Skip to main content

One Houston Together: Driving Action to Advance Inclusion and Strategic Talent Development and Retention

Published May 19, 2022 by A.J. Mistretta

OHT Roundtable Racial Equity 5.jpg

How does a global company launch an effective diversity and inclusion strategy from the ground up? And what does outside-the-box thinking look like when it comes to education benefits that significantly move the needle on talent retention? 

Those are some of the questions addressed in the Partnership’s most recent One Houston Together Talent Roundtable earlier this month. 

Jacobs Gets Results on Equity and Inclusion 

The engineering giant Jacobs began its diversity and inclusion program in 2019 following its merger with another company. The original strategy developed four years ago remains the blueprint the company follows today, albeit with a few updates. Using key tools like the Global DEI Benchmarks – the basis for our Houston-region Equity & Inclusion Assessment – Jacobs measured their current state in 2019 and developed a transparent and measurable plan  to dive change. In 2020, the company’s TogetherBeyond initiative formally launched through the Jacobs rebranding and a director position was created to oversee the effort.

Several factors have helped Jacobs achieve success, said Sabrina Becker, Global Director for the TogetherBeyond initiative at Jacobs. Visible and measurable executive support has demonstrated that equity and inclusion is a company priority from top to bottom, and one that’s tied to business goals. A robust group of employee networks with 16,000 participants enables direct connections to broader strategy and creates a clear through-line between values and people. Finally, said Becker, defined metrics for progress and regular check-ins help ensure the initiative is clearly and demonstrably working toward the broader company strategy. 

“Everyone in the company knows what the strategy is and how it ties back to Jacobs values,” Becker said. “But we recognize that that strong value system has to be supported by senior management. That’s what makes the difference.” 

Jacobs had to develop its baseline metrics and goals from scratch and was challenged to educate its employees on the importance of diversity and inclusion. Over the last two years, Becker said, the company has made Conscious Inclusion and Advocate and Ally training a requirement for all personnel. 

Diversity and inclusion is important to Jacobs because of how few minorities and women are entering engineering and STEM-related fields. “We want more than our share of all of the diversity categories because there are simply not enough in our industry,” Becker said. 

Today, Jacobs is tracking its progress via a biannual GDEIB survey, an annual internal culture survey with ancillary pulse surveys, regular benchmarking of TogetherBeyond goals, and ongoing conversations with the leadership of employee networks. 

And in just three years, the firm has achieved significant success, from receiving international recognition for its diversity and inclusion efforts to establishing a mentoring network for employees that requires all executives at VP level and above to have a diverse mentee. 

WM Reimagines Education Benefits 

When it comes to education benefits, WM is leading the corporate pack. The company formerly known as Waste Management is the first U.S. company to extend a no-cost education and upskilling program to both employees and their dependent family members. WM’s Your Tomorrow program is available to over 37,000 team members and their nearly 35,000 family members, including spouses and children. 

Gordon Blasius, Vice President of Total Rewards for WM, runs the Your Tomorrow program. While turnover can be incredibly high in blue-collar sectors, Blasius said WM has seen an 80% decrease in turnover among the workers engaged in Your Tomorrow. 

“This is truly making a difference in the lives of those kids who would have never been able to go to college, and their parents,” Blasius said. 

Your Tomorrow offers more than 170 programs, including fully funded high school completion, short-form technology and business certificates, select undergraduate degrees, and partially funded graduate programs for team members. WM covers the program costs upfront, helping eliminate student debt, promote economic mobility and foster generational wealth, said Blasius. 

WM works in partnership with Guild Education to provide access to 130 different college programs to employees and their family members. In the first six months, nearly 6,000 team members engaged with the program – of which almost 70 percent are frontline workers.

The roundtable discussion also included a presentation from Mark Brown, Executive Director of the Student Freedom Initiative, who spoke about the initiative that offers eligible students from Minority Serving Institutions an income-contingent option for funding college education. Brown also talked about InternX, an intelligence platform operated by the Student Freedom Initiative that companies can use to identify and hire racially diverse interns and support talent pipeline development. At present, more than 200 companies and 14,000 students are using the free platform. 

Related News

Racial Equity

Economic Impact of Houston Area Minority Businesses Hits $14B

6/7/22
HOUSTON (June 6, 2022) – Certified minority businesses in the Houston region generated $14 billion in economic activity and contributed $8.5 billion to the local GDP in 2020, according to a new analysis.  The 2022 Houston Minority Business Enterprise Economic Impact Analysis, a joint report from Houston Minority Supplier Development Council (HMSDC) and the Greater Houston Partnership’s One Houston Together initiative, examined the 2020 economic impact of 771 minority business enterprises (MBEs) certified by HMSDC across 18 different sectors in the region.  HMSDC-certified MBEs supported roughly 70,500 jobs in the metro area in 2020, paying $5.4 billion in wages, according to the report. “This report is vital to understanding the impact of MBEs in our region,” said Ingrid Robinson, President of HMSDC. “The data reveals the power of our minority business community, and they also illuminate the unrealized potential of the region’s minority businesses and what is possible with focused and increased attention on procurement.”  Partnership President and CEO Bob Harvey said the report provides an important baseline for where the region’s MBEs stand as efforts are expanding to grow corporate spending with MBEs. “Based on the results of our Equity & Inclusion Assessment last year, we know that purchasing from MBEs is a challenge for our region. That’s why we have made accelerating the growth of underrepresented businesses one of the two focus areas of our One Houston Together initiative, the other being advancing underrepresented talent from initial hiring to the board room. The results of this report tell us that our regions MBEs are capable of growth if given the opportunity.”  The top five industries represented among the MBEs were professional services (37.2%), administration/waste management (11.1%), wholesale trade (10.7%), construction (9.8%), and manufacturing (9.3%). When it comes to revenue, wholesale trade leads with 40% of total revenue, followed by professional services at 22%.  With such broad industries and expertise, the Houston-region is prepared to be a national leader in designing and implementing a local procurement roadmap unrivaled by any other major U.S. city. A collective effort to increase MBE spend by purchasers in the region will be necessary to make this goal a reality. Procurement and supply chain leaders should use the report to map their purchasing needs with the goods and services provided by Houston-based MBEs. The data provides a compelling reminder that increasing local spend can help our region realize the multiplier effects created when MBEs are equally considered in local company procurement. Wayne McConnell, Managing Partner of Houston-based McConnell Jones – one of the largest African American owned public accounting firms in the U.S. believes the report is an important step. “As a Partnership board member for more than 15 years, I am pleased to see the progress of One Houston Together and the collaboration on this report. We all have a part to play, and this data helps both minority business owners and companies engaged in purchasing to do a better job. The data confirms the capacity of Houston minority owned businesses and the impact they have on our local economy. I hope the report will be used to expand access for Houston-area MBEs that are ready and able to meet the needs of our region’s purchasers.”   “Houston area corporations have an opportunity to join in advancing minority led businesses in this region, but it will require breaking from business as usual, a willingness to learn what best practice looks like, and real commitment to affect meaningful change”, said Gretchen Watkins, President of Shell USA, Inc., and Co-Chair of the Partnership’s Racial Equity Committee. Watkins leads the committee with fellow Co-Chair Ruth Simmons, President of Prairie View A&M University.  The 771 certified MBEs collectively produced $8.2 billion in revenue. The report found that among the MBE race/ethnicity categories, revenue directly correlated with employee count. Hispanic MBEs, for instance, generated the most revenue and had the highest total employee count while Native MBEs had the fewest total employees and ranked fifth in revenue generated. Given the correlation, the report estimates that a 10% increase in revenue across all MBEs would result in more than 6,700 new jobs for the region.  The Partnership and HMSDC have identified three things the Houston business community can act on immediately to improve outcomes in Houston.  Track spending with Houston-region MBEs and participate in aggregate regional data reporting  Leverage Tier 1/Prime relationships to drive increased spending with Houston-region MBEs  Set aggressive near- to intermediate-term goals to increase spend with Houston-region MBEs, recognizing that minority businesses are present throughout the local economy View the full report.  ### One Houston Together is the Greater Houston Partnership’s commitment to leverage the power of the business community to reduce inequities. One Houston Together is a data-driven effort of 100+ businesses, institutions, and nonprofit organizations to advance people of color into senior management roles, increase racial diversity on corporate boards, and grow spending with Minority Business Enterprises. Learn More Houston Minority Supplier Development Council (HMSDC) actively involves its members in efforts to increase and expand business opportunities and business growth for Minority Business Enterprises and to drive excellence in supplier diversity and supplier development. Learn More CONTACT: A.J. Mistretta                                                   Brina Morales                                                                   Vice President, Communications                    Senior Manager, Media Relations                             amistretta@houston.org                                  bmorales@houston.org                                    (c) 504-450-3516                                            (c) 832-287-5089      
Read More
Racial Equity

One Houston Together: Talent in the Workforce and Retaining Talent

5/19/22
How does a global company launch an effective diversity and inclusion strategy from the ground up? And what does outside-the-box thinking look like when it comes to education benefits that significantly move the needle on talent retention?  Those are some of the questions addressed in the Partnership’s most recent One Houston Together Talent Roundtable earlier this month.  Jacobs Gets Results on Equity and Inclusion  The engineering giant Jacobs began its diversity and inclusion program in 2019 following its merger with another company. The original strategy developed four years ago remains the blueprint the company follows today, albeit with a few updates. Using key tools like the Global DEI Benchmarks – the basis for our Houston-region Equity & Inclusion Assessment – Jacobs measured their current state in 2019 and developed a transparent and measurable plan  to dive change. In 2020, the company’s TogetherBeyond initiative formally launched through the Jacobs rebranding and a director position was created to oversee the effort. Several factors have helped Jacobs achieve success, said Sabrina Becker, Global Director for the TogetherBeyond initiative at Jacobs. Visible and measurable executive support has demonstrated that equity and inclusion is a company priority from top to bottom, and one that’s tied to business goals. A robust group of employee networks with 16,000 participants enables direct connections to broader strategy and creates a clear through-line between values and people. Finally, said Becker, defined metrics for progress and regular check-ins help ensure the initiative is clearly and demonstrably working toward the broader company strategy.  “Everyone in the company knows what the strategy is and how it ties back to Jacobs values,” Becker said. “But we recognize that that strong value system has to be supported by senior management. That’s what makes the difference.”  Jacobs had to develop its baseline metrics and goals from scratch and was challenged to educate its employees on the importance of diversity and inclusion. Over the last two years, Becker said, the company has made Conscious Inclusion and Advocate and Ally training a requirement for all personnel.  Diversity and inclusion is important to Jacobs because of how few minorities and women are entering engineering and STEM-related fields. “We want more than our share of all of the diversity categories because there are simply not enough in our industry,” Becker said.  Today, Jacobs is tracking its progress via a biannual GDEIB survey, an annual internal culture survey with ancillary pulse surveys, regular benchmarking of TogetherBeyond goals, and ongoing conversations with the leadership of employee networks.  And in just three years, the firm has achieved significant success, from receiving international recognition for its diversity and inclusion efforts to establishing a mentoring network for employees that requires all executives at VP level and above to have a diverse mentee.  WM Reimagines Education Benefits  When it comes to education benefits, WM is leading the corporate pack. The company formerly known as Waste Management is the first U.S. company to extend a no-cost education and upskilling program to both employees and their dependent family members. WM’s Your Tomorrow program is available to over 37,000 team members and their nearly 35,000 family members, including spouses and children.  Gordon Blasius, Vice President of Total Rewards for WM, runs the Your Tomorrow program. While turnover can be incredibly high in blue-collar sectors, Blasius said WM has seen an 80% decrease in turnover among the workers engaged in Your Tomorrow.  “This is truly making a difference in the lives of those kids who would have never been able to go to college, and their parents,” Blasius said.  Your Tomorrow offers more than 170 programs, including fully funded high school completion, short-form technology and business certificates, select undergraduate degrees, and partially funded graduate programs for team members. WM covers the program costs upfront, helping eliminate student debt, promote economic mobility and foster generational wealth, said Blasius.  WM works in partnership with Guild Education to provide access to 130 different college programs to employees and their family members. In the first six months, nearly 6,000 team members engaged with the program – of which almost 70 percent are frontline workers. The roundtable discussion also included a presentation from Mark Brown, Executive Director of the Student Freedom Initiative, who spoke about the initiative that offers eligible students from Minority Serving Institutions an income-contingent option for funding college education. Brown also talked about InternX, an intelligence platform operated by the Student Freedom Initiative that companies can use to identify and hire racially diverse interns and support talent pipeline development. At present, more than 200 companies and 14,000 students are using the free platform. 
Read More

Related Events

Demography

Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Council

Houston is America's diverse city - this Council explores how Houston's business community plays a critical role in advancing Houston as America's most inclusive and open city, one that truly offers an opportunity…

Learn More
Learn More