Courageous Conversations at Edward Jones
We believe that candid dialogue and courageous conversations is one of the keys to unlocking barriers, misunderstandings, lack of awareness, and unconscious biases. Therefore, our objective was to design a format that would engage not only associates and leaders who were already actively engaged in Inclusion & Diversity efforts, but to attract others whose voices may not have been heard and to gain other perspectives. The first step was to engage our Management and Executive Committee members by inviting them to co-facilitate the session with the Principal & Head of Inclusion & Diversity, and unsurprisingly they agreed. We wanted to ensure voices were shared and heard at every level of the organization in the same room as well as to expose more associates to senior leadership and vice versa for developmental purposes.
In 2016 we started our courageous conversations utilizing the movie "Hidden Figures" as a catalyst to start a dialogue about the experiences of women and women of color in the 1960s and challenges that still exist today. The main objective was to identify through these conversations, solutions that we might adopt to ensure history isn’t repeated and we can avoid having "hidden figures" in our organization by recognizing and valuing all of our diverse talent. Our next phase of courageous conversation occurred when the CEO Pledge was designed and implemented. We polled our Business Resource Group Leaders, Inclusion Council members and some other senior firm leaders to help us identify the right topics. Some of the topics were Men and Women in the Workplace, Being your Authentic Self, Ensuring White Men are Part of the Inclusion and Diversity dialogue and the Collective Power of Community and Company. These topics are all designed to identify and capture solutions to address areas of opportunity for improvement, and to better understand how our associates feel about and are dealing with these everyday nuances. A discussion guide was created for each topic. We also measured who participated by role, leadership level, gender and race to be able to track the impact.
We conducted the conversations in groups of a maximum of 40 people at a time, co-facilitated by me and an Executive or Management Committee member to ensure there was time for everyone to speak, and they lasted for 90 minutes each. The ongoing and primary feedback was that the sessions were excellent and that they should be longer.
To date we have conducted a total of over 50 sessions and reached over 2,000 of our headquarter associates. The feedback has been overwhelmingly positive and we plan to continue them and add new topics in 2019 and beyond. All of the topics have generated very candid conversations and have revealed some individual and firm level solutions that have already been implemented. We also had a panel discussion with some of the Executive Committee members and associates during our Inclusion & Diversity Week, to share their experiences and take away's from the courageous conversations. We are also considering expanding them into our field offices across the country.