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One Houston Together: Talent in the Workforce and Retaining Talent

Published May 19, 2022 by A.J. Mistretta

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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. 

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Racial Equity

One Houston Together: Member Spotlight on Bank of America’s Efforts to Advance Underrepresented Talent

7/29/22
As part of its ongoing effort to showcase success in the retention and advancement of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color talent, the Partnership’s One Houston Together hosted its latest roundtable discussion in July featuring a conversation with Tiffany Douglas, Global Women’s Initiative and Under-represented Talent Strategy Executive with Bank of America.   Increasing racial equity in the corporate talent pipeline and board leadership is one of the two priorities of One Houston Together alongside increasing spending with Minority Business Enterprises. The roundtable discussions are designed to share best practices and showcase Partnership members that are leading change.  Here are several key takeaways from the conversation with Tiffany Douglas at Bank of America.  Douglas’ team works with internal and external partners to help drive advocacy for women and underrepresented talent. Bank of America has an intentional strategy to ensure diverse voices and talent are at the table for more responsible growth. The goal: reflect the communities and clients the bank serves.  Douglas emphasized that it takes intentional practice to create change and improve outcomes. She shared that it’s not a question about if we do this but how the bank does it. This charge is supported by the board of directors, CEO, management team, Global Diversity & Inclusion Council, Executive Councils, Market Presidents in 92 markets, and all employee networks. The bank seeks to drive inclusion “everywhere” not just in go to market products. While approximately 40 professionals across an organization with roughly 200,000 employees are working in D&I through various lines of business and the bank’s Global Diversity and Inclusion Council, Bank of America’s philosophy is that everyone is part of driving inclusion.  Bank of America uses a number of tools to assist with connecting and empowering employees across the organization including on demand online learning, virtual sessions, and mindfulness apps. The bank consistently asks for feedback to learn how and if the tools are working and to incorporate colleagues’ perspective. Another tool is the bank’s Connections page, which serves as a sort of internal social media network. Employees can fill out a profile describing their work as well as out-of-office interests, volunteer activities etc. Douglas said this helps people connect with one another on a personal level. Bank of America also provides D&I Bootcamps and Inclusive Learning opportunities for employees.  The organization hosts what it calls Let’s Get Real Conversations, virtual chat sessions that allow employees to discuss topics ranging from LGBTQ pride to women’s leadership. In 2021, the bank held 350 such conversations with thousands of views that were recorded, allowing team members that could not participate live to go back and watch later. Douglas said it’s important that such initiatives meet employees where they are, allowing them to engage when it’s convenient.  Bank of America supports mentorship both across the organization and through various lines of business and encourages colleagues to earn and ask for sponsorship relationships. Knowing the skills and aspirations of current employees gives leadership greater ability to recommend individuals for the right opportunities, whether in their current line of business or elsewhere in the company. “The more we know our talent and can understand not just what they do but who they are an what their aspirations are, the better we can move people and recommend them for opportunities. It’s not just about recruiting new talent, we have to retain the talent we already have,” she said.  Douglas said one challenge is that job titles don’t often adequately describe what a person actually does. Through mentorship and other programs, employees are encouraged to talk about what they actually do and how they do it, which in turn leads to better targeted opportunities.  When it comes to the leading factors helping advance underrepresented talent, Douglas said it’s about starting at the top and measuring and inspecting progress.  Learn more about One Houston Together and read about other case studies. 
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Racial Equity

One Houston Together: Realizing Opportunity in Supplier Diversity

7/21/22
The first installment of the Partnership’s new One Houston Together webinar series focused on Opportunities in Supplier Diversity, offering insight from a new report on the impact of minority businesses in the region and perspective from a local energy company that’s launched a successful supplier diversity program.  LaTanya Flix, Senior Vice President, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at the Partnership, moderated the discussion and gave an overview of the structure and key objectives of One Houston Together as well as the definition of supplier diversity and its significance to our region. Ziba Mehra, Director of Purchasing, Calpine shared a corporate perspective on establishing a robust supplier diversity program.  Ingrid Robinson, President, Houston Minority Supplier Development Council (HMSDC) discussed trends and  MBE growth in the Houston region.   Roel Martinez, Vice President Research at the Partnership shared findings from the recently released Minority Business Enterprise (MBE) Economic Impact Analysis, produced in collaboration with HMSDC.   Here are a few key takeaways from the conversation:  Growing spending with minority business enterprises is one of two priority areas of One Houston Together. Flix shared that the supplier diversity workstream includes a Supplier Diversity Roundtable that meets 4-5 times a year, as well as a newly established Houston Buyer Cohort and a Chief Procurement Officer (CPO) Convening. “We have one big goal: to help make Houston one of the most equitable and inclusive business communities in the country,” Flix said.  Martinez highlighted key findings of the recently published Houston MBE Economic Impact Analysis. MBEs are defined as businesses that are at least 51% owned, managed or controlled by Black, Hispanic, Asian Indian, Asian Pacific or Native American individuals. The report found that:  771 certified MBEs are operating in metro Houston across 18 different sectors, with the largest number in professional services.  The vast majority of these companies are operating in the business-to-business arena and nearly half have revenues of $1 million or more annually.  Collectively these companies reported revenues totaling $8.2 billion in 2020.  Correlations between revenue and employee counts and industry sector, race and revenue. While the report focused on data from 2020, Robinson said HMSDC is seeing significant growth in the number of certified MBEs, which totaled 850 companies at the end of last year. And while most of the newly launched businesses are in the professional services sector, there’s also growing diversity in the sectors represented, Robinson said. “I definitely see more growth happening this year as well, including more interest in places like energy transition where there’s a lot of excitement.”  Robinson said the largest opportunity for growth is in what’s called the middle market or secondary supplier space where prime suppliers working with large corporations can develop partnerships with growing MBEs. “We have aggressive near and long-term goals,” she said, adding that Houston is well positioned thanks to its diversity and robust business community to set the standard for the nation.  Robinson reminded the audience that while many MBEs are small businesses, that doesn’t mean they lack capacity or are unable to meet the demands of major purchasers. Capacity is often among the leading concerns of companies beginning a supplier diversity effort. “It’s one of the mind shifts we have to make,” said Robinson.  HMSDC recently launched a new tool designed to help area companies find qualified MBEs for their purchasing needs. The Diverse Business Finder website allows companies to search for suppliers by category, location, keyword and more.  Mehra with Calpine discussed the energy company’s effort that launched in 2020 to significantly increase spending with minority businesses. With buy-in from senior leadership and a structured approach to developing metrics and goals tied to the program, Calpine’s supplier diversity efforts resulted in several award nominations. “Running a successful supplier diversity program requires a strong commitment and dedicated resources,” she said. “Engagement and communication are definite keys to success.”    Learn more about the work of One Houston Together.   
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