Houston DEI programs are in place — now it's time to trust them
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.
Amy Chronis is the Houston managing partner at Deloitte. Patti Wilkie is global talent and mobility leader of Deloitte Tax LLP.