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Attract Top Talent with Workplace Diversity, Equity & Inclusion

Elizabeth Morrison

Elizabeth Morrison

Chief Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Officer at Levi Strauss & Co.

Elizabeth Morrison, Levi Strauss & Co

Data shows that two-thirds of job seekers are looking for a company that prioritizes diversity and inclusion policies, and that’s not all. Today’s consumers are also sizing up corporations to ensure their values are inclusive before supporting the business.

Quartz Network Executive Correspondent Britt Erler sat down with Elizabeth Morrison, during her tenure as VP of Diversity and Belonging at Live Nation to discuss the importance of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion in the workplace.

Elizabeth offers insight into:

  • Why Diversity, Equity & Inclusion is increasingly critical for the modern workplace
  • The top 3 Diversity, Equity & Inclusion best practices
  • What path to follow when pursuing a career in Diversity, Equity & Inclusion

Quartz Network: Can you share a bit about yourself and your role with Live Nation?

Elizabeth Morrison: I’m the Vice President of Diversity and Belonging. I think most people think immediately—don’t you mean inclusion? No, we mean belonging. The reason that I shifted us from diversity and inclusion to diversity and belonging is that belonging is an actual state of psychological safety when you are truly free to be your whole self and bring that person to work. Where you can innovate. Where you can make mistakes and still know that you are included, you are part of the family. That’s what we’re striving for. That really is my background in employee communications, change management, and culture. That’s been something I’ve focused on for my entire career.

Quartz Network: What is the size of your team and do they share your focus?

Elizabeth Morrison: I describe us as a small but mighty team of five people—three here in the US and two in the UK. The UK members manage international and outside and we handle North America. It’s a global strategy and a global team. We are all focused on diversity and belonging, including our ERGs, learning and development, and work for culture training. It’s a big proposition.

Quartz Network: Why is Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion so important in business right now?

Elizabeth Morrison: The reason why it continues to be important is because there is a war for top talent. Diversity and inclusion, equity, belonging—whatever words your company uses—are ways to differentiate your company from others. Of course, you have pay and offer benefits. But these days, a lot of employees are focused on diversity and inclusion.

If you look at the research around the future of work, two thirds of job seekers want a company that prioritizes diversity, and lives into and up to their values through those as aspects of the culture. It’s a way to activate innovation and high performance.

I was talking about the belonging piece. That’s really critical. You’re obviously out in the marketplace shopping for top talent, you want to get everything that you can out of that talent, and also create an employee experience. That’s rewarding, and that matters.

There’s also incredible shifts in not only consumer behaviors, but their expectations. I think that, but research also shows that consumers are looking at corporations to see how they’re acting from a corporate citizen perspective, where do they stand on political values, on human rights issues, and then they’re using their dollars to kind of vote for and against those brands. So creating a space where you are saying what your company stands for, and what your values are, and again, living into that. Those are all aspects of why diversity is critical.

Quartz Network: What sets your company apart?

Elizabeth Morrison: First of all, when it comes to building up our candidate pool and pipeline, it really is about relationship building. So you should be going to market, and this is the challenge for many organizations. You have to be flexible and open minded about the types of talent that you want to bring into your organization.

A lot of times, managers or organizations have a perfect, almost template. The person has to have gone to the school and have these previous job experiences. What you’re missing out on is that people choose to go to colleges and universities for all different reasons. Some people want small schools, some people want HBCUs, some people are looking for sports.

By making judgments around what university or college someone goes to, and not looking deeper into the experiences that they have and those transferable skills. You’re really missing out on rich diversity of talent. Especially now that our consumers are changing their demographics and their spending power.

You need all of those different people and the diversity of thought that they bring at the table. So as you’re developing your products and your brand, you are able to attract as many people as you possibly can.

Quartz Network: Is this a strategy Live Nation has always had or is this something that you’ve developed more recently,

Elizabeth Morrison: We’ve absolutely been on this journey for five years, and I’ve been here for three and a half years. So there was some work that was done in the early days before I arrived. When I came, it really picked up steam as a global strategy, and something that was important to the business, but also to our culture and for talent. So it’s something that, in the last few months, we’ve kind of turned up the heat in terms of making very specific commitments about increasing the diversity of our workforce.

This is a path that we’ve been on, not only broadly around diversity and belonging, equity and inclusion, but also a few years ago, launching a women’s initiative, or the women of Live Nation, and really focused on gender and pay equity. So this is something that’s been in our ethos, and that we have dedicated teams and resources to for the long haul.

Quartz Network: What are some of the best practices for Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion?

Elizabeth Morrison: I would definitely start with leading with data. Leading with data, following through with storytelling, and then driving it as a change management initiative is my first best practice because the numbers are going to tell—not only the numbers, but the pattern that you see in the numbers.

So I talk about workforce analytics at work a lot. That’s looking at how employees flow through the employee lifecycle—hires, promotions, terminations, growth, promotions, development, retention. Looking at those numbers, and then learning more about how employees feel about their experience. Then, focusing on diversity as a change management initiative. In change management, you have to focus on the change on the individual level. If you can impact people on that individual level, then you work your way up to collective impact.

The second best practice I would talk about is seeking to build organic strategies. I talked a lot about looking for best practices and diving deep into research. What you really need to do at your own organization is listen and learn about it. Then, you’ll figure out what you can celebrate, what’s great about your culture, the things that you all do, and where you need to challenge the status quo. That’s critical because just coming in with a bag of tricks or suggestions from other organizations may not be where your organization is.

That kind of leads me to the third best practice. That is the realization that you have to meet people where they are. Sometimes, that’s challenging, because they might be doubters, they might have a completely different mindset. So you’ve got to walk in the door, knowing that you’re going to have people that are on a full spectrum of marching in the streets, and being not believing and actively working against you. So, I say come armed with your data, your storytelling, and your plans around change management, but don’t get stuck on the doubters because they will sap all of your energies.

I am going to make my best effort, but where I’m really going to concentrate my energy over the long term is those people in the middle that are open to the influence, and obviously, your champions and how you can empower them to be not only champions, but almost activist in the space. Like my team of five people isn’t going to be able to completely impact an organization of 20,000 plus people, which is what Live Nation is during our season of concerts and festivals. It takes a village and a village that’s located kind of throughout the organization. So that’s really critical.

Quartz Network: For anyone interested in taking this path in their career, what are some first step you recommend?

Elizabeth Morrison: I think it’s really interesting that people come from all different careers. I’ve seen people in accounting, I’ve seen people in communications and I’ve seen people in HR learning. So my first piece of advice is to do the work. This can be a challenge for some people, especially marginalized people because they translate lived experience. So thinking that being a woman, being black, being LGBTQ is kind of translating into being a diversity practitioner, it’s not. While it gives you unique insight into the challenges, it doesn’t really translate into strategy and the actual science of being a practitioner.

You can do the work in a number of different ways. You can volunteer at a nonprofit dedicated to diversity. That’s actually how I started getting my start outside of communications and things I was doing at work. I raised my hand for several organizations, sat on boards, helped with communications and different aspects of operations, and really learned about the industry through nonprofits. You should absolutely do that, and I think it’s easier now than ever before by doing self-driven research.

There’s so many studies out there. Google is your friend. There are articles, there are stuff that’s trending in the media every day, but really digging deeper than kind the latest protest or march and looking at research and the science of diversity and inclusion.

You can absolutely apply to and participate in a certification program. I know that Cornell has a great program. I got my diversity certification from Georgetown, they have a wonderful program. A lot of them are now virtual, whereas once they were in person, so that is a plus at this time.

I would also say, get involved in your community and/or at work. You can join an ERG. You can raise your hand to the diversity team and say, “I want to help. How can I help?” In your community you can connect with local leaders and officials to see what diversity issues are impacting your community, and how you can get involved.

My last piece of advice is something that I spoke of earlier. That’s realizing that this is emotional work, and it’s identity driven work. When you come to it, you’re going to bring who you are to it. That is going to shape the lens that you look through as you do the work.

One of the parts of my diversity certification was an emotional intelligence lab, where they literally tried to trigger us because you’re going to get triggered through this work. They warn you, they’re going to show you material that’s probably going to trigger you. But they did that so that we could get triggered, realize what it felt like and what the warning signs were. So that if I’m facilitating a class or training, and someone tells a story, and I’m triggered, but I’m the facilitator, how do I handle that in the moment? So that’s a really important part.

I think that people don’t realize, with this work, it is very different from your typical career path. I liken it to social work, because you are going to bring who you are, and really your heart to the work. That can be good, but it can also be dangerous. You have to be aware of your own kind of emotion, what matters to you, and then how to control that in the moment.

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