Driving Change and Creating a Better Future for All

Aneel Bhusri and Carin Taylor from Workday joined Michael C. Bush, CEO at Great Place to Work, to discuss equality, social justice, closing the opportunity gap, and the work leaders must do to ensure employees feel a sense of value, inclusion, and belonging.

Ellen Murphy August 14, 2020
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The year 2020 has brought about tremendous change. COVID-19 has impacted our daily lives dramatically, and the systemic inequalities that directly affect our society, both in our professional and personal lives, have brought into the spotlight a critical conversation. In the past few months, Workday and many other organizations shaping the future of work have recognized our unique roles in making a positive impact in the movement toward creating equal opportunity, driving real change, and creating a better future for all.

In a recent fireside chat, "Coming Together on the Path to Equality – Part 2," Aneel Bhusri, co-founder and CEO at Workday, connected with Carin Taylor, chief diversity officer at Workday, and Michael C. Bush, CEO at Great Place to Work and a Workday board member. The three discussed equality, social justice, closing the opportunity gap, and the work company leaders must do to help ensure all employees feel a sense of value, inclusion, and belonging.  

Evolving the Role of the Chief Diversity Officer

Early on in the conversation, Taylor discussed a shift that's happening not only in communities around the country, but also for leaders in diversity and inclusion roles. According to Taylor, “The recent activities around racism and injustice have awakened people. They care about what’s happening now, but they’re also facing the idea that they may have turned a blind eye to issues that have happened in the past.”

Now more than ever, said Taylor, there is “pressure on chief diversity officers to help companies think about addressing the issues at hand, including racism, inequities, and the emotional impact to our employees on top of COVID-19.” 

But chief diversity officers can’t do this work alone. The change needs to happen across the company, with buy-in from the top of the organization. “We need to engage leaders, our employee belonging groups, and middle managers who play a critical role in the experiences that employees are having,” she explained.

To live the vision of valuing inclusion, belonging, and equity (VIBETM) spearheaded by Taylor, “All employees must play a part in owning the accountability for how they shift our culture to make sure that this is a place of inclusion and belonging for all people,” she said.

“All employees must play a part in owning the accountability for how they shift our culture to make sure that this is a place of inclusion and belonging for all people.”

Carin Taylor Chief Diversity Officer Workday

Sharing Data About the Employee Experience

Recent data from a global Great Place to Work study of four million employees highlights differences in demographic groups within organizations, explained Bush, and shows that there’s still a lot of work to do before companies can reach that place of universal inclusion and belonging that Taylor talked about. 

Findings show white men, for example, already feel a sense of belonging at organizations because they cite wanting things like more work-life balance and more stock. These concerns reveal that this group has its basic needs met and mainly wants to make a good situation better.

Data reveals Black men, on the other hand, are concerned with a lack of diversity and lack of promotional opportunities. Bush explained these results indicate that Black men are “trying to get some of the basics in place, so they feel they belong.”

Bush also shared this data point: “The highest scores, in terms of pride, come from Black employees. They are proud to be at the company and they care about the company; they're just wondering if the company cares about them.” 

Bridging Employee Belonging Councils With the Power of Data

Great places to work have employee belonging groups, which allow employees to connect with each other on issues they personally care about. Companies that support the formation of these groups, which go by different names, directly support improving their employees' sense of belonging. Bush said, “Employee belonging groups are important because they're a place for people to come together who are having a common experience.” And, Taylor added, they “help us understand how we can do better in the workplace and what's happening within that employee population.”  

“Employee belonging groups are important because they're a place for people to come together who are having a common experience.”

Michael C. Bush CEO Great Place to Work

In a diversity and inclusion strategy session, Taylor asked leaders of Workday employee belonging councils for ideas on how the company could improve, and the group suggested creating specific measurements for VIBE. To gather these metrics, Taylor said, “We ask questions around fairness and equity in the workplace and how employees are feeling in terms of belonging.” Psychological safety is also a critical piece; it indicates if employees feel they can bring their authentic selves to work.

 Workday’s senior leadership sees the data gathered from these questions and uses it to deploy changes, so these employees “can now have a direct influence on decision making at the highest level in our company,” said Taylor. Furthermore, business success naturally follows when employees feel emotionally and psychologically safe—key contributors for inclusion, belonging, and equity.

Bhusri emphasized the importance of data as well. “We have a unique vantage point as a cloud finance and HR provider where we have visibility into that data. All companies can do better, and it comes back to measurement,” he said.

Next Steps on Valuing Inclusion, Belonging, and Equity 

At Workday, Taylor and team are starting a 12-month initiative with dedicated resources focused on belonging and diversity, and creating systemic change. Four guiding principles will be the driving force behind this work: hiring and developing diverse talent, cultivating a culture of belonging, strengthening our communities, and building inclusive products and technology for our customers.

“I think it is a time for companies to step up and show that leaders of companies have a soul and want to do the right thing.”

Aneel Bhusri CEO Workday

On the issue of diverse talent, Taylor said, “As a society, we've created barriers that make it difficult for underrepresented groups to gain thriving wage jobs. We need to remove barriers, so we can enable these communities to have stronger workforce and economic empowerment.” 

Bush insisted that we must “open ourselves up to find a way that we can talk to everyone about these issues, get rid of old notions, and find a way to go forward.” Creating a great place to work for all is everybody's responsibility, he said. It requires bold leadership that encourages all employees to value inclusion, belonging, and equity. 

“As I think about what we're doing at Workday and as I talk with other CEOs, I think it is a time for companies to step up and show that leaders of companies have a soul and want to do the right thing. I am optimistic that we are going to see real change,” Bhusri said.

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