David Kim, Head of Inclusion & Diversity at Gilead
Sciences spoke with i4cp CDO Board Chair Jacqui Robertson for the April 28th
D&I Action Call, and the conversation was fueled by the biopharmaceutical company’s
commitments to put patients first and to put employees first.
Gilead’s research into COVID-19 drug remdesivir puts it
squarely on the front lines of the world’s response to the novel coronavirus.
Kim shared some of the ways the health crisis is providing the company with
opportunities to put its people commitments to the test.
Rapid response teams demonstrate agility. Early
on, the company created two rapid response teams, one focused externally and
one, internally. Leaders from Gilead’s highest levels are active team members
which enables rapid decision-making on issues that supported putting patients
and employees first. In turn, that made it possible to prioritize, support and
enable the company mission and live its culture as Gilead made its supply of
remdesivir available to pandemic victims worldwide, jumped into real-time
clinical trials, and donated $20 million to help support non-profit
organizations affected by the crisis. Internally, similarly generous attention
was turned to the needs of the company’s workforce.
Take a priorities cue from Maslow. Using
Maslow’s hierarchy as a sort of baseline to guide focus and decision-making,
Kim says Gilead unfailingly placed people’s safety first. Internally, that
manifested in thoughtful attention to employees’ needs, while, externally, it
ensured that patients—including those in need of treatments aside from those
related to COVID-19—remained at the center of Gilead’s efforts.
Immediate actions to help employees. Empowering
employees (other than those essential workers who remained on the job in Gilead
facilities) to shift to remote work was the first order of business. Guided by
what its people would need to feel safe and supported, the company provided
$1000 stipends to employees to create home workspaces and secure needed
technologies. Childcare, counseling services, removal of caps on leave time, and
special leave for doctors and nurses on staff to enable them to offer support
to their communities illustrate a few of the initiatives implemented. Support
extends to employees and contingent/contract workers, alike.
For those critical workers who remained
onsite, concerns centered on safe conditions, personal protection, and
immediate needs, such as free food in the workplace.
Once initial safety needs were met,
Gilead’s attention turned to more advanced needs around psychological
well-being, targeting employees with ill family members and other challenges.
Kim says the company even provides help with funeral expenses for those who’ve
lost loved ones to COVID-19. He adds that the idea of extreme empathy is at the
core of many of Gilead’s current actions in support of employees.
Strategies to address stress. Kim says
some of the best ideas for meeting challenges come from employees, and an
internal social channel has been a great way to share thoughts. ERGs are active
in planning and providing resources for working parents. Constant
communications with company managers ensure that expectations of performance
are adjusted – that employees can freely take time off when needed, that it’s
okay if children or pets appear in the background during virtual meetings.
Virtual sessions on mindfulness and
meditation help address stress. Company leaders and a third party organization
enable Gilead to provide a regular online story time for families. Virtual
workout classes, dance workouts, and other well-being offerings are open to
employees, contractors and their family members.
A huge opportunity for I&D. As the
company thinks about eventual return to the workplace, Kim sees opportunities
for the I&D function to re-evaluate its goals, perhaps considering more
robust objectives as the future of work is reimagined. Some of his team’s
considerations include hiring more interns, placing a diversity lens around the
workforce from an early talent perspective, expand hiring and capability to
increase numbers of diverse talent, especially in those communities most hard-hit
by the pandemic. Because remote work means hiring is not limited to location,
broader access to talent globally can further contribute to expansion of
Other topics from the call:
A poll during the call built on Kim’s idea that
the pandemic offers D&I functions time to consider their priorities. Asked
about the degree to which the health crisis would necessitate shifts in their
D&I priorities, 53% of call attendees said they expected to make major
changes to a high or very high extent. Another third of those in attendance
anticipated at least a moderate likelihood that their priorities would be
Collaborative overload, and Zoom fatigue in
particular, were discussed. i4cp pulse survey results were shared; those found
28% of people are overwhelmed with online meetings and 79% blame video
conferencing platforms, such as Zoom and WebEx.
Strategies to combat overload were shared by
call attendees: one company established a 12 – 1 pm offline time for employees,
limited emails and meetings, and enlisted the CEO to advocate for workers’
taking time off. Other organizations are instituting days in which no meetings
are scheduled, and removing caps on time off. One company CEO gave employees a
Friday half-day off with no charge to their leave time; another firm has a
weekly blackout for its national team every Friday from 2 pm to close of business,
freeing the time for employees to catch up or just regroup.
ERGs are being enlisted in many ways. One person
noted: “Our Disability Alliance ERG will host a Mental Health Awareness virtual
session with an external speaker on best practices.” Said another: “Our ERGs
have been having weekly or bi-weekly informal meetings to check-in with one
another. The support staff have also been sending out positive weekly messages
to all of the ERGs, which many of them have appreciated.” And: “Our ERGs have
also launched Slack channels as an informal way to connect, pulling that
engagement towards you vs having it pushed at you like email.”
Xenophobia, failure to have important
conversations about disproportionately affected groups, micro-aggressions,
When CDO Board Chair Jacqui Robertson interviewed Action
D&I Call guest Tiana Carter, Senior Director of Culture and Engagement at
Waste Management, the conversation centered on two topics that are top of mind
for many business leaders: employee engagement during the COVID-19 pandemic and
forward planning for a return to the workplace.
Waste Management employs about 45,000 people across the U.S.
and has operations in Canada and India, as well.
When 70% of your workforce is on the front
lines, putting people first is important. As essential workers
collecting trash in communities, Waste Management employees have a substantial
level of stress due to unknowns about COVID-19. Prior to 2019, there was no
strategy for engagement. Carter arrived that year and helped rollout new
company values, including putting people first, which drove focus on
strategies to bring that value to life. The pandemic was a catalyst for
There’s no such thing as a
one-size-fits-all approach to engagement. When the pandemic occurred, the
company recognized that engagement and living its putting people first value
weren’t one-and-done efforts. Consequently, Waste Management instituted
multiple initiatives to address both:
Employee health and safety were made top
A 40-hour pay guarantee, regardless of the
duration of the current crisis and any resulting fluctuation in demand for the
company’s services, ensured that employees needn’t worry about their financial
well-being and freed them to focus on their families. Extensive communications
publicized and supported the effort company-wide.
Massive investment in remote work—a previous
company aspiration—provided the equipment and resources needed to enable call
center agents and other employees to work from home and was accomplished in
less than one week.
Additional resources support employees’ needs,
including implementation of MDLIVE, a telemedicine provider.
An employee hotline, initially established to
provide answers to COVID-19 questions, has since morphed into more of an
emotional-support tool, enabling employees and family members to access a live
person when support is needed.
Extra help for parents. Although Waste
Management already provided childcare benefits through Bright Horizons, the
company adjusted their offering to enable employees to pay family members (or
others) to care for their children. In situations where the family member
caregiver lost employment due to COVID-19, the benefit ($100/day) enables them
to earn money, thus extending assistance beyond the Waste Management employee.
Engaging a decentralized workforce calls for teamwork.
To facilitate communication across the enterprise, the company’s digital
team created an employee engagement app housing information and resources, and
enabling Waste Management to get messaging out to employees in real time. The
CEO does a fireside chat each week that is shared with each employee, texts are
used to communicate critical updates, and resources for managers are supplied
to enhance their virtual leadership skills.
To heighten engagement in an organizational
culture of gratitude, Carter’s team used the new communication capabilities to
launch a special campaign: Employees who work from home are encouraged to
create selfie videos, then send them to drivers and technicians working on the
front lines to say “thank you” and express their gratitude. Thousands of views
by employees speak to the campaign’s success. In addition, managers working
from home are making masks for drivers and others on the front lines.
Return-to-the-workplace: A time for business
evolution. Carter is chairing Waste Management’s Workforce Evolution Task
Force of senior leaders and VPs from across the enterprise to explore: How do
we not just return to work as it was pre-pandemic, but instead, how do we evolve
how we operate as a business? This initiative is examining such issues as new
approaches to flexible work arrangements and the technology, resources and
infrastructure needed to support that across the enterprise. This includes
looking at work differently, along with use of gig workers, job-sharing,
staggered scheduling, facilities preparation, and other strategies for
re-opening workplaces and expanding remote opportunities. A survey to employees
will solicit their input.
“Progress is better than perfection.” A
lesson learned in trying to respond to the needs of the workforce is
transparency, a commitment to taking action quickly and providing feedback to update
employees on that action. Even if an answer isn’t yet clear, it is important to
let employees know issues are being addressed. Carter notes that D&I
leaders must be connected to the business to help inform strategy and must also
be ready to respond and address needs. Recognizing that everything can’t be
done perfectly in a time of such uncertainty enables organizations to avoid
undue delays and be responsive – hence, progress is better than perfection.
Other topics from the call:
- Discussion of poll results indicating more than
60% of attendees are moderately/highly concerned about engaging diverse
employees. Possible contributing factors: loss of funding for hiring from
talent pools of marginalized populations; disproportionate COVID-19
risks/effects for communities of color.
- Companies are relying on ERGs to help engage
employees and their families. One company’s ERGs send newsletters with
resources for employees and families; in other companies, ERGs are doing
virtual hangouts and panels to maintain engagement; another organization is
doing webinars for ERGs. One firm has their ERGs “spearheading fun events like
spirit weeks (get families involved), talent shows, book clubs, and
spotlighting employees’ family members on the frontline like doctors, military,
or EMS workers.”
- To address concerns about xenophobia, Alaska
Airlines is hosting a panel discussion; other firms with operations in China
are seeing discrimination toward people from Wuhan where the pandemic began and
actions are being taken to re-set expectations about inclusion.
CDO Board Chair Jacqui Robertson introduced guest Katie
Juran, Senior Director Diversity and Inclusion and Experience Communications at
software firm Adobe. She shared a presentation on her team’s efforts to build
inclusion in the COVID-19 environment.
Adobe calls its D&I initiative Adobe for All, affirming
its belief that when people feel appreciated and included, they can be more
creative, innovative, and successful.
- Strategies for employee support. Among
the HR-related strategies Adobe is using to support its employees during the
CSR (corporate social responsibility)
strategies include offering employees virtual volunteer opportunities, such
as pro bono advisory work for start-ups and non-profit organizations. Adobe
also does a two-for-one match for employees who donate to select COVID-response
non-profit entities. D&I strategies have aimed to keep
employee networks (ERGs) engaged and active by ensuring their ongoing connection
through Slack. Delivering training specific to network communities provides
extra resources, and manager enablement is a push to remind and empower people
managers to keep their teams engaged while work is done virtually. The power of storytelling. Last year at
its Adobe for All Summit (an internal, D&I in-person event), the D&I
team began a focus on storytelling. A handful of employees were selected from
those interested in sharing. The group was provided training and given 10
minutes on stage to do a sort of Ted Talk about their life stories. Audience
impact was immense as participants shared emotional stories and their
vulnerability. The approach resulted in heightened empathy and appreciation for
others and their experiences. Ultimately, in fewer biases and greater
inclusion. Adapting storytelling to the virtual
environment. The pandemic necessitated adaptation of the storytelling to
the remote work environment. The Adobe for All Coffee Break takes place live
every Friday at 10 am Pacific Time (with replays available for other time
zones). Duration is 30 minutes, and the D&I team invites an Adobe leader
(known to have a diverse background) to be interviewed by Juran. Interview is
streamed on a live platform with the guest seen in her/his home.
- Using the company intranet to provide COVID-19
information and resources
- Providing employees a work-from-home expense
fund to obtain needed equipment/supplies for home offices
- Granting time-off grace periods to deal with
childcare and other needs so employee leave time need not be used
- Providing emotional well-being resources
- Offering virtual summer internships
Goal: build inclusion and empathy through
personal stories. Particular emphasis on senior leader participation
demonstrates to diverse employees that there are leaders who also embody
diversity and share similar experiences. Series is likely to continue until
employees return to the workplace or until a drop-off in participation signals
waning interest. Average attendance: 1,000 – 2,500 stream the live event,
additional numbers view the recorded version. Employees respond well to the
informal, unscripted approach, which also includes participating leaders’
responses to a few questions submitted through chat. Looking beyond D&I. The Adobe for
All Coffee Break can be adapted to other groups beyond the D&I audience.
Similar events can be crafted for the organizational level, done at the
team level, for ERGs, or other groups. The point is to establish connection
between people and enhance empathy. Further, participation by interviewees who
are willing to demonstrate their vulnerability elevates those individuals,
enhancing their visibility within the organization.
Other topics from the call chat:
- Organizations are providing special support to
minorities in communities within and beyond the enterprise through:
- Childcare grants, temporary shelter,
administrative pay for COVID-19 positive
- One company has reached out to all its nonprofit
partners and asked that they complete a survey providing information on their
emerging needs as a result of COVID
- Best Buddies is engaging employer partners in
virtual jobs readiness sessions with program participants who are furloughed or
Today’s guest was Jackie Hunter, Director of Diversity &
Inclusion at Banner Health. CDO Board Chair Jacqui Robertson led a Q&A session with
Jackie to open the call. That blended into discussion of this week’s D&I
pulse survey findings, and incorporated excellent comments via voice and
chat from attendees.
1. Stay informed. Jackie noted that Banner Health is responding
to the current volatility by making a concerted effort to stay updated and is
working with the system’s Chief Medical Officer who is also tied into state
information updates. The CMO sends out information daily, and the company has
created toolkits for employees.
2. Maintain connections with remote workers. Jackie’s team is
fully remote and her leader, Jami Allred (AVP HR Strategy and Organizational
Effectiveness ), who also oversees staffing, has set the standard across the
Banner Health system to ensure that everyone, first and foremost, is safe. The
team meets several times each week to stay connected. Jackie meets with a leadership
group weekly, and she emphasizes the importance of video-conferencing. Video
meetings also enable her team to see that others are okay. Online icebreakers
are used as well.
3. Childcare for frontline health workers. With schools closed,
Jackie says that Banner Health has worked with community partners (such as Boys
and Girls Clubs, YMCA) to make sure that frontline employees had childcare
assistance for their children. Childcare also is a consideration for people
working at home – such as greater flexibility to deal with kids who are in the
4. Upskilling and skills inventories fuel greater agility. HR
at Banner Health is working to support staff redeployment as staffing needs
increase. A clinical team helps define needs and the company taps into new
nursing graduates, travelers, and contract labor. Banner Health has a
state-of-the-art simulation center for learning, and clinical educators
inventory the skills of new employees. This enables identification of
transferrable skills and helps guide redeployment, matching talent with needs
outside their usual areas of work.
5. Looking ahead, keep people engaged. In the next month or so,
Banner Health will emphasize ongoing employee engagement. For diverse groups, Jackie’s
team has established four ERGs which they will call on to assist in that effort.
A speaker will talk to the LGBTQ group about managing through COVID-19. Other
topics: How do you manage through diversity to build a stronger community while
going through the pandemic; How can the company encourage and help women (52%
of COVID-19 cases in the company’s HQ state of Arizona are female)?
In essence: Look at statistics and other information related
to the pandemic and find ways to creatively discuss and apply it through a
diversity lens. And once the pandemic is over, look at healthcare disparities
and how social determinants of health impacted particular diverse populations
(state and national levels).
Select topics and questions raised via chat and during the
- Cleveland Clinic is helping reduce stress of remote workers
who have kids at home by taking a moment to let a child participate in virtual
meetings – just to share quickly how they are being affected by the pandemic.
- Tim Ewing, VP Employee Diversity, Inclusion and Experience
at Brigham Health, says his organization is working with community partners,
leaders and influencers to promote messaging about social distancing and other
important information. This has helped reach people through their own social
- Several attendees reported disproportionately high COVID
infection rates among diverse populations in their areas.
Question: Do organizations have ERGs for parents working
with school-age children at home?
- One company started a Yammer group.
- RetailMeNot has a Parents ERG that has been very deliberate
about supporting parents with children at home who are home schooling and/or
have younger children to care for while working from home.
- This week, i4cp’s Total Rewards group call will feature a
child psychologist discussing impact on children.
Question: How are people remaining visible while working at
- CIGNA piloted an ERG in their personal branding initiative
to help their employees stand out with voice, presence and visibility on the
Question: What are companies doing to help support emotional
health of remote workers?
- Trinity Health’s Ability! BRG is doing a webinar on stress
- A company CEO is doing weekly videos to employees and did
one with his teenaged daughter in which she gave him feedback on what he needs
to do better to support those at home.
- Another company is conducting well-being webinars.
- An organization’s Green Team (focused on sustainability) has
continued modified Earth Month activities, including a display case outside a
high-visibility, high-traffic location to afford a semblance of normalcy.
- PeaceHealth is building a direct helpline for trauma
services, staffed by its internal psychologists.
- An attendee’s organization is partnering with the local
chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness to deliver webinars on how
to maintain mental health in the midst of the stress and anxiety of current
Question: How are firms addressing questions about job
security or insecurity in today's environment?
- How is D&I working with frontline health workers and
clinical staff? What type of programs or
initiatives can we implement to help them?
- PeaceHealth is building a $1M hardship fund for its front
line employees, available in multiple languages. The company will also have
COVID-19 Resource Navigators providing direct support for financial support,
food resources, behavioral health and childcare.
- Brigham Health is checking in with frontline staff managers
daily to determine what their needs are and is escalating their issues.
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
NBC News: 3 Ways to Promote a Virtual Work Culture that Prioritizes Inclusivity
TIME: Why Wearing a Face Mask Is Encouraged in Asia, but Shunned
in the U.S.
Forbes: How To Create Effective Online Diversity Trainings
Forbes: 5 Things To Know About Coronavirus And People With Disabilities
From CEO Action for Diversity & Inclusion: Inspire Action: Managing Your (Newly) Remote
ICYMI: Replay of Ascend’s webinar on the role ERGs play in addressing COVID-19
Companies: Now Is Not The Time To Put
Diversity And Inclusion On The Back Burner (Forbes)
Why This Economic Crisis Differs From the
Last One for Women (NY Times)
Employers Should Zero In On During the COVID-19 Pandemic (HR Executive)