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Design DEI Strategies That Aligns with the Business Goals

LaQuenta Jacobs, Chief Diversity Officer, XPO Logistics

LaQuenta Jacobs, Chief Diversity Officer, XPO Logistics

As the Chief Diversity Officer of XPO Logistics, LaQuenta Jacobs is responsible for cultural leadership and strategic direction with DEI advocacy. This includes the design and implementation of programs across the business for the purpose of advancing diversity and inclusion as core values. She ensures that they have an effective DEI strategy in place to create a pathway for all people within the organization, regardless of their gender, race, sexual orientation, age, and disability. Working in collaboration with executive leaders, she uses DEI to help the company solve critical people issues, customer issues, as well as crucial business issues.

Following is the conversation that HR Tech Outlook magazine had with LaQuenta.

What are some of the challenges existing for the leaders looking to establish Diversity and Inclusion in their organizations? 

Though DEI space has boomed over the past few years, it is still a new concept for many. Most leaders try to replicate the strategies and initiatives of other organizations instead of designing an effective one that fits their company. A DEI strategy must be closely aligned to people strategy and meet an organization’s unique needs. For example, at XPO, we started our journey with an internal cultural assessment that provided us with insights into our current position. This enables us to create a strategy mapping out our initial goals and roadmap. We focused on three strategic pillars and implemented processes to measure our progress. The measurement of progress is a crucial aspect of ensuring the effectiveness of a strategy. But many leaders do not measure their progress continually, which often becomes a reason for their failed DEI initiatives. We constantly evaluate our performance towards DEI and don’t wait till the end of the year to see what we’re doing and how we’re doing it. 

2022 will witness organizations move beyond setting the foundation to actively supporting gender identity and expression. What are your views on this trend? 

DEI strategy should be managed as a continuum. Organizations should continually redefine and evolve their strategies with their progress and changing culture. In their commitment to diversity, companies should set their foundation and establish milestones. 

“DEI as a strategy will become more woven into the culture of organizations and less seen as a standalone practice”

Organizations truly committed to DEI are moving toward programs and strategies specific to supporting the LGBTQ+ community. In fact, our roadmap also includes strategic initiatives that support this community. For example, we took many actions to review our inclusive language to ensure our programs are not unconsciously biased. We partnered with PFLAG—an organization focused on the LGBTQ plus community—to educate our workforce regarding the use of inclusive language. This included the language we use in our performance management processes, job descriptions, and internal and external communications space for the workforce and their differences, especially when the differences aren’t visible. 

How do you envision the future of DEI space in the next couple of years?

I envision DEI continuing to grow as a strategy. Organizations are finding the importance of recognizing the individuality and the diversity of their team members, and it has become a critical component in hiring talent and evolving their business. There is a direct link between organizations that have diversity in all ranks of their leadership and the profitability of their organization. A diversified workforce helps companies expand the horizon of their business, catering to the needs of different markets and diverse clientele. In my opinion, DEI as a strategy will become more woven into the culture of organizations and less seen as a standalone practice.

What would be your piece of advice to your fellow peers and leaders?

At the onset of your role, understand your organization’s expectations and ensure that your strategy starts with leadership buy-in. The leadership team must understand what the organization wants to achieve. I would suggest devising a data-driven action plan. We should approach DEI just like any other business strategy to ensure that developed programs and initiatives are measurable and solve critical business issues. We need to bring people together to support these initiatives as we can’t do this work alone. Make sure you have resources and partners that bring together the allies within the business to help you do work effectively. 

Don’t be a person or leader that sits behind the scenes. Remain visible in your organization, among peers, and in the workforce. This will help you understand the critical issues that your business is facing and solve them. Lastly, build a tribe around you of other DEI leaders that you can benchmark and share best practices. This is a community of shared responsibilities, and finding your tribe is as crucial as aligning a strategy to a business.

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