Whether it is changing policy, relocating an office, restructuring an organization or introducing new products and services, successfully navigating change is a challenge for any business. Like many companies, we have evolved over our 80 years to better meet the needs of our clients and adapt to the marketplace, and as a committed employer, we have revaluated and reassessed to continue to meet the needs of our employees and embrace diversity and inclusivity.
In 2015, Mesirow formally established the Inclusion & Workforce Strategy team to improve diversity and inclusion. In only two years, we have seen results by taking an agile yet focused approach to achieving change while also recognizing that there is always opportunity to improve and expand.
The business case for diversity is clear. You may be familiar with the 2015 McKinsey report1 that revealed that companies in the top quartile with racial/ethnic diversity are 35% more likely and gender-diverse companies are 15% more likely to outperform above the national industry mean. However, there is no “one size fits all” for how diversity and inclusion becomes imbedded within company culture, and the pathways for achieving change vary depending on the nature and size of each business.
First, it is important to develop a framework for how you plan to create internal change. At Mesirow Financial, we identified three core pillars to provide the framework for our diversity and inclusion strategy:
To help guide the strategic direction of the internal initiative, we established an Executive Inclusion Council to empower leaders through diversity awareness and an Employee Inclusion Council to help implement our diversity and inclusion goals. We also added education pieces, tools, and resources to our intranet to raise awareness and increase employee engagement. Recognizing our employees have the best insight into what works for them, we established an online platform for employees to share their own ideas on how to improve diversity and inclusion internally.
As we began this endeavor, our primary focus targeted the improvement of Mesirow’s programming and operations. However, we recognized that to achieve real change, effective diversity and inclusion initiatives must be aligned with the firm’s business priorities as well. Over the last two years, we have partnered with several organizations, including the National Black MBA Association, Prospanica, Robert Toigo Foundation, and Out & Equal Chicagoland, to host various programs and events designed to improve recruitment, client and employee engagement, as well as marketplace visibility. We are proud that these events have led to exceptional staff hires, exciting new business opportunities, and increased employee and client engagement.
Recognizing that diversity goes beyond physical traits, we kicked off 2017 by hosting a “diversity of thought” event in conjunction with 1871, a center for technology and entrepreneurship. The event aimed to remind leaders and employees the importance of creating diverse teams to develop innovative products and services in an increasingly competitive marketplace.
It is impossible to do it all at once. Achieving broad diversity happens step-by-step with intention and focus. Recently, we enhanced our efforts to achieve better LGBTQ inclusiveness. We implemented “Transitioning in the Workplace Guidelines” for transgender employees and their supervisors. In 2017, we have actively been working to lay the foundation and develop an employee resources group for our LGBTQ employees and allies. In January 2018, we plan to formally launch PRIDEConnect, designed to provide education to all employees and resources for LGBTQ employees and allies.
Ultimately, the success of diversity and inclusion initiatives depends on hardcore results. For the first time, Mesirow participated in the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index survey in 2016. We were honored to receive a very favorable rating but recognized that there was more work to be done. In 2017, we submitted the CEI survey for the second year in a row and achieved a notable increase in our score, nearly reaching our goal of 100. In conjunction with increased efforts to expand our recruitment channels and attract diverse talent, we recently added a new section to our website, to celebrate our diverse workforce and bring our employee stories to the forefront.
Creating feedback loops for employees is also crucial to ensure a company remains aligned with business goals and company culture when implementing a diversity and inclusion strategy. Our recent employee engagement survey included several diversity-related questions to gauge employee attitudes on how we can best advance our commitment to D&I and refine our approach as we move forward.
While we have made great strides within diversity and inclusion in the last two years, we are dedicated to building upon our successes and improving year over year.
1. Hunt, V., Layton, D., and Prince, S. (January 2015). Why diversity matters. McKinsey&Company Report. Retrieved from McKinsey.com.