I just read an article in the WSJ which was an interview with PwC U.S. Chairman Tim Ryan. Great read! The article basically touches on the efforts of Mr. Ryan to force leadership and all employees into discussion about race relationships within the organization as well as a focus on diversity. These efforts were born out of tragedy after Botham Jean, a 26-year-old PricewaterhouseCoopers senior associate, was shot to death by an off-duty police officer while watching football in his Dallas apartment. The article / interview goes deeper into the efforts of PwC to focus on diversity at the cultural level as well as institute employee empowerment programs designed to sharpen the skillset of employees.
|Tim Ryan: CEO - PwC|
It was a great read but left me feeling like something was missing… like Ryan and PwC were falling short. I’ll explain shortly.
I like the fact PwC leadership decided to support and promote discussions about race and diversity. They also did so on an internal level where the focus was truly about the employees and the company culture. It was established as an opportunity for the people from all levels of PwC to learn about each other and understand different perspectives. Simply having diversity focus is more than just hiring diversity; its sharing a diverse culture. PwC gets this.
In an article written for the Harvard Business Review, David Thomas and Robin Ely noted, “…diversity goes beyond increasing the number of different identity-group affiliations on the payroll to recognizing that such an effort is merely the first step in managing a diverse workforce for the organization’s utmost benefit. Diversity should be understood as the varied perspectives and approaches to work that members of different identity groups bring…. Women, Hispanics, Asian Americans, African Americans, Native Americans—these groups and others outside the mainstream of corporate America don’t bring with them just their “insider information.” They bring different, important, and competitively relevant knowledge and perspectives about how to actually do work—how to design processes, reach goals, frame tasks, create effective teams, communicate ideas, and lead. When allowed to, members of these groups can help companies grow and improve by challenging basic assumptions about an organization’s functions, strategies, operations, practices, and procedures. And in doing so, they are able to bring more of their whole selves to the workplace and identify more fully with the work they do, setting in motion a virtuous circle.”
So Mr. Ryan got this one right. He not only works on bridging a gap of understanding between different races and cultures; he does so at the employee-to-senior management levels, establishing a true culture that focuses on the heart of diversity; diversity in thought and focus on true differences and how these can be celebrated, shared and embraced. Though it took a tragedy to spark this conversation at such a level, the result is a win for the people and culture of PwC.
An article in Chief Executive Magazine published a story on his efforts to address diversity and inclusion and noted the following. “Ryan didn’t just take stock of where PwC was in the area of diversity and inclusion, he looked at the business world at large. What he saw was a lot of room for improvement. A lot of companies went the safe route and didn’t scratch the surface. As such, Ryan helped launch CEO Action for Diversity and Inclusion in 2017, an initiative aimed at getting CEOs to advance diversity and inclusion initiatives at their companies. More than 550 CEOs have signed the organization’s diversity pledge since last year and many led their companies in December’s “Day of Understanding,” where employees convened to discuss bias in the workplace. CEO Action for Diversity and Inclusion has also published more than 450 best practices and already had three closed door/CEO only meetings on how they can expand and improve diversity and inclusion efforts across the business community.”
I also liked Mr. Ryan’s thinking and comments about wanting people to be with PwC in both mind and body, and as such not only promote the discussion of inclusion and diversity but also focus on "upskilling"; putting in place programs to develop skills and foster personal growth for the employees. Mr. Ryan’s move not only does the obvious “saw sharpening” to increase employee production; he presents programs to assist those who don’t have the skills necessary to advance where others climb freely… programs which can narrow the chasm of developed skill sets which exists between races (a point of merit in the discussion of “white privilege” and systematic minority suppression).
As noted by Mr. Ryan in his WSJ interview, “To win the war for talent, part of the proposition has to be, ’Come for our culture, come for your career growth opportunities, come because you’re going to be constantly invested in to make sure you stay relevant.” Successful organizations understand this and are acting accordingly. Employee Engagement at its finest. BRAVO PwC!
Understand… PwC is not alone regarding employee engagement. Employee engagement is definitely on the rise. A recent Gallup poll published in August 2018 noted three undeniable trends and facts:
- 34% of U.S. workers are engaged, tying highest in Gallup's history
- "Actively disengaged" percentage is down to 13%, a new low
- Engagement is highly related to positive business outcomes
So what was missing? THE NEXT STEP!
In many industries, there is a serious lack of diversity in senior leadership though there are many organizations within these industries promoting diversity in hiring practices, cultural awareness and assimilation, and employee training and skill development.
Here is a statistic for you: According to a recent publication produced by BCG, “Among Fortune 500 CEOs at the time of publication, only 24 are women (less than 5% of the total), only three are black, and only three are openly gay, including just one lesbian…. Most company leaders—primarily white, heterosexual males—still underestimate the challenges diverse employees face. These leaders control budgets and decide which diversity programs to pursue. If they lack a clear understanding of the problem, they can’t design effective solutions.”
Diversity in leadership is a necessity! There is also true value in ensuring diversity in leadership roles. The Ladders recently published an article by Sharon E. Jones which focused on the value of diversity in leadership and link in senior leadership diversity to greater financial returns. Some of the major benefits noted were…
- Diverse teams produce better solutions to complex problems;
- Diversity in leadership can help with retention of diverse staff
- Diverse leaders can serve as mentors and sponsors to diverse professionals and others and build multi-cultural competencies within the organization
Her conclusion: "One of the best investments that a company can make is to be intentional about increasing the diversity in leadership by recruiting, retaining, and promoting diverse professionals." And she is dead-on!
So what about the board room? PwC’s 2018 Annual Corporate Directors Survey shows that directors are listening more, learning more and engaging more. One of the top findings from the survey - "Board diversity has been a hot topic for years, and directors seem to be getting the message. Most recognize the value that diversity adds. Nearly all agree that it brings unique perspectives to the boardroom, and the majority say it enhances board performance. Most also say diversity improves relationships with investors—those who have been strong supporters of it. While 91% of directors say their boards are taking steps to increase diversity, many directors seem cynical: more than half say board diversity efforts are driven by political correctness. And nearly half think shareholders are too preoccupied with the topic. Some also hint that it’s just a “check-the-box” exercise."
Herein lies the heart of the problem.
So my question to Mr. Ryan – “Do you value diversity in leadership? Does your board?
PwC Board Of Directors:
Where is the diversity? It looks like PwC didn’t even check the box!
- 20 Members.
- 15 White Men
- 5 White Women
- No minorities
And don’t get me wrong… I am not attacking Mr. Ryan for the lack of diversity on the PwC Board. I applaud Mr. Ryan for championing the issue and forcing C-level executives and senior management to face the issue. He didn’t chose his board; they chose him. In a perfect world, the PwC board would reflect the goals of diversity Mr. Ryan preaches (and practices). If more leaders address diversity issues like Mr. Ryan has, this will happen in time.
So if diversity in leadership should be a goal for all organizations to strive for, how do we ensure we not only establish programs that discuss diversity and foster employee development but also shape tomorrows leaders… tomorrows senior leadership? Tomorrow’s Boards? There must be a focus on 1- ensuring a diverse senior leadership team and board of directors, and 2- developing and implementing leadership development programs for the workforce in preparation for tomorrow’s senior leadership roles.
Though there is a definite difference in the skill sets and core competencies possessed by senior leadership, management and the employee work force, there are many employees joining organizations at the entry level who possess the core competencies needed to be an exceptional leader. They are the diamond in the rough of the company human capital pool. However, prior to joining the organization, they may not have experienced the opportunities to develop their skill sets or show what they can accomplish. They go un-noticed with their potential untapped. Organizations who truly want to reach diversity milestones must consider instituting leadership programs designed to identify and develop diverse senior leadership from within! IT is more than just developing talent into successful and productive team members . It is about effectively growing a diverse group of leaders from within... Leaders of tomorrow who get the company culture of diversity and the benefits it brings for the entire organization!
Let’s see Mr. Ryan take this on as well. Maybe others will follow.