CUSTOMER SUCCESS STORY
Building a more diverse, inclusive culture
Working with Korn Ferry, Hearst has built a companywide DE&I education program that has helped 15,000 employees to behave more inclusively.
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Hearst has long had a commitment to diversity, equity, and respect for all its employees. The company had built an informal culture designed to make everyone feel welcome. But not all Hearst employees knew how they could play a role in reflecting the organization’s commitment to diversity and inclusion. So, HR leaders began looking for ways to accelerate their diversity programming, with a particular focus on rolling out comprehensive DE&I training to their employees.
Hearst was already working with Korn Ferry on several other consulting projects, so when it began looking for a partner for its DE&I initiatives, Korn Ferry was the natural choice. Michelle Bennett, Hearst’s Senior Vice President, Talent Development and Learning, said a deciding factor was that diversity and inclusion are a discipline, not an add-on, at Korn Ferry. She commented, “We liked that Korn Ferry was focused on inclusion as well as diversity. We wanted to embrace inclusion and not just consider how people are different.”
Given the urgency of addressing this issue, the working group began moving at lightning speed. During the summer of 2020, the group decided it wanted a program in place by year’s end.
This program, which started with a two-hour session for 35 senior executives, has grown rapidly. To date, the company has trained more than 15,000 employees, created a certified Change Agent model, and established even loftier goals for 2022.
Hearst’s Conscious Inclusion training used the Korn Ferry INCLUDE model as its foundation. This model is designed to increase awareness of biases in the workplace, help people behave in more intentionally inclusive ways, and foster a more inclusive and diverse culture.
To accomplish these goals, the INCLUDE model emphasizes seven behaviors:
After training executives, Hearst rolled out four-hour leadership sessions to each division. By the end of the first quarter, more than 800 leaders had completed the sessions. Bennett recalled, “Korn Ferry opened up the conversations at the leadership level, giving people a place to converse around the topic. The conversations were robust and authentic.”
To ensure that all employees had access to the content, Hearst also launched the Korn Ferry 30-minute eLearning module that was rolled out to 15,000 employees. The eLearning has also been embedded in the Hearst Onboarding Program so that all new joiners have the opportunity to understand the company’s commitment to inclusion.
The momentum snowballed from there. The Hearst Talent Center of Excellence rolled out the INCLUDE training using a train-the-trainer model.
To reinforce the program and its takeaways, the company branded the training as Hearst INCLUDE, incorporated Korn Ferry workbooks, offered giveaways including merchandise, and even created a deck of cards with the INCLUDE model’s principles.
Hearst recently instituted a Change Agent program that allows both leaders and individual contributors to participate in a six-month deep dive on an inclusion topic. After completing the program, participants graduate and become certified Change Agents. The Hearst Include Certified Change Agent Program provides employees with a deep dive training using Korn Ferry’s INCLUDE Model. In 2021, more than 1,000 colleagues had completed all six of the INCLUDE modules and graduated as Change Agents. Hearst has empowered the Change Agents to make a significant difference in their work communities.
Attendees focus on building a safe environment where everyone feels comfortable sharing their own experiences. They’ve learned how to include others and how to make sure that everyone has a voice. Bennett explained, “Korn Ferry helped us create an opportunity for employees at all levels to learn more about the dimensions of diversity and learn how to build an environment that offers psychological safety, allowing people to feel safe sharing their own experiences. That’s never been done before at Hearst.”
In the next phase, Hearst’s Change Agents will start having an impact on what projects the company tackles. Heather Ragone, Hearst’s Vice President, Development of Talent and Learning, said, “We’re asking them to weigh in on policies. We’re asking them to participate in their division employee resource groups, DE&I committees, and internal initiatives so they can shape what we’re doing. We’re seeing overwhelming interest and support from Change Agents who want to take action in our company and at home in their community.”
Each division in the company has taken the need to become more inclusive to heart. Whether it’s forming DE&I and employee resource groups or scheduling other programming and events, everyone is participating in these efforts. The Executive Leadership Team at Hearst supports the program and has empowered people to make a difference by reinforcing inclusion as the cornerstone of the company culture.
Working group leaders attribute much of their success to the collaborative, lockstep partnership approach of Korn Ferry, led by Senior Client Partner Fayruz Kirtzman. Ragone observed, “Fayruz was always flexible and supportive of what we wanted to do. She focused on blending Korn Ferry’s content with ours and finding the best solution for our organization.”
Over time, the company has evolved to see its DE&I efforts as mission-critical. Bennett remarked, “Hearst has always put people first. But having a formal program has fostered our culture, and it’s become important to our leaders and employees.” Ragone noted, “It’s not usual for all leaders to get to training sessions in our company. But they make our training a priority. Our programs consistently get recommended and earn a net promoter score of 9 or 10. it’s amazing to hear the impact our programs are having.”
Feedback about the program reinforces Ragone’s observations: attendees have given the training rave reviews. One remarked, “I learned how my actions and behaviors have an impact on others and that conscious inclusion benefits everyone. In my role, I’ll be able to apply it by actively seeking out the feedback and opinions of others including those who may think differently from me to broaden perspectives and get diversity of thought.”
Another attendee said, “Diversity is multifaceted and extends beyond the surface. It’s not just about race, gender, and age. To be inclusive and equitable, I must understand who people are, allow them to be authentic, meet their individual needs, learn from them, and make sure they are engaged by management.” What’s most remarkable, according to Ragone, is that this training isn’t a one-and-done. She added, “We’re building knowledge over time that will have a cumulative effect on behavior and culture change. We’ve never offered a program that encouraged participation across the entire company and that created opportunities for individual change.”