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Last year, Dell made a commitment to diversity. Here's what they did.

Dell made an effort to step up their diversity efforts last year

Last year, I began receiving calls from Dell Technologies inquiring about diversity, equity, and inclusion program support. Their Austin location called about education and hiring women in technology programs, Utah’s location reached out regarding parenting support programs, and New York wanted to know about diverse talent acquisition programs. 

I was amazed by the energy and excitement of each individual I spoke with. Windie Darrington, a Utah program manager, and Dell’s Utah site lead of Women in Action, provided an inside perspective. Darrington joined Dell eight years ago at their Draper campus, then six years ago she volunteered to help grow diversity and inclusion in their Utah offices. 

Since then, Dell Utah has increased their employee resource groups (ERGs) from one to nine and have set goals of a 70 percent participation rate target. Darrington notes: “I do everything I can for our Utah site and do what we can to impact our community. We are truly getting our leaders involved in our employee resource groups where they then spread the message to the team members, and we are actively participating instead of being a ‘check the box’ exercise.”

Dell’s DEI efforts are intentional and calculated with company-wide shared “moonshot goals” identifying key performance indicators in four areas: advancing sustainability, cultivating inclusion, transforming lives, and upholding ethics and privacy. “This is the first year that we actually see it in our fiscal planning and our cascade sessions. It’s not an ‘extra’ but is integrated into what we do,” says Darrington.  

Dell relies on critical data, systems, and reporting to track progress toward its goals. In 2020, their efforts led to an increase of 22 points in their Utah employee engagement score, 13 points nationally, and in the midst of the pandemic their ERG participation steadily increased. This is no small feat, and Dell recognizes the continued benefits of a more highly engaged workforce leading to numerous benefits including lower attrition, higher productivity, and increased profitability.  

Significant change started from the top in July of 2020 when Michael Dell, the founder and CEO of Dell Technologies (DELL), told Yahoo Finance that the tech industry failed to adequately address the lack of diversity in its workforce. “While there’s been some progress,” he says. “It’s not enough.”  

Looking at Dell’s diversity report, it shows “Diversity & Inclusion is in our DNA. It’s more than what we do, it’s who we are,” written in bright bold lettering on the front page, 

In each conversation I’ve had with Dell employees, I’ve heard this. That the work to change their culture is their responsibility. To get that mentality and ownership Darrington recognized, “We can say anything we want, but if we don’t have the accountability behind it, tracking our progress, or know where we are at, it is just writing.” 

Almost every leadership training these days includes the quote, “get comfortable being uncomfortable,” yet when it comes to DEI the “frozen middle management” often struggles to engage due to concern of saying or doing the wrong thing. To tackle this hesitation Dell engages leaders at all levels by asking, “Which community are you going to get involved with?”  

The suggestion being to choose the community you are most uncomfortable with, get active and prioritize the time to show up. Last year, Dell’s executive leadership team reached out to their Black employees simply asking, “are we doing enough?” The response and outcomes resulted in initiatives they have coined “standing together” where innovation and ideas are now openly shared on areas of continued improvement―including changes in recruiting and extending internships.  

These open communication channels are a huge benefit to the business as leadership teams recognize the valuable opportunity to leverage their ERGs to access ideas and drive company innovation. Annually, $8 billion is spent in the United States on DEI training, yet the expected outcomes are not seen as companies often fail to recognize this is not a one-and-done exercise.  

Education coupled with strong experiences elevates and empowers employees. “This is our culture and it drives business impact in every single aspect. It drives our customer impact, our employee impact so it is a business imperative for Dell,” Darrington says. Whether it is mentoring girls in tech, lobbying for equal opportunity rights, or supporting a veterans breakfast, opportunities to get involved are promoted and all volunteer hours are tracked and rewarded.  

For every 10 hours spent volunteering, employees are given a “Cause Card” that they can then put toward any nonprofit of their choice―as a result, their employees are more engaged, lives are changed, and they are making a broader impact within the community.

Dell’s stock has significantly increased 131 percent outpacing the S&P by 87 percent over the last year. Although those gains can’t be solely attributed to their efforts in diversity, equity, and inclusion, there’s no discounting that something incredible is going on with the company’s culture. Dell’s example is one that can be applied to any company at any phase of growth as integrating DEI in the core business strategy proves to be an incredible lever for growth and profitability.

Trina Limpert is the CEO & Founder of RizeNext, a social good for-profit company focused on rising up the next level of diverse technologists and leaders. Trina's career spans 25 years in the technology industry with companies Novell, eBay and Oracle. She is an active and passionate leader for women in the workforce and diversity advocate. She spearheaded the launch of the Tech-Moms program and is educating and supporting the transition of women's careers into the technology industry and consults companies in diversity strategy and leadership development to support women in the workforce. Trina currently serves on the Women’s Success Center Board of Advisors at Utah Valley University, Board of Advisors for Weber State University School of Engineering, Applied Science and Technology, and National Advisory Committee for Weber State University.

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