Hueman Blog

Hueman's Journey to Improving Workforce DEI in 2020

Posted by Terri Cohen

Events in 2020 led to the Black Lives Matter movement taking to the streets—both literally and metaphorically—calling for systematic change across our nation. In response to the movement’s calls for change, Hueman knew that Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) within its walls needed a real focus. So, amid social strife, heartbreak, and amidst a global pandemic, Hueman began to make a plan.

When building a DEI plan for your organization, there are many things to consider. A great place to start is defining DEI’s purpose, vision, and values within your company, then establishing a governance body with trusted and diverse employees. This step requires leaders to look within their own company to see what changes are needed and identify the most trusted employees to make those changes. Nicole Isom has worked at Hueman for over seven years as a member of our Great Employment Experience Team (our version of HR). So when our CEO, Dwight Cooper, was looking for someone to spearhead our DEI Plan, he knew Nicole was the perfect person for the job. “I had the experience in HR, the trust of our employees, and the drive to build a DEI strategy to get us where we need to go,” Nicole knew the direction our company should go in and how she wanted to play a crucial part in that change.

For Nicole, she knew that she needed to create a network that encompassed everyone who worked at Hueman. Creating safe spaces for employees was already a priority, but Nicole and the DEI team realized we needed to expand on what the safe spaces meant. At the forefront, she knew that communication was vital to ensuring that everyone knew they had a voice within the company. Once Nicole was in place as head of DEI, she partnered with Hueman’s Executive Vice President Joe Marino. They began to build out a DEI committee and focus group and lay out specific DEI initiatives for a 2021 strategic plan.



The first step to creating the committee was to ask for volunteers. Nicole constructed a survey that asked the following series of questions:

  • Where are you in your journey regarding diversity, equity, and inclusion? (This provided six options on a scale from “I do not believe there are issues around DEI” to “I can rally others and lead visibly by helping to support others”)
  • Would you be interested in becoming a DEI committee member?
  • Why are you interested in becoming a member of the DEI committee?
  • What skills, characteristics, or attributes would you bring to the DEI committee?
  • What are some actions or ideas you’d like to see come to light at Hueman regarding DEI?

The survey provided Nicole and Joe with feedback from all employees and to gauge their interest. After receiving submissions, Nicole created a committee that identified at least one person from various identities and differences as possible. Today, the committee consists of fifteen colleagues, including Nicole. Hueman’s CEO Dwight Cooper and Executive Vice President of Great Employment Experience, Terri Cohen, are also available to the committee whenever they are needed.



Following the DEI committee’s creation, they began creating a mission statement --a process that took months of hard work and multiple versions to get right. Eventually, the committee came up with the perfect statement that highlights Hueman’s goals and vision for our DEI strategy:

Hueman is committed to increasing our workforce diversity, fostering an inclusive environment, and sustaining those efforts through equitable business practices. 

This mission is guided by our core values of excellence, trust, change, service, and teamwork. It is critical to our success that this devoted effort maintains a part of our culture’s DNA. 

Our Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Committee works to drive change, encourage courageous conversation, and execute on the people-centric goals of the organization. 

We help to ensure that Hueman’s policies, practices, and procedures embody our values and affirm them as a shared responsibility.

Creating a committee is a great place to start, but it cannot stop there. It is essential to stress that leaders need to believe in the mission and be willing to have every member play a role for real change to happen. 
“A lot of companies tend to look at DEI as sort of an add on that they’ll deal with later. That’s a really dangerous way of looking at it. That’s how companies get to a point where they have grown, but they’re very homogenous. Or there’s a toxic culture because they haven’t really addressed some of these issues.” Harver shared in the “The State of Diversity Recruiting in 2020” that while 97% of diverse employees say that their company has a diversity program in place…only 25% of them have personally benefited from those programs.

It is vital for leaders to buy-in to DEI initiatives within their company.  
According to LinkedIn data, the number of people globally with the head of diversity title more than doubled (107% growth) over the last five years. The number with the director of diversity title grew 75% and chief diversity officer, 68%. LinkedIn data also shows that while 69% of talent professionals agree their organizations are committed to more diverse hiring, only 47% feel their hiring managers are held accountable for interviewing a diverse slate of candidates. It is not solely up to HR departments or committees to ensure that DEI is a priority in your company. As leaders, buying-into DEI initiatives means setting your company up for success--not just in team morale and safe spaces but economically as well. The Center For American Progress found that workplace discrimination costs businesses $64 billion annually.

Leaders buying-into DEI initiatives lead to successful, safe, and healthy work environments. Hueman’s Executive Vice President, Joe Marino, and Nicole stress this point to anyone looking to start their own DEI department. As Joe says: “A DEI strategy will only be successful to the extent that the highest level leader (CEO, owner or board of directors) truly supports the initiative. If this isn’t in place, spend your time getting the executive leadership buy-in before trying to roll out any initiatives. DEI is hard, it is tough, and there is not a quick fix. Set your strategy, work on the tactics, and set your advance goals for 3 - 4 years. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.”

It is important to know that creating a DEI recruitment strategy cannot be done haphazardly. “Building a stronger DEI recruitment strategy doesn’t happen overnight. It takes great planning to begin and to get to a good place,” says Joe Marino. It is important to remember that while it is a time-intensive process, it is necessary to build a strong department and committee to create a strong and equal workplace. It is not just about having a diverse employee pool. It is about creating an equal, fair, and safe space for current and future employees and applicants.

For Hueman, “[Our] goal is to build equity into our workforce recruitment and workplace inclusion practices. Our recruitment strategy is based on data from our internal and external environment. It involves the development of subject matter experts, having diverse attendees and speakers for our panels, updating our brand and sharing our story, etc. Our inclusion strategy is focused on providing more opportunities for education and training, building focused programs that attract diverse populations, giving permission to be vulnerable and have bold conversations, and constantly ask for feedback. Our strategy is a people strategy, so it’s complex, intimidating, and worth every single resource we can put towards it.” DEI is not a one-size-fits-all recruitment strategy. It should continue to evolve every day and lend an open-ear to employees, not just company leaders. 



While we have made many strides in the past year towards creating a strong DEI strategy and implementing it into all parts of our company, we know that it is a forever-growing and evolving process. “[In 2021], Our initiatives are to focus on inclusive recruitment practices, training, and development at every level of the organization. We have to ensure that the foundation of education is available to all employees so we can collectively drive change and improve our knowledge in this area,” says Nicole. Hueman is not just our name--but it’s our ideology too. It is vital that all of our employees, current and future applicants, and clients feel that they have someone who represents them within our company. Hueman stands for every employee, partner, and the larger talent acquisition community. 

At Hueman, we know our DEI strategy is not perfect, and it’s nowhere near complete. We will continue to build on our DEI program for as long as we are a company. Nicole puts it best “The DEI department is more of a DEI network that encompasses every single person at Hueman. DEI is everyone’s work because we get our direction, purpose, and strength from our people. To build a foundation of trust and strength, we never stop listening, no request is too big, and no question goes unheard. We give people permission to be vulnerable and the courage to have bold conversations.”

If you are interested in learning more about our Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion initiatives or you would like to discuss best practices for launching your own DEI recruitment strategy, 
contact us today. 

Topics: Company Culture