Going Slow to Go Fast: Sustainable DEI Strategies with Martina Winston

Jennifer Brown | |

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In this episode, originally recorded as a DEI Community Call, JBC Senior Consultant Jeffery Smith moderated a conversation with Martina Winston, VP & Senior HR Partner/Diversity & Inclusion Leader at Protective Life. Discover how the huge shifts of 2020 have impacted Protective Life’s consistent and ongoing DEI efforts that reach back several years. You’ll also hear about how the company’s sustained work made a difference in the navigation of this chaotic year, and when it makes sense to “go slow to go fast” for a company like Protective Life.

Listen in now, or read on for the transcript of our conversation:

Martina Winston: I’ve really been very strategic on how I’m leveraging the folks that can help us move the work forward. I’m really excited about that. I would think for the most part, where I’m seeing the most resistance in our organization is, everyone wants us to do more, and they want it to happen faster, and happen yesterday. I tell people all the time, I’m almost 40 years old, I’m a black woman, and I haven’t figured it out yet. So, chill out, it’s going to take some time, it’s going to take some time.

Martina Winston: That’s really where I could say a little bit of the resistance is coming from, not because people are saying, “Hey, don’t do that. I’m not on board.” But it’s been more about how can we do more, and how can we go faster?” Trying to slow people down, can sometimes be hard because I know that everyone really wants to see the work, and they want to see it happen fast, but that’s just not reality.

Doug Foresta: Everyone has a diversity story, even those you don’t expect. Welcome to The Will to Change With Jennifer Brown. Get ready to hear from leading CEOs, bestselling authors and entrepreneurs, as we uncover their true stories of diversity and inclusion. Now, here’s your host, Jennifer Brown.

Doug Foresta: Hello, and welcome to The Will to Change, this is Doug Foresta. This episode was originally recorded as a DNI call back in October of 2020, and it features a conversation between JBC Senior Consultant, Jeffrey Smith, and Martina Winston, VP and Senior HR Partner, Diversity and Inclusion Leader at Protective Life. In the call, they discuss how the huge shifts of 2020 have impacted Protective Life’s consistent and ongoing DNI efforts that reach back several years. They also discuss how the company’s sustained work made a difference in the navigation of 2020. When it makes sense to go slow, or to go fast for a company like Protective Life, as well as best practices of an effective multi year roadmap for organizations, and how a roadmap like this can be effectively revisited and iterated upon.

Doug Foresta: Of course, there was much more to the conversation, and you’ll hear all this and more, and now, on to the episode.

Jennifer Brown: Without further ado, Jeffrey, take it away.

Jeffrey Smith: All right. Thank you, Jennifer. Again, I say good morning, and again, welcome to everyone. I wanted to start by asking Martina to first of all, maybe just tell us a little bit more about you, and your role, your personal journey to the role that you’re in today. Let’s start there so people can get to hear a little bit more about you and how you ended up where you are today.

Martina Winston: Yes. No, thank you, Jeffrey. Again, welcome and good morning. Super excited about the opportunity to not only share Protective’s diversity, equity and inclusion journey, but also just to be able to share about our partnership with Jennifer Brown, and also again, with my partner in crime, Jeffrey. It’s been such a great opportunity for me as a professional in this space.

Martina Winston: I’ve been with Protective a little over six years. It’s been a fantastic journey for me within my professional career. Protective, just for those of you that don’t know, Protective is a homegrown, Birmingham, Alabama based life and annuity insurance company in Birmingham, Alabama, where we do have representation in support across the US footprint.

Martina Winston: We are represented by our parent, which is based out of Tokyo, Japan, which is Dai-ichi Life, and we are part of the Dai-ichi Life Group Company, which, again, is based out of Tokyo, Japan. A lot of great learning. When you talk about just the diversity, being able to see that from around the world lens is such a great, great opportunity.

Martina Winston: I have the great pleasure of serving Protective as a senior HR partner, while I provide support to our divisional presidents from the retirement and the protection side of the house. I also have an opportunity to lead our actuarial organization from an HR partner standpoint, which is extremely important in the insurance industry.

Martina Winston: We love our actuaries, and I’m so proud to report that I have a junior actuary badge, which is so important because actuaries don’t let everybody in unless you’re an actuary. I’m proud of my junior actuarial badge, and I also have an opportunity to lead our organization not only in diversity and inclusion work, but also our global talent work in partnership with our parent, Dai-ichi Life. That’s a little bit about me, and then just more about Protective.

Martina Winston: We, again are in the life and annuity space. We like to also say that our bread and butter is also acquisitions. We’ve done a lot of acquiring of other companies. A part of our strategy is to really integrate those businesses within our organization to continue to do what is the most important, which is to deliver on our customer promise.

Martina Winston: We are excited about that. We’re so excited to announce we just recently acquired a company in the midst of the pandemic, where I know a lot of companies aren’t able to work on some of those things right now, but we’re excited to have been able to just recently announce an acquisition with Revolos, which is part of our Asset Protection Division. Protective is continuing to rock and roll in the acquisition space.

Jeffrey Smith: Wonderful. Absolutely wonderful. You pretty much answered my second question, which was to talk a little bit more about what Protective Life is, in case someone had not heard of Protective Life or were not sure, in terms of what the business model and the space in which you operate it. But let’s talk a little bit about the impetus for this diversity and inclusion journey at Protective Life. How did this journey begin? What was the genesis of the thinking behind it? Take us back a little bit, in terms of where it started and how this journey began.

Martina Winston: Thanks, Jeffrey. I want to take the community here back. A couple of years ago, let’s say 2018, and we had a pretty significant shift within our organization where we had a change within CEO representation. Our CEO who is Rich Bielen, one of the first things on his to do was to really look at diversity and inclusion and think about what role does Protective play in diversity and inclusion?

Martina Winston: We recognized that this is a significant effort, and that there is a lot to do in this work. But he was really intentional about ensuring that Protective renewed their focus and commitment around diversity and inclusion. He was able to pull together that executive team, which is where we started our first engagement, in partnership with Jeffrey and the Jennifer Brown team, where we took our executive leaders through unconscious bias training, back the summer of 2018.

Martina Winston: We really wanted to create some really good foundation with our top leaders in the organization to make sure that we were setting the tone for where we were going to go on this journey. We firmly believe that is starts and stops with our leadership, especially our executive leadership team. Fast forward to the fall of 2018, we recognized that in order for us to do that, we need a group of people across the organization to help us do that.

Martina Winston: We started with a task force within HR to do some research and development, and to also understand our data. What is our data telling us? What are we doing within the community? Where do we really need to focus? We did not want this to be an HR lead or HR driven work, we really wanted everyone in the organization to be involved in this work, which then created and started the creation of our diversity and inclusion advisory committee, which is a small but mighty team, that was comprised of about 50 leaders across the organization. Leaders and also individual contributors.

Martina Winston: We were very intentional about the makeup of that team. We wanted really good diversity from our location, from experience, really what they brought to the table. That team was charged with creating our three year strategic roadmap, and also our goals, our mission and our vision for our work.

Jeffrey Smith: Okay. A couple of key things that I heard you say, one, you talked about the CEO, not just the executive leaders, but specifically, you referenced the CEO, commitment and intentionality. That was really, again, a key impetus. I hope those that are listening today took note of that as well, where your journey began, your CEO, in terms of being vocal, visible. I’ve met Rich, had several dinners with him. So, I can vouch for that. Was very much committed to this, and that really, I think, not only helped to lead the work, but brought credibility to it as well. You talked about that. Tell us a little bit more about this diversity advisory board. The process, the output, what did you learn during this process? Just talk a little bit more about the diversity advisory board, its makeup, its journey, the work that was done, et cetera.

Martina Winston: Great question. One thing that I recognized within the creation of this group is everyone was in a different part of the journey around their commitment to diversity and inclusion. I did not want to go in thinking that everyone was on the same playing field. We took a lot of time, again, through Jeffrey and his help and support and also the Jennifer Brown team, to spending some time on learning.

Martina Winston: Learning was a huge component of the creation of our team, to make sure that we understood, not only what was going on around us, but also our current state within the organization. It was very important to make sure we’re grounded with what does this mean for Protective? Because diversity and inclusion is defined very differently in different organizations. We spent a lot of time defining what does it mean for us? What does it mean for our employees in our community, and even our customers? That was a really important journey.

Martina Winston: We spent a lot of time on that. We also spent some time, Jeffrey, on our shifts. Current state to future state, knowing that nothing is going to happen overnight. One thing that we talk a lot about at Protective is, and you’ll hear me say this a lot today, too. I don’t mean to sound like a broken record, but it is so important when we approach this work, is it is a journey.

Martina Winston: As we’re going into things, we recognize that we might not get something done today, and what we’re doing today will really help to impact our long term structure, and our long term foundation, which is so important. But the advisory committee did not have a lot of time. As I’m talking about journey, we didn’t have a lot of time to create our roadmap. Three months, fast and furious. Three months, and I’m a driver, and I’m an executer. I see Jeffrey smiling, he knows that, because as soon as we would get down the road, I was like, “Okay, come on back, we’ve got a deadline.” January 29th was the date, January 29th 2019 was the date. I would say, “We will deliver the roadmap, we will deliver the focus.”

Martina Winston: Another thing that was really important, we actually created subcommittees within the advisory group. I wanted to remove myself as say, “the leader”, and really allow our leaders within the organization to lead and really get fired up about different pockets of the work.

Martina Winston: We created these subcommittees to help us focus on different areas, whether that is the development and training and continuous learning component, or the recruitment component, or even the accountability. Who’s looking at our data? This really allowed ownership of these leaders across the organization, so there wasn’t anyone pointing the finger at Martina, but it was more of a self organizing group, where they were able to come together through advisement from either myself or Jeffrey, to help create the things that really informed our roadmap.

Martina Winston: Now, what’s been really beautiful about the journey, as we’ve been going through with our roadmap is, where we were in 2018, and when we delivered the roadmap and 2019, as we fast forward to now going into 2021, we’ve learned so much about who we are as an organization, our appetite for change, things that have worked. There’s some things that we did on the roadmap, and Jeffrey probably is laughing about this, where we were so ambitious, and we were like, “Well, of course, we’re going to do that in year one.” Well, then we get through year one, and we’re like, “What in the world were we thinking? Okay, remove that, erase, erase, erase.”

Martina Winston: I think that’s the beauty of also the roadmap, it is a working document, nothing had to stay intact. We really wanted to be very strategic about our approach, and also think about what can the organization take on today? Where do we need to be a little bit more aggressive. Also, think about things that maybe was not important. That was really how we leveraged and utilized the advisory committee to help us balance the things and also prioritize the things that is really important for the organization. I’m proud to report that we are in… The first year 2019, we were able to complete 86% of the things that were in the roadmap.

Martina Winston: Oh, thank you, Joe. Joe, I see you clapping, I appreciate that.

Jeffrey Smith: I saw that, yes.

Martina Winston: Thank you so much. Now, I’m 100% type of girl, I like to win at 110%, but that’s okay. 86% was really important for us, and we’re glad that we’re able to meet those metrics. Now, going into our second year of the roadmap, we are about 70%, and we will get… I think we’re going to get closer to 100% this year. Knowing what we know today, we’re going to go into a strategy session which we do every fourth quarter to start to look at revising some of the things that we have on our roadmap. We’re really excited about that.

Jeffrey Smith: I can tell this is resonating with people because I’m looking at you and I’m catching some of the chat, the questions are just flying in. I caught a couple. So, I’m going to pull a couple of questions from the chat. Jennifer, you can feel free to add, but there were some questions around the advisory board. One of the questions was, talk a little bit more about how these people were selected, and then if you can also, this was another question, how many people were on the advisory board? If you can talk a little bit about both of those real quick. Then I have one more that I caught in the chat, and then I’ll let Jennifer maybe get one in, because we’re going to try to have more time for all of your questions. But let’s deal with those two. Those are the two that I saw, and why don’t you go ahead and respond to those, Martina?

Martina Winston: Okay, great. We have 15 people that’s on the advisory committee and great question about how they’re selected. This is going to be really interesting, this is a really good tea, so make sure you have your notes. Our first creation of the advisory committee, we were very selective. When we went into… If you recall, I mentioned that we gathered an HR team together to do some research and development. I’m sorry, 15, not 50, 15. We’re a small but mighty organization.

Martina Winston: We have a little bit over 3,000 employees across the organization. So 15, 1-5 is the number. When the HR team before we created the group, we had a task force to do some research and development. Through that task force, one of the things that myself and another partner of mine, we went out in the organization and did some interviews, just wanted to do some temperature checks with some employees. We looked at diverse groups, we looked at not only the things that we could see. We looked at gender diversity, racial diversity, age diversity, tenure diversity, even location.

Martina Winston: We conducted about close to 50 interviews across the organization. Some of those were with senior executive leaders, and then some were deeper in the organization. We asked them a few questions around, what is your definition around diversity and inclusion? What do you feel like Protective’s definition of diversity and inclusion is? Are there companies that you see that are doing it well? Who can we learn from, and where are our opportunities?

Martina Winston: Through those interviews, myself and a few other partners, we selected, hand picked those group of 15. We were very selective to make sure that there were some functional support as well. We wanted to make sure we had people representing a lot of our heavy hitting areas of within the organization. Whether that’s IT, finance, accounting, internal audit, some of those big areas. We also looked at functional areas like communications and brand, and strategy. We wanted to have those, and make sure we have those folks have a seat at the table, which was super important.

Martina Winston: Here’s the cool shift that we’ve made with our advisory committee. We’ve had a lot of our employees raise their hand to say, I want to be involved in this work, I want to do more, how can I help? In August, we created… A part of the structure and Jeffrey knows this, we also created a governance structure, and we wanted to make sure that we allowed opportunity for other people to be involved. The advisory committee is a rotating role. At a minimum, folks will sit on it for one year, but then you rotate out to allow opportunity for other people to be involved.

Martina Winston: This August, we were able to do something almost like a job posting, where we posted a job internally, and we allowed all of our employees to raise their hand to say, “I want to be included in the advisory committee.” We had over 65 people apply for the opportunity, which is amazing, super excited about the interest. We’ve just finalized, actually, yesterday, we just finalized the new 15 people that will be joining our committee.

Martina Winston: What was really beautiful about the people that were selected, we had an opportunity to talk to all 65 of those employees to understand really, why did they want to be involved and included in this work? I know that it could seem a little disappointing for the people that weren’t selected, but the trick of that is, we’re going to use them with other pockets of our work. We’ve got tons of things going on across the organization. So, we’re going to continue to use them with recruiting efforts, with sourcing, with community things, with things with our foundation. We have plans for these people, they might not know that yet. I don’t know if they’re listening, but we have plans-

Jeffrey Smith: They will, after today.

Martina Winston: They will, after today. But we have plans for everyone that has raised their hand to say that they want to do more. What we think about the opportunity is that we allowed our employees to raise their hand to say that they want to be involved. So, we want to give them an opportunity to get their hands dirty and roll up their sleeves in our work.

Jeffrey Smith: I think, one of the other great things that you just articulated, and I know from working with you is that, again, your company, again, relatively small, but I would say definitively committed to this work, you, I think are providing a model of how to get the work done when you maybe have a smaller organization or you don’t have as many resources, the way that you are engaging people to help move the work forward, have something visible that you can share with your leadership team and with the organization.

Jeffrey Smith: I think this is also a great model, when we think about either smaller organizations or if you have not dedicated full FTEs to this work, here’s another way that you can still move the world forward, get it done and make a meaningful impact. Which leads to, I think one of the other questions that came through in the chat, which was around your CEO in terms of how was rich, in terms of his receptivity to taking advice from this DNI advisory board? I think that’s a great question, and we’d love to hear you talk about that a little bit.

Martina Winston: That’s a great question. Again, I know Jeffrey was involved and saw a lot of this engagement firsthand. I’m viewing some of the questions in the chat too, so I’m going to try to answer some of this as well. Somebody also asked how often did the advisory committee meet? When we were charged with creating that three year strategic roadmap and our goals and our strategy, from October to January, we were meeting all the time. We had-

Jeffrey Smith: Bless you.

Martina Winston: Excuse me, so sorry. Allergies in Alabama. So sorry about that. We were meeting, as a collective group, at least once a month, for full day sessions. Thank you, Andrea Payne, I appreciate the bless you. We were meeting for full day sessions once a month, but then those subcommittees were meeting whenever they needed to. A lot of times, it was maybe once or twice a week to really roll up their sleeves and get the work done.

Martina Winston: The beauty and going into Jeffrey’s question around engagement with the CEO, Rich was involved in every meeting that we had, that was the monthly meeting. He would come in either the beginning or the end of the meeting to set the tone. Then what was really cool about the advisory committee, that I don’t know if people really understood a little bit of method of our madness, but we actually had some kind of social and networking opportunities after we did all the dirty work, if that makes sense.

Martina Winston: We would have dinner, where the group would come together, spend some time with the CEO, to listen to his thoughts, listen to what was coming here, and also listen to what’s coming here. Our CEO has a fantastic story. Is not your average CEO story. It was a really good opportunity and exposure for the selected group of 15 individuals to get exposure at the senior most level in the organization.

Martina Winston: This was also development for those 15 people. I’m not sure if they really realized that in the moment. But be able to get development with the CEO, and also my boss who was the CHRO, to be able to sit down with… Sometimes it was maybe, a nice steak dinner, and sometimes we were having ham sandwiches from the cafeteria. It just really depended on the area. But it was a really great opportunity for that group to hear from Rich, and to also share their experience.

Martina Winston: Anytime we would do a report out about the work, Rich was there, Rich was able to ask questions, and to better understand the journey that our team went through. By the time we were able to deliver and really share and present our roadmap, Rich was already on that journey. He knew exactly where we were coming from, and it wasn’t such a surprise, and he knew exactly where the roadmap was going to go.

Martina Winston: After we started executing on the roadmap in January 2019, I was pulling the advisory committee together once a month. In full transparency, this is one of those learning things, it was probably a little too much for us to come together. Not only do we have the advisory committee, I also have a center of excellence, which is comprised of members of the HR team that represents really key areas of our work. So, recruiting, our learning and development team, also our people analytics team. We all come together, we meet once a month to really roll up our sleeves and execute on the roadmap. Then we meet with our advisory committee once per quarter, because we also have a dashboard that we’ve created to help share progress on the work and the things that we’re doing.

Jeffrey Smith: Great. Let me move to 2020. I know there’s some other things, if we get a chance, we’ll come back. But I want to talk about this year, someone is asking about sharing the roadmap or template. We’ll come back to the roadmap. But let’s talk a little bit about 2020. As we all know, this has been a year like no other. Why don’t you talk a little bit about how the events of 2020 have enhanced or influenced the work around DNI. What are some of the adjustments you’ve made, and how is that going? What can you share with the group about this year and its impact on the roadmap and the journey and the work?

Martina Winston: 2020, the year that will go down in the history books as the craziest year ever.

Jeffrey Smith: We still got to pick a president, right?

Martina Winston: That’s right, we still got to pick a president and Sky, I see you said EVER, E-V-E-R. It has been such a crazy journey. Jeffrey has heard me say this a lot that I like to say that 2020 is the gift that keeps on giving. I know that a lot of us have gone through a lot of different things personally, in our communities, we’re exhausted, we’re overwhelmed. We’re really struggling with prioritization, we don’t know if we should go left or right. Some of us might have lost loved ones during the pandemic, and maybe even through other things.

Martina Winston: We’re actually in the middle of two pandemics right now, which is really crazy. I never thought in my lifetime, I would be going through anything like this, not only as a professional, but also just personally. I’m a mom, I have two children, two teenagers, matter of fact. Some of the conversations that we’re having, and it’s really interesting.

Martina Winston: As my children have been at home, they’re not at home right now, they’re at school, but them hearing me work in this diversity and inclusion space, I feel like I’ve been teaching them even though they don’t know it. But I know that they’ve been listening, and that’s been really warming my heart, because they’ll ask me questions about some of the things that I’m talking about. I’m about to get emotional about my kids, which is so crazy. I’m so blessed that I have an opportunity to be able to do that.

Martina Winston: Pivoting to the work, one thing that I’m really proud of about Protective, and by the way, please don’t walk away here thinking that we’ve got it all together, because we don’t. We’ve got tons of stuff going on that we’ve got to work on, and we’re learning through this journey. But the one thing that I’m really proud of with Protective is, we were already on a path or setting up our leaders to become the most inclusive leaders that they can be.

Martina Winston: It’s actually our number one goal is that we created an environment that we’re developing leaders to be inclusive, to be collaborative, and also agile is something that’s really important for our organization. Then our second goal is that we’re creating inclusive environments that allows for everyone in our organization to thrive.

Martina Winston: Now, we’re in 2020, it’s crazy, we had already worked through a partnership with JBC to go through some inclusive leadership training. We were going to do that in April. COVID hit. Jeffrey and I are like, “Oh, my goodness, what are we going to do?” Through the gift of COVID, remember I said I’m saying that it’s the gift that keeps on giving, through the gift of COVID, originally, we were going to bring all of our leaders, not all of them, but only a group of leaders together, face-to-face training.

Martina Winston: Jeffrey and I had been working since last November, I might add, on this training. COVID hits, and we completely revamp our training with still some very important components, recognizing that we have to do it virtually. But now, not only are we able to get the group of leaders that we had originally planned on, we’re now going to be able to get all of our leaders through training in 2020, through inclusive leadership training. We have never, in the history of Protective, been able to train all of our leaders on anything. I’m not even going to say in one year, but we’re going to get it done in six months, and that is huge.

Martina Winston: I’m really excited, because as an organization, we’ve really been able to leverage this new virtual environment. It’s been a little different. But we’ve been able to really leverage it. I’m proud of our leaders because they’ve really been able to really embrace this new way of working and this new virtual environment and to be able to have conversations like unconscious bias and how to be an inclusive leader and to be vulnerable and really to reflect on not only the things that are happening today, but I’m hearing all leaders talk about things that happened to them back 10, 20 and 30 years ago.

Martina Winston: We had a leader, Jeffrey, you might remember this, we had a leader that is aligning the things that are happening today with the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King. This is a white male leader who said, “I remember being a child back in the ’60s, when that happened to Dr. King, and thinking about what’s happening today. I can’t believe what we’re going through today. Not only personally, but as an organization.” Was just so excited and grateful and thankful that us as an organization, that in the midst of everything else, we are a profit organization, we need to be making money. But in the midst of everything else, we’re stopping to focus on our leaders to make sure that we’re setting them up for success.

Martina Winston: We have been very intentional to make sure our leaders understand that this was not something that was reactive, we already had it in the works. Jeffrey and I, we didn’t change not one thing about our training, to talk about the things that are going on today, because we want to embed it into everything that we do at Protective every day.

Jeffrey Smith: Just a few things. Again, so much richness in what you’re saying. I want to just go back, when you talked about the engagement that Rich has had with the diversity and advisory board, all the way through, I think, again, that’s a very powerful learning, because one of the things that it did was it showed the advisory board that the work they were doing had value, because their CEO was visibly interesting.

Jeffrey Smith: They took the work, I think a lot more seriously because they knew throughout the entire process that this work had meaning. They saw both yourself, they saw the head of HR, the CHRO, they saw the CEO. They saw them, they heard them. They knew throughout the process that this work was important. Again, I think that’s the key learning in terms of how to, going forward.

Jeffrey Smith: The other piece, I want to just stress and I hope you all heard it is that… I give kudos to Protective Life, they were very decisive in this journey before COVID, and before the social unrest. They already had plans in place, they already had a roadmap. Did we take the gift of COVID and the gift of the civil unrest to amplify the work and its significance? Absolutely. But one of the things that I think is making their work have some sustainability is the fact that they were in this journey before all of this happened.

Jeffrey Smith: The shift was more of how do we get it done? We’re not changing our strategic roadmap focus, if you will, we just may have to change how we do it. I think that was an enabler for them, as well. Then, again, the key piece I heard was the reach. The fact that, with that shift, the reach, in terms of leaders and developing their capability, sharing those DNI goals, all of that, I think was certainly helpful.

Jennifer Brown: You know there’s a couple of questions in here on resistance, right? A couple of questions on… I know, we always have to talk about this on these calls. Resistance is a fact of our lives and of our work. What does that look like? How has that popped up for you, Martina? In what form, from maybe unexpected places, who knows? What has been your strategy to overcome it, or to address it? How do you think about it in the mix?

Martina Winston: The resistance question is really important. It’s something that we have to keep at the top of our minds every day because it goes back to, I can’t expect for everyone to be as fired up as Martina Winston around this work. Because I can almost say for some people, it could even be impossible, because I’m a pretty energetic person. But it is something that we’ve got to think about.

Martina Winston: When we’re designing things, whatever the thing is, if it’s a training, if we’re going to have a fireside, or coffee chat and talk about DNI, we’ve got to think about all of the different avenues of the folks that are going to be bought in and the folks that are not, and make sure that we’re not being defensive. We’ve also moved beyond the, it’s the right thing to do. We’ve been very intentional… That message actually has not come from me, it’s come from our CEO. I think that that’s been really important.

Martina Winston: I also want to give kudos to our entire executive leadership team. It was really important for not only for Rich to be on board, but also his direct reports to be on board. Again, I recognize everyone has a different level of understanding where they are in their journey. But it was important for me, as I stepped into leading this work, that I understood where everyone was in their journey. As we’re going into the work, I know, you know what, this is where our CFO is, so I know how to approach him, and I know where we can get him engaged. Or our Chief Risk Officer, I know she is fired up about women and developing women, and really helping to champion the work that we’re doing around our women within our organization. When I need a champion, I’m going to leverage her.

Martina Winston: I’ve really been very strategic on how I’m leveraging the folks that can help us move the work forward. I’m really excited about that. I would think, for the most part, where I’m seeing the most resistance in our organization is everyone wants us to do more, and they want it to happen faster, and happen yesterday. I tell people all the time, I’m almost 40 years old, I’m a black woman, and I haven’t figured it out yet, so chill out. This is going to take some time, it’s going to take some time.

Martina Winston: That’s really where I could say a little bit of the resistance is coming from, not because people are saying, “Hey, don’t do that. I’m not on board.” But it’s been more about, how can we do more, and how can we go faster?” Trying to slow people down can sometimes be hard, because I know that everyone really wants to see the work, and they want to see it happen fast. But that’s just not reality.

Jennifer Brown: Right, yeah. Somebody’s saying in the chat, resistance is not futile.

Martina Winston: That’s right.

Jennifer Brown: Resistance has contained so much information for us. It can be so many kinds of resistance, and I think it really educates us about… Sharpens our saw in terms of being change agents, to say, we’ve got to have a variety of ways to tackle those and meet people where they’re at. I really appreciate what you’re saying, Martina. Because we want to go forward together. No solution is ever going to be sustainable if we don’t. If we need to back up to go forward, to capture people, create those aha moments, I think it’s critical.

Jeffrey Smith: I just want to maybe say something about this resistance, and I think, again, from the outside perspective, I think what helped Protective was that they did have what I call a multi dimensional approach. Even as they began to do capability building, they already knew when they were doing capability building, they knew that there was going to be more than just that.

Jeffrey Smith: Part of their message was always, this is where we start, this is what we’re going to do. they were always asking the question, what’s next, or what else? The development of their strategic roadmap was part of what I think was a multi dimensional approach. Again, it’s not going to eliminate resistance, but the multi dimensional approach helps to be able to have different angles to discuss when people have the resistance, whether they, again, if it’s about the business model, and how do we grow our business? If it’s about the culture at our workplace, and how do we improve our culture? If it’s about our diversity representation at various levels in the organization.

Jeffrey Smith: Whatever that angle is, I think the fact that they took a multi dimensional approach early on, certainly helped to manage the message. I will say this too, you didn’t say this, Martina, but I’ll say it. She was also strategic in the diversity and advisory board, one of their communications leaders was on the diversity and advisory board.

Jeffrey Smith: As they were crafting these definitions, this roadmap, they were using the coaching and the counsel not only of JBC and myself, but they were shaping this message internally, in such a way that as it comes to fruition, they had counsel from internal communications around how to say it. There was someone there who were with their CEO in terms of how to put it in the CEO voice, if you will. That also, I think, was part of their multi dimensional approach around resistance.

Martina Winston: Jeffrey, thank you for mentioning that, if you don’t mind me just piggybacking on for that for just a second. It goes back to my comment about folding this and folding this work. We’re also very intentional to say that diversity and inclusion is not a program. It’s not that. We don’t call it a program. We don’t call it a project. This is really who we are, and how we will move forward.

Martina Winston: It was super important for us to have our communication partners at the table, to have our brand partners at the table. To have our strategy partners at the table. So, when we’re thinking about different communication vehicles, or forums, or different company meetings, we wanted to fold this language of inclusion and diversity in the work that we’re doing, which is right now, the flavor and the temperature across the organization is our employees are 100% body in, into the work that we’re doing, because of what they’re hearing from the CEO. Not from me, but from the CEO.

Martina Winston: I have to brag on the organization because I was… Talk about resistance. I was a barrier a couple of months ago, we did an employee engagement survey in December, we embedded a few DNI questions in there, and I told my team, I said, “Be ready, because in July, we’re going to do another engagement survey, and I will expect for our results to decrease.” I said, “Be ready, they’re going to decrease.” Well, that slapped me in the face real quick. Another gift of 2020, I was completely wrong. Our results actually increased 13%, which was huge.

Martina Winston: What that told me was that our employees saw the work that we were doing, and they saw that we are really putting an effort to make this a part of who we are and what we are, and a part of Protective’s DNA. I love to be corrected. I love it when I’m corrected. I was really excited to see that the work that we’re doing, even though it’s not very flashy, it’s not big, flashy spotlights of every story that we put on our intranet, or when we’re talking about things. It’s not big in DNI.

Martina Winston: As I think Jennifer or Jeffrey might have mentioned, we don’t have one person dedicated on our DNI work. We’re all, there’s shared responsibility and shared ownership. I just wanted to mention that, Jeffrey, because I just thought that, that was so important, and it was a really good way for us to measure our success and measure the work that we’re doing and see, are we doing it right, or do we need to pivot?

Jeffrey Smith: Yeah. I know, we’re getting short on time, and I’m sure there are tons of questions in the chat. But real quick, I want you to address, I do think it’s important to talk a little bit about your choice around ERGs. I think as everyone is hearing the work that you’re doing, the approach you’re taking, and even as a person who’s been around DNI for many years, the choice that you’ve made to delay, to hold off ERGs. I think the group would benefit by hearing a little bit about your thinking around that. What are you doing, maybe in lieu of that? Or is there a future for ERGs? Just talk a little bit about how that is shaping up within the context of the work that you’re doing.

Martina Winston: That’s a great question. This was kind of controversial here, because we know that, a lot of companies are using ERGs. We were on a roller coaster back and forth of are we going to do it, are we not? Are we going to do it? Jeffrey can contest to that, we probably asked him on every call, every face-to-face meeting, we were like, “Jeffrey, are you… Okay, tell us about ERGs again. What are your thoughts? Should we be doing it?”

Martina Winston: We just really had to draw a stake in the ground to say, we are not ready. We are not ready, and it’s important for us to create a sound structure and really good foundation because we want to do it right. It was really important for this group. We have a small group of 65 women in our STEM areas within the organization. So, accounting, and IT, actuarial science and those type groups. We just ended our pilot, it was a year long, October 2019 through October 2020.

Martina Winston: We’re using that data from the pilot to help us think about, do we scale or not across the organization? How can we bring on other type of affinity groups or minority groups along in our series? The one thing that we’ve learned is our employees love an opportunity to connect, to come together as a community and to learn together. We’re like, why does it have to be different for any other affinity group?” We’re really proud that we were able to say, we’re not ready, let’s start small. Now, as we’re thinking about going into creating our next three years of our roadmap, then we’ll start to think about what does that mean in our stage, and in our journey at Protective?

Jennifer Brown: Hi, this is Jennifer. Did you know that we offer a full transcript of every podcast episode on my website, over at jenniferbrownspeaks.com? You can also subscribe so that you get notified every time a new episode goes live. Head over there now to read my latest thoughts on diversity, inclusion and the future of work, and discover how we can all be champions of change by bringing our collective voices together and standing up for ourselves and each other.

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