Discussion Themes from Weekly D&I Action Calls: COVID-19 Business Response
Jacqui Robertson—Global Head of Talent, Diversity, and
Inclusion at William Blair and Chair of i4cp’s CEO Board—kicked off the call
with the guest interview.
Today’s guest: Neddy Perez, Global head of Diversity &
Inclusion, Talent management COE at McCormick & Company.
Key Takeaways from the call:
Find your balance. Ms. Perez, who has a background in PR and
crisis management, noted that the current pandemic is the first time recent
history has seen a disaster situation that is so widespread – affecting people
in every part of the world. Because of the 24/7 news focus on COVID-19, and the
many channels of input available, as well as the radical changes in daily life
and the social isolation some are experiencing, it can be easy to become
Perez recommends that people work to find balance in news
consumption. Limit the amount of news – much of which is repetitive anyway – so
that it’s manageable. Find a way to frame it, disconnect and get some distance
from it. This enables people to cope more effectively and frees them to support
and help others.
Look for lessons learned. Perez explains that McCormick has
operations in 26 countries, including China. That presence gave the company an
early view into what other countries are now dealing with. McCormick used that
China connection as a learning experience that helped them observe what people
and businesses went through and enabled them to better prepare for outbreaks in
the U.S. and other locations.
One lesson learned: involve all of an organization’s mission
critical functions in planning responses and actions. McCormick tapped into
teams in HR, safety, supply, crisis management and other areas. In addition,
senior leaders issued proactive communications to employees and employee
ambassador groups (EAGs) provided additional support.
Implement talent strategies that focus on employees.
McCormick’s primary emphasis has been on its employees and their safety and
well-being. That approach, spearheaded by the global head of HR, mobilized the
company in multiple ways. Some examples:
Early on, employees where given the opportunity to choose
whether they wanted to work from home or go into company locations
When situations moved beyond choice, all employees who could
were asked to work virtually
HR teamed with IT to ensure employees quickly received
equipment and support needed to work from home
Because McCormick operations are viewed as essential to the
food supply chain, some locations must remain open. In those settings, Plant
Operations and Health and Safety teams work to ensure extra precautions are
taken to protect workers’ safety
Think ahead and plan the return. A major topic of interest
expressed on the call centered on what companies are doing now to
anticipate/work toward eventual return to operations after the COVID-19 danger
has passed. One potential six-step preparation process was shared with the
caveat that it is still evolving and changing, and that such procedures will be
unique to every organization – no one-size-fits-all. The six steps (plus 4
phases) to consider:
- Government approval – all levels: local, state, federal
- Facilities readiness – cleaning needed, protective equipment
- Employee readiness – employees’ comfort and confidence in
- Business readiness – which employees should return and in
- Phased timeline – order in which aspects of operations
- Communications – plan proactive, transparent communication
Proposed Phases for reintegration:
1. Determining when to return
2. Preparing for return
3. Process to return to work
4. Post return considerations
Other topics and questions raised during the call:
- What steps do companies take to tailor communications to be
inclusive of hourly and/or salaried employee populations? (line workers vs
corporate remote workers)
- What are organizations doing related to D&I to keep
associates engaged during this time? (specifically non-COVID-19 related)
- Prior to COVID-19 teams were struggling to find ways to
connect with remote teammates. Due to COVID-19 changes, some organizations are
seeing much more digital social connection points (team happy hours, trivia
games, birthday celebrations for teammates held via Zoom).
- How are companies championing/training on resilience?
- May is Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. How can organizations
use this month to lift up and support teammates who identify in those
communities and share the resilience of partners in Asia who are now starting
to return to the office?
- One company is educating on xenophobia and asking Asian BRG
members to create conversations with others to educate.
The first virtual gathering of the D&I action call covered many topics to include:
- Retailers are offering shopping days just for seniors at grocery stores
- Waste Management is using a daycare partner to help with child
care issues and providing $100 a day to employees for childcare needs.
- Pitney Bowes has a mature employee relief fund that has been
in place for a while to deal with not only national emergencies, but also
- Zimmer Biomet and Pitney Bowes are treating contingent workers
the same as FTEs re: paid sick time
Diversity & Inclusion Concerns Raised:
- Has this shifted to more of a generational issue about attitudes
in response to risk? Concern on the part of business leaders and local officials
that younger people are still going out. How to address internally with our
- Workplace discrimination – an existential discussion.
- Need to be on the alert for potentially discriminatory
messaging/ responsible messaging
- How are we dealing with people with disabilities? How are HR
departments doing accommodations for those working from home who need work
- Disproportionate number of women losing employment; disproportionate
amount of care issues falling to women. We will likely see greater instances of
domestic violence against women and children
Remote Work Challenges:
- Work from home parents need resources; educational resources
– partnerships, etc. Greater access to childcare/homeschooling will be a
- There’s a need for greater awareness around equity and
access; are we assessing equity issues we need to deal with – disparities?
- What are you doing for parents working from home – resources
for education from home?
- Looking for online resources and sharing them with employees
- Zoom is letting public and private schools use services for
- How can we do more? Like resources for older workers,
- How are we using the different communities to keep people
connected and engaged?
- How do we maintain a healthy environment for those in jobs
that can’t go virtual?
- Now thinking more about prevention for future incidents. We
skipped over the prevention phase and went directly into mitigation with this.
- Partnerships with companies to help employees on the lower
end of the economic spectrum
- How can we use ERGs to push out resources?
- To what extent do you think policies and practices now will
become the new normal?
Curated Best Practices Articles
King County Public Health (Seattle) is pairing clinical
information with anti-stigma information for the public
Quick takeaways of this article:
- Keep in mind that when people say “Only those with underlying conditions should be concerned,” those people are hearing you be dismissive of the fact they face a serious threat.
- It can be more difficult for people with disabilities to quarantine or take necessary steps to protect themselves.
- Impact on caregivers can also impact a disabled workers independence.
- This could have larger implications on long-term issues on workplace accommodations and flexibility.
- Awareness and concern for special needs will communicate that you “have their backs”