How to make sustainable DE&I strides in 2021 and beyond

Bristol Meyers Squibb’s head of talent strategy shares guidance on keeping your progress moving onward, upward and forward.

BMS' DE&I progress

Has your company made any substantive DE&I progress in the past year?

In the historic racial reckoning of the past year, companies across the U.S. scrambled to make statements of solidarity and commitments to “do better” in the future. Many have already either moved on, stalled, quietly given up or relegated inclusion efforts to the back burner.

That’s not the case at Bristol Meyers Squibb, which is doubling down on its commitment to DE&I as part and parcel of its business strategy. In fact, you’ll find the company’s “Commitment to Global Diversity and Inclusion” smack-dab in the middle of its homepage.

“I’ve been really proud of BMS and our support of our employees and diverse suppliers through the pandemic,” says Erin Pierpoint, head of talent strategy and global D&I recruitment for BMS. She says the company has gone the extra mile to maintain momentum—even amid all the ongoing chaos caused by COVID-19.

“We recognize the strain the pandemic has placed on employees who may be home-schooling children or playing a dual role of caregiver and employee.” She says BMS has responded by creating tutoring groups for kids who are struggling with virtual learning, as well as an “adopt-a-grandparent” program to reach shut-in seniors. “We’ve also supported our diverse suppliers through this time,” she says.

The pharmaceutical giant has placed a premium on work/life integration. Pierpoint says BMS is promoting a healthy balance by:

  • Limiting meetings
  • Offering “Quiet Friday Afternoons”
  • Banning lunch meetings
  • Offering flexible work scheduling
  • Trimming hourlong meetings to 50 minutes

Not to mention, just “encouraging our workforce to prioritize physical and mental health,” Pierpoint says.

Measuring progress

BMS is also tracking progress by measuring specific metrics and working toward clear objectives. Its website states:

“Even as we deepen our efforts to address disparities in healthcare, we understand the responsibility we have to address racial or societal inequity wherever we see it. Following the murder of George Floyd, Bristol Myers Squibb built upon our extensive experience in diversity and inclusion to amplify our efforts and make strategic commitments to accelerate diversity and inclusion. More specifically, our commitments include achieving gender parity at the executive level globally and doubling executive representation of Black/African American and Latino/Hispanic employees in the U.S. by the end of 2022.”

In addition, Pierpoint says the company is tracking:

  • Slate diversity, which means requiring recruiters and hiring managers to fill positions using a diverse pool of qualified candidates
  • Under-represented ethnic group and gender representation
  • Attrition per demographic area
  • Promotions per demographic area

Benchmarks for success

Mining industry data to see how BMS compares with competitors is key, too. “External benchmarking is an essential part of setting DE&I goals,” Pierpoint says, as it can “provide insight into the available talent in the marketplace per function/per level.”

She says BMS gathered benchmarks at the 25%- and 75%-ends of the spectrum, and “used that, plus our current internal representation, to determine where we should recommend an opportunity to improve our workforce representation.”

Beyond a buzzword

The term “diversity” has been bandied about carelessly until it has almost become a muddled buzzword. So, it’s crucial to home in on what exactly you’re trying to achieve.

For Pierpoint and BMS, genuine inclusion starts with a culture that encourages employees to bring their most authentic selves to work every day.  “We recognize that there’s more work to do to boost the representation of our workforce, so that we better mirror our patient demographics,” she says.

But don’t get so caught up in labels, demographics and data that you forget the human element of what you’re trying to accomplish.

In an effort to be inclusive, don’t be exclusive. Many companies focus disproportionately on race and gender to a point where some people do not feel included. Avoid this pitfall by celebrating what makes us unique,” Pierpoint says.

Learn more from about driving sustainable DE&I transformation within your organization by attending Ragan’s Diversity, Equity & Inclusion virtual conference May 19.

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