This episode was originally recorded as a DEI Community Call, and features a conversation with Carla Grant Pickens, Global Chief Diversity & Inclusion Officer at IBM. Carla reveals how the current environment is impacting IBM and its workforce. Carla discusses the dynamics of the return to office efforts at IBM locations around the world, and the potential impact on the company/employee relationship as companies struggle to encourage employees back to the physical office setting. You'll also hear about what IBM has learned by viewing employee development and coaching through an equity lens and how they are delivering targeted support through its partnership with BetterUp.
Listen in now, or read on for the transcript of our conversation:
CARLA GRANT PICKENS: We took advantage of the pandemic to design with inclusion, redesign all of our offices, working with our real estate organization and making our places and spaces more inclusive. We invited people from all of our communities on, well, what does that look like? What does that feel like, and multi-generationally, what does that look like? What does that feel like? So, we've been redesigning our newer locations and refurbishing our older locations. So, inclusion is in all aspects of everything you do in your business. You would never think that having inclusive leaders in a real estate discussion around design of offices, but it's really critical to the experience of the employee. So, this is something that has become really new to the experience that D&I shows up in all that we do within our companies.
DOUG FORESTA: The Will to Change is hosted by Jennifer Brown. Jennifer is an award-winning entrepreneur, dynamic speaker, bestselling author, and leadership expert on how organizations must evolve their cultures towards a new more inclusive workplace reality. She's a passionate inclusion and equity advocate committed to helping leaders foster healthier and therefore more productive workplaces, ultimately driving innovation and business results. Informed by nearly two decades of consulting to Fortune 500 companies, she and her team advised top companies on building cultures of belonging in times of great upheaval and uncertainty, and now, onto the episode.
Hello, and welcome back to The Will to Change. This is Doug Foresta. This episode was originally recorded as a DEI community call and features a conversation with IBM's Global Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer Carla Grant Pickens. In the episode, Carla reveals how the current environment is impacting IBM and its workforce. She discusses the dynamics of the return to office efforts at IBM locations around the world and the potential impact of the company-employee relationship as companies struggle to encourage employees back to physical office settings and you'll also hear about what IBM has learned by viewing employee development and coaching through an equity lens and how they're delivering targeted support through its partnership with BetterUp. All this and more and now onto the conversation.
JENNIFER BROWN: So, without further ado, Carla, welcome and let me hear your voice and make sure everything's okay and we're happy to have you joining us today.
CARLA GRANT PICKENS: Thank you so much, Jen. I'm looking forward to our conversation today, and just to let this audience know that, Jen, I shared with you that I've been in this role a little over two years and about six months now and when our leaders came to me to ask me if I was interested in this role, those of us that have had a career in HR, you know that it takes a lot more deeper skills, a lot of passion to be a CDIO, and I said, "Well, yes, I'm interested, but I had to go do my homework," and I wanted to know, well, team, tell me who are the best leaders and voices in DE&I, and Jennifer Brown came up and so this came up quite a bit and I went and I looked you up on Amazon and LinkedIn and it was your host of books and things that you write about was really one of my best learning tools and so it's a pleasure to finally be here with you and really getting to meet you face to face finally.
JENNIFER BROWN: We have the Global Summit of Women. It's an incredible meeting if everybody doesn't know about her work, but most of the... Carla, it was like a who's who of DEI execs and leaders of large companies and it was a really fascinating discussion to be a fly on the wall and just listen to everybody be together after such a challenging time for those of us that lead this work and just say, well, what are you doing? What are you doing? And what's working and we don't know the answer and that's where we're at, but like I say, we are literally reinventing leadership. We're reinventing organizations. We're defining belonging in new ways. We're absorbing this next generation of talent that wants different things and expects different things and is moving around and has a different relationship with their employment than we've ever experienced and in my generation certainly and it's such an amazing seat at the table that I hope all of us have right now to ensure that what we build next is not going to repeat the flaws of the past, but rather be more optimized for all of us.
That's what the goal is. So, if we don't have that seat at the table, that's our goal and then to be heard. When we have that seat at the table is that all important inclusion piece of the puzzle. So, Carla, tell us all about your role. Tell us the IBM footprint so we can get a sense of the size of your workforce, where you all are in the world. Anything else you'd like to do to ground us in the work you do every day?
CARLA GRANT PICKENS: Absolutely. Absolutely. So, we are approximately 270,000 employees globally. We actually just recently had a company spinoff of our infrastructure services business. So, we were at about 350,000 last year. Kendra is this new company that stood up in Q4 last year. We're super proud of the work they're doing. So, we're roughly at about 270,000 in over 150 countries. We are U.S.-based corporation. We're over 110-plus years old. So, we have a lot of skin in the game and a lot of experience in this space and my team focuses primarily on diversity, equity, and inclusion. We have community leaders for DNI. We have market leaders and we also are responsible for our D&I portfolio of learning curriculum. So, we have a full suite of learning and we're responsible for compliance.
I also lead for the enterprise our executive leadership programs as well as our leadership development and management development portfolio with our inclusion work, and I really love that additional scope in my role because I'm able to really look across those other portfolios to ensure those inclusive behaviors, inclusive leadership is upfront and center. So, it makes for a really nice synergy for my more broader job that I have every day.
JENNIFER BROWN: I love that. It is. People see DEI aside peripheral to the question of how leaders are grown in organizations. That has to change. So, I'm so glad that you're informing that and hopefully there's some accountability for the skill sets that and the behaviors that we really want and need to see so that we can shift this massive... I mean, you must be the largest company we've ever had on a community call, I think. So, your team must be global. Do you have representation of the team and how many countries for example?
CARLA GRANT PICKENS: Yeah. Yeah. My team is global. We are in four regions. We have the Americas. That includes Latin America. We have AMEA, which includes Europe and Middle East and Africa. We have the AsiaPac and we have Japan as a separate region, but part of the AsiaPac region. So, we have a large scale and we have what we call three global communities. So, women, of course, is global. LGBTQ+ is a global community and we have our people with diverse abilities plus neurodiversity as one of the three global communities. So, we have over 200 business resource groups.
JENNIFER BROWN: Oh.
CARLA GRANT PICKENS: 60% of those are women. So, it's the biggest constituency. I mean, we are in 170 countries roughly. So, we have women's groups and most of our countries who really advocate for building up the pipeline, partnering with external women's organizations, young women's groups in tech. So, this is the largest of our groups and the most active of our groups often besides IBM Dogs being our most active Slack channel. So, that's one of our other family groups, not a diversity group, but family group, but IBM Dogs is a real populous Slack channel. We use Slack and we use mural and design concepts to really co-create with IBMers across software.
JENNIFER BROWN: Wow. So, as a percentage of your workforce, how many employees are active in your ERGs?
CARLA GRANT PICKENS: That's a great, great question. So, it's roughly about 50,000 of our employees are active in our BRGs. They join them. They join the channels. They may engage in events on a regular basis, town halls, or show up and participate in squads or in external events if we're doing work within the communities that we live and work.
JENNIFER BROWN: Wonderful. Amazing. So, when we prep this call, Carla, I think you had different plans for 2022 as so many of us did in terms of so many things, like external factors really impacting the goals that you had set out and I wondered if you could just tell us like why... Where does this today find you, like feeling, sitting, understanding and revisiting your strategy and why? Because I'm sure a lot of folks on this call are experiencing all kinds of so many new factors that we've never planned for and we thought this year would be a... you said a catch-up year, a year where we get back on track, but it's been nothing of the sort. So, I wondered if you could tell us a little bit more about that.
CARLA GRANT PICKENS: Yeah. I think that in 2020, we realized a lot of companies and the world realized we have so much work we need to continue to do in this space and I think there was lots of awareness. As you stated, we really rethought about our strategy where we had gaps, where we wanted to improve and make progress. So, we sat down and co-created with IBMers on a really strong agenda and we were very much so committed with our employees around it. It wasn't leader-led. It focused in on how we were going to focus on improving representation. We wanted to make sure that we do that for where we have the most gaps. So, we focused on goals around women, Black and Hispanic. We also wanted to advocate for human rights, legislation around the world for our eight diverse groups, and we also wanted to ensure that IBMer, the IBM employee, which we call the IBMer, that that experience was going to be something that was going to be inclusive and belonging.
So, those career experiences and the engagement and inclusion experiences, it was very, very high, and we also wanted to focus on economic opportunity. So, those four things became where we all coalesce. We got feedback from all of our diverse communities, allies, and all IBMers, and this is where we focus and so we set goals and we got a lot of momentum last year. We were pretty excited. We thought, "Hey, we made progress. We grew women representation almost four points. We actually met our executive goals that we had set. We measure our executives around meeting those key roles. Their bonus incentive is tied to achieving their goals that we set for them in our diversity space and we deploy really great learning on inclusive behaviors. So, this year was supposed to be the momentum, getting to your question, and what we found was that we came into the year. We're hitting this pandemic, right?
We ended up having more challenges around COVID. People going out, getting new variants. Didn't expect that. We ended up focusing in on our hiring plans. We're seeing a little slowdown in demand, but we also are seeing a tick up in all that progress around attrition, but seeing an uptick in our attrition has been alarming because we're used to our U.S. attrition really remaining steady and we did experience that attrition last year with women. You know, leaving, people going to do more purposeful jobs, more purposeful work or taking a break or starting businesses, but what we found was there was this uptick in the first two years of employment and that was a real surprise. Most companies would experience that attrition around year three. You know, when you're saying am I going to stay here? Am I going to grow year five? Am I going to be like a leader in this organization and grow? Is this a long-term career?
We're seeing that being remote has impacted that belonging, has impacted that people aspect. So, people can literally in the first two years, especially if you're an entry level hire, this is your first job experience, you can literally turn your laptop in for a new laptop for another company and that's it because you don't have a real connection if it's only this person through this screen. You haven't met people. You haven't come to the office. So, we're being more intentional about these virtual engagements and experiences and now we're hybrid coming back to work, encouraging our teams to work with their managers because we either are coming back to work where we need to for our clients, on side of clients or coming back to the office, if we're coming back in a hybrid way, or we have employees that are going to work remote and don't need to come back to the office. So, we have these three models we're employing and we're allowing employees to work with their managers to do so.
JENNIFER BROWN: Well, those are interesting data sets around retention and churn earlier than you've ever seen it and then the subsequent difficulty of, well, if I don't care about... I have not had the interactions that cause the caring and the belonging to grow and to deepen. It feels like you never get past the superficial relationship with someone and they're never really able to tap into that culture and begin to care about it and see their sense of belonging becoming more important and more solidified. You don't even have them long enough for that to occur. That must be a real challenge then for how you do your executive development and your middle manager development. I'm finding that the skillset people are having to have is relatively unfamiliar.
I mean, inclusive leadership behaviors were already I think a stretch and that was why there's such a need for us all to teach, but having it then be challenged through the lens of hybrid teams, through the lens of I have a laptop and I have no investment in this place and then squaring that also with the data that I'm always mindful of that traditional workplace wasn't a comfortable place for a lot of us. So, it's like we got these two things are true, which is we don't want talent that's already at risk to disappear because of a lack of intentional develop in inclusion, conscious inclusion, right? That really proactive inclusion that we want our managers to employ, but we also need people to return to office because that culture has to be rebuilt and redefined and a lot of us are key to how it will be redefined.
You have to be there to redefine it, and yet if you've got generations saying, "Well, I don't want any of that. I'm more comfortable here, et cetera," and respecting that too because I want people to be feel psychological safety every day and wherever they can achieve that is really important to me, but for the institution, it's also important that we redefine what the office looked like, felt like, what that experience was like and needing it to be more inclusive.
CARLA GRANT PICKENS: Yeah, and we took advantage of the pandemic to design with inclusion, redesign all of our offices, working with our real estate organization and making our places and spaces more inclusive. We invited people from all of our communities on, well, what does that look like? What does that feel like? And multigenerationally, what does that look like? What does that feel like? So, we've been redesigning our newer locations and refurbishing our older locations. So, inclusion is in all aspects of everything you do in your business. You would never think that having inclusive leaders in a real estate discussion around design of offices, but it's really critical to the experience of the employee and so this is something that has become really new to the experience that D&I shows up in all that we do within our companies and we are creating the experience of inclusion and belonging. It has to be safe like you said. It has to be supportive, but we have to have inclusive behaviors part of your muscles and it is something ingrained, and we've really focused in on how do we have these conscious inclusion opportunities by which it becomes part of the fabric of who you are?
So, we've developed learning. We've worked with Dr. Stephanie Creary from the UPenn Wharton School and Dr. Laura Morgan Roberts from UVA and we developed inclusive learning and we did last year in July, August, we did a month of inclusive learning and it's a digital offering where we wanted people to really understand that basics of DNI. What are the concepts? How do you understand why it's important? What does it involve and what are those behaviors? How do you show up? And then we develop a workshop for our executive teams and our managers. That was a three hour workshop facilitated with an action plan on how are you now going to leave and show up differently as an inclusive leader practicing these behaviors? Are you going to mentor? Are you going to ensure, "Hey, I looked at my team. My team's not as diverse as I would like it to be. I'm going to consciously make decisions around selection so that my team is inclusive and representative."
When I have a meeting, are all voices heard? Do I have diverse panels when I hire? Am I promoting diverse teams? Am I treating talent that I need to be making decisions about that may be over the representation of certain groups I'm treating. Am I doing something that I need to do differently to retain my talent? So, these are all the things we want our leaders to walk away with and we just want this to be something that is a behavior. We have growth behaviors and we believe inclusion is a growth behavior and it means for us to grow, we have to be a more inclusive culture because the studies show that more inclusive teams, you get more innovation. You get stronger talent. You get creativity. You get stronger revenues and profit and who doesn't want that? So, this is an all in. It's a return on inclusion. This is an all in. It is a value that you can get if you do the work in this space.
JENNIFER BROWN: That's right. There's so many really good questions coming in, like will this be an annual practice? How are you tracking pre and post to see whether it move the needle for... I think what's interesting is sometimes our self-reports are very complimentary like, "Oh sure. I do this as well," but I'd be interested to know, like no, hey, your numbers show a different story. So, I wonder how you measure it and what your plans are for repeating it.
CARLA GRANT PICKENS: Yeah. So, we do two things. We have an annual engagement survey and we've added an inclusion index where we ask a series of questions and we're able to mine on that data by through. So, we actually do those engagements as well as inclusion index questions and so we're able to ask those questions and we are able to look at trends. We've been doing the inclusion index for three years now. So, we're able to see. We're improving year and year in our diverse groups in the inclusion index in the upper 80s. We published that in our ESG report for which D&I was included in that this year and then we had a D&I report last year. So, we are really being transparent with that. We also have the opportunity to do mini polls and a mini poll allows us to go and directly see and get sentiment from different groups and then it's all anonymous.
So, even with the inception of COVID, we were able to do mini polls with women to say, "How are things going as parents?" And to our parent communities, how are things going? What do you need from us? These types of mini polls and then that write-in feedback informs our decisions to be able to go back and iterate and improve or to provide more services, more days off, more benefits, more programs. So, we're able to be able to do that. So, that's one way in which we're able to measure. We also do analytics in a way on how can we measure after we actually complete a training. It isn't really about the attendance as we know... learning. It isn't about the learning per se. It isn't about the attendance or the score that you get that people liked it, but do you see real changes in the results? Are you seeing more hiring? You're seeing less attrition. You're seeing improved career velocity for key groups. You're seeing more promotions.
So, you have to have real data factors that allow you to measure improvement. We want to make sure that we do that with numerous elements of data points that we're able to really, really measure and then measure some correlation. So, we found that leaders who've intended our training are learning around our inclusive behaviors ended up getting higher engagement in index scores. So, what leader would not want that, right? So, that may not be a direct cause, but it's a correlation that we're able to be able to mine on a data to be able to say, "Well, that's interesting. Let's dig into this and let's figure out how to gotten into those courses to get that learning completed and done." I
JENNIFER BROWN: I love it. What you just said is really the business case, right? That piece, the common resistance we get, which is... Oh, this is a check the box or it's compliance or it doesn't apply to me or you make it real, but you also show that actually it leads to greater success and I think that is a helpful tool for adoption of the programs that you're making available because people, they're selfish at the end of the day, and it's like, "Well, is this going to help me be a better leader and achieve my goals?" Yes, and that has been shown to be true for those who've done it. I just love that. The mini polls are so important and the fact that you're on an ongoing basis collecting information and understanding how things land. I would imagine your BRGs are probably very helpful pulses to take as well in terms of how are you feeling? How is the community feeling? How are things landing?
CARLA GRANT PICKENS: Yes. Yes. So, I think our superpower has been our business resource groups and our employee groups because we open the line of communication and whenever something happens to a community, it happens to all IBMers and even though you may think that you're not impacted because it did not happen to your group specifically, you see the ramifications of some of the things that happen to everyone. You may not feel it now, but then it could happen to that next group or that next group and it shows up in many ways and so we post them. We ask them their advice. We co-create with them and they keep us very focused on the IBMer experience. First and foremost, let's focus on how we feel as IBMers and what we want from IBM. Our learning was driven by the feedback from the leaders after George Floyd was murdered actually got the role like two months before.
My point of view in our leadership's point of view was, well, what do our employees want? When we went and we sat and we talked with them, they said, "Well, first, we want you to first and foremost focus on us, but we also believe we need learning around these topics." Our leaders, our employees, we need to know how to show up, right? With inclusive behaviors and that learning has to happen. So, we got right to that. That was important, but the other thing was they wanted us to, which was a little different to be able to be more transparent. We would do all these things. We have great IBM foundation, a CSR group that does things, but not necessarily being vocal about it and our employees had no idea of all the work we were doing. If it sits out on our external portal, they wanted us to talk about it more. They wanted us to be more transparent. They wanted us to have accountability. They wanted us to show progress and they wanted us to keep that dialogue open.
So, we're doing town halls and we're doing events and we have our senior leaders talking about this and giving progress and updates. So, we found that transparency and showing the accountability, setting goals, taking action. You can't set a goal without action. Showing progress was really leading to improving trust, that organizational trust. So, we really put those things together to say, "Okay, the transparency, the accountability, plus the action, plus the progress. We're seeing that trust, that purpose and using your brand for good, that good tech. We have all these great things we do with our technology. Let's use this to advocate for diverse communities."
JENNIFER BROWN: All the things that are going on outside of our companies that we are bringing into work, "into our jobs," what's happening to our communities, what's in the political and social sphere. So, I was curious to have you share with the group, how have you traditionally and do you still decide as a company what to communicate on and on behalf of whom and on what issues that I know you have an interesting criteria and way of thinking about it. Again, that gets back to how much you listen to your employee demographic groups and how much you're guided by them and regardless of maybe these other factors that may dictate that you make statements about certain things or others, you really come back to and I really appreciated this and thinking about it in this way. What do our employees want and what is the voice of all of the employees in this group? Is there consensus? Is there not? Because remember, everybody, sometimes we have diversity within each diversity and we often forget that.
We think, oh, the LGBTQ+ community is a monolith and this is what that community wants, but that's never true and actually we have our own diversity challenges within our community. However, for you to make decisions when things happen as they are more and more frequently to say is there a consensus here where we as a company can go a certain direction and know that this is speaking for the majority within a certain community? I'm just curious like how you've been parsing that because each community is diverse in so many ways and when we look at women globally for example. There is a lot of differing values, religions, beliefs amongst that community and so certainly not a monolith in any way. Anyway, so, I just wanted to invite you to share how you all look at it and how you make decisions.
CARLA GRANT PICKENS: Yeah, you're right. I think that what's very different for companies is there's so many external factors that is impacting the ability for us to conduct our business without having to be actively involved and what those external factors are doing to our employees and you have to now really, really focus in on the wholeness of you're not just an employee of a company. You are a whole person, which means it's not just how I show up at work. It is when I leave here, my life matters too, right? My life is important and I may be faced with challenges that may not be in my best interest to be my best self at work and so what we found is we have so many topics that all of us are juggling all at once and employers are in this I think a lot of them in a new position. Some totally for the first time, some doing this for a really long time, but having to maybe change or even increase the level of advocacy.
What they're finding is their employees are turning to them for support and help to influence change in spaces where quite frankly they traditionally have not because they may not be able to count on their governments. We're in many, many countries or the stability, it could be war, like the unfortunate war happening in Ukraine. So, there are a lot of things that we really start with what is the community of impact? What IBMers are impacted and we start with those communities to first have those safe space conversations and listen because that's really important. You may think you know what your employees want, but once you co-create in spaces with the voices and the allies for those various groups, you are going to find, you're going to have more opportunity to make an impact in the way in which your employees want you to. So, I think that that is the first step we always take.
We don't go to we're going to pop an external statement right away. We start right with the IBMer because quite frankly what we hear is, well, we actually would like for you to focus on us first is what we hear most often and these are the things we want you to do, and then it has to have a purpose. So, our purpose is we want to be the catalyst to make the world better. That is our purpose statement at IBM and so our employees want us to do that as well. So, there's a few things that we coalesce around across all of the communities. How do we use our brand to make the world better? How do we use our brand for good? How can we do that through our technology? How do we create economic opportunity? That includes how do we make things more equitable? Is there an equity issue here and how do we advocate for that through the proper channels of real change? That's legislation, laws and countries going into coalition groups to be able to advocate with other large companies and employers carries quite a bit of weight.
So, those are ways in which we come together, and quite frankly, other CDIOs, we try to come together and the CEOs. We try to really figure out how do we make this meaningful and not just words and then once we set that plan in action, we execute the plan. Again, we're transparent. We have an accountable person for it. We try often to share progress and you will get it at minimum on an annual basis because we cover all of our commitments every year via our ESG report going forward for DE&I, and then we communicate through the community. So, our CEO does a monthly employees call, questions come in. Our senior vice presidents, they hold calls for their units and then we hold town halls across all of our communities with the senior leadership. So, that dialogue is consistent. We're iterating with new ideas with our employees to keep progress moving forward and that's the expectation.
JENNIFER BROWN: I love that. Yeah, it's the focus on what being steered by the community instead of the assumption of we know what's best or this is what we've done before or in the past. Nothing is the same anymore and really the best ideas and the right ideas come from the community most impacted, and then it can get tricky. All of you on the phone, I don't know, but the consensus amongst certain communities, some communities are clearer, I think, from a consensus perspective on like here's what we want you to do, but sometimes there is disagreement within a community that is one of the communities you mentioned where there are differing opinions and then I think you have to go a different way perhaps in terms of taking care of the needs of certain groups within the group, but also perhaps saying, "Well, look, there's complexity here. There are differing opinions about how the company should respond and what the company should be providing."
I know that the political landscape's getting really fraught for companies in certain states that made big commitments and to their employees for example. So, this is going to be a very compelling tension to watch develop around when we have our employees' backs, we want to make sure they're protected and they have the best benefits and access to everything that they would expect from a world class company, but at the same time like inviting contrary reviews to all of this and being able to hold all of that, Carla. You know, being able to hold all of that as being true about your workforce that there isn't a consensus. For example, amongst women, I would imagine you have so many women in your workforce that probably by a percentage probably reflect... You're such a big company. You probably reflect society. You probably reflect the voters and so when we make the assumption that everybody wants this or everybody wants that, it's probably not true.
CARLA GRANT PICKENS: Inclusion is everybody's point of view if you agree with it or not, right? You are not going to make everyone happy in all of the decisions you make, but once you make the decision, you have to stand up for the decision that you make as a collective even unfortunately it may not make everyone happy because it's really impossible to do so. I think the lens you have to do is how can I protect my employees? What influence do I have to make the meaningful change legally through legislation fighting for human rights, equal rights? So, that's the lens we use through our government relations team to really be able to show how again our purpose would be around how do we use our technology? How do we provide opportunity through education, skills, and careers? How do we ensure that people have the basic human rights that aligns with things like Title VII of the Civil Rights Act?
That's for everyone to have workplace safety, workplace rights, and the protections that any human being would want inside of IBM protected by law outside. So, the way we can influence that legally through advocacy, through government, getting in listening sessions with different leaders. That is where for different governments and different countries, that is where we feel we have the most ability to influence meaningful change with our employees. So , hat's the space and place in which we try to really focus on, but try to keep a focus on how do we ensure our employees get the right level of care or benefits or how do we fight for them through the legal paths for which we can? That's the thing that I think a lot of companies with their employees can make change.
You have to be able to use the power that you have and people may not believe that every single person has power with the collective. That's the way you're going to make this progress and it's like you said, Jen, it's going to be very different from different ways in which fights were fought in the past. It may be very different and the approach may be different and the way you do it will be different. So, we have to be open to those dialogues of how that is going to be done and we have to be really open to the generations that are now moving into leadership, the multi-generational groups of our digital generation coming into the workforce and growing, but our millennials here really getting into senior level leadership. The vast amount of great ideas that are different from the way things are done in the past. We got to evolve together to make the change that's going to stick. It has to be sticking.
JENNIFER BROWN: And I'm sure there's a degree and then Gen Z, let alone the next generation behind them, the oldest of whom are 26 or so. The urgency, the pressure that's going to come from them I think is going to make millennials look tame in comparison in terms of who's our company, what do we stand for, where are we leveraging our platform and our power? Are we making the hard decisions and standing up for something, standing for something, all of those things. So, it's going to be interesting to navigate to say the least, probably more complicated coming up soon than it's ever been. As we think about for example being somebody who's married in a same-sex relationship, potentially losing those protections, and employers working ahead of that to say, "How are we going to now protect? How will we ensure that we gross up what we lean on for this?" Now, we need to create ourselves.
CARLA GRANT PICKENS: That's right. I don't think we thought we would be faced with something that passed law gets overturned. I mean, these aren't new things we are tackling, and like you said, just today, reinforcing the importance of the Marriage Equality Act. That's something that we've signed onto with many, many other companies. This is a really important issue for our LGBTQ+ community. It's overwhelmingly the majority if not all and so this is something we lean into. So, these are the things that we all... that are in our respective countries we all have to do our own individual way in which we're going to contribute to change and it's not just someone else, not just your company or just your government, but what is the action you're going to take to make change happen with purpose, purpose that's meaningful for all of us because we're all benefiting in society, or we're all trying to make changes going to be meaningful for those who don't have, for those of us who have privileges like education or wealth or money.
How are you giving your gifts to those that don't have so they can participate better in society and have the lives that can be human, making it really human and making it desirable for others who don't quite have that opportunity? So, that's to me what complicates DE&I because it isn't just what you do here. It is what you do when you leave here and how you're going to be purposeful in the communities you live and work. So, it's a personal thing to me and I know that a lot of people aren't there yet and feeling that way. It's many people who feel like it doesn't impact me. So, I'm right here. I'm on the I train and that's to train I'm on, but I think that as we begin to think about even how difficult it is for people to now begin to, "Do I really want to go back to work? I'm a little nervous about it."
JENNIFER BROWN: I know, Carla. My last question. Everybody may or may not know this company called BetterUp, but IBM partners with BetterUp to provide coaching services particularly to those underrepresented demographics of talent and sprinkles that and makes that available and it's just so fascinating to me that you've supported those communities in that way, Carla, and probably learned a whole lot about where are these demographics of talent? What's holding them back? Where does belonging get interrupted or never even started with them and how might IBM retain these critical individuals? I love that you provide this coaching because I had not ever heard of coaching being available to anybody except at certain levels and certain ways of coaching. So, anyway, I just want to end on a little bit of a description of that and what you've learned.
CARLA GRANT PICKENS: Yeah. So, something we do is we call them accelerators, like how can you provide moments of opportunity of impact for learning or development or coaching? So, we have mentoring programs and sponsorship programs and we make all of our accelerators available to allies and we have some that we have specifically for diverse groups. So, people who have the same experiences were able to provide them as a cohort and we, of course, provide them to all IBMers and then we partner with companies like McKenzie who have accelerators for black management in Hispanic and Asian constituents and you have chief. That's the women's boardroom clubs and so these companies like them and TLC, they just really provide these rich experiences and the thing that we decided to do last year, we always have offered coaching, but again, it's been at a much higher level.
So, we begin to utilize and say, "Well, let's expand coaching," and BetterUp is something that... I personally have a BetterUp coach, that I personally really like and is something that our employees are giving us really good feedback and the reason why is, one, it's a platform and it allows you to coach at scale. You can download it as an app. You can do it on your desktop. The great thing about it is our traditional coaches usually focus in on business topics, right? Business acumen, how to present. So, it had been more of a maniacal focus around that. Well, BetterUp does a couple of things. It's a business and personal and the trend that we saw in the past few years we've been using them is that the personal topics are increasing around resiliency and life coaching and mental health and eating habits and nutrition. So, you get to have your own coach. You get to have as many assessors as you want. You could do increments in six months. You could do them once a week. You can do them every other week and then you can do specialty coaching.
You could say, "Well, I don't think I know enough about DE&I, and I don't feel really comfortable because I have some things that may not be things I feel comfortable to ask about." You can get a specialty coach in that area and several other topics. So, you get specialty coaching, but then you also are able to get what I call just the add-on benefits. They give you learning, articles to read, but the reinforcement micro learnings on how you can solve and then have the learning you need to go and act on the new behaviors that you're picking up in your coaching. So, what we're able to glean from that is are our employees based on the stats, are we seeing not on an individual basis because it's confidential. Your coaching is your coaching. We don't want to know that piece. What we want to know is are the growth behaviors and inclusive behaviors, are those improving? What we're seeing is yes with those that are getting coaching.
We're also seeing that when we align coaching to our top talent. So, we have top talent groups for technical, for women, for our minority groups. We're able to really focus on developing that talent and the coaches are really helping for that. So, it's like non-exec groups. These are groups that we really want to grow, we want to invest in. They're leading large teams or groups, or there's a strong technical talent. They may not necessarily be leading teams, but we really want to invest and we would think that they have long-term velocity around their career. So, if we want to invest in them or they may be a leader that's struggling with something. You think that they're someone you want to invest in. You may want to invest in someone who may not be doing too well, but you believe that they are worth investing in to get better.
So, we want it to be a little open on how we're using coaching and so that's why we're using it not only for leadership, but we're using it for diverse situations, diverse groups, but also groups for which include everyone, and I think that that's really important. It's inclusive.
JENNIFER BROWN: Amazing. I think, Carla, we have to do a... Maybe you'll do a second interview and you can share maybe the data that you've... I don't know if you're open to that, that you've gotten from the BetterUp analytics in terms of who's asking for what kind of support. That's where it gets really interesting. It's like being able to cut data in an engagement survey by identity. That's when you really begin to see, whoa, so this community feels this way or needs more of this or less of this or this is what they want. Whatever it is or this is how they define this or how they see themselves in the organization. That's when the rubber hits the road I think for workplace strategies is when we can really have that equity lens on the experience and then be able to direct our resources that way, and everybody, we are... Oh goodness. We are like over time, but everybody come off of mute and let's give Carla our verbal appreciation if you all would do that with me at the count of 3, 2, 1. Just go ahead and come off mute. Say, "Thank you, Carla."
GROUP: Thank you, Carla.
CARLA GRANT PICKENS: Phenomenal. Phenomenal. Thank you.
JENNIFER BROWN: Phenomenal. Thanks everybody. We'll circulate this chat because it was so robust. Carla, you probably missed a lot of wonderful questions and we didn't have time to do it, but you have a lot of new friends, new colleagues here who want to be see you someday, I think, if I could say.
CARLA GRANT PICKENS: I love it. I love it. Everyone is important, and hey, if we didn't answer questions, let's try to curate answers for everyone.
JENNIFER BROWN: Yeah, absolutely, but everybody, thanks so much for joining us. Carla, thank you for the work you're doing and the light you're shining and all of that good stuff. You are really a wonderful role model for this work and what's possible and, hey, take care of yourself, which is always what we end on to say like you're doing a lot for a lot of folks and hoping that you're practicing radical self-care.
CARLA GRANT PICKENS:
Absolutely. Thank you, Jen. Thanks for the opportunity and I love this work we're doing together in our partnership. So, thank you for the invitation and thank you everyone.
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.
DOUG FORESTA: You've been listening to The Will to Change: Uncovering True Stories of Diversity and Inclusion, with Jennifer Brown. If you've enjoyed the episode, please subscribe to the podcast in iTunes. To learn more about Jennifer Brown, visit jenniferbrownspeaks.com. Thank you for listening and we'll be back next time with a new episode.
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