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Developing a DEI strategy with patience and vision

September 29, 2023
clock 4 MIN READ

Diversity, equity, and inclusion continue to be areas of strong interest for many businesses. But a definitive, proven roadmap for successful DEI initiatives remains elusive. That path is unique to each company. It’s dictated by how a company defines DEI success and what it’s willing to do to achieve that success.

Every company that decides to engage in DEI work faces similar questions: Where do we start? What route should we take? How long will the journey last?

We believe the DEI strategy at SEI is more than a set of programs with specific endpoints. We don’t want to limit our work to breaking barriers for any one group. Instead, we want DEI to be a differentiator for our business. Our goal is to weave DEI values into our beliefs, words, and actions, because the best DEI outcome is one that’s seen, heard, and felt in our workplace and our community.

A prudent, thoughtful approach

Without thoughtful alignment and vision, the best intentions can create resentment and remove the sense of belonging you hope to achieve. That’s why our approach is rooted in “targeted universalism.” We want to involve everyone by meeting them where they are while also objectively addressing the needs of specific groups in our community. We believe employees, clients, strategic partners, and customers should know without question that we’re on a mission.

In 2022, we made a public commitment to DEI, announcing our diversity mission statement. In addition, CEO Ryan Hicke signed the CEO Action for Diversity and Inclusion pledge along with chief executives from more than 2,400 companies.

“We are launching a multiyear initiative to continue improving diverse representation throughout our workforce; cultivating an inclusive culture through learning, awareness, and belonging; and supporting supplier diversity,” Ryan said at the time.

We also created a new role to guide our DEI efforts, hiring Denis Okema as Director of Diversity and Inclusion. Denis, who is a certified DEI strategist, works with leaders and employees throughout SEI to understand and explore their challenges and identify opportunities to strengthen our value of inclusion.

Survey opens new possibilities

Under Denis’ direction, we distributed a companywide DEI culture-climate survey in late 2022. We asked employees to share how they experience diversity at work and how we can continue to build an equitable and inclusive workplace. More than 50% of our 4,700 workers completed the survey. Their feedback is already helping to shape our journey.

We also launched our Diverse Talent Academy. This initiative focuses on business acumen and leadership development for groups historically underrepresented in the corporate workforce, specifically Asian, Black, and Hispanic/Latino employees. The goal is to help employees build confidence and ensure fair and equitable opportunities for career advancement.

Other DEI milestones

As part of our DEI journey, we’ve:

  • Conducted an inclusive culture-climate analysis. The collected data enabled us to make informed decisions about areas identified as in need of adjustment.
  • Provided “unconscious bias” training to all employees and continued to build on that initiative with other targeted trainings
  • Instituted a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Council. Made up of employees who are passionate about DEI initiatives, the Council consults with leadership on topics that affect our talent and culture, and helps hold us accountable for DEI commitments.
  • Built empathy through initiatives like our inaugural “Day of Understanding.” Sponsored by our CEO and the DEI Council, the educational event supported open dialogue about potential workplace biases and reinforced our commitment to creating an inclusive work environment.
  • Added two new groups to our family of employee resource groups, or ERGs. SEI Pride supports professional and personal development of our LGBTQIA+ global employees. Somos SEI creates a community for employees of Hispanic and Latin American heritage as well as others interested in collaborating with other cultures.

More work ahead

We’re proud of the steps we’ve taken to help ensure that all employees feel welcomed, respected, valued, recognized, and empowered to be themselves. We’re in a constant state of transformation, but it’s change with a purpose. We’re excited to see what the future holds as we continue the work that propels our DEI journey.

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