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TIAA Continues 'Journey to Inclusion'

TIAA (No. 27 on the 2017 DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for Diversity list) continues to make diversity and inclusion a key focus area. Employees describe the organization as not only having ethical behavior toward its customer base but also on an internal level toward its employees.


The diversity & inclusion team has set out to place an even greater focus on employee engagement and inclusion to achieve the organization’s strategic priorities for 2020 and beyond.

In order to accomplish this, the team was flexible enough to entertain rethinking key elements of TIAA’s culture, which requires asking reflective questions such as, “Who are we as an organization” and “What do we stand for”

The team members also asked themselves, “How can we get even more out of all of the individuals within TIAA, including those from diverse backgrounds”

Through asking those introspective questions, taking an in-depth analysis of the company’s culture and having discussions with external contacts about best practices, TIAA’s “Journey to Inclusion” initiative was created.

TIAA’s Senior Director of Diversity & Inclusion and Human Resources Crystal L. Richards has been involved with the initiative from its inception.

“By building the Journey to Inclusion program from the ground up, I’ve had the opportunity to work closely with many minority groups across TIAA, and I’ve become even more cognizant of the micro messages that employees receive every day,” Richards said.

Micro messages can be a component of unconscious bias, which is counterproductive to remedying inequality or discrimination in an organization.

The internal TIAA team and Mind Gym reviewed the qualitative and quantitative results of a detailed culture survey given to employees to determine the most common unconscious biases at TIAA.

“We believe that pin pointing specific unconscious biases allows us to more effectively close the gaps we’ve found,” Richards said.

The team then developed bias interrupting tools aimed at addressing the unconscious biases unique to the company.

The overall program focused on four behaviors to drive inclusion:

  • Initiate: being curious about those who are different from me.
  • Influence: looking for common ground and making others feel welcome
  • Invest: stepping in and speaking up when I see exclusion occurring.
  • Inspire: challenging stereotypes and focusing on fairness in decision-making.

Then the team developed five different audience learning paths designed specifically to support each critical role in creating a more inclusive culture: executive leaders, senior leaders, HR business partners, middle managers and individual contributors.

Each group experienced some form of engagement (to get them interested and excited about the change), learning event (to develop attitudes and behaviors on this topic) and activation (to help them put their new learning into practice).

Nine months post training, TIAA said that the results have been promising.

Senior leaders completed a level 3 self-assessment nine months post training; 91 percent of respondents stated they were able to successfully apply the knowledge and skills to their work, and 78 percent were able to apply the learning within one week of training.

TIAA has also incorporated additional shared metrics on the human capital dashboard that will measure inclusion to ensure the company is reinforcing the four inclusion behaviors.

Managersalso completed a level 3 measurement of application and relevance at varying points after completing their training:

  • 86 percent agreed that they learned new skills that they were able to apply
  • 76 percent were able to apply this learning within a week after their training
  • 67 percent believed their on-the-job performance had improved as a result of the program
  • 86 percent believed that Journey to Inclusion was a worthwhile investment forTIAA

The company states that one year post implementation, the level 3 impact of this training shows an overall improvement inTIAA’s representation of both female and ethnic minority employees in senior levels by 17 percent.

TIAA has made significant progress on the DiversityInc Top 50 list over the past few years. The organization went from No. 41 in 2013 to No. 27 this year. The CEO chairs the executive diversity council and holds senior leaders accountable for results. The organization has over 30 percent more women in level 1 (CEO and direct reports) than the DiversityInc Top 10 and outperforms the Top 10 in Black, Latino, Asian and women representation in level 3 (two levels below CEO and direct reports).

The data also suggests high employee engagement throughout the organization. TIAA’s employee participation rate in its resource groups is at par with the Top 10, but 25 percent more of level 1 leaders sponsor resource groups than at Top 10 companies. The CEO meets with the resource groups at a minimum of four times a year. The organization also has 44 percent more Blacks, Latinos and Asians and 55.1 percent more women in its resource groups than represented in its workforce. On average, the Top 10 has 9.2 percent more Blacks, Latinos and Asians and 22.9 percent more women in its resource groups than represented in its workforce.

Employees are currently taking a culture survey, and results won’t be in for a few months. TIAA said it is also looking at a combination of lead and lag indicators for this program. It is too early to demonstrate some of the lag indicators, according to TIAA. But the “lead indicators have been extremely positive.”

“When the programs and initiatives I’m working on are making an impact and I hear directly from employees about the differences they’re seeing, that absolutely deepens my commitment to continuing to enhance TIAA’s culture,” Richards said.

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