Navigating a Diversity and Inclusion Crisis

Almost every organization faces a diversity and inclusion dilemma. Uber recently had their Founder and Chief People Officer step down after a series of harassment claims went unanswered. Facebook and Google constantly face scrutiny for their lack of diversity in their workforce. But no organization has faced a bigger crisis than the one Papa John's is currently facing. John Schnatter has been no stranger to controversy. Schnatter was vehemently against the Affordable Care Act and spoke about decreasing his workers hours to avoid an increase in healthcare costs. He later blamed the NFL's lack of action against the kneeling players for Papa John's decrease in sales. Now, Schnatter admitted to using the 'n-word' during a May 2018 conference call. Since then, Schnatter has been removed from his post as Chairman of the Papa John's board, had his founder's agreement terminated, forced to give up his office at Papa John's corporate headquarters, removed from the board of trustees at the University of Louisville, and had his name and company name removed from various institutions, buildings, and stadiums. In addition, the court of public opinion has issued a verdict of guilty both to Schnatter and Papa John's, resulting in many calling for a boycott. Needless to say, Papa John's is facing a diversity and inclusion crisis. Unfortunately, the story may not end there as Schnatter has hired a lawyer to fight back.

In any event, Papa John's has vowed to turn over a new leaf by bringing on a team of experts to right this wrong. At some point, every organization will face some sort of dilemma that needs immediate attention. Here are some next steps Papa John's needs to take to reclaim their reputation, stakeholders, and customers.

1. Act fast! The longer Papa John's waits to make change, the harder it will be for customers to forgive and forget. Uber's Founder and former CEO, Travis Kalanick, was forced to step down because issues were brought to the leadership team's attention but nothing was done to fix the problem. They then brought in a highly regarded Chief People Officer from Microsoft who stepped down 18 months later because of the same thing. Time is of the essence! Papa John's must keep the public informed on their actions if they want to regain trust. Flood the news channels and social media platforms with a new spokesperson who can talk about the Papa John's values and short term plans. So far, Schnatter has dominated the airwaves and that has to change.

2. Make diversity and inclusion a true priority going forward. Diversity and inclusion starts at the top and it's clear that Schnatter does not truly value diversity and inclusion. Unfortunately, that sentiment trickles down to Papa John's. A department will eventually need to be established to make diversity and inclusion a sustainable and long term strategy, but a team of outside experts can help create some short term initiatives to get the organization back on track. Papa John's needs to start at the beginning by understanding why diversity and inclusion are good for business, good for the workforce, an good for the community. See Decide Diversity's previous blog on identifying the goal of diversity and inclusion.

3. Evaluate policies and norms related to diversity and inclusion and ensure that a rewards and punishment system is in place. In many instances, there may be a policy related to hostile environment harassment, such as using the 'n-word' at a conference call, but what is the punishment for violating the policy? Is the punishment applied equally to everyone regardless of their title? The biggest issue at Starbucks wasn't that the manager who called the police on the two African american men was biased. We all have biases that influence our behavior. The problem was that Starbucks didn't have a clear policy; guideline; or rewards and punishment system in place to deter the manager from acting on that bias. Rules, laws, and policies are pointless without a consistent rewards and punishment system.

4. Increase corporate social responsibility. Papa John's engaged in corporate social responsibility in many ways. They were a sponsor for the NFL, until that contract was cancelled. They were a sponsor at the University of Louisville, specifically for the football stadium and a new business center. The new President of the University of Louisville, Dr. Neeli Bendapudi, took swift action to announce that the partnership has ended. The mayor of Schnatter's hometown also announced that his name would be removed from the city's basketball gym. In other words, there are many organizations that are refusing support from and partnership with Papa John's. This means that they have to double down on their efforts and focus them on the communities that are most impacted by Schnatter's actions and remarks without expecting anything in return. Check out last month's Decide Diversity article to learn more ways to successfully mix corporate social responsibility and diversity and inclusion.

5. Diversify the leadership team. The face and leaders of Papa John's must be representative of the customers and stakeholders they service. While many will see this as a reactionary move, it's also a very necessary one to help ensure that problems like this don't continue to fester and explode. Having a variety of people with different life and career experiences at the table help make the organization more inclusive of people from underrepresented backgrounds. Also, there's tons of research that shows the financial benefits associated with a diverse leadership team!

Unfortunately, there is no one size fits all solution for navigating a storm of this magnitude, but Papa John's needs to be very intentional about their next steps. The entire world is watching what happens next! The onus lies with Papa John's to take responsibility for their current situation and to be very vocal about the remedies. Just like with Starbucks, we will be watching!


Corporate Social Responsibility and Diversity and Inclusion


June 2018

     Organizations of all sizes engage in corporate social responsibility not only to improve the company's image, but can you confidently say that your organization's corporate social responsibility strategy furthers the diversity and inclusion strategy? 

Corporate Social Responsibility can best be described as an organization's investment in initiatives that improve the environment, people, and the community. The shoe company, Toms, was a trailblazer in corporate social responsibility by donating a pair of shoes for every pair sold. Since Toms entered the market, companies are leveraging the power of corporate social responsibility to further their mission and potentially reach a new and loyal audience. The best part is that the shoes are donated to an underserved population and perfectly compliment the company's commitment to diversity and inclusion.

McKinsey & Company released a report outlining ways to make the most of corporate social responsibility. Most interesting is the different ways companies spend their time, talent, and treasures in the name of the ‘greater good’. Leaders choose projects that fall into one of three categories: their personal passions, the perceived benefit to the organization, or the mutual benefit of the organization and the community. Most projects focus on ways to reduce the organization’s environmental footprint, increase the safety of their employees and products, and do no harm to the communities in which they operate. In most cases, the goal is to lessen the negative impact.

As the workforce continues to expect more and more from billion-dollar corporations, leaders have a unique opportunity to stand out from the crowd by investing their time, talent, and treasures into underserved communities and populations. It’s no longer acceptable for companies to just ‘do no harm’, the expectation is that companies lift up. Some are better at “lifting up” than others. For example, McDonalds does an awesome job of lifting up Hispanic students with their scholarship program; provides free care, resources, and overnight stays for families of sick children; and celebrates black history and people through 365 Black. Kroger is another company that lifts up the communities they serve. Kroger has a program called ‘Honoring Our Heroes’ where they hire veterans and donate money to the United Service Organization; donate 3 million meals a week to local food banks; and donate through their Giving Hope a Hand campaign to find a cure for breast cancer. AT&T was recently recognized because of their citizenship. One of AT&T’s major goals is to decrease the high school dropout rate through a program called AT&T Aspire that ‘creates connections that drive innovation in education.” They bring mobile learning to the classroom, creating mentoring opportunities, and employ strategies that help students graduate.

These organizations are doing corporate social responsibility right! They are serving underserved communities to uplift. They may not consider it under the umbrella of diversity and inclusion, but these initiatives further the strategic mission that diversity and inclusion reminds us of daily. The bar has been set: do no harm and uplift the community. Ask yourself these questions to determine how intertwined your corporate social responsibility initiatives and diversity and inclusion initiatives are.

 1. Who decides what projects or initiatives your organization undertakes? As with all business strategies, who is at the table is important! Because corporate social responsibility involves the community, representatives from the community need to be at the table. Many leaders enter a community, from which they have no ties, and try to enact change without understanding what the community needs. This results in community resentment. Instead, leaders need to meet with community representatives to understand what they feel is needed to make their community better. This is a great way to build relationships with communities that may need your services or choose your organization for employment.
2. What communities of people does the project or initiative impact? Localized efforts provide a community with a resource that immediately makes a positive impact. Building a playground, cleaning up a stretch of highway, or planting a community garden are examples of projects that are localized to a community and the turnaround is short. Global efforts break down the systemic barriers that prevent people from living a fruitful life. Providing scholarships, supporting research, and donating to causes are examples of initiatives that may take longer, but positively impact more people. A mixture of both is best. Many organizations adopt global efforts at the corporate level and support associate involvement with localized efforts. Victoria’s Secret supports cancer research from a global perspective through the Ohio State Wexner Medical Center, named after Victoria’s Secret CEO, Leslie Wexner. There are also multiple opportunities for stores to get involved at a local level by partnering with domestic violence shelters on Mother’s Day and Christmas.
3. How often does your organization engage in CSR? One of my previous employers engaged in CSR daily by donating perishable food items to food banks. Other organizations make CSR an annual event. Decide Diversity engages in CSR twice monthly through the local Urban League.

No matter how big or small your organization, corporate social responsibility and diversity and inclusion need to be an intertwined strategy. There’s immense power in joining forces and multiplying impact.What other areas of diversity and inclusion could use a jump start? Complete this short quiz to learn other areas of opportunity!

Continue the conversation at the Network of Intersectional Leaders!