Retailers

When DEI Efforts Are ‘Doomed to Fail’

Walmart says C-suite execs must lead by example for companies to succeed
Walmart DEI
Photograph courtesy of Walmart

C-suite executives play a critical role in the success or failure of diversity, equity and inclusion programs. As many grocers seek to implement meaningful and change-making diversity and inclusion programs, leading by example has never been more important.

“To build an equitable workplace, C-suite executives must activate the full breadth of their control and influence across all parts of their organizations and beyond—from relationships to products, services to spend, and governance to external interactions,” Donald Fan, senior director of Walmart’s Global Office of Culture, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI), told WGB. Business executives who lead by example to advance equity can influence the behavior and performance of others around them to cultivate a culture of equity and inclusivity.

“Any DEI efforts not driven directly by the CEO are, ultimately, doomed to fail,” added Fan.

Walmart's Donald Fan

The Inclusive CEO

What role should the CEO play in DEI? Fan said the following are key responsibilities for every leader:

  • Set vision and expectations.
  • Establish leadership commitments and hold C-suite leaders accountable for fostering a culture of equity and inclusivity.
  • Ratify strategic priorities around DEI.
  • Lead the company with empathy and humanity through example.

When it comes to leading by example, Fan points to Walmart CEO Doug McMillon, who has committed to multiple national pledges publicly to achieve gender and racial parity across all levels in the workforce. To sustain the progress, McMillon leverages Walmart’s monthly diversity report to hold executive committee members accountable for closing the gaps through a customized action plan.

McMillon also chairs the President’s Inclusion Council that serves in an advisory capacity “to help sharpen the culture and dial up the inclusiveness across the enterprise,” Fan said. The members of the council were chosen because of their influence and reputation for modeling behaviors consistent with inclusive leadership and their ability to bring diverse perspectives together to drive change, he added.

Under McMillion’s leadership last June, Walmart made a five-year $100 million philanthropic commitment to creating a new Center for Racial Equity that strives to support initiatives that help make a structural impact on improving racial equity within societal systems.

Today, 40% of his direct reports are women, noted Fan. Additionally, two female CEOs lead a large business segment with multibillion revenue equivalent to a Fortune 500 company.

The Equitable CFO

“The responsibility for creating a culture of equity and inclusivity is a huge investment of corporate energy and resource—but it is inseparably part of building a successful business,” Fan said.

What’s the CFO’s role in DEI?

  • To set investment strategies and portfolio management.
  • Plan and approve internal and external funding requests.
  • Establish equitable wage and compensation practices.
  • Prioritize tax considerations and practices.

After what Fan calls “multiple listening sessions with diverse talent,” Walmart CFO Brett Biggs committed to elevating the career path of diverse talent in the pipeline through a formal executive sponsorship program. He requires all corporate officers in the finance organization to sponsor at least one diverse associate.

“The program helps high-performing and high-potential proteges increase exposure to senior executives, invest in their career development and advocate for their career advancement,” Fan said. “In the finance organization, 34% of the promotion goes to diverse talent and 44% to women.”

The Chief Diversity Human Resources Officer

Human resources executives operationalize the company’s values and DEI principles, making them a part of everyday people processes and business decisions, Fan said. This executive:

  • Defines workforce experience strategy to inform talent strategy and processes.
  • Designs and delivers equitable rewards and other programs.
  • Monitors pay equity.
  • Enables a culture that embeds and values equity and inclusivity in all business operations.

“Over the past 18 months, the world’s largest private employer has witnessed seismic shifts, led by Donna Morris, chief global people officer, through innovative people solutions, developing and managing agile teams, and helping to build a high-performance culture that promotes diversity, equity and inclusion. Throughout the unprecedented crisis, Donna has connected, engaged and inspired associates and HR professionals through multiple town halls each month, various open conversations and events,” Fan said.

The Walmart’s Global People organization increases fairness and equity by creating new policies and practices, such as diverse slates, diverse interview panels, pay equity, race and inclusion learning path, flexible work, educational benefit and more, he noted.

“The strategic efforts on inclusion, growth, well-being and digital aim to build a world-class and future-ready workforce that reflects the customers and communities and that creates a welcoming and inclusive experience for associates and customers alike,” Fan said.

“Cultivating a culture of equity and inclusivity is not a start-and-stop initiative, and it is an outcome of intentional high-integrity work, a no-destination culture journey.

Chief DEI Officers Set Priorities

Fan further notes the primary responsibilities of chief DEI officers (CDOs) are to:

  • Set diversity, equity and inclusion strategic priorities with the board and CEO.
  • Collaborate with senior executives to enable DEI in all spheres of influence.
  • Initiate and promote DEI programs.
  • Establish, evolve and publish diversity analytics.
  • Encourage transparency and accountability on DEI ambitions and results.

“Though CDOs truly want to make a difference, it is up to the C-suite executives to step up and empower him/her with resource, access and tools to help the people and the business thrive,” Fan said. “Cultivating a culture of equity and inclusivity is not a start-and-stop initiative, and it is an outcome of intentional high-integrity work, a no-destination culture journey.”

The global pandemic as well as the murder of George Floyd and the resulting civil unrest, expanded the sphere of influence for Walmart’s Chief Culture, Diversity, Equity, Inclusion Officer Ben Hasan, Fan said.

As part of its broader commitment to racial equity, emphasizing developing strategies and investing resources to help increase fairness, equity and justice across society, in June 2020, Walmart established a Center of Racial Justice and four Shared Value Networks (SVNs).

“Each SVN team is charged with studying national systems and defining the business strategies Walmart can deploy to help shape finance, health, education and criminal justice systems toward more equitable outcomes,” explained Fan.

Seeking to develop inclusive leaders, more than 72,000 of Walmart’s U.S. associates have Inclusive Leadership Expectations as part of their annual performance evaluation, which requires associates to complete at least two approved Inclusive Leadership Education offerings each year, such as unconscious bias training, racial equity training, LGBTQ ally training, a disability in the workplace module or a values-based decision-making workshop. Associates can also choose to actively mentor or sponsor two associates, host a mentoring circle or participate as a mentor in a program.

A Chief Technology Officer Leading by Example

The chief technology officer also has an important role to play, Fan said. Successful CTOs:

  • Select and deploy technologies to sustain DEI.
  • Advocate data-driven decision-making.
  • Design and monitor information flow across the organization.
  • Considers biases and ethics in technology.
  • Create and assess data analytics.

Walmart Global Tech, led by Chief Technology Officer Suresh Kumar, is committed to fighting racism, inequality and discrimination by leading a culture change and turning talk into action, Fan said.

Internally developed AI and machine learning apps and systems accelerate the effectiveness and efficiency of the inclusive recruiting process, mentoring program, learning experiences and digital devices for frontline associates, he added.

Today, 61% of Walmart’s tech workforce are people of color and 33% are women. Its 75% of new hires are people of color and 38% are women.

The DEI-Strategic Chief Marketing Officer

What does it take for a company’s chief marketing officer (CMO) to succeed in DEI?

  • The CMO develops a comprehensive marketing strategy that promotes an inclusive brand identity and helps the organization gain a competitive edge.
  • Reaches out to cultivate a diverse and inclusive supplier chain.
  • Effectively shapes the company’s public profile.
  • Assumes the voice of the customer across the company.

In 2020, Walmart’s Supplier Inclusion program sourced more than $13.1 billion in goods and services from diverse suppliers and continues to accelerate the commitment to women- and minority-owned suppliers, the company said.

Led by Chief Marketing Officer William White, Walmart’s marketing organization seeks to ensure that a broad and diverse set of customers can see themselves represented in the brand and the business. Walmart has also created a DEI Review Board to ensure DEI is at the forefront of all creative product, Fan said.

To encourage the telling of more inclusive stories in its marketing efforts, Walmart has further committed that 40% of all production directors, photographers and crew will be women or underrepresented minorities.

 

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