Dr. Shelton J. Goode, President and CEO
Not so long ago, diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) were just a group of buzzwords, perhapscheckboxes on a form. But those days are over.2020has been an eyeopener for businesses across the globe andone of the biggest lessons learned over the past year is that workplaces need to reflect on the chasm between their DEI intentions and reality. Business leaders in every industry have been re-evaluating their DEI strategy and re-assessing workplace culture in the wake of unprecedented global shifts. The killing of George Floyd marked the beginning of the Racial Revolution of 2020, and since then, DEI jobs in corporate America and higher education have increased significantly. As global unrest over racial discrimination continues to rise, corporate leaders are scrambling to demonstrate their pledges and promises to promote more inclusive environments by hiring DEI practitioners and anti-racism educators. Enter Icarus Consulting, a company that offers tailored resources to empower and improvethe business leadership, diversity, and inclusion goals of organizations.
In an interview with the editorial team at Manage HR, Dr. Shelton J. Goode, President and CEO at Icarus Consulting discusses how his company has been partnering with clients to build a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive workplace.
Could you provide an overview of Icarus Consulting?
Icarus Consulting specializes in helping companies become more diverse, equitable, and inclusive. We do that by ensuring that our clients understand where they stand in their DEI journey and the gap between where they are and where they want to be. There are many diversity and inclusion consulting companies, but what makes us unique is our ability to help clients recruit diverse talent while also retaining their top performers, helping them to be successful and profitable. All our consultants are either HR leaders, diversity leaders, or business leaders, which allows us to approach our work through a business lens. At Icarus, we believe that if a company is successful, then everybody associated with the company, be it shareholders, customers, vendors, or suppliers, will benefit from it.
What are some of the leading trends in the industry when it comes to diversity and inclusion?
When I started my business, I was among the few people who shifted straight from the corporate C-suite to running a firm. As a result, I knew firsthand which companies presented an opportunity to advance and accelerate their DEI efforts. Over the past year, we have encountered a global pandemic, widespread social unrest, and a divisive presidential election, and this has amplified the complexities manifold in the corporate world.
Firstly, despite being amidst a pandemic, recruiting the best talent continues to be a highly competitive landscape. Secondly, many ofthe things that encouraged people to join a company pre-pandemic are no longer appealing. Companies must work harder to distinguish themselves and set themselves apart from the rest of the competition. And finally, organizations are now held accountable for what they say they are doing. If acompany describes itself as diverse while it is not, there will be unrest among the recruits.
There are many diversity and inclusion consulting companies, but what makes us unique is our ability to help clients recruit diverse talent while also retaining their top performers, helping them to be successful and profitable
How does diversity, equity, and inclusion consulting help your clientsto transform their organization?
Considering the multiple crises that we have faced over the last few years, CEOs, board members, and C-suite executives are now listening more. They now realize the need to change the way they work and are hungry to find out the critical aspects of their business that they need to change to succeed. These changes should be made sustainably to ensure that they don’t have to reinvent the wheel year after year. In my opinion, CEOs must let their employees guide them on implementing the necessary changes to bring about a positive change.They need to trust and listen intently to their employees to learnhow they can be more productive and successful. At the same time, CEOs need to look at their data and analyze it before making any decisions. Leverage all the data at your disposal, such as the HR systems, employee surveys, audit data, and employee concerns and complaints.
Could you provide us an instance where Icarus helped a client achieve the desired outcomes?
In one of our consultations, a client was contemplating reducing costs without layingoff any employee. Instead, he decided on a pay cut of 20 percent for all employees. We suggested that it was not a good idea as a pay cut mightnot affect the C-suite executives or those directly workingunder them. Still, employees at the lower end of the organizational hierarchy will not afford the same. We asked them, “whatabout a customer service rep who is on the phone nine hours a day, taking 200 phone calls and making less than $15 an hour?What if that person is a single mother and a woman of color, and she barely has enough as it is for daycare or childcare? Would you still cut her salary by 20 percent?”
Realizing the point, the client decided to take a 25 percent pay cut for himself and his direct reports, 20 percent for the executive suite employees, and 15 percent for employees under them. This helped the client achieve their objective and ensured that every employee on an hourly wage was spared from the pay cut. We ask our clients the tough questions that nobody else asks, and that’s why people come to us. We help our clients see and delve into the aspects that they otherwise overlook.
What are some of the professional services that Icarus provides to its clients?
Icarus Consulting is essentially an HR firm specializing in diversity, equity, and inclusion, and we offer several services. We help companies deal with several employee-related issues. For organizations looking to get their employees more involved, we support them by setting up a diversity and inclusion council—a group of employees that help the company with its strategies. We offer diversity and inclusion training for companies that need to train their employees, supervisors, and managers. In some instances where the organization is not sure about what they want to do, we step in and conduct a diversity and inclusion (D&I) assessment that helps themidentify what keeps them from being more successful. Once the assessment is completed, we put together a strategy to help the organization progress in its DEI journey.
We also offer customized diversity and inclusion dashboards that help companies monitor their progress in their DEI journey. It can measure various metrics like the number of women and people of color hired and the rate at which they are hired. The dashboard can capture every detail of an employee’s life cycle from when they are recruited until they leave the organization. One aspect that is often overlooked is the amount of money companies invest in diverse businesses. If a company is genuinely diverse, equitable, and inclusive, it should be spending more on businesses owned by minorities, veterans, or disabled people. This component is called the economic inclusion on our dashboard. It also measures an employee’s opinion of the company, captured on a scale of 1 to 10 on a D&I index.
What sets Icarus Consulting apart from its key competitors?
We have three values that set us apart. To begin with, our ethos is rooted in unquestionable trust. We engage with our clients in ways that they trust us impeccably. When a client shares information with us, they treat us as an extension of their organization. And that trust trickles down to how we work with each other. Second, we offer total commitment. Even when we are not working with a client, we engage with them as a strategic partner. I ask for only one thing from my team—either to be all the way in or all the way out. Finally, we offer superior performance. We are a small team that is agile and nimble. There are many companies in the diversity and inclusion consulting space, but our superpower is in our values and how we approach our work.
What does the future hold of Icarus Consulting?
The COVID-19 pandemic has forced us to pivot to a virtual working model. At the same time, we are expected to be more efficient, cost-effective, and competitive. We are working on delivering our assessment tools and our dashboard via an application. We are continuously working on providing excellent service efficiently that matches the pace of our clients. At Icarus, we look forward to embracing creativity and innovation to tackle the challenges of today and tomorrow.