Allison Green Johnson is the senior vice president, Chief Diversity Officer, at Lincoln Financial Group. When Allison joined Lincoln, she was charged with building the Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DE&I) function. Based on leadership input, she developed a strategy focused on workplace, marketplace and communities, which allows Lincoln to attract, develop and retain the brightest talent, create a welcoming, nurturing workplace and improve business performance.

What are the challenges and opportunities for diversity officers while establishing diversity and inclusion in an organization? 

Our work has never and will never be easy. In addressing DE&I, we must have a realistic assessment of our circumstances, and understand progress requires a strategic, not just in the moment, view. We must first understand our circumstances in the workplace, and balance these truths with reality. We choose to approach this reality with optimism, a leadership expectation at Lincoln. It’s the belief in the long-term value of the company, and its ability to overcome challenges facing the industry and firm. This optimism fuels our employee advocacy.

For DE&I, the workplace – its challenges and opportunities – are “everyday work,” and the foundation to link all of our interests. If employees don’t see us as a good place to work and customers don’t see us as aligned with their community, we will not be competitive in the marketplace.

Despite challenges, opportunities are endless. The current talent crunch has led to a war-like situation, forcing talent officers to pursue every option to compete for the best creative minds. This effort must be driven by the picture we present of our company. Are we marketing our company to frame a message of respect and inclusion? Are we valuing the growing connection of talent, culture and marketplace? This connection is and will continue to be the cornerstone of our DE&I work and a driver of employee advocacy. It will validate our purpose, and help our businesses grow, compete and win in an increasingly diverse talent and business market.

What is your view on gender-inclusive language and communication?

Lincoln is embracing gender-inclusive language and communication. A decade ago, we started educating employees regarding inclusive language. Over time, we created a transgender inclusion policy, worked with the Human Rights Campaign to educate our employees on inclusive language and built HR systems to foster better communication on such topics. We’re constantly learning, growing and improving in this area.

At Lincoln Financial Group, what are your initiatives for racial equity?

“We choose to approach this reality with optimism, a leadership expectation at Lincoln. It’s the belief in the long-term value of the company, and its ability to overcome challenges facing the industry and firm.”

In 2020, we announced our 8 Actions, amplifying our focus on racial justice and equity. Developed by our Board, senior management and DE&I team with input from 11,000 employees, it’s designed to ensure long-term, sustainable actions to address racial equity. We urge readers to click the link to learn more about our actions, intent and plan of execution. They are Lincoln-owned and driven, and are the focus of our strategy today. We’re proud of the results achieved from these actions in our workplace, marketplace and community.

What would be your piece of advice to your fellow peers in the market?

Remember the key marketplace components – talent and customer. Understanding must begin with listening and looking. If the picture people see isn’t of themselves from the mailroom to the boardroom, there is work to do. When we understand the importance of that picture, we can focus on workplace culture, talent, community engagement and help our companies compete and win in the marketplace. Diversity work not focused on that goal, will not contribute to shareholder value.