How Merck Uses DEI to Transform Culture & Drive Business Results

The Next Practices Weekly call series has become a well-attended and wide-ranging discussion for HR leaders each Thursday at 11am ET / 8am PT. On this week's call, i4cp's Director of Member Engagement Nina Holtsberry and Creative Director Eric Davis, along with Jacqui Robertson, Chair of i4cp’s CDO Board and Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer at The Cleveland Clinic, facilitated a conversation with special guest Celeste Warren, VP of Merck’s Global Diversity and Inclusion Center of Excellence. Here are some highlights from the call:

  • Warren shared that the purpose of DEI at Merck is to create a more globally diverse work environment for their employees, surrounding them with a culture of engagement, empowerment, equity, and psychological safety so that they can achieve the organization's mission of saving and improving lives. She elaborated on how the focus is in four areas: people, culture, business, and world.
  • A major focus for Warren and Merck has been psychological safety. This has come up recently in regard to the return to office shift. Another focus has been on employees and their various identities, leveraging some of their ten ERGs to help inform the approach.
  • Warren noted the importance at Merck of allyship, noting their launch of an Ally Resource Center. Their belief is that allyship is not defined as those that are in power being the allies of those not in power, but rather that everyone should be an ally to others who identify differently than they do.
  • Warren also spoke to the importance of diversity in medicine and specifically in clinical trials, in order to better understand the impacts of healthcare disparity on different communities.
  • In response to a participant question about how to drive greater diversity in various regions of the world, Warren stressed the need to change where you source talent by building relationships in the relevant communities--you can't take an "if you build it they will come" approach and just hope it will work.
  • Regarding the role of a Chief Diversity Officer, Warren noted that some of the critical capabilities include strong communication throughout an organization, strong business acumen, and an understanding of the global, external environment.
  • During the call, we asked the following participant poll question: "How have recent judicial and legislative actions related to DE&I affected your personal and/or professional sense of well-being?"
    • 3% - Very positive (I'm energized!)
    • 17% - Positive (Up to the challenge)
    • 24% - No impact
    • 40% - Negative (I'm hurt/sad/worried)
    • 16% - Very negative (I'm discouraged)
  • During the call, we asked the following participant poll question: "How are recent judicial and legislative actions impacting your organization's current or planned DE&I initiatives? (select all that apply)"
    • 40% - We have reaffirmed our organization's commitment to DE&I?
    • 18% - We are anticipating and preparing for challenges to our DE&I practices
    • 40% - We are proceeding as normal
    • 20% - We have discussed with legal, but no change
    • 2% - We have already started retooling our DE&I representation practices
    • 0% - We have paused some practices pending legal challenges


Links to resources shared on the call:

This event is approved for certification credits.