How a DEI initiative changed direction over time

How a DEI initiative changed direction over time


Three years ago, dozens of large companies formed a coalition and announced an ambitious goal: to get one million black workers into good-paying jobs by hiring or promoting them over the next 10 years.

The resulting non-profit organization, one tenIt was created amid intense calls to address racial injustice following the killing of George Floyd in 2020. It asked its members – which include AT&T, Bank of America, Cisco, Delta Airlines, Dow, General Motors, Nike and Walmart – to pledge to increase hiring. and promoting black workers based on skills rather than college degrees.

Fast forward, and the social climate has changed drastically since then. Promoting black-only recruiting programs has become increasingly controversial, especially in the wake of the Supreme Court’s ruling last year against race-based affirmative action policies at universities.

OneTen, which has fallen well short of the pace needed to reach its initial goal, is at the forefront of the movement to embrace diversity, equity and inclusion practices in business. And it is forced to change with time.

The organization has revised its messaging over the past year, particularly since the Supreme Court decision, to emphasize that the policies it advocates will help “black talent and others.”

More concretely, organization leaders felt that getting companies to commit to change was not enough. OneTen has helped its members rewrite job descriptions for hundreds of roles to remove unnecessary degree requirements and clearly communicate the skills sought and required. The organization has helped design apprenticeship programs tailored to different sectors for enterprises such as Delta and Cleveland Clinic. And it has set up a network for human resources and hiring managers to share their challenges and suggest solutions in virtual and in-person sessions.

OneTen also works to establish connections between employers, training programs, and workers.

“The beginning has been tough – we’ve learned the lessons,” said Kenneth Frazier, founder and chairman of OneTen and a former chief executive of Merck. “But we still have aspirations to make a big difference.”

Many companies are rethinking their diversity efforts following the Supreme Court decision, and states including Florida and Texas have passed laws to reduce DEI policies. Lawsuits have been filed threatening businesses such as a fund in atlanta Focused on supporting black women entrepreneurs.

Recent research suggests a move away from practices such as requiring a diverse candidate pool when interviewing to fill jobs. And the resignation of Claudine Gay, a Black woman, as president of Harvard has been celebrated by opponents of DEI initiatives in education and business, who claimed she was a diversity appointee.

Pfizer and two law firms, Morrison Foster and Perkins Coie, opened their diversity fellowships to students of all races last year amid lawsuits against them over alleged racial discrimination.

“There is diversity fatigue,” said Debbie Dyson, chief executive of OneTen. “What we’re doing is ‘this is not a diversity thing.’ Skills give you an alternative path.”

OneTen, whose founders include prominent Black business leaders such as Mr. Frazier and Kenneth Chenault, the former chief executive of American Express, promoted skills-based hiring from the beginning. More than 60 percent of all American workers According to the Census Bureau, they do not have a four-year college degree. But requiring degrees in job applications hits minorities particularly hard, eliminating 72 percent of black adults, for example.

Workforce experts say adopting skills-based practices can help companies gain an advantage A broad group of high-performing, dedicated workers, while career opportunities and household incomes are increasing for millions of Americans. One study estimated that the 30 million workers without a four-year college degree have most of the skills needed to succeed in better, better-paying jobs that are 70 percent higher.

Plinio Ayala, chief executive of Per Scolus, a nonprofit job-training program, said OneTen started with a “very aggressive” goal and a diversity message. The shift toward an emphasis on skills, he said, “makes a lot of sense and is gaining momentum.”

OneTen’s collaboration with Delta is a case study in the organization’s revamped approach.

Following the OneTen playbook, the airline has removed the four-year degree requirement from 94 percent of its job listings, including pilot roles. Previously, about half of the jobs in Delta required a college degree.

The company initially heard internal criticism that OneTen was only for black workers. But like OneTen, Delta emphasized that skills-based hiring and promotions can benefit all workers.

“The thing that has been very helpful is equality for all, and we’re really focusing on the message of equality for all,” said Joan Smith, Delta’s chief people officer.

OneTen also helped the airline create an apprenticeship program designed to move hourly workers into salaried positions along a career track, which typically pay at least $60,000 a year. .

The one-year apprenticeship includes classroom and on-the-job training, mentoring and support services. Graduates are guaranteed a job. The program, which began as an experiment with six workers in 2021, grew last year to a group of 56 who were selected from among 7,000 applicants.

Sansa Diana was part of that group. He started at a call center in Delta in 2018. “When you called the 1-800 number, I was the person on the other end of the call,” she said.

Ms. Dianne, 28, rose up the call center hierarchy to become a customer support representative primarily for invitation-only service to Delta’s most attractive frequent fliers, though she was still paid hourly.

About a year ago, Ms. Dianne entered the apprenticeship program and landed a salaried job in the corporate sales department arranging contracts and deals for Delta’s business-customer accounts. His salary increased by more than 50 percent.

At first, the change was difficult, she recalled, and she had “imposter syndrome”, a feeling of not belonging in a work setting. Delta arranged for an outside workplace coaching firm to help her manage her anxiety.

“Stepping into the corporate world can be challenging or scary if you’re not used to it,” he said.

Ms. Dianne, who dropped out of college, is taking courses toward a bachelor’s degree in technology and management, and plans to move up the corporate ladder at Delta.

Despite Delta’s adoption of skills-based hiring, the approach has yet to catch on more widely. In a oneten survey Last year, 56 percent of 500 hiring managers said removing four-year degree requirements would improve their hiring practices, but only 31 percent are doing so.

These numbers point to the gap between recognizing an issue and changing corporate behavior, said Ginny Rometty, president of OneTen and a former IBM chief executive. “It requires a culture change,” he said. “And that takes time.”

After refining its approach, OneTen is making progress, but it’s still far behind the million-jobs-a-decade pace implied in its name. So far, the coalition of companies has racked up 108,000 people who meet the OneTen definition — black workers hired in jobs that pay family-sustaining wages, without a four-year college degree, as measured by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Or has been promoted. Living Wage Calculator,

In the 30 percent of its allotted time, OneTen has reached its goal about 10 percent of the time, even as its roster of member employers has nearly doubled to 65 companies.

Mr Chenault, the former head of American Express, is now a managing director of General Catalyst, a venture capital firm. He compared OneTen to “a start-up that’s in Year 3”. It started with a focus, then saw a big opportunity and made a pivot.

“Yes, our focus is on African Americans, but it’s a broader opportunity,” he said. “If a company is going to do a skills-first practice, they’re going to do it for everyone.”

OneTen’s expansion plans include working with community colleges as sources of talent and military bases as large civilian employers. But already, VanTen estimates that the increase in income for the more than 100,000 black workers her coalition partners have hired or promoted is up to $12 billion.

Demographic trends may also help persuade employers to change. America’s working-age population is aging, shrinking, and becoming more diverse. Millions of jobs are vacant due to lack of skilled workers.

“There is a fundamental business reason for companies to transition to a skills-based hiring system that goes beyond all the social justice topics that ground us,” said Mr. Frazier, president of OneTen.



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