We believe that when we diversify the minds behind our innovations, we can reach more people, reduce health disparities and improve health outcomes for all. ZS prides itself on the efforts we put into creating a diverse and inclusive workplace culture, from implementing companywide bias and hiring trainings to supporting employee-led diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) groups and prioritizing DEI practices in our client work.
However, we still have work to do. In our latest Environmental, Social and Governance report, we found that a disproportionate percentage of Black and Hispanic or Latino ZSers report lower feelings of belonging and leave ZS before completing two years of tenure. This evidence suggests that we need to concentrate our efforts further and help improve the experience of underrepresented talent at our firm.
Luckily, ZSer Ebonee Anderson is leading a team to identify what drivers contribute to the reported gaps in representation, retention and sense of belonging among Black and Hispanic or Latino ZSers. The work, commissioned by ZS’s DEI Council is called the Stay Taskforce—an effort to further improve our workplace culture and better support and retain minority talent at ZS.
ZS’s DEI Center of Expertise (COE) is an internal HR team focused on creating systemic and sustained impact from ZS’s DEI efforts. Ebonee joined the team a few years ago after an extensive career in diversity recruiting. However, she credits her passion for pushing progress in DEI to the early years of her work as a career navigator, helping people from marginalized communities. “I got tired of warning people that they shouldn’t get discriminated against, but they might,” she says. “I realized that if I wanted to make a difference, I needed to be on the other side of the conversation. I needed to work in recruitment, ensuring that no one faced discrimination or unconscious bias."
As a member of ZS’s DEI COE, one of Ebonee’s roles is to operationalize inclusive practices. When describing her role, she says, “Oftentimes people think of diversity, equity and inclusion work as being passion work, not realizing there’s expertise that involves researching approaches and frameworks, formalizing and operationalizing practices and challenging institutional norms.”
This knowledge and experience has proved vital as Ebonee works to improve the retention of Black and Hispanic or Latino ZSers, something that’s been recognized as a top priority by our DEI Council—a committee of leaders appointed by ZS’s Shareholder’s Council, which works to set and realize ZS’s DEI strategy and priorities.
Using a similar strategy that our Women@ZS inclusion and diversity group implemented to improve gender equity, Ebonee and the Stay Taskforce team are conducting interviews and reviewing internal data to target pain points hurting retention and feelings of belonging. With the goal of interviewing 70% of ZS’s Black and Hispanic or Latino workforce, they will use the findings to develop a tangible plan for how ZS can improve retention specifically for these communities.
“It’s easy to believe the myth that everyone experiences culture the same way the majority does,” Ebonee explains. “Doing a targeted assessment allows ZS to better understand the experience across the board and focus our efforts on supporting those who aren’t having their needs met.”
In addition to this research, ZS continues to recruit Black and Hispanic or Latino talent. For example, with programs like ZS SEED, we are making a conscientious effort to connect with students from Historically Black Colleges and Universities. We offer opportunities for smart, collaborative and ambitious students to plant a strong footing toward their ideal career through competitive acceleration programs.
Through all these efforts, Ebonee expects to see positive change and improvements in the next two to three years. “Our goal is to create solutions that are going to decrease gaps in terms of representation, retention and belonging.”
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