Fostering DEI through meaningful conversation

Jul 14, 2021
Diversity, equity, inclusion

At RSM US LLP, a culture of diversity and inclusion is one of the firm’s leading priorities. That is why RSM in February launched The Middle Market Collaborative for Understanding (MMCU), a coalition of organizations working to advance diversity and inclusion through meaningful conversation, the sharing of best practices, and the encouragement and advancement across participants.

During The Collaborative’s second meeting on June 8, 2021, the group welcomed two new members. This meeting focused on the business of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) within members’ organizations, specifically the practice of inclusion—the behaviors, skills, performance and the risks. As leaders, participant members agreed to use these guardrails to improve their outcomes and impact.

Inclusion has moved beyond a “nice to have” objective to a business imperative.

In concurrent breakout sessions, participants joined organizations similar to their own in terms of where they are in the DEI maturity model, which is composed of five levels: 1 – basic, 2 – awareness, 3 – understanding and application, 4 – integrated, and 5 – sustainable. Participants discussed their journeys and challenges related to strategic initiatives, trends in the workplace, buy-in, recruitment, retention and the advancement of diverse talent. All agreed that understanding where they are today is key to working toward where they want to be. While all organizations should strive to reach level 5, some might never get there, which is OK as long as the organization is continuously moving forward. Accountability is key.

A panel of diverse MMCU members shared perspectives on culture and leadership in the workplace and the workforce. Much of the conversation focused on the importance of communications, as well as the benefits of employee network group (ENGs) and how those groups help create communities and safe places for courageous conversations in the workplace.

Panelists also shared their inclusion journeys and discussed some of the challenges their organizations are facing, with much of the conversation focusing on not only attracting but also retaining diverse talent. Sponsorship and advocacy were cited as effective ways to enhance retention. Regardless of whether it’s an informational “buddy system” or a more structured approach, mentoring keeps people engaged, and when they’re engaged, they’re less likely to leave.

Another focus was on the importance of organizations letting their people know that they care. While it’s impossible to plan for many external events, it’s important that you show empathy when those events are affecting your people. Be genuine. Your words and your actions must match who you are as an organization.

During a second round of concurrent breakout sessions, participants discussed their inclusive leadership journeys, explored how their respective positions within their organizations are responsible for amplifying DEI efforts, and focused on instilling a sense of responsibility to realize progress at all levels while being transparent about barriers.

Participants focused on the importance of their visible support of DEI efforts within their organizations. Given their leadership roles, individuals agreed that they must “walk the talk,” holding themselves and others accountable for creating inclusive workplace cultures.

The path to growth was another topic of discussion. The desire for that path is gender and race neutral, and it needs to exist for all employees. And if people don’t see people like themselves in leadership positions, they will look for those opportunities elsewhere. Set goals. Talk to people. And continuously challenge your organization to get better.

Inclusion has moved beyond a “nice to have” objective to a business imperative. Member organizations of The Collaborative work together through quarterly meetings and ongoing conversations to advance knowledge and initiatives focused on developing inclusive practices. The meetings feature thought leaders sharing best practices, lessons learned and actionable insights, plus breakout sessions for further discussion.

Together, Collaborative members will grow and bring new and enhanced skills and insights back to their own organizations to enact real change.

Diversity and inclusion at RSM

The Middle Market Collaborative for Understanding is only one of the steps RSM has taken toward improving racial understanding and equity. RSM’s 12 Employee Network Groups provide spaces for employees to better connect, understand and advocate together. RSM has also shared resources for inclusiveness, including a guide to courageous conversations, which is available to the firm’s clients and others, as these types of dialogues are necessary when discussing race and diversity in meaningful ways. Courageous conversations were at the heart of The Collaborative’ s inaugural meeting, setting the tone for future interactions where discussions will help members understand one another’s perspectives more fully and ultimately lead to positive change.

Learn how you can engage with The Middle Market Collaborative for Understanding here.

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A culture of diversity, equity and inclusion

Thousands of personalities make up RSM. Every member of our team brings unique insights and a passion for serving our middle market clients. Our inclusive workplace celebrates differences while enabling our people to take ownership of their work and personal lives.