To be successful, diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) initiatives can’t be buried underneath layers of an organization, but instead, must be among a C-level executive’s top priorities. It’s a must, says expert guest Nickoria Johnson in the first webinar of PPAI’s new and ongoing DEI series. On October 12, the series kicked off with a one-hour session, “Building A DEI Framework For Your Organization,” that shared actionable next steps and a guide for businesses as they build their unique DEI roadmap.

PPAI’s Professional Development Manager Pamela Brown-Matthis moderated this education session, introducing Johnson as speaker. Johnson has over 25 years of experience in technology leadership, management consulting and portfolio management, and she is currently chief diversity officer at consulting firm, Credera. Brown-Matthis says, “A true commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion in the workplace starts with building a strong framework. This webinar provides attendees with a solid foundation for building a strong DEI program. The session is informative, thought provoking and application-oriented.”

Johnson says organizations with diverse, equitable and inclusive cultures outperform competitors with higher levels of employee engagement and retention, greater innovation and creativity. “If you have the same people around the table, you’re going to get the same thing just on a different day,” she says. “When you start layering in the voices and experiences of diverse people, you’re going to get unique and better business outcomes.” In environments where they feel value and belonging, employees are nearly 10 times more likely to look forward to going to work and are six times more likely to be innovative. “The best way to bring in innovation and to get a notch above your competitors is, really, to have diverse people at the table.”

DEI is also critical to retaining top talent during the “Great Resignation,” a period of massive turnovers. In April, May and June 2021 alone, 11.5 million workers quit their jobs. “Nowadays, people expect you to invest in DEI, and if you don’t, people will leave,” she says. “They want to see your efforts; they want to know that you’re a company that cares.”

For companies looking to start building their unique DEI framework, Johnson says to first access where the organization is today. In this session, she offers evaluation methods like a maturity model, industry benchmarks and hiring and representation data. Next, businesses can prioritize areas of focus and engage employees and executives. After assembling a roadmap of critical actions, the DEI framework can be executed. Johnson says businesses should constantly track progress and refine its DEI plan.

Johnson says authenticity belongs in the workplace. “When I was growing up, we didn’t talk about race. We didn’t talk about anything that had to do with how different I was. I was kind of trying to hide the fact that I was a working mom. Nowadays, the culture says bring your authentic self to work. If everyone does that, then we can move past those differences, you can develop empathy across your teams and you can do the best work possible.”

The webinar is available free on-demand here. PPAI’s DEI webinar series features six more webinars scheduled through December 8. These are free to Association members and $15 for PPAI Associates. Each includes CAS and MAS credits. Find more information and register here.