guest column

Houston DEI programs are in place — now it's time to trust them

DEI is a commitment that, rather like a good relationship needs to be worked on every day, especially when it comes to maintaining trust. Photo via Getty Images

It’s no secret to almost any Houston-area businessperson that diversity, equity and inclusion has been front and center on the corporate radar for quite some time. According to the 2021 Deloitte/Fortune CEO survey, 94 percent of the 175 CEOs surveyed reported that diversity, equity, and inclusion are strategic priorities for them. Nearly three-quarters (72 percent) planned to disclose DEI metrics to the public.

How are they doing so far? Pretty well, apparently. Deloitte’s new study, Build trust in diversity, equity, and inclusion commitments, indicates that 80 percent of survey respondents who work in Texas trust their organizations to follow through on their DEI commitments.

But here’s the rub: More than one-third (36 percent) of Texas workers surveyed say they’d consider leaving their jobs should that trust be broken. This should spark concern among Houston business leaders dealing with the white-hot job market and the Great Resignation.

Clearly, follow-through on DEI commitments, and gaining employees’ trust that DEI goals are being thoughtfully and rigorously pursued, is the next step. To be sure, other cities in the country are diverse, but Houston is unique. It’s considered the most diverse city in the United States across five categories: cultural, economic, socioeconomic, household, and religion, according to 2021 research by WalletHub. Another relevant fact: Nearly one in four Houston residents are foreign-born.

Houston is also an important business hub. The metro area boasts 24 Fortune 500 company headquarters, ranking it third among all cities in the United States. This status, paired with the city’s diversity, means that Houston companies—and all of them, not just Fortune 500 firms—should really commit to DEI as an ongoing journey. It matters to employees, with 86 percent of the surveyed general population believing that companies should address environmental and social issues, including DEI, according to Cone Communications research. That figure soars to 94 percent for Generation Z respondents.

Here are some actionable suggestions Houston-area firms should consider to help companies continue to earn and maintain trust around their DEI actions:

Be clear about your DEI strategy. CEOs, chief diversity officers and corporate boards: your role here calls for setting, sponsoring and sharing a sincere vision for DEI strategies. Data can and should be employed for clarity; use it to create solid short and long-term plans. And be sure to put enough of your budget into DEI efforts. Robust and effective results require ample funding.

Involve your employees in DEI initiatives. Setting a sincere strategy means getting input from all levels of the organization, even some external partners — suppliers and perhaps even outsourced service providers — who might be affected by your firm’s DEI initiatives. Gather ample input, including suggestions for new and existing programs as well as any challenges that might arise, from these stakeholders.

Seeking a wide variety of perspectives and understanding experiences across gender identity, race, ethnicity, and other identities can help you develop initiatives that effectively meet the needs of all your people.

Measure success and share it. Crunch and present the numbers just as you would sales figures or any other business metric. The key word here is accountability. Communicate regularly and with transparency on progress and challenges; honesty is paramount — employees are typically aware that not every effort will meet all of its goals right out of the box. They tend to expect a setback here and there and could be more supportive if those setbacks are honestly shared.

More than a year ago, when companies began committing to DEI in earnest, nobody thought it would be easy. And it’s not. DEI is a commitment that, rather like a good relationship needs to be worked on every day, especially when it comes to maintaining trust. It’s a promise that needs to be kept, and then some.

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Amy Chronis is the Houston managing partner at Deloitte. Patti Wilkie is global talent and mobility leader of Deloitte Tax LLP.

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Building Houston

 
 

This week's roundup of Houston innovators includes Madison Long of Clutch, Ty Audronis of Tempest Droneworx, and Juliana Garaizar of Greentown Labs. Photos courtesy

Editor's note: In this week's roundup of Houston innovators to know, I'm introducing you to three local innovators across industries — from drones to energy tech— recently making headlines in Houston innovation.


Madison Long, co-founder and CEO of Clutch

Madison Long joins the Houston Innovators Podcast to discuss Clutch's recent national launch and the role Houston played in the company's success. Photo courtesy of Clutch

Houston-based creator economy platform Clutch — founded by CEO Madison Long and CTO Simone May — celebrated its nationwide launch earlier this month. The platform connects brands to its network of creators for reliable and authentic work — everything from social media management, video creation, video editing, content creation, graphic design projects, and more.

When the company first launched its beta in Houston, the platform (then called Campus Concierge) rolled out at three Houston-area universities: Texas Southern University, Rice University, and Prairie View A&M. The marketplace connected any students with a side hustle to anyone on campus who needed their services.

Long shares on this week's Houston Innovators Podcast that since that initial pilot, they learned they could be doing more for users.

"We recognized a bigger gap in the market," Long says. "Instead of just working with college-age students and finding them side hustles with one another, we pivoted last January to be able to help these young people get part-time, freelance, or remote work in the creator economy for businesses and emerging brands that are looking for these young minds to help with their digital marketing presence." Read more and listen to the episode.

Ty Audronis, co-founder of Tempest Droneworks

Dana Abramowitz and Ty Audronis co-founded Tempest Droneworks. Photo courtesy of Tempest Droneworx

Ty Audronis, fueled by wanting to move the needle on wildfire prevention, wanted to upgrade existing processes with real-time, three-dimensional, multi-spectral mapping, which exactly where his company, Tempest Droneworx, comes in.

That software is called Harbinger. Audronis explains that the real-time management and visualization solution is viewable on practically any device, including mobile or augmented reality. The system uses a video game engine for viewing, but as Audronis puts it, “the magic happens” on the back end.

The company was just the two founders until five weeks ago, when Tempest’s size doubled, including a full-time developer. Once Tempest receives its SIBR check, the team will grow again to include more developers. They are currently looking for offices in the city. As Audronis says, Tempest Droneworx is “100-percent made in Houston.” Read more.

Juliana Garaizar, chief development and investment officer and head of Houston incubator of Greentown Labs

Juliana Garaizar is now the chief development and investment officer at Greentown Labs, as well as continuing to be head of the Houston incubator. Image courtesy of Greentown

Greentown Labs named a new member to its C-suite. Juliana Garaizar, who originally joined Greentown as launch director ahead of the Houston opening in 2021, has been promoted from vice president of innovation to chief development and investment officer.

"I'm refocusing on the Greentown Labs level in a development role, which means fundraising for both locations and potentially new ones," Garaizar tells InnovationMap. "My role is not only development, but also investment. That's something I'm very glad to be pursuing with my investment hat. Access to capital is key for all our members, and I'm going to be in charge of refining and upgrading our investment program."

While she will also maintain her role as head of the Houston incubator, Greentown Houston is also hiring a general manager position to oversee day-to-day and internal operations of the hub. Garaizar says this role will take some of the internal-facing responsibilities off of her plate. Read more.

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