Creating a Diverse Workforce Leads to Strong Foundation
Workplace diversity is more important than ever as job seekers, employees, vendors and consumers seek out organizations committed to diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI). Pamela Moore-Thompson, vice president of talent strategies and organizational effectiveness at UScellular, shared her thoughts about workplace diversity with Crain’s Chicago Business. To view the article in its entirety, click here or see her responses below.
Q: What does diversity, equity and inclusion mean to your organization?
PMT: UScellular embraces diversity as one of the foundational values important to our strong culture. We commit daily to openly supporting the individual strengths of each of our associates and valuing the uniqueness of their perspectives. We know that having a diverse workforce across all levels and within all functions of our organization is important to serving customers in our local communities, attracting extraordinary talent and creating a culture that's inclusive of differing experiences and perspectives.
Q: What's the biggest challenge your organization faces when seeking to recruit and hire a diverse workforce?
PMT: Many talented employees and candidates have reset their baseline for what they want from an employer. Societal influences, such as COVID-19, have had a significant impact on the labor market. Feedback from current associates, as well as applicants, suggests that flexibility is a high priority, and they feel—and we agree—that flexibility has been earned over the last 18 months.
Q: How does your organization promote diversity in recruiting employees?
PMT: We focus on communicating the robust benefits that job seekers will experience when becoming a part of our organization. We also have strong relationships with partner organizations that help us access a broad group of diverse talent. We participate in events that attract diverse candidates, recruit through inclusive organizations and diversify our employment advertising to reach talent in local communities. Our equitable recruiting practices include pursuing diverse interview teams, compelling job descriptions aimed at attracting broad groups of interested candidates, and diversity and inclusion training for all leaders of people. We practice continuous improvement and regularly analyze every step of our recruiting process to ensure that we're appealing to a broad and diverse group of potential candidates.
Q: What efforts do you take to reduce unconscious bias in your hiring practices?
PMT: Our behavior-based interview process promotes a consistent approach to interviewing. We also pursue diverse interviewer panels and require calibration conversations to review all eligible applicants for an open position. We require our leaders to complete diversity training on topics such as unconscious bias in hiring, and all new leaders participate in a program that focuses on ensuring objectivity in the hiring process. We've also brought in external experts to share best practices and provide additional insights to help associates and leaders ensure that DEI stays top of mind during hiring and beyond.
Q: What role can benefit packages play in attracting and retaining diverse candidates and employees?
PMT: Having a robust and unique benefits package can attract a broad group of candidates. For example, we know that women and minorities were disproportionally affected by the impact COVID-19 had on the job market, and a large group of people voluntarily left their jobs in pursuit of something different. As these groups are looking to re-enter the workforce or find a new opportunity, they desire benefits beyond what typically comes to mind. Recently we've heard an increase in questions surrounding flexible work locations and hours; physical, emotional, financial and social wellbeing support; work/life balance; stress reduction and personal time off expectations. We have competitive benefit offerings, and are always looking to be flexible and align our offerings to support the needs of all employees.
Q: How do you communicate with your employees about corporate DEI initiatives?
PMT: We weave a consistent flow of DEI content into our communications to keep it top of mind for associates. We encourage leaders to proactively share and advocate for DEI initiatives and offer space for associates to participate; this starts with our CEO who's made DEI efforts a priority across the company. We encourage peer-to-peer communication, and we support our associate resource groups taking the lead on communicating their perspectives, concerns and initiatives broadly across the company. We also have an internal communications channel where associates can freely share their ideas and thoughts in a safe space.
Q: What role does training play in your organization's DEI efforts?
PMT: We've prioritized company-wide DEI training for leaders and associates. By having dedicated training, we can engage all associates to reflect on their own thoughts and actions and be more mindful of inclusive behaviors in their day-to-day. All leaders have required diversity training that addresses potential bias in hiring, and we have several optional trainings that are available to all associates. Beyond formal learning, our associate resource groups regularly provide educational opportunities through guest speakers, special events, webinars and informal discussions.
Q: How do you ensure that long-tenured employees feel included and that DEI is about them as well as new hires?
PTM: While DEI initiatives have always been a priority, in 2019, we launched a year-long inclusion campaign to optimize our diverse talents and foster a more inclusive organization. An important element is an annual week-long summit composed of sessions dedicated to creating greater understanding of our company's DEI strategy, supporting individual growth and promoting engagement with our associate resource groups.
Q: How can organizations prevent DEI fatigue?
PMT: Employees need to know that their voices are heard and that they can be candid in sharing their thoughts and opinions. The conversations can't all be "top down" because at some point the words become hollow or feel robotic. Our associate resource groups are volunteer, company-supported and associate-driven, drawn together by common purpose and commitment to being a resource for our associates and the organization. By actively engaging our associates and having them take ownership of DEI initiatives, we've found increased empowerment and pride.
Q: What advice do you have for organizations looking to measure the success of their DEI efforts?
PTM: Set goals and targets, develop strategies to achieve those goals and constantly measure achievement milestones. UScellular participates in several outside surveys and indices that provide impartial feedback and benchmark us against other companies. The feedback is invaluable, because we recognize that working toward being a more inclusive organization is always evolving. We acknowledge where we may have weaknesses, apply continuous improvement and hold leaders accountable for advancing our goals.
Q: What's the biggest benefit your organization has experienced by having a diverse workforce?
PMT: The most significant benefit is increased trust among our associates, which contributes to improved performance. Our associates trust that we'll listen to their perspectives and consider their points of view in our decision making. This drives our ability to provide a great wireless experience for our diverse customer base and to achieve better business results.