Stacy R. Janiak was not thinking about becoming managing partner of the Chicago office at Deloitte & Touche LLP when she joined the accounting firm in 1992.
The graduate of DePaul University just wanted to do her job and make a good impression on the people who had hired her. But it was an impression left on her by a mentor who she had just come to know who shaped both her future and that of the firm in the years ahead.
“Within a month of my joining the firm, a woman who I held in high regard who was a manager at the firm turned in her resignation and said she was going back to school to get an advanced degree,” Janiak says. “She confided in me and said she just felt like she wasn’t sure she could do what needed to be done to make partner.”
Janiak had arrived at Deloitte at a significant point in the firm’s history. Leadership had become aware that the employee turnover rate was significantly higher for women than it was for men, and it had them concerned.
“There was a perception that women were leaving to just go home and have babies,” Janiak says. “Finally, there was a question that then CEO Mike Cook laid out. He said, ‘Do we really know that?’”
A study was commissioned, and it was discovered that many women who left fit the description of Janiak’s mentor, who just felt there wasn’t an opportunity to grow and advance in the organization.
“They were going to work at other places they found more amenable to their personal goals and work goals,” Janiak says.
Deloitte leadership wanted to change that. The Initiative for the Retention and Advancement of Women was created to help ensure more opportunities for women, but it was more than that. It was launched with the idea of bringing more diversity and inclusion into every aspect of the way Deloitte did business.
“Each business is being impacted by the changing marketplace, by the changing consumer and by the changing demographics of the population, wherever they are selling their wares or services into,” Janiak says.
“Do you really understand how all of these factors are influencing your ultimate business? Isn’t it logical, given the changing nature of all of those factors, to have some of that change represented in the people who are working in your organization so you can better react to them and better position your products and services for the consumers of the future?”
The move to make inclusion and diversity a priority put Deloitte in a strong position to help many who were poised to lose their jobs at the former Arthur Andersen LLP in 2002.
“We distinguished ourselves on a number of fronts, but that was one of them as people looked at where they might extend their career in that particular situation,” says Janiak, who became managing partner of the Chicago office in September 2011. She is also the central region managing partner for audit and enterprise risk services.
In these turbulent times, when fortunes can change overnight, Janiak says Deloitte’s ongoing pursuit of diversity is more than just a feel-good story for the firm and its 3,800 employees. It’s a vital part of being successful company.
Focus on relationships
One of the biggest initial drivers that led Deloitte to get focused on being more diverse and inclusive was the money invested and talent that for years had been allowed to just walk out the door.
“We’re investing all these funds in very talented individuals who are walking out the door and, oh by the way, those individuals bring different and unique skill sets to us as a group that help us relate better and perform better with our clients,” Janiak says. “So why shouldn’t we address this?”
As Deloitte looked at its company and the way it did business, leaders realized that they were missing a crucial point of perspective in the way they operated the firm.
“Twenty years ago, I think you could have asked a group of partners at Deloitte, why should we focus on the women who are leaving?” Janiak says. “They are leaving. Let’s focus on the women who are staying.
“But now you really are missing something by not having a group of people at the table that is reflective of your buyers or the purchasers of your products and services. Force the conversation to what ways you might increase your internal diversity to have those ideas around the table.”
Each industry is different, but whatever business you’re involved in, communication and relationships are going to play a critical role in whether you succeed or fail. The easier it is to find common ground with your customers or potential customers, the better off you’re going to be.
And as you provide a more diverse front for your customers, you create more opportunities for your people at the same time and give them a reason to stay and grow in your organization, which helps you grow too. It becomes cyclical.
“If I take Deloitte as an example, one of the big pieces of data we looked at was how much we were investing in all our people to prepare them and train them and how much we could achieve from a revenue perspective if we were able to retain some of those individuals one, two, three or four years longer than we were at the time,” Janiak says.
“How did that change our overall organization by enhancing the level of experience before they chose to go pursue a different alternative career path?”
Janiak speculates that had Deloitte not changed, she probably wouldn’t be in the position she is in today. But she adds that it’s not solely about creating opportunities for women like her. It’s about adapting and positioning your company to succeed in a constantly changing environment.
“I don’t know if I would have stayed in an environment that was not inclusive and as flexible as it is,” Janiak says. “And I think given how the world has changed, you could probably say that about a lot of the men too. There are just as many men who struggle with family and just management of all these competing priorities. I think we’d look a lot different. I don’t think we’d be as successful, and I don’t think we’d have as much fun as we’re having.”
Set the tone
If you want to promote a culture in which everyone plays an important part in your company’s success, you’ve got to make it a personal priority to instill that culture.
“A big mistake would be making it a program versus being able to describe the business imperative,” Janiak says. “Describe why it is valuable to the organization and demonstrate that. How are you developing people on your own teams that you have responsibility for?
“It’s critical that the tone is set at the top and that leaders are held accountable for their progress. It’s important that it is on the agenda of the CEO. If you relegate it as a program and have it be several layers removed from the CEO, that could be a big mistake.”
Talk about the tangible reasons why it’s important that employees and leaders consider diversity in everything that they do.
“Our potential clients are asking, before awarding significant project work, what is your commitment to diversity and how do you demonstrate that?” Janiak says. “If we don’t have a compelling track record and story to tell, we’re not in the mix. Clients who are committed to it and see it as a core value want to be working with an organization that also shares that core value, and so it’s a competitive advantage.”
You’ve got to find a way to integrate it into your culture as a way of doing business, rather than something you’re going to try for a little while before you return to what you did before.
“It’s a strategy,” Janiak says. “Whether you’re including it as part of your talent strategy, your human resources strategy, your sales strategy, there are different ways to look at it and however your organization responds to strategic direction and execution of that strategy, that’s how you should say it. It should be similar to other core strategies that you disseminate through your organization.”
Janiak says she takes her role very seriously as a role model and figurehead for anything she tries to do at Deloitte.
“I view it as one of my roles is to make sure I’m present at the various functions of our business resource groups, which represent all kinds of different folks within our organization,” Janiak says. “It’s important that I hold myself accountable to having diversity on the teams that I’m responsible for — because people look at that and they say, ‘OK, not only does she say this is important for us to do, but she’s doing it and demonstrating support.’ People pay more attention to what you do than what you say.”
How to reach: Deloitte LLP, (312) 486-1000 or www.deloitte.com
The Janiak File
Stacy R. Janiak, managing partner for Chicago office, Deloitte & Touche LLP
Born: Aurora, Colo. It’s right outside of Denver at a U.S. Air Force Base. My dad was a mechanic in the Air Force.
Education: Bachelor of science degree, commerce, DePaul University, Chicago
What was your very first job and what did you learn? The very first job I got paid for was babysitting. I babysat twice a week for the people across the street and earned $1 an hour to feed them dinner, bathe them and get them to bed. That was a pretty good deal.
It was just the concept of going out and having people trust you with some authority at a young age.
Even though it was across the street and you had your parents as the backup, you were in charge. People had expectations. I was going to feed the kids and wash the dishes and they trusted me to do that and expected me to do that.
Who has been the biggest influence on who you are today? My mom. Her name was Rose. She was born in the early 1950s and contracted polio when she was 11 months old. To hear her describe it, it was almost like having AIDS back when people didn’t understand it. You were just ostracized.
She was told she would never walk without braces and she kind of made up her mind that she would not have that be. She is a very resourceful woman that was not given a great lot in life physically. She has made up for that in many ways. She’s the reason I believe there is always a solution and there is a way to get people to it.
Think about what customers expect to see.
Be out front and visible when big changes.
Don’t spare the legwork on strategies that may take time to mature.
True diversity is not found in numbers. It is found in people with varying backgrounds using their experience to everyone’s benefit, says Lizabeth Ardisana, CEO, ASG Renaissance.
“What we’re trying to achieve is not actually diversity, although that’s the buzzword for all of this, it’s really inclusion,” Ardisana says. “It is one thing to say you have employees who are minorities, old, young, African-American, Latino or Asian, but you have to value those differences and use them to your advantage, not just tolerate them. That’s what it takes to be successful with diversity.”
She says inclusion adds value to companies by providing diversity of thought, access to understanding other markets and a more interesting workplace.
“If no one told me I should do this, I would still seek out people who are different than I am because it would add significant value to me and my company. Until we get to that level of understanding and position, we have not truly experienced the value of diversity,” Ardisana says.
Smart Business spoke with Ardisana about diversity and its value in the workplace.
You hear a lot of talk about diversity, but do companies follow through by taking action?
Counting the number of people you have who come from different backgrounds or putting a diversity section on your website isn’t enough. It doesn’t give you the value. You have to follow the talk with action. You have to move past diversity to a level of value in order to truly have inclusion.
Does that mean you need diversity in promotions as well?
Absolutely. You can’t just talk about it; you have to do it from the bottom up. If you’re going to embrace diversity of thought and diversity of ideas, you must also embrace it at the senior management level. Otherwise, you are not valuing it. If you’ve never promoted someone of a different background, you would be sending the wrong message to the rest of your company.
How do diversity and inclusion benefit companies?
First, you have to accept that an innovative and creative business is going to be a more profitable business and that new ideas, new capabilities and new markets all add profitability. Diversity of thinking comes from a diversity of backgrounds and cultures and that creates more new ideas and more innovation.
Additionally, if you have a reputation for being an interesting and creative place to work, it attracts better overall talent. We’re all in a race to get the best talent and you have to make yourself attractive. Look at the companies that post one job and get hundreds of applications. These companies have a reputation for innovation, for being fun and interesting. If you look at really successful companies today, they have a significant amount of diversity, or inclusion, in what they do.
Are workplaces becoming more inclusive?
It is improving. One thing that’s dramatically improved is companies are valuing age and experience, combining older employees with employees who are young and aggressive. This creates unique opportunities when they are blended together.
Diversity has to be looked at as broadly as possible and some of it is simply awareness. When I started my company, I looked around and thought about how all the people in this department look alike and all the people in this other department look alike but they don’t look like each other. We hire people we’re most comfortable with and don’t think about it. We weren’t getting the benefits of diversity and inclusion so we consciously started to think about it and took actions to practice it, and it has made a huge difference in our success as a company.
Lizabeth Ardisana is CEO at ASG Renaissance. Reach her at (313) 565-4700 or email@example.com.
To view more about ASG Renaissance’s Diversity Services, visit http://asgren.com/diversityServices/diversityServices.asp.