Leadership Perspectives | 05.22.19
2019 BISA Diversity & Inclusion Award Winner | Q&A Flagstar Bancorp
Kat Beddow (left) accepts the Diversity and Inclusion Award on behalf of Flagstar Bank at the 2019 BISA Annual Convention in Hollywood, Fla.
Outside the office, Flagstar Bancorp's Mary Mbiya is a pillar of the greater Detroit community, donating her time teaching financial literacy to ethnically diverse groups of students and neighborhood residents.
Inside the office, as the Troy, Mich.-based bank’s diversity director, Mbiya is helping to create a community built on pillars. These pillars support diversity and inclusion. And there are five of them, to be exact. It’s a framework that has allowed the bank employees to push forward with an integrated strategy to tie D&I into every facet of who they are, where they're going and all of the day-to-day actions needed to get them there.
For example, one of the pillars is talent acquisition. It's headed by the firm's Director of Recruiting and involves the organization’s full team of recruiters. Each of the bank's nine employee resource groups partners with an individual recruiter; in this way, ERGs serve as both focus groups and referral sources.
D&I-centric hiring progress is measured quarterly. Binding it together is an internal communications strategy aimed at reinforcing to employees the need to better understand one another, and their clients, who inevitably are going to have different backgrounds and ways of looking at the world. "People need to feel like they can relate," Mbiya said. "That goes for clients who walk in the door seeking investment advice or job candidates getting to know us – so we want our team to make their best effort to understand cultures other than their own. This allows us to be able to genuinely understand our clients."
To that end, Flagstar participated in the CEO Action "Day of Understanding." It’s a relaxed forum for people to have conversations geared toward learning more about one another's heritage, backgrounds, experiences and challenges – all with the goal of educating employees to better understand the potential impact of unconscious bias and build a more inclusive culture.
Flagstar's ERGs, meanwhile, are open to everybody so as to foster more of an intermingling of different perspectives. "Culturally there is a point to everything we're doing, and we are constantly reminding one another of that," Mbiya said.
The teamwide effort recently was validated when Flagstar was named a recipient of the 2019 BISA Diversity & Inclusion Award.
This past April, BISA contributing writer Rich Blake spoke with Mbiya about her firm's D&I efforts.
What does winning the BISA Diversity & Inclusion award mean to you?
Mary Mbiya: Our D&I initiatives are really an extension of what Flagstar Bank is all about. When we are recognized by a leading industry organization such as BISA, it’s truly an honor. That’s because it lets us know that we are going in the right direction, as we continue to take this D&I journey.
What are your best practices for promoting workplace diversity and inclusion?
Mbiya: Different employees will gravitate toward different initiatives so we offer a variety for better engagement. Right now, we have 15 awareness programs, and we are always asking for feedback on what else people would like to see us do. We are very deliberate about making sure our D&I initiatives have internal and external visibility, so everything from internal community connectivity to social media, workshops, newsletters and of course, our nine ERGs.
What advice do you have for other firms in the industry that are hoping to strengthen their diversity and inclusion efforts?
Mbiya: You need to have a strong leadership commitment. Take the time to develop a strong strategy and let your leadership be a part of the steering committee in developing the strategic plan. Top leadership should be involved in different initiatives because it starts at the top! You also certainly want to ensure that the commitment is ongoing and keep the leaders informed and engaged. Once there is a clearly defined strategy it needs to be shared with employees so that they can understand how they can be a part of the ongoing efforts. It is also helpful when the strategy can be integrated into the company’s DNA, who you are and how you do business.
For example, at Flagstar, in an effort to continuously integrate the D&I efforts, we are aligning them into our day-to-day business. How we do this is via our five-pillar framework which I am happy to share with you; Pillar one, market share and product innovation, is led by our chief product officer. Two, talent acquisition, is led by our recruiting director. Three, talent engagement and development, is led by our associate general counsel, with our training director serving in an advisory function. Four, community connectivity, is led by our foundation director. And, finally, five, supplier diversity, is led by our director of vendor management and sourcing. Having these formalized pillars gives us a roadmap for accountability and truly allows for effective day-to-day integration.
As you were focusing on your own D&I efforts what challenges did you face?
Mbiya: One of the biggest challenges has been engaging with our remote employees. More people are working from remote locations, so we’ve had to put in extra effort to make sure everyone has the same experience, whether here in the office or via virtual participation. We keep trying different approaches, depending on the initiative.
What’s next on the strategic agenda to keep this D&I momentum going forward?
Mbiya: We have a five-year strategic plan that we continue to work toward, and like any other business unit, we have goals and objectives. We use metrics to measure progress and report quarterly to our D&I Council, which includes C-suite executives. In addition, we also want to ensure that we continuously equip employees on how to continue to foster an inclusive work environment. It is important to be intentional and deliberate at every level.
The progress made to date does not mean that we have arrived – not yet, anyway – but with the organizational framework and commitment from senior leadership, we are sure that we are going in the right direction.
Want to learn more about why diversity and inclusion should be among your top business priorities. Listen to the April 2019 BISA Pop-up Peer Group Discussion.