Diversity & Inclusion COVID-19 Recording: Lockheed's Cheryl Kern 5-5-20

In response to the rapidly developing coronavirus outbreak and its unprecedented impact to business and employers, i4cp has launched a series of weekly standing calls specific to Diversity & Inclusion Leaders. 

Cheryl Kern, Director Global Diversity and Inclusion for Lockheed Martin Corporation, was the guest on the May 5th D&I Action Call. Speaking with i4cp VP of Membership Madeline Borkin and i4cp CDO Board Chair Jacqui Robertson, Kern provided insights into her company’s efforts to include women in leadership and to normalize conversations about emotional well-being.

Key Takeaways: 

  1. Readiness is a smart strategy. Lockheed Martin is proud that it already had a strong foundation around D&I and had focused on preparation regardless of whatever business condition might unfold. This approach aided the company’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Because Lockheed Martin’s mission is to protect others, the company tends to emphasize readiness perpetually, Kern noted, adding that applies to supporting clients, customers, and the internal workforce.

    For D&I, this meant that, under the leadership of CEO Marilyn Hewson, the company was looking toward the future of work and how to remain strong, relevant, and impactful in D&I, keeping focus on women and diverse talent. Some considerations:
    • Ensuring higher degrees of representation
    • Enabling workplace flexibility
    • Putting support relationships in place (such as mentoring, sponsorship) to support women and diverse talent
  2. Internal design reinforces organizational relevance in leadership development.  Lockheed Martin created the framework for its leadership program for women internally. This enabled a structure that emphasized content of greatest importance and relevance to the company and its goals. That said, Kern notes that the company reached out to external partners for help in building out the program. An already established and consistent focus on the future and succession across Lockheed Martin’s four business areas has resulted in plans for women to step into senior-level leadership roles in the near future. 
  3. Initiatives already underway contributed to agility during crisis. A future of work symposium held late last year by Lockheed Martin enabled a deep dive into flexible and remote working arrangements and the how the company would shape change around that. Working teams were formed at that time to explore what that would look like for the company. This gave the company a head start in considerations now necessitated by the COVID-19 health crisis. For example:
    • Performance management: How to fairly evaluate people who have always worked onsite, but now work remotely – making sure that evaluation processes and assessments support those employees equally
    • Staffing: How to determine which workers will take on remote roles and which will not 
    • Employee experience: How to design employment offerings that will keep people engaged and fully connected while also ensuring the company meets its business objectives
  4. Multiple efforts center on normalizing the conversation about mental health. People are still not naturally comfortable talking about different abilities. The pandemic has heightened that discomfort, especially in discussing mental well-being. Lockheed Martin is intent on equipping its leaders and employees with more inclusive behaviors and greater awareness of the different dimensions of diversity in the workplace. Some of the company’s strategies:
    • Acknowledging that employees need/want to talk and share their experiences/challenges during the health crisis
    • Inviting all company business resource groups (BRGs) to have conversations within the employee communities they represent and across communities
    • Representing employees with disabilities and those who are caregivers, Lockheed Martin’s Able & Allies BRG has taken a leading role. Already planning a 2020 focus on mental health, the group has reached out and issued a call to action for leaders and other employees within the company to join that campaign
    • Collaborating internationally within the company’s markets to define a mental health strategy
    • Asking leaders to create a safe environment for dialogues and sharing personal stories about well-being issues

 Other topics from the call: 

  • Responses to a poll question during the call confirmed that organizations have significantly increased their activities/benefits/programs to support employees’ mental well-being as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Nearly two-thirds (63%) of call attendees said they’d done so to a high/very high extent.
  • Some of the actions organizations are taking to provide greater emotional support for employees as shared by attendees:
  • We are providing an 8-week series on mindfulness for employees
  • We are offering a week’s leave specifically for COVID-19
  • We are leveraging BRGs to host virtual events to address the impact of COVID-19 on various employee communities: Asian, LatinX, African-American, LGBTQ, Women, etc.
  • We have a care-giver charge code and have looked into Talkspace, a remote counseling tool
  • We've created a well-being SharePoint and partnered with Headspace
  • We use Virgin Pulse and it has tools for well-being. We also have a Well-being team
  • We waived all co-pays for Teledoc use so associates can call in to have access to all types of doctors, therapists, COVID-related, etc.
  • We've curated and compiled a list of therapists and doctors who specifically have experience serving black and LGBTQIA folks because empathy gaps in care are important especially in a time like this.

In addition to this recording, please see these resources: