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The Importance and Impact of Meaningful Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Programs: the Asurion Way

Alicia Braswell
Senior Benefits Manager

In this episode, Alicia Braswell, Senior Benefits Manager responsible for Wellbeing and Employee Benefits Communication at Asurion, shares strategies, details and goals behind their award winning diversity, equity and inclusion work. Asurion has been recognized industry-wide for their DE&I work. Recent honors include awards like Forbes 2020’s Best Employer for Diversity, 2020 Diversity Inc.’s Top Companies for Employee Resources Groups and 2020 Fortune’s Best Workplaces for Women. Listen below for the secrets to their success and how they plan to evolve their program to ensure benefits, and culture, are for everyone. 

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Podcast Transcript:
The Importance and Impact of Meaningful Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Programs: the Asurion Way

Jamie: Hi Alicia, welcome to the Ovia Asks podcast. Today’s episode is The Importance and Impact of Meaningful Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Programs: The Asurion Way. Our hope is to discuss DE&I as it relates to your benefits, your culture, and your organization - why it matters and what programs are working. I know Asurion has been recognized nationally for its DE&I, so we’re excited to hear about all your doing and the impact it’s having on your workforce.

Before we begin, tell us a little about yourself, your role, and Asurion.

Alicia: I’ve been with Asurion for 2.5 years. Asurion helps customers protect, connect, and enjoy all their technology. With 19,000 employees globally, we operate in 23 countries. We have nearly 300M customers globally and have over 540 uBreakiFix stores. We’ve won top awards such as Forbes 2020’s Best Employer for Diversity, 2020 Diversity Inc.’s Top Companies for Employee Resources Groups and 2020 Fortune’s Best Workplaces for Women.

I’m a Sr. Benefits Manager responsible for Wellbeing and Employee Benefits Communication. My role is exciting, I oversee the Wellbeing Program for all U.S. employees and make sure employees have the education, communications and access to resources too so they are engaged, informed and empowered to make decisions about our benefits and wellbeing programs.

That’s my day job. Off the side of my desk, I’m blessed to be able to contribute to communities and programs that are important to me. I’m co-chair of our Women’s Initiative Network employee resource group (ERG), Core team member of our Black Employees Supporting talent ERG supporting recruiting efforts for Summer Interns and one of the leads on our Call to Action for Racial Equity pillars focused on Self-Education and Forums. And anywhere else I can insert myself to join in on efforts to empower women and people of color.

Oh and I’m a mother to a 19 year old son and a partner in crime to my husband of almost 9 years.

Jamie: Wow, that’s an impressive resume, and I love hearing about your family and everything you’re doing with the ERGs! I know today, we’ll be learning even more about that, and discussing the work you’ve done with Asurion, and its impact on you and your colleagues. But before we dive in, I’d love to ask, what about diversity, equity and inclusion, as well as people development, inspires you? Why this work, and what does it mean to you?

Alicia: I’m inspired because I want to be part of inspiring others. As a woman of color – a Black woman, you don’t find many women who look like me, at my level stepping out to be heard and creating opportunities of equity and inclusion for others. Being a part of these opportunities, initiatives and in spaces where I can share the needs of others based on what I hear and what I experience makes my heart smile. Call that my purpose, I guess. It’s not easy to juggle what feels like 3 jobs on top of my personal life, but when you see the appreciation and knowing that you may have helped someone grow personally or professionally or had a break -through, it’s worth it. It’s my way of growing into my purpose and my journey both personally and professionally.

I’m honored to work for a company that allows me to grow. My “day” job allows me to implement programs to empower employees to make positive choices about their physical, financial and emotional health. All are interconnected. Take for example Ovia Health. Partnering with Ovia empowers employees on their parenting journey in all three aspects – physically by offering ways to stay healthy before, during and after pregnancy; financially - possibly being able to conceive naturally without infertility treatments and emotionally – the family planning journey can take a toll on everyone involved. Support is necessary.

My purpose isn’t tied to my job title, it’s tied to the work I do, to the impact I make. That’s what keeps me going when it gets hectic and there’s too much to do. When I look back and see the impact, that’s the fire that keeps me going. That keeps me making lemonade.

Jamie: I know you and your organization have put a lot of work in the past year into diversity, equity and inclusion programs, can you tell us a little more about them? What are they, what were your goals, and what do they look like today?

Alicia: In addition to the amazing work done by our Diversity and Inclusion team has done over the years to create a more inclusive workforce to mitigate bias, infuse principles of inclusion on our policies, process and culture; actively monitoring and engaging diverse talent; providing transparency of data through an Annual D&I report and D&I demographic dashboard reporting; asking all employees to be EPIC (Empower employees, promote partnerships, inspire inclusion and cultivate commUnity). Supporting our Employee Resource Groups (we have 11!) that promote inclusivity and help drive full potential for employees and the organization.

Last June, Asurion responded to events surrounding racial injustice by, initiating our Call to Action for Racial Equity initiative. In response to the brutal killing of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and countless other Black people, we created forums to provide employees with a safe space to share their feelings and experiences surrounding racial injustice.

There are 3 pillars to support our Call to Action initiative:

  1. Financial Investment – A financial commitment to a $1 million financial investment in our communities over the course of the next 5 years.
  2. Removing Barriers – a commitment to address hiring, promotions, and development opportunities for Black employees by removing barriers to opportunities that exist within Asurion and work to develop stronger pipelines of Black talent through intentional recruiting & development of internal colleagues. Restructured how we’re hiring and interviewing to ensure we’re bringing in diverse candidates and mitigating bias. Requirement for all leaders and those interviewing to complete the Certified Interviewer curriculum. Over 92% are certified. Goal is to have 100% of all interviewing panels diverse and 100% of candidate slates – meaning at least 2 women or person of color. While it hasn’t been an easy lift, as a company, I think we’ve adjusted to being comfortable with being uncomfortable in order to create change.
  3. AND Forums and Education. A commitment to create spaces to support ongoing education and community support for all employees. Creating Awareness. First through cultivated resources for self-education that all are invited to read, watch, or listen to help build an understanding or gain perspective on racism in the U.S. Platforms to engage in dialogue about experiences on racial injustice/racism. Lastly, by taking action to continue support racial inequality initiatives and learn more about racism and the impacts on society.

In partnership with our D&I team, WIN hosted a BeBold session to create a safe space to discuss Women and the impacts of the Pandemic. BeBold sessions allow for knowledge sharing on a topic and then through structured, small group breakouts you have a safe space to discuss differences in identity, beliefs and values. And 99% of the time, have an ah-ha moment. Everyone has a voice. We wanted to acknowledge that women have been most impacted by the events of last year and it continues. Research tells us that women are leaving their roles due to childcare/homeschooling demands; many of the job’s women hold are being eliminated or furloughed – particularly – Women of Color have been hardest hit by layoffs due to COVID. Black and Latina women are more likely than other races and ethnicities to be the primary breadwinner in the home.

Women are doing 3x more housework or caregiving than before. Senior-level women are shying away from additional responsibility. Over 2 million women have left the workforce within the last year. We wanted to hear from our employees. We want to know what support is needed so we can partner with D&I or other ERGs to identify the areas where we can best support.

Jamie: How has it been received thus far? Is there a lot of engagement? Are there any early results you’ve noticed or measured?

Alicia: All D&I initiatives have been well received by employees and leaders. Specifically, we offered over 29 Call to Action Forums and over 2,000 employees attended. Our leadership is very much engaged, and very specific diversity and equity goals are called out and are specific in our overall company goals. All the work the D&I and Call to Action teams is part of our culture. It’s not just lip service. Our CEO and Executive Leadership team, is fully committed to creating a more diverse, equitable and inclusive culture at Asurion.

Our BeBold session was also impactful. Not only providing a space for women at Asurion to share and connect but also for our ally’s (men) to understand and maybe for the first time hear what the women in their lives may be experiencing.

Jamie: Be bold, I love the phrasing there. It acknowledges how challenging it can seem as a woman in the workforce to speak about these topics. I do think we see more people coming forward and doing it, and these kind of programs really provide a space for that, and help people do it in a safe space, which is vital. Now that we see the beginning of this program, and others like it, I’d love to ask your opinion on what’s next. What’s the future of these kinds of programs? How are you hoping to evolve them and continue to support your fellow employees in the future?

Alicia: We will continue to offer topics to support diversity, equity and inclusion. Additional BeBold sessions to address hot topics that may arise or to continue the discussion of topics that are still hot. The topics we cover aren’t always created by our DE&I Team, employees are bringing us the topics as they surface in the community. We’ll keep doing that, and we’ll continue to provide resources for self-education and forums, as appropriate, surrounding racial equity and inclusion. We’ll continue to be proactive and listen to our ERGs to address topics that are bubbling up.

From our Women and the Pandemic session we want to evolve to create circles or communities for support. Whether you call it networking or community support, it’s building the skill of resiliency. It’s addressing the social and emotional pillar of wellbeing. When can talk to others and see you’re not the only person feeling this way or dealing with the same issues, you feel empowered. See the correlation between my day job and the things I do off the side of my desk? At the end of the day it’s all connected.

Jamie: Resilience is something I’ve heard many people talk about in the industry today. But it can be hard to achieve, even harder during times like we face today. What lessons have you and your organization learned from these programs and feedback so far? Any advice you’d share with other organizations looking to improve DE&I?

Alicia: DE&I work is a journey, it doesn’t change overnight. On the outside, you look around the company and wonder if enough is being done to support DE&I efforts. As I become more involved in our DE&I efforts, I see that it’s a journey. You can’t go from 0-60. DE&I needs support at all levels of the organization. The push from the top and the pull from the bottom.

In Benefits, in addition to providing an exceptional employee experience, we seek to offer programs that support our employees when they need it most. Our wellbeing program is designed to meet people where they are on their wellbeing/wellness journey. Someone may only want to walk 7,000 steps a day while someone else wants to run 7 miles a day. It’s not one size fits all

The same for DE&I, support employees when they need it most and meet people where they are on their journey.

Keep in mind once you begin to do the internal work and start to question deep rooted practices and beliefs, it can be very uncomfortable, and your instinct is to resist. No one wants to be uncomfortable. But that’s when you know change is happening. That’s when you keep moving forward. This is where I think we are at Asurion. We’re recognizing that while change may be uncomfortable, we’re moving in the right direction and making a difference.

Advice? Lean on external partnerships with other companies or organizations. Focus on Unity and encourage a culture to allow employees to be themselves and bring their full self to work.

Jamie: You mentioned earlier programs about financial wellbeing and fertility, and how those programs seem to be really taking off. Can you tell us more about those? 

Alicia: As I mentioned our goal is to provide the programs and partners to empower employees to make informed decisions about their overall wellbeing. Last year we launched two new vendor partners – to support your health and your mental wellbeing. Instead of us telling employees what to work on to improve their health, they can now work on the health and lifestyle behaviors that resonate with where they are on their wellbeing journey. We enhanced our EAP to offer coach and therapy from evidence-based therapist. The events of last year, while tragic and disruptive, allowed many of us – including myself- to stop moving long enough to recognize areas of my life that needed attention and to heal. Our EAP came along at the right time. You couldn’t tell me in 2019 that we would be so open to talking about mental health and that it’s ok not to be ok. In each meeting I attend to talk about our wellbeing program, someone always mentions how amazing our EAP program is.

We already had our financial wellbeing partner in place. We continue to offer programs that meet people where they are on their journey. For example, let’s say you have high-blood pressure or diabetes. We have programs to support you but data also shows that individuals with chronic conditions are depressed and may also have financial issues. Financial situations that won’t allow them to get the care they need or the stress of how to get the care they need, which further contributes to the initial condition or may create a new chronic condition. It’s a cycle and no matter where you are in that cycle, our wellbeing and healthcare support programs can meet you there.

Jamie: On top of financial and wellbeing, fertility is an interesting issue - do you think people are open to talking about that today, more so than in the past? And what kinds of things is Asurion doing to support those conversations?

Alicia: It is an interesting issue that’s now, like mental health, being talked about more. More support is offered and it’s no longer a secret people are hiding. Which is great because then it allows companies to offer programs such as Ovia to support the journey. Knowing that you have access to articles, tracking tools and coaches is amazing. When I was pregnant 20 years ago, all I had was What to Expect When You’re Expecting. Ovia provides so much more than that. I wish I had the opportunity to reach out to a coach rather than worrying about something that I had to remember to tell my doctor about at my next monthly appointment would have relieved much of my stress.

We’re limited in the number of communications we can mass email to employees. Ovia has great utilization because of word of mouth. As one employee is going through infertility or starting their family planning journey they are sharing information about Ovia. I guess you could say that engagement has grown organically. Which is GREAT! To me, that shows the value of a program if it’s growing organically using word of mouth rather than flooding your in-box with emails about a program.

Jamie: That’s so great to hear and know. I think a lot of parents have the same struggles, and it can really take a toll on you.

We’re seeing it across our platforms as well. A new study we just ran from our digital depression screener responses suggests that parents are struggling to juggle home and work life more than ever. The data showed that new moms, and especially women of color, are reporting symptoms of moderate to severe depression 22% more than pre-pandemic. As a parent and an HR professional, are you seeing similar struggles yourself or in your workforce? How are you responding?

Alicia: Surveys and shared experiences tell us that women have faced more distinct challenges at home and at work because of the events of 2020 – particularly mothers, senior-level women and Black women. Black women are more than twice as likely as non-Black women to say the death of a loved one has been one during the COVID-19 pandemic along with incidents of racial violence across the US in addition to the expectations at home and work are causing stress, anxiety and burnout.

As I mentioned earlier, we created the BeBold to address Women and the Impacts of the Pandemic. The pandemic has been a challenge for women and altered the way we work. For me personally, the way I think about work, society, family and how I think about myself. Whether it’s feeling like I’m always on, like other women, there’s the struggle to keep up – do our jobs, take care of household members along with the responsibility of taking care of domestic responsibilities. Sometimes it can feel like there isn’t a barrier between work and home.
  • Taking steps to minimize gender bias
  • Adjusting policies and programs to better support employees (promote existing programs that are underutilized and assess if benefits go far enough to support employees)
  • Strengthen communication with employees
  • Taking steps to actively support Black women in the workplace

Jamie: Where do you hope to expand your efforts in the future?

Alicia: Wow, well for sure, I want to continue to do the work. Both personally and professionally. Follow where that takes me. I want to encourage women to own their story, prioritize wellness in my resilience and challenge and influence others beliefs and actions towards gender and racial equity for all.

Jamie: That’s beautiful and something I think everyone listening in can agree on. The work doesn’t end here because you’ve set up a solid infrastructure. I’m excited to see how Asurion and you evolve and take this work further. Before we log off today, any other closing thoughts?

Alicia: No thank you so much for the opportunity. It was a pleasure to be here.

Jamie: Thank you so much for your time and thoughts, Alicia. It was a pleasure and we are so inspired and in awe of the work you and Asurion have done, and are continuing to do. You’re creating something truly unique.

I hope other employers listening in today can take a page from your book, BeBold themselves, and continue to open up the channels of communication to normalize talking about DE&I, mental health, fertility and family / parental mental health. Providing a space and forum to discuss these topics, and expanding your benefits to address the needs you hear (like you did with the fertility programs) is such an important first step to shifting your culture and making your workplace more inclusive, and beneficial, for employees. I’m sure this isn’t the last we’ll hear about Asurion’s work, as I feel like you’re just getting started.

Thank you again for your thoughts and insights today. It was an absolute pleasure. For those of you listening out there, if you have any questions about the Asurion way, or Ovia Health, fill out the form on the landing page below, and make sure to catch the next episode of Ovia Asks for more insights and information from top employers in the US. Thanks and have a great day.

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