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Creating and Sustaining D&I Programs in Organizations: Three Pieces of Advice from Lori George Billingsley, Coca-Cola’s Chief D&I Officer

Dean Maryam Alavi of the Georgia Tech Scheller College of Business recently hosted a conversation with Lori George Billingsley, Global Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer for The Coca-Cola Company. Billingsley leads the company’s Global Diversity and Inclusion Center of Excellence along with the Diversity, Inclusion, and Workplace Fairness teams for North America. Prior to taking the role, the 17-year Coca-Cola veteran served as Vice President of Community and Stakeholder Relations for Coca-Cola North America.

During the hour-long virtual discussion, Billingsley spoke about Coca-Cola’s diversity and inclusion initiatives as well as actions that can be taken to create and sustain a robust diversity and inclusion program.

Here are three key takeaways for individuals and corporations.

1. Potential and current employees care about whether or not a company has D&I programs in place.

Employees expect their current and prospective employers to be committed to growth and development in the D&I space. “Employees want to see people who look like them at all levels,” Billingsley said. She also notes that companies should have employee resource groups and employee engagement surveys in place to ensure their employees have ample support and avenues to give feedback.

2. The tenets of Coke’s CARE initiative provide a starting point for developing D&I plans in your organization.

At Coca-Cola, Billingsley created the CARE initiative – Create, Articulate, Regulate, and Evaluate.

Create. “Create an inclusive environment by engaging diverse talent through recruitment, advancement, development, engagement, and retention processes,” she said.

Articulate. This is about making sure the company is communicating progress in the D&I space.

Regulate. According to Billingsley, this may be the most important part of the process. “This is what keeps us out of jail,” she remarked. It’s imperative to follow regulations. She cites following affirmative action plans and pay equity guidelines and conducting an adverse impact analysis to make sure everyone is treated fairly.

Evaluate. “Measurements matters,” she stated. You need to know how to create and update tools and resources that can be used across the system. Billingsley reports that at Coke, they assess D&I programs globally and share reports to senior leaders to ensure D&I is included in all business plans. She emphasizes the importance of working with talent, development, and recruitment teams.

3. Remember the importance of applying specific, measurable goals to your D&I initiatives.  

Coca Cola’s D&I initiatives vary depending on geography. In the U.S., the company is focused on race while globally, they’re focused on women – specifically, on having 50 percent of their workforce led by women. Currently, they have systems in place when interviewing to make sure women and those of different races are represented. The company has also created a scorecard that examines how an individual displays leadership in the D&I space. Furthermore, they have piloted an Inclusion Accelerator with the company Catalyst that measures the inclusivity of their work environment.

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