key elements. So, as we think about those scorecards, we think about them, in some cases, in a very traditional way, right: what's our representation look like at different levels within the company? What does promotional activity look like—again, at different levels in the company? What are our retention rates across different demographic groups, different geographies, different businesses? So in many respects, we're bringing a very conventional lens to that, but I would argue, we go further.
And part of going further being said, it's an acknowledgement that we support our communities, we support customers that are also tempting to lean-in here, and looking at our product sets to see how do we make them more accessible: are they in the right languages? Are our locations in the right markets? And really understanding how do we bring innovation to this work in a way where it's not just us holding a mirror to ourselves and understanding how do we get better, but it's really how do we operationalize this in a commercial way that allows us (if we're successful), to open up brand new markets—individuals that really didn't know we were doing that work because of cultural issues or other artefacts, right? So, again, we have a very commercial view of this work.

Dani Johnson:

I think what you said just resonates with me a lot; we hear a lot about the unbanked, and the fact that you're looking at Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging, even outside the walls of your organization is admirable, and it's also very interesting that you, throughout this conversation have sort of tied it back to performance—so it's good for us. It's good for the people. It's good for everybody if we focus on this.

Jesse Jackson:

Agreed!

Chris Pirie:

Learning departments found themselves in incredible demand, 12, 14 months ago: there’s some data from LinkedIn that says CEO attention to the topic of L&D kind of went through the roof from the low 20% to the high 80%; we got a lot of attention—and we also realized that we needed to do things differently. I wonder that how your experience over the last 18 months has shaped your thinking on the role of L&D and how you think about the future of our practice?

Jesse Jackson:

Part of what I shared earlier about this notion of ‘over choice,’ sometimes more is not better, right? More is just more, and if not coordinated effectively can cause more confusion, more polarization than we see already in the general society. And any one of our companies, any one of our not-for-profits, it's really a function of the society—we all go home and watch the news to some degree.
So it really requires us to bring sort of a lens to this work that is more intentional, with respect to incorporating effective adult learning processes. And that doesn't mean doing more—that that even doing elements that have impact. And we know whether we do interventions that have impact by tying measurements to them, being really clear what the business is going after, ‘is it representation, is it retention, what groups, when, who?’ And make sure we could answer all of those questions before we call an instructional designer to help us build something. It’s that level of focus that we need to bring to this work.

Chris Pirie:

Has it caused you to stop things: I mean, have you really rethought change programs?

Jesse Jackson:

It really has—and I would also say, as we moved through this pandemic year, it was really required (I'm sure), all of your audience members, to hold their entire catalog up against the mirror and understand that producing digital, even if it's a virtual instructor-led program, that doesn't mean just taking the one that you had in the classroom, and then putting someone in front of that teaching on Zoom—it really requires a refining of how do we bring adult learning principles to bear in a way that truly is delivering an impactful experience; one that clearly aligns to business objectives. And if we can't do that, then we should stop doing it because it could cause more harm than it can cause benefit. So that is particularly the case in this space of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging, right? We want to bring light, not heat!

Dani Johnson:

I like that a lot. I really like that, because I think you're right Jesse [Jesse laughs]. Two years ago, before the pandemic, all I heard was ‘a Netflix of Learning,’ ‘More is better,’ ‘People can find what they want’, and now I'm hearing just the opposite. Just like you said, more is not better, or sometimes, it's just more! And I love how you tied it back to DEIB. We want light, not heat: that’s fantastic.

Stacia Garr:

So Jesse, we have really enjoyed this conversation. We want to know one thing, which is, ’Are there any organizations that you admire, in terms of how they're approaching DEIB and employee development today?’ So who else should we be talking to?

Jesse Jackson:

Yeah, as I think about some of the thought leaders in this space, or not think about it also in terms of some of the non-for-profits that do some of this work well, and certainly we've done some work with Stanford University; they have a practice in this area where they've shared some thought leadership with members of our team. And then on the private or business side, I would also say McKinsey is another firm that again, takes a fact-based approach to this, it's not necessarily about our feelings—sometimes, our feelings don't ladder into the facts. So I think that those are two, one public, one private, enterprise that are thought leaders in this space.

And then I would just like to leave you with a couple of other thoughts. One is that consistent with my broader overview, I think it's also important for us as L&D leaders, to lean into cross-sector engagement, right? With both not-for-profit as well as understanding what some of these public colleges and universities are doing in this space to help establish career pathways and understanding how they're thinking about the future of work: as L&D professionals. That can be very insightful for us.

Secondly, I would certainly invite this team, if you haven't seen it already, this notion of ‘color brave’ and not ‘color blind’, because we talk about folks that are color blind, but that's just not how the world is. And if you've not seen the Ted Talk that's titled ‘Color Brave,’ I would really suggest that people go to YouTube to take a look at it. It also requires us to have a bit of a paradigm shift in terms of how we are thinking, and are approaching this work. So, I thought that was probably one of the leading Ted Talks I've seen on this topic. And then the final item; it is this notion that I hope has been dramatic in my comments.

And it really is about developing the business case specific to your individual company, your individual department, with this realization that the world is becoming much more 3D: digital, diverse, distributed. And by understanding what that business case is, or enhancing the calibration of Diversity, of Equity, of Inclusion, of Belonging in your enterprise will allow you to build a more responsive, a more durable framework, that is better positioned for the dynamics attributable to the future of work.

Dani Johnson:

We're going to include some of those links that you mentioned, Jesse, on the podcast page. I want to ask you two final questions—I know we don't have a lot of time: the first one is how can people connect with you and your work? What's the best way to get a hold of you?

Jesse Jackson:

I think the best way is LinkedIn. It's amazing how social media has made the world really small.

Dani Johnson:

Yeah, it is. And then the second question, which we ask on almost every single podcast we have, ‘why do you do what you do?’

Jesse Jackson:

My Purpose is simply empowering human potential: that is really where it's at. That's where economic growth comes from; that’s where innovation comes from. And as L&D professionals, we have a unique ability to do that. And we are in an economy where the work that we do has never been more important.

Dani Johnson:

I love that, and I 100% agree with you; the work that we do has never been more important. Jesse, thank you so much for your time today and for sharing your thoughts and your examples from your work: I think it's been very helpful, and I think our audience will find it helpful as well.

Jesse Jackson:

Thank you, Dani. And thank the entire team. I appreciate the time today, Stacia and Chris.

[All:] Thanks, Jesse, and good luck.

Jesse Jackson:

Good luck to all of us—we need it! Take care, and thanks.

Stacia Garr:

Thanks for listening to the 'Workplace Stories' podcast, brought to you by RedThread Research. Share your thoughts or ideas for guests and topics by sending an email to hello@redthreadresearch.com, and consider sharing your favorite episode with a friend or colleague. As always thanks to our guests, our sponsors, and thank you, our listeners. 

Chris Pirie:

We'd like to thank the people at Workday for their exclusive sponsorship of the second Season of Workplace Stories. Today, the world is changing faster than ever, and you can meet those changing needs with Workday: it’s one agile system that enables you to grow and engage a more inclusive workforce—it’s your financial, HR and planning system for a changing world. You can find out more information about the Workday Diversity, Engagement, Inclusion and Belonging solutions at workday.com/deib.

Written by

Dani Johnson

Dani is Co-founder and Principal Analyst for RedThread Research. She has spent the majority of her career writing about, conducting research in, and consulting on human capital practices and technology. Her ideas can be found in publications such as Wall Street Journal, CLO Magazine, HR Magazine, and Employment Relations. Dani holds an MBA and an MS and BS in Mechanical Engineering from BYU.

Stacia Garr Redthread Research
Stacia Garr
Co-Founder & Principal Analyst

Stacia is a Co-founder and Principal Analyst for RedThread Research and focuses on employee engagement/experience, leadership, DE&I, people analytics, and HR technology. A frequent speaker and writer, her work has been featured in Fortune, Forbes, The New York Times, and The Wall Street Journal as well as in numerous HR trade publications. She has been listed as a Top 100 influencer in HR Technology and in D&I. Stacia has an MBA from the University of California, Berkeley, and a master’s degree from the London School of Economics.

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