Over the past two years, society has been transformed by a heightened awareness of racial injustice and systemic inequities. Discrimination toward marginalized individuals is not new yet has deep implications for the workplace. Experiencing this issue through the lens of a global pandemic prompted a cultural awakening and intensified the spotlight on corporate diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) efforts.
This DEI call to action was the impetus for Spectrum Health to create a diversity council encompassing the system’s CFO-led functions, known collectively at Spectrum as the CFO division.a The division’s leaders recognized that the demographic composition of Spectrum’s workforce did not mirror the communities it serves.
When we launched the program in the summer of 2020, 16% of the CFO division team, including leaders, was composed of racially diverse individuals, while just 11% of leadership was diverse. At the same time, Spectrum Health’s service area population in and around our headquarters in Grand Rapids, Michigan, was 20% diverse based on 16 county population-weighted averages.
In the 18 months since the program was launched, total team member diversity has grown 4 percentage points to 20% and
leadership diversity has grown 5 percentage points to 16%.
To get started, the council advocated for policies and practices that increase diversity and promote inclusion within employee teams and among leaders. The focus initially was on:
- Reevaluating recruitment practices
- Expanding the DEI competencies of teams
- Creating professional development opportunities, with a focus on diverse team members
ESTABLISHING OBJECTIVES, PRINCIPLES
In forming the CFO diversity council, we defined a simple objective: to keep DEI at the forefront of everyone’s minds by using three guiding principles: listen, learn and solve.
LISTEN Create a safe and inclusive space for team members to share their experiences and challenges. Key questions to consider are: “How do team members’ lived experiences impact them in their roles and do they feel a sense of belonging?” and “What questions do individuals exploring the meaning of DEI have?” Affirming the perspectives of team members and providing forums for them to have authentic conversations is crucial to understanding their challenges and effectively addressing them.
LEARN Challenge team members to expand their current perspectives by collectively engaging in discussion on core DEI topics. Learning should include the following questions: “How does unconscious bias present itself in the workplace?” and “What are microaggressions, and what do you do when you observe them?” Desire for and understanding of these topics can range from non-existent to strong advocacy. While it is difficult to address all the needs of a wide audience, it is critical to seek to understand and meet individuals where they are in their respective journeys.
SOLVE Act by implementing programs and activities to help achieve a workforce that represents the communities we serve. Key questions to consider are: “What does inclusive leadership look like?” and “What inequities exist in the recruitment and promotion processes?” Leaders and diversity council members are expected not only to declare DEI to be a key priority, but also to hold themselves accountable to achieve meaningful change.
EXECUTING PROGRAMS USING OBJECTIVES, GUIDING PRINCIPLES
While our CFO diversity council has ambitious long-term goals and aspirations, we implemented our programs and activities purposefully and incrementally. This approach helps our division prioritize effective outcomes and establishes a strong and sustainable foundation for the future. Programs and activities enacted over the past 18 months under each of our guiding principles are as follows.
LISTEN Obtained insights from CFO division leaders. CFO diversity council members conduct annual interviews with CFO division leaders to review department demographics, discuss progress on their DEI commitments and explore how to navigate barriers. While outcomes have varied based on department size and level of leader engagement, we have seen a noticeable increase in leader comfort engaging in these discussions.
Since 2020, leaders have had more direct involvement with recruitment by leveraging diverse interview panels and challenging how to increase diversity in candidate pools. Within the patient access area specifically, this effort resulted in a 6% increase in racial diversity among patient service representatives (PSRs) over an 18-month period. Given that PSRs are patients’ first point of contact when they enter our doors, adjusting the composition of our PSR team to better reflect the communities we serve demonstrates progress toward Spectrum Health’s Pledge to Act, which outlines the system’s formal anti-racism commitment (SpectrumHealth.org/about-us/pledge-to-act).
LEARN Piloted a media club. During 2021, our CFO diversity council created a media club to promote intellectual and emotional growth around DEI. Discussions initially centered around issues raised in the movie “Hidden Figures” because of the powerful way it highlights historical events from a not widely recognized viewpoint and explores biases that persist in our society today. The club’s operational model was broken down into four phases:
- Initiate. We provided leaders with a facilitation guide that defines the objective of the media club. The guide includes discussion questions that correlate themes from “Hidden Figures” to the lived experiences of our teams, patients and members.
- Cascade. Discussions began with the CFO division leadership. Division leaders subsequently flowed discussions down to cross-functional teams at multiple levels. We provided leaders with guidance while also empowering them to commmunicate in ways that complemented their teams’ cultures.
- Engage. To expand upon team discussions and take a deeper dive into the movie, we hosted a CFO divisionwide event. We also recruited a panel of individuals who reflected on the movie from their varying experiences. The panel session was attended by 500 people, and was well received.
- Reflect. We leveraged surveys to solicit feedback on our pilot. While our goal is to challenge individuals, we want to ensure they remain curious and engaged by curating content that meets them where they are.
Team members gave the pilot a warm reception, with many reacting favorably to the different perspectives shared during the division meeting. Among survey respondents, 92% expressed interest in more frequent sessions. Lessons learned were that team discussions from the cascade stage of the process did not flow down to team members across the division as completely and consistently as we intended. In addition, 26% of survey respondents observed that the panel did not include an individual who represented the intersectional background of the main characters from the movie. Feedback will be used to inform future media club sessions.
SOLVE Launched a CFO division diversity mentorship program. The purpose is to promote the professional growth and development of diverse team members. To drive successful outcomes, the CFO diversity council set clearly defined program objectives:
- Build and enhance skill sets of mentees to better position them for leadership.
- Retain and develop a diverse workforce that will help fulfill Spectrum Health’s mission.
- Increase belonging by recognizing, empowering and cultivating talented team members.
- Form cross-functional connections across the CFO division to enhance competencies and increase collaboration.
Our CFO diversity mentorship program includes an annual cohort of 30 mentees and mentors. In addition to one-on-one meetings, mentees get professional development courses, panel events and networking opportunities. Benefits cited by mentees in quarterly surveys include increased confidence, help in setting goals and insight on departments and roles within the organization. To date, 33% of mentees from our 2021 cohort have been promoted or taken a new role. Benefits cited by mentors include developing leadership skills, gaining new perspectives and building relationships. Well over half (57%) of mentors from 2021 returned for 2022.
The biggest lesson learned from the 2021 cohort was that not all mentee and mentor pairings were successful. We adjusted the 2022 application process in response and will conduct quarterly surveys to understand barriers and support cohort participants throughout the year.
MORE TO BE DONE
To help promote awareness and reinforcement around our DEI efforts, we share the value of a diversity program and the benefits of diverse teams through town halls, email communications and team meetings. This effort helps highlight divisional and organizational DEI commitments, elevate the impact of DEI on our daily processes and actions and promote a culture of belonging and inclusivity.
Although we have made progress, we still have work to do toward embedding DEI within the culture of Spectrum Health’s CFO division. Systemic inequity has deep roots and presents itself in conscious and unconscious ways in the workplace. To begin to dismantle this inequity, it’s vital that we expand our cultural competence and knowledge of DEI to better understand its impact on our team members’ experience.
a Spectrum Health’s CFO division includes the following functions: facilities and real estate, finance, internal audit, revenue cycle, security services, supply chain and treasury. On Feb. 1, Beaumont Health and Spectrum Health came together to form BHSH System.
5 key takeaways for setting up a division-led diversity council
- Be bold and clearly define your objectives and desired outcomes. Embed the DEI mindset into your division’s culture.
- Start small and expand. DEI work is a journey and change will not occur overnight. Incrementally executing programs and activities will position you for impactful and sustainable outcomes.
- Understand that you won’t please everyone, and that is OK. Some may perceive your approaches to be too direct and may be disengaged. Others may perceive your approaches to be too passive and may be dismissive. The majority will be open-minded and engaged. Listen to your teams and meet them on familiar ground.
- Get comfortable with being uncomfortable. The goal isn’t to reach agreement, but to support productive and impactful conversations that encourage understanding of perspectives outside our own.
- Celebrate your diversity council’s and division’s successes and steps forward, both large and small. This is challenging yet rewarding work, and sharing outcomes helps maintain momentum.
4 diversity council member types targeted by Spectrum Health
Spectrum Health’s CFO division enlisted the following four key member types for the nine-member diversity council.
An influential and engaged executive sponsor. The executive sponsor, in our case the CFO, is instrumental to reinforcing commitment to DEI among leaders in the division, removing barriers, empowering the council and enabling platforms that support the council’s objective.
Council members representing the diverse voices Spectrum was trying to serve. A composition of individuals from varied racial, ethnic, generational, gender and religious backgrounds added diverse perspectives. When individuals in the division see themselves represented on the council, it helps establish trust and credibility. To avoid overburdening council members, leaders intentionally recruited individuals who clearly showed a desire to serve and a recognition that everyone has a shared responsibility in these efforts.
Council members who exhibited the skill sets that drive results. While diverse representation is vital, the council’s competencies are equally vital to achieving results. Council members must possess the skills and knowledge to set strategic direction, introduce innovative ideas and collaborate.
Strategic advisers with the subject matter expertise to support the council. Advisers from human resource and DEI departments provide access to key metrics and raise awareness of relevant policies and leading practices. DEI departments further help ensure the council’s goals are aligned with the organization’s DEI goals. Partnering with these experts is crucial to minimizing blind spots and striving for optimal solutions.