A Culture of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at W.R. Grace

When global manufacturing leader W.R. Grace made a commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) across its workforce of 4,500 employees in 50 locations worldwide, data visibility was the first priority. To be clear, the business goal was to bring historically underrepresented talent – women and people of color – into more leadership roles on a global scale. But core to the strategy was a holistic DEI approach to benchmark and track progress against accurate metrics.

“Great talent and a high-performance culture drive our competitive advantage, bringing high-quality products to our customers on time. We want every employee to feel that what’s best for W.R. Grace is best for them,” said Sunil Kumar, SAP enterprise architect at W.R. Grace. “With employees from various backgrounds and cultures in numerous countries worldwide, we want to create an environment where everyone can make their most valuable contribution.”

I talked with Kumar during the SAP Sapphire Orlando event, where he explained how W.R. Grace was evolving its people-centric culture, increasing employee creativity and productivity to support the company’s innovation advantage. W.R. Grace was also an SAP Innovation Award 2022 finalist.

Democratized Data Produces Actionable Insights

W.R. Grace is in good company. One survey found over 60% of people view an inclusive workplace environment as very important. Other research revealed that more than 90% of executives believed their organization needed to invest more in technology to address demand for consistent and reliable environmental, social, and governance (ESG) reporting. What’s more, one report said 82% of investors believed companies should embed ESG directly into their corporate strategy. At a multicultural organization like W.R. Grace, creating a workplace grounded in a culture that fosters DEI is about being committed to bringing out the best in every employee.

The human resources (HR) team at W.R. Grace took the lead in creating the parameters for what’s become the company’s self-service DEI dashboard. Analytics capture data from major HR processes including job applications, interviews, hiring decisions, high potential worker designations, development activities, promotions, and terminations. The HR data comes from SAP SuccessFactors solutions and is analyzed by SAP Analytics Cloud running on SAP Business Technology Platform.

“We want to avoid conscious and unconscious bias, recognizing people for their actual talent and not just personal background and providing employees with multiple opportunities to develop their skills,” said Kumar. “HR identified the measurable dimensions for tracking our DEI commitment as people are interviewed and hired, develop their skills and move up, or leave the company. Each department has KPIs to meet. With the data, we can monitor progress against those goals.”

Accurate DEI Numbers Don’t Lie

There’s a wealth of insight that accurate data can reveal about an organization’s DEI progress. Consider the hiring process. At W.R. Grace, data shows the representative gender and ethnicity of candidates who applied for positions, made the shortlist, and were interviewed and hired. Down the road, data also tracks the number of people, by those same dimensions, who are promoted or leave the company. Following strict data privacy and protection rules, HR teams can monitor and prove compliance with company equality policies. HR receives color-coded alerts when algorithm-based data indicates that DEI thresholds aren’t being met. They can quickly see where people aren’t progressing at any employment stage, from résumé submission and interviewing, through onboarding and after they are hired.

“While the goal is workforce equity on a global scale, objectives are regionalized by departments depending on their baselines,” said Kumar. “Leaders can quickly identify patterns by position, manager, department, and region. Continuous updates allow us to make continuous improvements. When people are more aware of these issues, they can take the right actions that will help us build a more diverse workforce.”

DEI Is Integral to Business Resilience

Providing qualified people with equal opportunities to succeed in the workplace has become table stakes for organizations to excel in a challenging business environment. A recent study showed that if employees trusted their employer’s commitments, they were 87% less likely to leave their organization. What’s more, their engagement levels can increase up to 20%. In another survey, 92% of business respondents agreed that companies dedicated to ESG policies will outlast competitors that lack those commitments. W.R. Grace is clearly on to something, namely a stronger future.


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This also appeared in SAP BrandVoice on Forbes.