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Episode 43: Leading Sustainable Fortune 500 Diversity and Inclusion with Angela Talton

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Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion are words that will be at the forefront of our culture for the foreseeable future.  With the continued, and understandable outcry for social justice within the United States and abroad, we have seen many organizations focus on contributing to change.  Angela Talton is a senior diversity and inclusion strategist, with notable experience, including leading Nielsen to rank as one of the top companies in Diversity and Inclusion in Fortune and Forbes.

During our discussion, Angela shares successful practices, the characteristics of what she calls “committed companies,” and imparts sage advice to those seeking to drive sustainable change.

Angela’s Bio

Angela L. Talton is a senior diversity and inclusion strategist.   Her experience includes leadership development, philanthropic giving, supplier diversity, communication strategy, external advisory council relations, analytics, recruitment, and retention of talent. She has presented to and consulted with consumer packaged goods, HR, retail, entertainment, academic, research services, and financial management organizations regarding diversity and inclusion strategies that are data-driven and achieve measurable outcomes.

Recent projects include the creation of a diverse leadership development program which drove a 90% promotion rate, 600% improvement in spend with diverse suppliers approximating 10% of total sourceable spend, development, and implementation of quarterly scorecards that achieved a 30% improvement in representation and promotion rates,  diversity and inclusion support for M&A transactions and 60% sales referral rate garnered from diverse consumer insight presentations.  Additionally provided consultative review of pending discrimination claims, strategic review, and response to unionization efforts and guidelines for return to work post-gender transition.

Angela held diversity and inclusion roles for industry leader Nielsen, as Chief Diversity Officer and previously SVP, Global Diversity & Inclusion where she crafted a worldwide five-pronged strategy focused on accountability, career development, talent retention, supplier diversity, and education. She solidified Nielsen’s reputation as a leader in diversity and inclusion with six consecutive years of improved ranking on Diversity Inc’s list of Top 50 companies (#16) and receiving the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index rating of 100%.  Additionally, her strategy led to Nielsen ranking as one of the top companies in D&I with Disability: IN, Diversity MBA (#1), Working Mother & AVATAR (India), Inclusive Top 50 UK Employers, Fortune and Forbes (#2).

Her diversity and inclusion expertise is complemented by her experiences in senior operating executive roles.  As SVP, Global Call Center Operations, she developed a strategic plan which consolidated and streamlined work activities while delivering improved efficiencies, operating metrics, and customer satisfaction. As Divisional VP, Inbound Service, for Sears Holdings, she had complete P&L general management responsibility for 3,000 associates across multiple call centers and directed the strategic operational performance of workforce planning, project management, quality, channel performance, and reporting functions.

Angela received her MBA from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, and a BS in Business Administration from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Angela was named one of the Most Powerful Women in Corporate Diversity by Black Enterprise in February 2019.  The International Radio & Television Society Foundation inducted her into the Hall of Mentorship in October 2019.  Angela was also recognized in 2016, 2014 and 2012 by Savoy Magazine as one of the Most Influential Women in Corporate America. She has also served as Chair of The Conference Board’s Council of Global Diversity & Inclusion Executives 2015-2017.

Reach Angela Talton at: https://www.linkedin.com/in/angela-talton-9381193/

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Transcript

James: Welcome to another episode of The Corelink Solution, where we look to empower you with awareness and actionable insights. With the continued, and I say understandable, outcry for social justice within the United States and abroad, I’ve been focused here on how we bring those conversations to light, how we form our partnerships, allyships, etcetera. Several episodes ago, I was with Greg Hanifee, Associate Dean at the Kellogg School of Management. We talked about how we do that with institutions of higher education. Today, I want to broaden that to how we work with businesses, inside businesses, outside businesses, etcetera. And to help me in that discussion, I have Angela Talton with me. Welcome, Angela, to The Corelink Solution. 

Angela: James, thank you so much for having me. Also, congratulations on The Corelink Solution. This has been quite the success for you. 

James: Thank you so much. I appreciate it. Let me properly introduce you, Angela. 

Angela L. Talton is a senior diversity and inclusion strategist.  Her experience includes leadership development, philanthropic giving, supplier diversity, communication strategy, external advisory council relations, analytics, recruitment, and retention of talent. She has presented to and consulted with consumer packaged goods, HR, retail, entertainment, academic, research services, and financial management organizations regarding diversity and inclusion strategies that are data-driven and achieve measurable outcomes.  

Angela held diversity and inclusion roles for industry leader Nielsen, as Chief Diversity Officer and previously SVP, Global Diversity & Inclusion where she crafted a worldwide five-pronged strategy focused on accountability, career development, talent retention, supplier diversity, and education. She solidified Nielsen’s reputation as a leader in diversity and inclusion with six consecutive years of improved ranking on Diversity Inc’s list of Top 50 companies (#16) and receiving the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index rating of 100%.  Additionally, her strategy led to Nielsen ranking as one of the top companies in D&I with Disability: IN Diversity MBA, Working Mother & AVATAR, Inclusive Top 50 UK Employers, Fortune, and Forbes. 

Her diversity and inclusion expertise is complemented by her experiences in senior operating executive roles.  As SVP, Global Call Center Operations, she developed a strategic plan which consolidated and streamlined work activities while delivering improved efficiencies, operating metrics, and customer satisfaction. As Divisional VP, Inbound Service, for Sears Holdings, she had complete P&L general management responsibility for 3,000 associates across multiple call centers and directed the strategic, operational performance of workforce planning, project management, quality, channel performance, and reporting functions. 

So again, please join me in welcoming Angela Talton to The Corelink Solution. 

Angela: Thank you so much, James. 

James: So good to have you. You know, sometimes you try to shorten the bios. I like going through the long-form, so people get the full breadth of the experience and( I like to say) the scar tissue, so people know what you’ve lived through. It’s helpful. And you’ve got quite a bit of scar tissue that I really think will help our audience today. Before we go into the tough, meaty piece of the topic, I always like to ask, what’s one thing that you think you can share that those who know Angela best even may not know? What’s a fun fact that people may not know? 

Angela: Well, James, I like to bake. Cookies and cakes, primarily. Gingerbread has always been a favorite, be it the gingerbread cake or the gingerbread cut-out cookies, which has not been a good thing for me with COVID-19. I’ve certainly gained that COVID-15 pounds. Hopefully, not to get to nineteen.

James: Is that what they’re saying it is? Is it fifteen? Is that the average?

Angela: Yes. That’s it. 

James: My birthday was last week. 

Angela: Ah, happy belated birthday!

James: Thank you. I went off the wagon, for real. This week I’m trying to get back on. I’m paying for it. Well, listen, you’ve had quite the journey through diversity and inclusion. I would love you to step back to wherever you think is appropriate, maybe to Nielsen or wherever, and just talk about your first entrée into it and step through it a little bit. 

Angela: Okay, alright. What differentiates me a little bit, when you think about my experience as a chief diversity officer would be the eighteen years I served leading customer care operations at different organizations. It gave me a wonderful opportunity to work with associates, all types of diverse associates, to create a better work environment for them. So from three hundred-seat operations to three thousand, it was a wonderful opportunity to see what motivates individuals, what’s necessary to provide a better career path for individuals. How do we create an engaging work environment that literally motivates each person? From there, I moved to Nielsen. I joined Nielsen in 2007 as a Senior Vice President responsible for their call center operations and had my first formal foray in diversity and inclusion. I was asked to co-sponsor the black employee resource group. And I was blown away, simply by the concept of having these volunteer organizations, where leaders basically step up in the company. They step up to engage fellow cohorts. They identify opportunities for additional learning, for exposure, to engage with the community. And just the level of creativity, innovation, ingenuity within that black employee resource group, I was totally hooked. I really wanted to engage even more with diversity and inclusion at Nielsen. So when we named our first Chief Diversity Officer, she asked me to come over and put in place a strategy to further diversity and inclusion at Nielsen. I felt like it was the right opportunity. I worked with a call center for five years at that point, and just really wanted to help Nielsen move forward, and more importantly, to help those associates I saw have a little bit more disability access and opportunity to progress their careers.

James: That’s good. Now, from the time you spent at Nielsen, how much time did you spend in the call center role versus in the D&I role? 

Angela: I was in the call center role for five years and then in the diversity and inclusion role for seven years.

James: Got it. Two questions. Moving from the call center role to the D&I role, I’m sure you probably had an initial set of expectations of what it was like. So one, I would love you to expound on what was so different than what you expected? And then two, what were some of the lessons learned? What were some of the things that went really well? 

Angela: I would say what I needed to learn was just the discipline around diversity and inclusion. And so, I leveraged the opportunity to learn from some of our clients that were on that DiversityInc top 50 list. I used that opportunity to engage and partner with human resources on a different level, to learn more. How are we recruiting? Where are we recruiting from? What are some of those top universities that provide talent to the organization? What are the opportunities to make some changes there? I had a great partner in talent acquisition and we made some significant changes around recruiting from HPCUs or universities that had a higher population of people with disabilities and with Latinx employees as well. The other thing that I think I learned more about was how our Nielsen data around diverse communities was being utilized, both inside the organization as well as outside the organization. We had begun some fantastic initiatives to share that Nielsen data, particularly with charitable organizations. But there was an opportunity to leverage more of that information inside the organization, to make sure that our sales teams in particular saw the value of that multicultural consumer. Today, it’s one of the stats that Nielsen uses quite often to demonstrate the buying power of multicultural communities that stands at 4.5 trillion dollars. What organization wouldn’t pay attention to that?

James: Absolutely. That’s so interesting, because sometimes when you’re on the inside, you have the shoemaker’s children syndrome take place. You were trying to resist that clearly by doing so. So now having gone from so much success in the Nielsen story in this space, when you moved from Nielsen and stepped back if you will, and started to do work with other companies, what’s your observation of, what I would call some of the starts and stops? The things that stuck, people continue with them, they persist, versus the things that look like in the moment – I think the word we use sometimes is “performative.” We get out there, but then it loses gas, it loses its steam, it falls to the wayside. 

Angela: Absolutely. Let’s talk about what sticks. Number one, that’s going to be the employee resource groups. They actually evolve throughout a continuum. Generally, the employee resource groups or ERGs begin as infinity networks, as an opportunity to bring associates together, as an opportunity to celebrate different cuisines, to engage with holidays, special months designated for those communities, that sort of thing. Then you’ll see employee resource groups evolve into helping organizations with recruitment and retention and even more education and opportunities. At the end of the day, Nielsen’s ERGs had evolved to what we call business resource groups. Several organizations use different names. But to me, when an organization becomes more of a business resource group, you are leveraging that talent. You are leveraging that talent with your consumers. You are leveraging that talent with your clients in a B2B world. You are really having them engage and have a voice at the table. Not just sitting at the table, but having a voice and sharing what they know that differentiates their community, their preferences, product options. We are really using that ERG to learn more about a very, very important consumer within the ecosystem. 

James: You know, it’s so funny because I’ve been in a D&I space – not like you. I want to be clear on this podcast. I don’t proclaim to be a D&I professional. I’ve been on councils for a long time and have sponsored a number of ERGs. I love the distinction you made that was so clear. I think this is one to highlight, and I want people to really get it. The callout you made in terms of ERGs and BRGs, I’m going to play it back and you clean me up. Here’s my takeaway. ERGs can be seen sometimes as a place for people to speak to their grievances, have affinity, feel comfortable, trust zone, “said here, stay here” and for lack of better terms, even be pacified a little bit. BRGs: intentional usage, understand the markets, double down on the phrase “we want to look like the areas in which we do business, and how do we make that true?” “We have a certain population here, how do we have lending practices that work that way here?” BRGs help us do that. That would be truly living out the relationship between BRG and the leadership team, executive team, etcetera. Is that what you were speaking to? 

Angela: That is a perfect description. At the end of the day, companies really should leverage their BRGs for that purpose. It’s what’s missing in the market. Where’s the opportunity? Where am I missing, as a leader, my understanding of the needs of this community, both inside the organization as well as outside the organization? More importantly, from a career development perspective, leaders really should look to their ERGs and BRGs for talent. These individuals are volunteering for additional work, in addition to their day job. They are creative, innovative; they’re motivating individuals. They are fantastic project managers. They are learning how to manage a budget. This is the go-to group at the end of the day for the organization. And so, my callout to leaders would be if you’re looking for top talent, you don’t need to look any further than your own backyard, because there’s a ton of talent there. 

James: They’re right there. One of the things I would ask is, in your observations, are BRGs properly tapped into or underutilized? 

Angela: It’s certainly going to depend on the organization, but I’d generally say, underutilized. I’ll use that to segue to the second part of the question. You asked about starts and stops. I think BRGs provide a great example of this. Those starts and stops are going to be diverse representation within the organization. I believe that companies see this as an opportunity. Let’s say we’re moving forward. We’re taking steps forward, but at the end of the day, we find ourselves where we are in 2020. Several companies have sort of taken a step back. We’re unfortunately moving backward on that curve. You just take a look at the number of black CEOs of Fortune 500 companies. Ten years ago, there were seven. Seven. 1.4%. Today, there are three. As you know, we just lost one. All three are males. When you look at that from a female perspective, female CEOs have increased of late. They’re thirty-seven. Of the thirty-seven, however, only three are of color, and all three are Asian. So there are no black females and there are no Latinas as CEOs of Fortune 500 companies. Again, thinking of it as 2020, that’s pretty sad. 

James: It is. We’re going into a rather whole “maybe,” but I just want to share this, in terms of people who are listening, thinking, “How do I crack this code?” I’ll share a personal story. Two short stories, hopefully. Two vignettes, let’s call it. I remember going through a conversation with an executive who wanted to expand their leadership team and thinking about filling a seat. We were having this conversation, and said to me, “It’s really difficult. It’s really hard.” I said, “Well, I’ve got to be honest with you. We just acquired another company, and when we acquired the company, you announced that we’d rebrand all this stuff within ninety days.” That is hard, rebranding tons of storefronts. Talking about filling a seat, you’ve got me and a number of us who have nice Rolodexes and if you tell us what you’re looking for, we can help get it, right? And that conversation just went much longer than it probably needed to and did not get to the place it needed to. That’s vignette number one. Vignette number two is something I’ve seen happened over and over again in talent reviews and language use. Here’s the language use I’ve seen happen. I hate to overgeneralize, but I’m just speaking from personal experience, thematically. When there’s a person in a BRG, like you just said, and we should grab that talent, the question becomes “Should we take the risk when the person doesn’t have the full skill set?” When it’s non-minority talent, it’s “Should we make the investment?” That’s a very different language. Should we take the risk or should we make the investment? And I just ask leaders to think about the language you’re using in those talent conversations. Risk versus investment, based on the person. 

Angela: Yes. And at the end of the day, to even call it a risk – it’s a calculated risk. I would argue the benefit of an internal associate is that they know the organization. They know the players. They’ve taken the time to engage with associates. They’ve taken the time to learn the business. They are loyal to the business. In the case of BRGs, they’re dedicated. They persevere. They’re actually helping to communicate quite a few messages within the organization. So, that’s a calculated risk that I’d take every single day. To your point around language, we have to get to the point of understanding that potential has no color. It’s all about the intellect, desire, that loyalty, and what’s inside us to win. I believe that anyone, when given the opportunity with some mentoring and sponsorship, which is what happens throughout an organization, anyone can rise to the occasion. Quite often, they will rise faster by knowing they have a leader in their corner. By knowing that “Here’s my sponsor and they believe in me and they think I can do this. So, I’ll take that stretch assignment every single day.” 

James: Absolutely. I can’t say enough about what you just said, in terms of mentoring, sponsorship, etcetera. Kind of leading from that point, every investment has a level of risk. And to the extent that you know how you can mitigate that risk and plan for it, that’s what we do as leaders, right? And so, you have a couple of points of mitigation. One, you should know that the rest of the BRG is going to be behind that person and doing everything they can to block and get in front of, and help that person succeed. Why? Because it’s a win for everyone. Secondarily, the right sponsors. When I think about my career and the folks that helped me – Kim Davis is one that comes to mind. Kim’s now at the hockey league, but at JPMorganChase, Kim was the president of the JPMorganChase Foundation and prior to that, was the senior VP of HR for all of Latin America. The tutelage that she gave me at different points as a sponsor. Claude Weir was the head of HR for the investment bank and prior to that for employee relations. Ed McGann was the head of compensation who helped me out a lot. You need people who help get in front of you and raise your antennae to things that you just don’t hear yet and act as a sponsor and are at tables, quite frankly, that you are not at yet to speak on your behalf.

Angela: Again, James, that’s why I use that phrase. As a foundation, we should look to provide employees with visibility, access, and opportunity. Visibility, I see you and I see your potential. Access, access to information, access to a network, access to other members of the leadership team, and therefore, opportunity. That investment in you and providing you with that opportunity to show the rest of the organization what that sponsor truly believes you can do. 

James: Absolutely. So clear. Well, you congratulated me on my company, and what I’m doing, I want to commend you on yours. I am excited about what you’re doing with your company. One of the things I picked up with your company is you’re focused on helping clients commit to the work. I’d love you to just elaborate on that a bit. How do you define “commit”?

Angela: I think a committed company is a company that’s willing to put in the work and wants to make it happen. And with my company, what I try to do with clients is, “let’s sit down and understand what is that?” What is it that you want? What’s your aspirational goal? And then to work backward from there to create a vision or a roadmap. Using that roadmap, I begin to put in place different initiatives and programs that will ultimately allow that organization to reach that aspirational goal. But it all starts with that first conversation around commitment. It’s an understanding of what you really want your organization to be. Is this just around increasing your representation? Or is this going beyond that and creating a legacy, putting in place some new innovation for your organization to make a name for itself around diversity and inclusion, to really show that level of commitment. Wherever the organization is along that spectrum, it is critically important to understand it’s a team effort. This is not the work of a diversity and inclusion team that go off and make us more diverse and inclusive. This is a full-contact sport. This is engaging every leader within the organization at understanding that critical component of communication to furthering the goal. 

James: What’s been the secret sauce to getting people to – you can share. I don’t want you to share anything proprietary or etcetera. [laughs] What’s the secret sauce to getting people to commit?

Angela: What I’d say, James, is meeting people where they are. In today’s environment, that’s a little tough. It’s a little hard to think of 2020 being a time where we’re still talking about business cases for diversity and inclusion. But if that’s what it takes to meet you where you are – again, there are numbers regarding diversity and inclusion, and numbers don’t lie. You think about the Mackenzie report for 2014 and again, reanalyzing 2017 with a more global focus around companies. At the end of the day, you see that organizations who have a diverse workforce that’s not just diverse in numbers but are actually included in decisions. They’re included in representation around the leadership of the organization. Those organizations have thirty-five percent better financial results when you’re thinking about racial, ethnic diversity, and fifteen percent better results when you’re thinking about gender diversity. And so, sharing with organizations that type of information. In the B2B world, what really works is showing what other organizations are doing, be it your clients or your competitors. Here’s what other organizations are doing, and it’s about time that you step up to the plate. I think you first have to set the stage around meeting people where they are, and generally, numbers are helpful for that. Now that you have their attention, it’s time to move towards those eye-opening experiences. That’s where you are demonstrating that the cost of turnover is truly in the millions of dollars. Millions. So, the work that your ERGs and BRGs are doing is really going directly to your bottom line. So, who are those talented individuals that we haven’t tapped yet, that we need to pay attention to that are helping drive those sorts of numbers to improve your EBITDA. I think at the end of the day; it’s really starting with meeting them where they are, wherever that might be. Again, generally, it’s numbers and then moving to those eye-opening experiences. What can we do around career development? What can we do around recruitment and retention? What can we do around engaging the community as well? Because that’s either where your customers are coming from or the consumers where your clients are coming from. So, what are those opportunities as well?

James: That’s good. Really good insight. I almost struggle to ask this question. You shared some of the data around the business case. That data hasn’t changed a lot, probably over the last decade, right? If anything, it’s gotten stronger and more compelling. The syndication of it, I’m not sure, has broadened. Most people have seen the data. And so, it’s not that the data hasn’t been strong enough, it’s not that people haven’t been aware of the data. So, the question I would have is we’ve got a lot of energy happening right now, both on US soil and abroad; what do you think can be done in this moment to drive meaningful and sustainable change?

Angela: Well, James, as you know, when you and I did a prep call about this, we do have great momentum right now. We have the mic. And so, it is very, very important that we are clear regarding what it is that we want. I think it’s time for us to create an agenda and share that agenda broadly around what is needed to make sustainable change around Black Lives Matter. Let’s stop just using it as a tagline, and let’s move forward with sustainable change. And for me (these are just my thoughts), I think it has to start with criminal justice reform because at the end of the day, people are literally being killed. Families are being broken apart. I think we have seen legislation come from both parties, and it is time for those parties to come together to negotiate, to decide on what we can move forward with in terms of taking that bill and turning it into law prior to November 3rd. It’s like a football game. You’re trying to put numbers on the scoreboard. Sure, you want a touchdown. You want the seven points, but you know what? I’d be happy with three. I think, at this point, to think that we would get 100% of what’s in the bill today, that’s a little lofty. I’d love to get it. I’m not sure that’s going to happen, but I’d be happy to move that ball forward, and let’s get half of it. Let’s get two-thirds of it. But Congress needs to act, and they need to act, in my opinion, before November 3rd. That would be number one. Number two and three, I would say it’s education and healthcare. I still believe that education is one of those keys to economic freedom. I think it was Governor Cuomo who speaks quite eloquently about how COVID-19 has really unearthed so many aspects of systemic racism that this country has been involved with for the past hundreds of years. Just looking at the dollars allocated to the different school systems and how that varies significantly – that needs to stop. And we can make that change. The healthcare disparity is just unbelievable. And then last, but certainly not least, would be economic reform. To think that minimum wage is seven dollars and twenty-five cents and has been seven dollars and twenty-five cents since 2009. So for eleven years, there’s been no change. I was talking to my financial advisor last week and I made the point of that being minimum wage. He was like, “No way! That’s not the number!” I was like, “I promise you; it’s seven dollars and twenty-five cents.” It’s sad that so many people don’t know that, when today we have Congress debating why people shouldn’t receive six hundred dollars a week, which by the way, is not that much more. It’s pretty sad. 

James: It is, it is. I don’t know about you, I go through a range of emotions continuously throughout the day. I find myself floating through different emotions. And one is the disbelief from a humanity perspective that you could tolerate that somebody couldn’t survive. It’s the same thing if you drive past Tent City, that you could stomach that folks are living in a tent city, outside, in the rain, in the elements, etcetera, right? How do we move – 

Angela: While working forty hours a week, right? You’re working forty hours a week, and you’re still below the poverty level. 

James: Yeah. It’s unbelievable. It’s unconscionable. All the points you mentioned, I agree with. Criminal justice reform, education, healthcare, and economic reform. My list is the same, along with the voting piece. It concerns me a lot, the whole issue of voter suppression and what needs to happen there. Housing, which I think housing would fall under economic reform. There are a lot of pots. Back to the business case piece, same thing. I think the numbers were, out of Fortune 500, 0.8% CEOs, and now I guess that dropped because I think the 0.8 included the one we just lost. So, there you go. On a professional level, and I think professionals include directs to the CEO, maybe one level below, 3.8% was I think that was the last number I saw. So, grossly underrepresented. What do you think has to happen inside of the Fortune 500 to see change there?  

Angela: I think that’s where that commitment comes in. Think about the change that we saw regarding equality for the LGBTQ community. And you think about how many companies became engaged in the dialogue to get to the marriage equality act of 2018. Think about how many companies have begun to engage around this COVID issue of students not being able to stay in the US if they were working online and how quickly companies came to the forefront, and The White House changed their tune. Companies can step forward and make sure that their opinions are heard around this. And I think it’s time to do that. It’s time to do that around this systemic racism. I believe they will be heard, but again, we need to have that specific agenda, the clear expectations of what we want these companies to do. You know, James, companies have stepped forward post the George Floyd murder and they’ve made some significant contributions to the NAACP, ACLU, Black Lives Matter. I think that’s been good. I, however, believe that you give a man or woman a fish, he eats for a day. You teach a man or a woman to fish, and they’ll eat forever. I really applaud those organizations that directed their funds to HBCUs. Because there, you’re narrowing your focus. You’re really identifying a couple of those areas we talked about, the educational reform, the economic reform, there’s better opportunities there. But I’d ask those organizations to think about moving the needle even further. Again, back to “if I teach you to fish.” So instead of just writing a cheque, how about giving time? Giving knowledge? Giving expertise? Giving that sponsorship, that mentorship? How about setting up an internship at the HBCUs so that instead of just giving money “I am providing education. I am helping you to understand what’s needed to enter the corporate world post-graduation.” By the way, how about giving jobs to those interns within your organization? I would ask companies to really think about how to invest those dollars and maybe look inside your organization and identify a win-win. How about looking at those hourly employees, some of who may be making that seven dollars and twenty-five cents an hour, and what are your opportunities to move that needle towards the living wage? And maybe you can’t see fit to move that immediately, but put a plan in place. Hold yourselves accountable to moving the needle to increasing that hourly rate over a course of years to get to a living wage. The contributions are nice, but that didn’t require a whole lot of action. I think to make a change in this country around systemic racism, it’s going to take action. Action inside those organizations. 

James: Well said. It’s going to take that commitment. I think you outlined a couple of actions, right? I mean, all the way from when we first started talking about the BRGs and getting more involved internally. Just what you said there, getting more involved externally. I think one of the most important words – I shouldn’t say “most important words” – but probably one of the most used words I’ve heard over the last four months is “allyship.” And I think we’re getting more and more allies to step up. I think we’ve seen more and more new chief DEI officers going to place. I think those who have been in the roles for a long time or are new in the roles, their commitment isn’t new. I think, if anything, they’re probably – I don’t want to say burned out, I don’t want to speak for anyone. I’m sure they’re tired. I’m sure they feel a little bit oversubscribed, but at the same time, feel a commitment to get this done but also want to reach out to folks. To folks who are new to this work and want to do it but then feel like, “Wow. I’m not sure, at the next level above me, people are going for this.” What’s your counsel to those folks?

Angela: I think if it’s meant to be, it starts with me. I would encourage them to take the role. I would encourage them to take the role however, by making it clear that I am an influencer to the rest of the organization. By the way, you should have a team when you’re saying yes to this role. Your team will help and influence and encourage and provide information, but the work has to be at the level of the business unit leaders. It’s at the level of those departments who are directly responsible for a group of employees. So, making a clear distinction between who is really moving the needle on this work? You can have all the great ideas in the world, but without that collaboration and partnership by the business unit leaders and ownership by those groups, that needle will not move. And so, making that clear distinction around the influencing role of a diversity inclusion equity belonging leader, I think that’s very, very important. One of the reasons that the work at Nielsen was such a success was what I like to call “encouraging leaders to lead.” I often would highlight who those leaders were because they were doing [inaudible 41:01] work around diversity and inclusion within their team but also within their sphere of influence. Therefore, their peers and partners were seeing, “Oh my goodness, look at how important this is to x individual, that they are going beyond just working within their department.” These are the executive sponsors of BRGs and ERGs. These are the leaders who are committed to leadership development and maybe even writing some big cheques to provide additional career development opportunities for employees. Coming up with great ideas to provide that visibility and access and opportunity, maybe with innovative challenges and really allowing our associates to share their ideas that might not be heard any other way. I definitely think people should say yes to the opportunity, but with some caveats. And making it crystal clear that, again, it’s a team sport and everyone needs to participate. 

James: That’s beautiful. I love that. It’s so clear in terms of, again, that reinforced commitment in a number of different ways. So with that, I’d love to try to wrap up, and jump in, Angela. I’m going to try to recap some of the points that you outlined from early on in your career and bring those forward. One, the committed companies and being committed to the work. I love your early story on this line of demarcation between the ERGs and the BRGs, and really engaging BRGs as a business resource group. Use them to solve your business problems, both externally, to understand your market, and internally, to use as a source of talent and being intentional about that. Two, committed companies use cultural transformation. You said that they have skin in the game. (I don’t know if that’s the word you used.) All hands on deck. “It’s a team sport,” is what you said. So you can’t just hire or outsource someone to become good at diversity and inclusion. 

Angela: Right. That accountability piece, James, it’s so incredibly important. The leaders have to understand they are accountable for moving the needle. At the organization’s senior-most level, they have to maintain that level of accountability with those leaders. Diversity and inclusion should be viewed the same way as other organizational goals. You set a target. You’re tracking, trending and measuring to see continuous improvement towards that target. The same way you look at your financial goals should be the way you look at your diversity and inclusion goals. 

James: Absolutely. The third one is pieced around these folks, just like we talked about. If you’re going to grab talent, then they need visibility. They need access and (one of the words we talked about) capital S – they need sponsorship. 

Angela: Yes. Absolutely. There are so many leaders. I think if you share with them how important it is to individuals to actually hear that you believe in them, to actually be willing to provide them with that opportunity, I have yet to see someone who doesn’t stand up and actually exceed your expectations. I’ll tell you, James, that’s probably the single most rewarding part of my career, actually helping individuals progress and move up the ladder. I have never seen anyone who if you tell them you believe in them and you think that they can actually take on that stretch of opportunity or take on that new role, I’ve never seen them disappoint me. 

James: No, that’s good. Last but not least, (I’m not sure if this is your fourth point or not), but one of the things about taking advantage of this moment and the clarity of the ask. I just felt like that was such a poignant point. Being clear on what you’re going to do, which kind of goes back to the first thing you said about being committed as a company, right? What are your goals? And then, I think you said, and then you get to, “Okay, if those are your goals, let’s reverse engineer the road map to get to your goals.” So, be clear about the goals. Be accountable to the goals. Let’s reverse engineer the roadmap. Let’s get to work, and by the way, it’s a team sport. You don’t get to outsource it. We’re going to go through this thing together. 

Angela: That’s it. 

James: Sounds so simple, doesn’t it? [laughs] That’s how we solve most business problems. 

Angela: There you go. All done. Now, let’s just make it happen.

James: It’s so good to have you. So good to see you again. Thank you for spending your time. I know you’ve got tons of clients you’re working with right now, but I really appreciate you bringing your expertise to The Corelink Solution. 

Angela: Thank you so much, James. Again, I’m really proud of what you’re doing with this platform. So, keep up the great work. 

James: Thank you so much. Corelink Solution audience, there you have it again from Angela Talton. Her reputation speaks for itself. As always, I invite you to not only listen but comment. Whatever platform you’re listening on or watching on, throw your comments in the comments section. We’ll try to respond. Share your thoughts as you begin to execute things. Please share what you’re doing. And as always, if you need any more information, you can email me at jamesrosseau@thecorelinksolution.com. You know I’m going to say it to you: be informed, be empowered, be accountable. See you next time.

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