Can CECOs Deliver on DEI Expectations?

September 14, 2020
LRN Corporation

Over recent months, amid increasing calls for racial equity and social justice in the U.S., culture and values systems within American companies have become an area of greater focus and dialogue. The important role of the chief compliance officer in moving the needle on diversity, equity, and inclusion practices and initiatives at companies has come to the fore 

“CECOs are the ambassadors of accountability. They’re supposed to be holding organizations, at all levels, responsible for acting with the appropriate behaviors,” Tiffany Archer, Panasonic Avionics’ regional ethics and compliance officer and corporate counsel, said during a recent Consero Knowledge Bridge roundtable discussion that was moderated by LRN’s Ben DiPietro. 

“I think more importantly, chief compliance officers are supposed to be modeling behaviors,” said Archer.

How can CECOs better facilitate conversations around diversity and social equity? How can they take what they hear and work to transform their companies in the direction they need to move?

When initiating conversations and gauging where employees are on the topic of social equity and justice, CECOs need to concentrate on being listeners, said Selece Beasley, chief compliance officer at Kindred at Home. 

“An open-door policy, showing respect and allowing employees to communicate through their preferred means--whether it be in-person, via email or anonymously--are all ways to be that listener,” she said. It is important to engage employees in a nonthreatening way, particularly when discussing the need for a culture shift, and why now is the time for the conversation to happen.

Sergio Leal, head of compliance at Ericsson, said he’s found the concept of organization justice is a good starting point for more difficult conversations around social justice. Key to both concepts: People must be treated fairly and neutrally, within a system trusted by all.

Jung Choi, vice president and assistant general counsel at Stanley Black & Decker, said the DEI movement isn’t that different in practice than other compliance initiatives. “You need senior leadership… they’re the ones that show the commitment, responsibility, messaging. It has to be interwoven with your culture,” she said. “They’re the ones who create the goals and set a system in terms of accountability.”

Leal and Beasley talked about tone from the top as key to getting buy-in on social equity initiatives. Beasley said her company works to have a cohesive group from the field level up to the top, and from the top down, to meet employees in the middle.

When taking concrete steps to transform company culture and advance social equity, it’s important to examine and adjust recruiting practices. In fact, the panelists said this is a universal must-do. 

They spoke to the importance of working with HR and recruiters to ensure a diverse pipeline of candidates and to intentionally eliminate “unconscious bias” within the hiring process, and across the workforce, and the company.

About the Author

LRN Corporation

Ethics and compliance leader providing tools, education, and advisory services for global companies to inspire principled performance. LRN’s overall approach recognizes the inherent limitations of rules and regulations in influencing behaviors. In our view, focusing on actions that help build and maintain a values-based culture will mean more compliance and reduced costs as a result of tangible and sustainable behavioral change.

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