Leading D&I for a minority majority company, SVP of HR and D&I Jacqueline Welch reveals strategies that drive results.
By Debbie Bolla
Industry research shows that diversity and inclusion (D&I) efforts can provide organizations with a competitive edge: McKinsey reports that the most ethnically diverse companies are 35 percent more likely to outperform their counterparts and Bersin by Deloitte research finds that inclusive companies are 1.7 times more likely to be innovative leaders in their fields. Jacqueline Welch knows this—and more. As senior vice president of human resources and diversity and inclusion and chief diversity officer at Freddie Mac, she has made D&I a real priority for the organization. Here, she shares how to increase, communicate, and measure D&I efforts.
HRO Today: What are some ways to link D&I to business strategy?
Jacqueline Welch: We are committed to embedding diversity and inclusion into all of our business efforts. As part of our board-approved diversity and inclusion strategic plan, we define diversity as consisting of three pillars: workforce diversity, supplier diversity, and financial transactions. Each of these pillars have associated goals that are tracked and shared with our regulator, the Federal Housing Finance Agency; our board; our senior leadership team; and our people.
For employees, we develop and sustain a pipeline of diverse applicants while promoting an inclusive culture that enables employees to bring their whole selves to work. Much of our work in this area is driven by 10 employee resource groups (ERGs) and our division-specific D&I committees. Our work is evident as we are a minority majority company.
For supplier diversity, we develop qualified diverse suppliers through our “Vendor Academy,” which helps them learn how to strengthen their business to be more competitive for opportunities with Freddie Mac and other companies. Additionally, we ensure diverse suppliers are included in the bidding process, which has ultimately increased our diverse spend. In 2017 alone, we spent nearly a quarter of a billion dollars with diverse suppliers.
The financial transactions pillar, unique to those of us in the financial services industry, is focused on promoting the use of diverse firms in our capital markets transactions.
In addition to these pillars, we have folded our community engagement efforts under the umbrella of D&I. By working together to serve our diverse communities, we can create inclusive, collaborative environments for our people to learn more about one another while making a sustainable impact where they live and work. Our partnership with Habitat for Humanity, for example, enables us to literally make home possible for our community.
Welch: We’ve built an effective talent pipeline by widening talent pools and investing time and money with targeted diversity partners to help ensure a diverse candidate slate. This doesn’t guarantee that we will hire a diverse candidate, but it does increase the odds of us doing so.
For example, we partner with the Hispanic Scholarship Fund to leverage their “Career Services” for sourcing. Through this one partnership, we’ve seen a 10 percent increase in Hispanic applicants for our college analyst programs.
We also have a “Neurodiversity at Work” internship program for individuals on the autism spectrum. We started the program in 2012 and now have an opportunity to work with skilled individuals from a pool of untapped talent. On average, we have a 50 percent conversion rate to full-time employees after the internship ends.
Another budding partnership we’re developing is with iRelaunch, which helps women who have off-ramped their career to take care of loved ones, raise children, or the like, integrate back into the workplace. We’re working with them as a feeder pool to increase the representation of female talent in the company.
HROT: How should organizations communicate their D&I efforts?
Welch: As often as they can—with consistency and integrated into other strategic business messages where applicable. Most recently here at Freddie Mac, we hosted an “Inclusion Summit” where we brought together a mix of employees, diverse suppliers, and community partners to discuss our diversity and inclusion strategy and how we can work together. As part of the event, attendees participated in an activity that helped us brainstorm ways to advance a culture of inclusion across Freddie Mac and with our partners. We are right now working through all the ideas we generated to help guide our future activities.
HROT: What metrics are effective in measuring D&I’s impact?
Welch: For employees, we track representation metrics including gender, race, and ethnicity, and use the data to understand patterns and trends and to note successes and opportunities. Additionally, we encourage people to voluntarily self-identify for sexual orientation and gender identity, disability, and military service. This information helps us uncover barriers to inclusion and inform strategies and processes that meet the needs of our employees. For our supplier diversity and financial transaction efforts, we track our total diverse spend along with the utilization of diverse-owned businesses among other metrics.