Promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) is more than a mission statement and a mere slogan in the corporate world today. A diverse workforce with an inclusive workplace environment holds immense potential in taking organizations, big and small, to great heights of success. Collaborating with culturally diverse employees can enable company leadership teams to think more critically and creatively and encourage a diverse mix of opinions that lead to better discussions, decisions, and outcomes. When diversity is at the heart of a company’s culture, values, and overall branding, it is sure to accelerate business growth and, in turn, improve bottom lines.
In an interview with the editorial team of Manage HR, Dr. Val, President and Principal Consultant at Dr. Valaida Wise Consulting, discusses at length how her unique perspective is predicated upon achieving exceptional outcomes across the full spectrum of operations and training. She also explains how her company has carved a unique niche in the DEI industry by offering comprehensive organizational assessment and action plans to businesses, corporations, schools, universities, non-profits, and more.
Could you provide a brief overview of Dr. Valaida Wise Consulting?
Backed by a team of consultants who are researchers in their own right, Dr. Valaida Wise Consulting tailors its services based on the unique needs of each organization. Each organization, like the people in them, is unique. By performing an “Equity Audit”—our sweet spot—we understand where a company stands in its progression toward racial DEI and belonging. When we visit a company, we set up focus groups and consult with the stakeholders as well. We also ask questions about the demographics, study their hiring practices and every other aspect of the organization to develop themes for those. Through this, we develop a strategic plan to help companies access the best in DEI and belonging.
What are some of the major challenges your clients face, and how does your company address them?
Today, organizations are increasingly striving to ensure a diverse and inclusive workforce. However, they often miss the mark in succeeding in this endeavor due to a series of questions they encounter—“What do we do next?” “How do we execute on our project going forward?” “What is the goal?” At this juncture, we come in and help companies determine their goals, make them measurable, and define a set of steps to implement those goals. By leveraging the information that we gathered from the research, we help organizations create strategic plans and guide their task force through the various steps to accomplish their objectives and make real progress.
Backed by a team of consultants who are researchers in their own right, Dr. Valaida Wise Consulting tailors its services based on the unique needs of each organization
We begin with meeting our clients to understand their goals and pain points. We also look into their diversity statement and understand how they define diversity, equity, and inclusion for their company. In the next step, we help them create a task force if they don't have one in place. It is with the task force that we constantly interact. Further, we set up focus groups and conduct surveys to gather information about the clients’ sphere of influence, their community, and their stakeholders. We collect qualitative data from the focus groups and quantitative data from the individuals who conduct the surveys. Following this, we analyze an organization’s records, hiring practices, last strategic plan, and more.
By consolidating all the information, we work with the task force to discern the themes that manifest themselves, find out ways to measure those themes, and check how they align with our clients’ goals. Additionally, if an organization is trying to accomplish something specific, for instance, to become an anti-racist company or increase the demographics of a certain marginalized population, we figure out ways to achieve and measure that too.
Could you cite a customer success story?
One of our clients, a financial institution we are currently working with, was looking to increase the demographics of marginalized individuals and ensure equitable practices within their company. We recently completed the equity audit for them, set up focus groups, conducted surveys, and held training sessions with the community. Additionally, we developed a strategic plan entailing the creation of business resource groups (BRGs), training of implicit bias for all their employees, and updating the employee handbooks to ensure that the institution is limiting bias as much as possible. We also helped the client rethink their hiring practices, including interview procedures. As a result, we have made tremendous progress with the client, and they are moving ahead in lockstep to accomplish their DEI goals.
What does the future look like for your company?
In the last 12 months, we've seen an incredible increase in the amount of work that we are doing. To this end, we've hired numerous additional consultants—from statisticians to specialists in a variety of areas. On the other hand, I see the need to focus on helping organizations implement the plans that they've started. While having the plan is one piece, supporting clients in implementing it and setting up their BRGs and employee resource groups (ERG) is another.
We will focus on continuing to help leadership teams analyze their DEI progress through the dashboard of the benchmarks. Further, we will continue to help them measure goals and bestow the benefit of DEI not only on their marginalized employees but on everyone in the organization.
I am excited to see numerous companies realizing the significance of DEI—they are hiring diversity coordinators or setting up a task force to get started with the strategic DEI plan. I am gratified to see their energy behind all of this, and one of the ways to sustain this momentum is to create an action plan to hold ourselves accountable. All in all, I am happy to see the leadership teams in different organizations enhancing their commitment to diversity and inclusion.