A letter to employees: My Inclusion & Diversity journey

By John Hewitt
Chief Executive Officer

This time of the year we provide our Board of Directors an update to our business strategy and our performance against that strategy. As you know the key elements are: Safety, People and Communication, Clients and Growth, and Execution Excellence. I can tell you we still have work to do on many of these elements, but that we are on the right track to create more value for our stakeholders. Those stakeholders include all of us, our business partners, clients, communities, and shareholders.

As it relates to People and Communication, I wanted to share with all of you my personal journey this past year related to Inclusion and Diversity (I&D). I am learning and growing my leadership with every step I take.

In the past 14 months I have been involved in the two People Summits we held, where I&D was a big part of the discussion. Our Matrix I&D committee invited me to join them, which I did eagerly. In October, I signed the CEO Action for Diversity and Inclusion​ – the only company in Tulsa, one of five in all of Oklahoma – and attended the CEO Action summit in New York with many of the other participating CEO’s from across the country.

In December, I attended a two-day conference sponsored by Mosaic (the Tulsa Regional Chamber-led coalition of companies and nonprofit partners focused on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion) and Hilti Corporation. This conference introduced a nationwide movement called MARC (Men Advocating Real Change) designed to engage men in positions of authority to have an understanding of issues confronting our society and the need for leaders like me to “own the change.”

Collectively, these experiences have been powerful for me on a personal and professional level. They have broadened and matured my perspectives as well as my leadership obligations.

The CEO Action summit taught me among other things that the racial divide is still active in our country, and that we need to be brave, proactive, and willing to have difficult and uncomfortable conversations if we are going to affect change. During the MARC event, our group of approximately 40 people, representing a diverse group of business leaders across the Tulsa Metro Region, participated in a number of exercises which highlighted the different – and many times challenging – life experiences of each person, that every woman in the room had been harassed and/or discriminated against at least once in their careers, and that even today race discrimination is happening in our city to people at all levels, including prominent business and community leaders. The LGBTQ community across the country, too, continues to struggle with discrimination and the ability to bring their whole selves to work.

One thing I know, is that we all can grow and change if we open our minds and emotions.

I&D can be difficult to understand. It starts with our unconscious biases, which impact how we think and react to the events and people around us. And what is diversity? It is simply difference. Difference in race and gender are the obvious ones, but it can also be age or how and where you were raised. Inclusion is the act of creating and fostering an environment where every person can feel safe to bring their whole selves to work. Meaning, they do not have to worry about how they may be different – they don’t have to try to fit in – but they feel physically and emotionally safe at work, and know that their thoughts and ideas are welcome.

Getting this right is not only important to our people and society, but it is critical to the long-term success of our business.

Statistics would say that the businesses that get this right better reflect the marketplace, are able to better leverage talent, enjoy a stronger, more positive reputation, and achieve improved financial performance, increased innovation and group performance.

We will be looking at our people processes and procedures, implementing company-wide unconscious bias training, and sharing more data to create the change in our own culture.

On February 25, we will also host our first annual Day of Understanding​, supporting the commitment made by all signatories to the CEO Action for Diversity & Inclusion.

We’ll begin by laying a foundation that makes sure we all check our blind spots, and set the stage for increasingly uncomfortable conversations about those life experiences that will lend critical perspectives for each of us as we think about and learn to embrace the power of diversity in our society and company, and the positive impact that comes from creating an inclusive environment.

For me this is not a check mark. It’s not an initiative, or a shareholder priority. It is a fundamental change to how we treat each other, both inside and outside the business.

This is not a replacement strategy either and it is not about quotas. It is about giving every person, no matter their diversity, an opportunity to achieve their dreams – a chance to contribute to the success of the company, to enjoy the benefits of their efforts, and to open the doors or have a seat and voice at the table.

This work supports our purpose as a company to impact the lives of people everywhere. And the change starts with me, and every person in a business or community position of authority.

I must own this change for it to happen and create the impact in our business and society that is so critical for our future.

My vision is that someday, having a diverse and included workforce will be as much a part of our dialogue, thoughts, and culture as is safety.

I am looking forward to the journey and the opportunity to get to know all of you better.