Diversity and inclusion strengthen employee engagement. In fact, our research reveals that 70 percent of surveyed employees believed the bias they’ve felt, experienced, and/or witnessed has negatively impacted how engaged they feel at work and 39 percent of employees would leave their current organization for a more inclusive one. When diversity and inclusion are a priority, employees become more engaged with each other, their leadership team, and the mission and values of their organization. This type of engagement helps create a positive and collaborative environment. To build on that, diversity and inclusion can also improve productivity. Imagine waking up and having to drag yourself to a job where you don’t feel heard or included. It’s been reported that 61 percent of people surveyed felt they had to cover or downplay and identity at work3. It can be near impossible to find the motivation to work hard without a sense of belonging or camaraderie. Having that support system empowers employees to think outside the box, speak up, and take risks.
I had the pleasure to interview Kwasi Mitchell . Kwasi serves as the Diversity & Inclusion Lead for Deloitte Consulting. In his role, Kwasi leads national initiatives focused on the recruitment, advancement and development of female, minority, veteran, and LGBTQ+ practitioners. He’s also a Principal in Deloitte Consulting’s Government and Public Services (GPS) Practice.
Thank you so much for joining us Kwasi! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit more. Can you share your “backstory” with us?
Myjourney — and identity — is so much more than someone who made principal after humbled beginnings. What my “backstory” is really centered on are the lessons my mother and grandmother instilled in me, not only through their words, but by their actions as well. My mother’s huge heart never found someone she didn’t want to help, and my grandmother was an activist and active member of the NAACP in the 1970s. The three areas they drove home were:
1. Focus on education, schooling betters one’s self.
2. Contribute to society, actively shape and make the world a better place.
3. Be grounded in a value system; there are fundamental things that are right and wrong. Work to ensure that you are transparent, fair, and equitable in how you treat people.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career? Can you tell us the lesson or take away you took out of that story?
The most seminal point in my career was when I realized I could ask leaders to be my career sponsors. I was a manager in Deloitte’s federal practice and was told to prepare for becoming a senior manager at an accelerated pace. This was completely unexpected and not something I was asking for. However, I took all the necessary steps, including preparing and presenting in front of a team of leaders. I later received the call that I was not going to be promoted. I was disappointed, but also felt I needed more information. I wanted to know what I needed to do over the next year to arrive at a different result. I had dinner with Dan Helfrich, who is now the Deloitte Consulting LLP CEO, and another senior partner. They gave me the feedback I needed and let me know I was on the right path. It was at this dinner that I spoke up and asked them to be my career sponsors and advocate for me if I delivered on what was being asked. This symbiotic relationship is what accelerated my career well beyond the promotion to senior manager.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
Deloitte Consulting LLP is very complex, from the scope of services we offer to our geographic reach, but what makes the organization truly impressive is our ability to prioritize and drive diversity and inclusion efforts forward, despite our size and complexity. We understand diversity and inclusion is for everyone, by everyone. It’s a journey that must be a daily focus for our people and leadership team alike. That’s why we embed diversity and inclusion throughout the talent lifecycle — from recruitment to development programs to advancement, and beyond. We also take a forward-looking approach that includes strong programming, future leader succession planning, etc. to help transform our organization from the inside out.
Are you working on any new or exciting projects now? How do you think that might help people?
Yes. I have recently taken ownership of leading our pro bono and skills-based volunteering (SBV) efforts in addition to diversity and inclusion. We are beginning to explore how our practitioners can enhance their inclusive leadership skills while supporting nonprofits through pro bono and SBV. We know that connecting pro bono/SBV and inclusion is powerful — it can provide leadership development, recruiting, well-being, and retention opportunities. But we need to also deepen our understanding of how to link these activities, how to measure the impact, how the combination can advance careers, etc. It’s truly an exciting project that will lead to a more inclusive culture within our organization and beyond.
What advice would you give to other CEOs or founders to help their employees to thrive?
My best advice? Take a step back and look at the talent lifecycle holistically. It’s not simply about providing employees with the technical skills required to do their immediate jobs. It’s about fostering a culture where people can be bold in their thinking and are given the opportunity to collaborate with and learn from people — colleagues and leaders distinctly different then themselves — to grow both personally and professionally. This means being deliberate in establishing a work environment without preconceptions of who people are — a place where people can be their authentic selves and have a voice every day.
What advice would you give to other CEOs or founders about how to manage a large team?
I recommend leaders be authentic and vulnerable. Share with your teams what you do and do not know and set expectations for success. If you don’t tell them, they will assume you’ve read the tea leaves, are aware of the risks, and have a fully-baked plan of attack. However, if you share your authentic self with them, you create a culture of transparency where teams feel empowered to speak freely, raise issues, and prevent unnecessary silos.
Let’s now jump to the main part of our interview. This may be obvious to you, but it is not intuitive to many people. Can you articulate to our readers five ways that increased diversity can help a company’s bottom line? (Please share a story or example for each.)
Clients are demanding diversity and inclusion. More and more of our clients want their teams to reflect society as a whole. If your business hasn’t experienced this yet, it’s coming, and it’s imperative to get ahead.
First, diversity and inclusion strengthen employee engagement. In fact, our research reveals that 70 percent of surveyed employees believed the bias they’ve felt, experienced, and/or witnessed has negatively impacted how engaged they feel at work1 and 39 percent of employees would leave their current organization for a more inclusive one2. When diversity and inclusion are a priority, employees become more engaged with each other, their leadership team, and the mission and values of their organization. This type of engagement helps create a positive and collaborative environment.
To build on that, diversity and inclusion can also improve productivity. Imagine waking up and having to drag yourself to a job where you don’t feel heard or included. It’s been reported that 61 percent of people surveyed felt they had to cover or downplay and identity at work3. It can be near impossible to find the motivation to work hard without a sense of belonging or camaraderie. Having that support system empowers employees to think outside the box, speak up, and take risks.
Something else to keep in mind is the value brought by the diversity of thought. Deloitte works with clients spanning industries, in differing geographical regions, and with varying priorities. Their needs are diverse in today’s complex marketplace. We’re working hard to help them navigate and capitalize on the opportunities presented by the Fourth Industrial Revolution with a diverse workforce that can offer a range of differing perspectives and solutions.
Internally, a wellspring of creativity and diversity of thought increases innovation by 20 percent2. It’s easy to get bogged down by the same old business practices or recycle the same old ideas. Diversity and inclusion can stop that cycle by providing differentiated backgrounds and viewpoints to challenge the orthodoxies preventing transformation progress. This will ultimately drive fruitful discussions and creative solutions, which may not come to light otherwise.
Lastly, diversity is the gift that keeps on giving. A diverse workforce can boost employee engagement, productivity, client service, and innovation — but it also helps attract the next generation of leaders. According to our research, 80 percent of respondents indicated inclusion is important when choosing an employer2. Diversity is powerful in the here and now, and it will also help secure future success if it’s woven into the culture and values of your organization.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
I strive to use my platform to make a meaningful impact through two lenses — individuals and organizations. For people, I believe it’s my responsibility to be empathetic and build trust. I work hard to do this by using my network and influence to help people inside and outside my company to succeed and obtain their goals and ambitions. For organizations, I lend my time and experience to nonprofits by participating on boards, helping at risk youth, and supporting women and underrepresented minorities with equality.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”?
My grandfather always said, “aspire to be better each day.” He would say if you’ve gone a week and you aren’t better than you were last week, then you’ve wasted a week. This was his approach to life. It is this view of self-growth and dedication that I have embraced and try to live by.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful toward who helped get you to where you are?
My first boss at my first job out of graduate school. He was amazing and supportive. Every day he would come by my office on his way in and give me a hard time about beating him to work. He would also stop on his way home to encourage me to shutdown and walk out with him. How he treated people was fascinating to me and inspired me to become a servant leader who recognizes the contributions of all members of my organization, despite role or level.
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why?
There is not one person that I can name today. However, I’ve been thinking more and more about the concept of time. I’ve been looking at eastern religions that view time as a cycle versus linear. I find this interesting because it ties to my belief that there are always more opportunities to be better. So, if I could have breakfast or lunch with someone it would be a Buddhist or Hindu scholar, who could teach me more about eastern society and beliefs.