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Shared Progress: Making Sure Your DE&I Commitment Is Set Up for Success

7 MINUTE READ | August 18, 2021

Shared Progress: Making Sure Your DE&I Commitment Is Set Up for Success

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Devon Eubanks

Devon Eubanks has written this article. More details coming soon.

Our ‘Shared Progress’ series covers what we’ve learned since launching our ‘Commitment to Change’ in July 2020 as we seek to help meaningfully advance diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) in our industry and beyond. Our first post breaks down some of the first steps we took to launch our DE&I commitment. 

PMG approaches everything we do through a people-first lens. It’s the fabric of who we are as a company and as individuals. The events of 2020 forced us to reflect on how we can live our values to do the right thing and always change for the better as we confronted the uncomfortable reality that we can do more to support diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) for our employees, partners, and local communities. 

We made a company-wide commitment to advancing DE&I and deepened our investment because being people first means supporting each and every one of our team members personally and professionally. We have a long way to go, but we remain committed to both transparency and progress.

One year later, we reflect on the steps we took to bring our commitment to life. 

One of our first steps was to establish a cross-functional Diversity and Inclusion Group (DIG) leadership team that partners with our executive leadership team (known internally as LBE, which stands for Lead by Example) to help increase buy-in and promote greater accountability across the organization. While there are different approaches for establishing DE&I leadership — a Chief Diversity Officer, a cross-functional team, a committee, etc. — we believe it’s important to ensure DE&I leaders are empowered to act knowing they have the full support of the company behind them. 

Our cross-functional team allowed us to evolve DE&I from a Human Resources or People Operations responsibility into a shared responsibility among a group of passionate individuals and DE&I champions. This approach also brought increased oversight and helped us garner input from a diverse group who collectively bring unique expertise and vantage points to the table. 

DE&I should not be treated like an employee club or social group, but as a business imperative that is critical to the success of the company. Once the right team is in place, it’s important to arm them with what they need to succeed, which translates into dedicated budget, resources, and time. In our experience, finding time to come together and pursuing our goals was one of the hardest factors to plan for. At PMG, our DIG Leadership meets two to three times a week and oversees various employee resource groups (ERGs). We found that due to the nature of our business, we also have to factor in the seasonality of retail brands and consumer shopping trends when planning training and events for the entire organization. 

Real progress is driven by a sincere commitment and shared interest in achieving success. By aligning and setting actionable goals at the company level, organizations can ensure that DE&I leaders aren’t just honorary figureheads, or only there to offer advice and poke holes in processes. Instead, empower DE&I leaders to work with company leaders to help make the company better. 

In practice, this means organizations should give DE&I stakeholders a voice and seat at the table, enabling them to provide input and feedback on upcoming initiatives before they are shared with the wider company. It takes patience and a willingness to listen, learn and adapt to foster an open dialogue between DE&I stakeholders and company leadership. At PMG, we’ve found that the more involved DIG Leadership is in brainstorming and decision-making with company leaders, the better the initiative is when it’s rolled out. Giving our DIG Leadership early insight into new initiatives or programs has made the impact even stronger, helping embed progress toward our goals into the process of doing business. 

While diversity on our DIG Leadership is imperative, it’s also important to avoid solely relying on our Black, BIPOC, and LGBTQIA+ employees to do all the work. Already, these individuals are constantly tapped for feedback based on their personal experiences (which can be unbelievably emotionally taxing), so remember it shouldn’t rest solely on their shoulders to do all the heavy lifting to spur change. 

A cross-functional team should have full representation across all aspects of diversity within the organization, which includes having allies as active participants. The process of championing DE&I and making progress against company goals should be a shared responsibility to avoid burnout on the cross-functional team while also making a larger impact across all areas of the business. 

We cannot reinforce the importance of this lesson enough. Without the buy-in and support of our LBE, it would have been nearly impossible to make significant progress in a year. Our executive sponsors on the DIG Leadership team ensure there’s continuous input and action at all levels of the company, and our CEO meets regularly with DIG Leadership, directly supporting us in advancing our commitments. Executive-level support provides a level of credibility to our DIG Leadership and our initiatives, as it drives home that DE&I is everyone’s job at PMG. Our LBE even added Be inclusive as a core company value, elevating the importance and prioritization of our commitment to advancing DE&I. 

Our LBE is committed to supporting our ERG and WeCollective (women in leadership) teams and encourages them to help actively shape our culture, policies, and processes in partnership with DIG Leadership. Our ERGs are now as diverse as our people, including BIPOC, Pride @ Work, PMG Parents, Mental Wellness, Young Professionals, and International PMGers. One of the first projects we completed as a group was an update to our PMG Handbook, Code of Conduct, and policies to ensure they reflected our DE&I commitments. 

Understandably, not every employee can be a part of a DE&I leadership team or ERG, but everyone can make a difference. Our DIG Leadership team continuously adds resources to our intranet, including local volunteer opportunities, recommended books to read about DE&I, podcasts to listen to, and influential voices and nonprofits to follow on social media, and anyone in the organization can contribute content. By empowering employees in a multitude of ways — whether it be through knowledge-sharing or action — people are inspired to educate themselves and make a difference on their own terms. 

While there are countless acronyms used when discussing DE&I efforts, in almost every single version, diversity is mentioned first and inclusion last. The truth is that without inclusion, any efforts to increase diversity will fall flat or miss the mark. 

In 2020, we initially placed a large focus on diversity, specifically by digging into our workforce and recruiting data. While sharing this data publicly was an important step in increasing transparency, we realized that we were placing too much emphasis on moving those numbers quickly, rather than ensuring that we were enhancing psychological safety and inclusivity across all teams. In doing so, we shifted more focus to education, inspiration, and creating safe spaces, as well as setting up our ERGs for success. 

We also introduced a “DIG In” learning series, which brings speakers from diverse backgrounds and industries to PMG to spark meaningful conversations that celebrate diverse people, voices, perspectives, and experiences both within and beyond our company. This has included having industry executive Marcus Collins, Ph.D., talk about our industry’s responsibility in an era of misinformation, hosting Anthony Ocampo, PhD., as he shared his personal experiences on being “Brown and Gay in LA,” and having yoga instructor and podcaster Jesal Parikh break down uncomfortable conversations about race. 

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While there’s no quick solution for advancing DE&I, taking the steps to establish a strong foundation in the first 365 days will help ensure long-term success in advancing a DE&I strategy for your organization. Progress may be slow, but it’s on all of us to take steps toward making a difference.

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