Diversity in the workplace involves more than just checking a box.
Diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives historically have largely been defined as growing the population of underrepresented groups both within the company and in leadership positions. While representation-based metrics and goals remain a critical part of successful DEI programs, companies have recognized the need to look beyond surface-level metrics and create a culture of belonging.
“We absolutely must have data; we must measure, and we must have goals and targets … but we’ve created these vanity metrics that don’t have [a strong] impact,” Virnitia Hendricks, chief diversity officer at Santander Consumer USA (SCUSA), told Auto Finance News.
“The new age of DEI is the shift from traditional [thinking] … DEI used to be all about representation: meeting quotas or goals around how many people from underrepresented groups we could have at certain levels,” Hendricks said, adding that the equation over time has broadened to include gender, LGBTQ and people with disabilities.
“We have now shifted to this inclusion mindset about the employee’s sense of belonging, understanding that if you create a culture that’s focused on belonging, you get diversity.”
— Virnitia Hendricks, Chief Diversity Officer, SCUSA
While auto finance companies are stepping up their accountability efforts when it comes to DEI goals, more transparency is needed, Cathy Gutierrez, workforce transformation leader at Deloitte Consulting, told AFN, noting that applicants are looking for diverse leadership and clear goals. “Not having that readily available can put automakers at a disadvantage,” she said.
The past few years have acted as a catalyst for the world to look at DEI in a different light, with inclusion as a core focus, Shunda Robinson, senior vice president of diversity, equity and inclusion at GM Financial, told AFN.
“With the murder of George Floyd in 2020, it catapulted this conversation around race, race relations, justice, equality and inclusion,” Robinson said. “I look back over the last two years, and I think, if you were a white male, you probably felt excluded from that conversation. I never want anyone to feel excluded.”
GM Financial is tackling DEI efforts through the lens of “allyship” this year, she said, noting the goal is to meet employees where they are in their DEI journey and identify their specific role and responsibility in fostering the conversation.
“It’s about active allies instead of silent supporters,” Robinson said, adding that GM Financial’s employee resource groups are a way for the company to keep up to date on specific needs of employees such as working parents and younger generations.
SCUSA also last year transitioned employee resource groups to business resource groups to focus both on employee engagement and business impact, Hendricks said, noting about 30% of the company’s employees are engaged in groups. The lender is working to grow membership and involve more non-management employees.
Inclusion 3.0 strategy
Inclusion is at the center of SCUSA’s DEI strategy moving into 2023, identified as playing a critical role in employees’ self-awareness, retention and growth opportunities, Hendricks said. “In 2022 we focused on inclusion as a starting point, diversity being the outcome and equity the way that we get there,” she said.
The lender’s new Inclusion 3.0 strategy this year builds on previous inclusion strides driven by equity and employee advocacy groups while broadening the focus to human connection and psychological safety, Hendricks said.
“It’s not just about your sense of belonging, which is one component of psychological safety, but it’s also about your ability to feel safe to speak up, contribute, learn and grow. We must … make sure that employees experience the organization in a way that they feel safe, that they can grow and thrive and truly feel as though they can contribute to the organization.”
— Virnitia Hendricks, Chief Diversity Officer, SCUSA
SCUSA is working to increase inclusion and psychological safety by encouraging leaders to create safe spaces for employee discussion and opportunities for employees to connect through roundtable discussions, interest groups and community service. The strategy focuses on four stages of psychological safety: inclusion safety, learner safety, contributor safety and challenger safety to ensure members can feel safe to belong to the team, ask questions, contribute ideas, and question other’s ideas or suggest changes, Hendricks said.
‘This is also about life’
Chase Auto encourages inclusion and open discussion through “mentoring circles,” which are meant to bring employees together in a small group and talk about a variety of topics, Renee Horne, chief marketing and customer experience officer, told AFN.
“They’re small, intimate groups where people have a safe space to ask questions, and discuss in some cases, uncomfortable topics; we unpack it, we challenge, we laugh, we cry together, because this is also about life,” she said.
Fostering belonging is a core focus of Ford Credit’s DEI approach, Gale Halsey, chief human resources officer at the lender, told AFN. “We’re focused from a belonging standpoint on listening,” she said, noting Ford Credit’s executive listening sessions allow leaders to hear from employees and learn their specific needs.
“We’re creating that psychological safety within each team, so that all team members have a safe space to talk about their own personal journeys with their individual teams.”
— Gale Halsey, Chief Human Resources Officer, Ford Credit
For DEI programs to be successful, senior leadership must buy in. TD Auto, for one, is looking to increase representation of women and people of color in the company’s workforce, President and Chief Executive Andrew Stuart told AFN, adding that the bank’s senior leaders participate in a diversity and inclusion leadership team.
“The way we’re approaching [DEI] is reinforcing individual accountability across the bank amongst leadership, making sure that as we think about diversity and inclusion, we’re really thinking about underrepresented groups, and we’re also thinking about our community,” Stuart said. “Banking [is] an area that hasn’t had the best track record for diversity and inclusion; we really want to change that.
“We’re not [improving representation] to meet quotas, we’re doing it because it makes good business sense,” he added. “If you’ve got a business decision to make, and you can bring a variety of perspectives to that decision, you will get a better outcome.”
Many financial institutions measure DEI success through metrics based on parameters such as gender and ethnicity among employees, but for DEI to grow organically, businesses must look beyond the numbers as well as become more transparent in their reporting.
“Rather than trying to sort of force fit DEI, we’re really focusing on training and educating our entire teammate population on how DEI drives business outcomes,” Dominica Groom Williams, chief inclusion and diversity officer at Truist, told AFN, noting that DEI is as much of a part of the business as budget planning, compliance and risk exercises.
“Our leaders have said to us loud and clear that they want to make sure that we give prescriptive sort of guidance and a framework that they can follow so they can be successful in ensuring that we continue to move the needle and drive impact across this arena.”
— Dominica Groom Williams, Chief Inclusion and Diversity Officer, Truist
Auto lenders have started to share DEI metrics, but often focus on surface-level data, Deloitte’s Gutierrez said. “There is more needed,” she said. “Transparency is a big area there is a continued focus on. DEI is often layered into sustainability reports, it tends to not stand on its own.”
One way Truist looks past the numbers to measure DEI success is by asking employees questions about inclusion via annual employee engagement surveys, Groom Williams said.
“Last year, we intentionally integrated measurement or questions around inclusivity, and how our teammates collectively feel,” she said. “Based on our performance last year, we’re going to continue to challenge ourselves to do better within that space, and within that performance outcome.”
Ford Credit, too, is evaluating DEI success beyond representation metrics to include employee sentiment, voluntary quit rate and feedback provided during stay interviews, Halsey said. “The most important [measurements] are qualitative, around what people are thinking and feeling, and not just what’s now called the vanity metric of representation.”
Still, it’s critical that Ford Credit’s team is diverse, she said, adding that the captive’s executive committee is now made up of over half female leaders and a majority are considered a part of minority classes. “Our representatives are very customer focused. They need to be diverse themselves to represent our customers,” Halsey said. “By improving diversity, we’re also improving our customer experience.”
Widening the net
Metrics are useful when focused as an outcome of the work being done, GM Financial’s Robinson said, noting that the lender has set a goal to have 45% women and 35% professionals of color in senior leadership positions by 2025.
“It’s all about the work that we’re doing; ensuring that our women and professionals of color are developed so that they are ready for those positions, creating the opportunities internally and widening our net both internally and externally to attract and retain talent,” she said.
GM Financial in 2023 is focusing on meeting the 45/35/25 goal by ensuring that all employees feel included and understand their part in the effort, Robinson said. The company’s senior leadership was made up of 65% men and 35% women in 2021, on par with 2020 and 2019, according to the GM Financial’s 2022 DEI annual report, which notes that the “overall percentage of female promotions outpaced male promotions.” Professionals of color in leadership ranks represented 29% in 2021, up from 28% in both 2020 and 2019.
Half of GM Financial’s U.S. workforce was made up of professionals of color in 2021, compared with 53% in 2020, according to the report. The decline is largely due to fewer people reporting their ethnicity, which is voluntary at the company.
There is still work to be done, Robinson said, especially in identifying talent and ensuring the company has a pipeline to support interest and engagement from women and others when it comes to moving into senior positions.
Chase provides pathways for financial support and career advancement for underrepresented communities through seven centers of excellence, each representing a specific community – Black, Hispanics and Latinos, Military and Veterans, Asians and Pacific Islanders, people with disabilities, LGTQ+ and women, Horne told AFN.
J.P. Morgan Chase’s U.S. workforce as of 2021 was 46% white, 20% Hispanic, 17% Asian, 14% Black and 3% other, which includes American Indian or Alaskan Native, Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander, and two or more ethnicities, according to the company’s 2021 environmental, social and governance (ESG) report. Forty-seven percent of U.S. job promotions were given to ethnic groups — defined as all employment equity opportunity classifications other than white — in 2021, according to the report.
*Other category includes American Indian or Alaskan Native, Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander, and two or more races/ethnicities.
Each center of excellence provides resources and tools to increase representation, advance careers, and grow financial health in underserved communities, Horne said.
Driving DEI through mentorship
More companies are offering mentorship and sponsorship programs to bridge gaps and address areas of DEI that need improvement, especially for women along with racially and ethnically diverse individuals, Deliotte’s Gutierrez said.
“Underlying [the gaps] can be culture and the willingness to give sponsorship and feedback to help women move up in ranks, as well as allyship – taking action to help others in the day to day and helping reach across and bring somebody along,” she said. “The sponsorship piece is underlying the lack of equitable outcomes we’re seeing. You need to have executives of all genders sponsor women through the ranks.”
Some companies have made mentorship a core focus. GM Financial, for one, had about 500 mentor/mentee pairs in 2021, made up of 52% women and 43% professionals of color, according to the company’s DEI report. Of the employees who participated in the mentorship program, 88% remained with GM Financial in 2021 and 16% were promoted within a year.
“We focus on pairing mentors and mentees that don’t look alike and pushing people outside of their comfort zone and not within the same [department],” Robinson said. “The exposure to other departments and other teams within the organization can not only enhance what you do but give you a different outlook on the possibilities that exist within the organization.”
— Shunda Robinson, Senior Vice President of Diversity, Equity and inclusion at GM Financial
SCUSA, too, is working to expand mentorship opportunities this year in order to improve inclusivity, Hendricks said, noting historically mentors have been offered to employees based on development needs or goals.
“Mentorship should be for everyone … we created a program where we had to multiply the number of mentors that we had to meet demand,” she said. “We democratized mentorship. We know that mentorship is only one component; we use the SAM model, which is sponsorship, advocacy and mentorship.”
Sponsorship focuses on ensuring underrepresented groups, including women, are granted equitable access to professional development, Hendricks said.
“As we go into this new age of DEI, we’ve got to shift and innovate,” she said. “We must step away from the traditional things and we must be able to move forward. As everything around us is changing, DEI has to change as well.”
Auto Finance Summit East, Auto Finance News’ new spring event, kicks off May 10-12 at the JW Marriott Nashville featuring a fireside chat with Peter Muriungi, CEO of Chase Auto. Visit autofinance.live.