School of Business Administration

Creating a culture of intentional inclusion

icon of a calendarNovember 16, 2021

icon of a pencilBy Claudette Zolkowski

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Creating a culture of intentional inclusion

Trina Scott, chief diversity officer, Rocket Companies, wearing a mask and speaking into a microphone.
Speaking to Executive MBA students and alums, Trina Scott, chief diversity officer, Rocket Companies, shared the value of building a strong and strategic commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion.

As important as diversity, equity and inclusion is to the future of an organization, how it is incorporated into the culture drives sustainability, success and impact.

Trina Scott, chief diversity officer, Rocket Companies, shared her journey, experience and insight into how the strategic commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion influences building a strong community and culture in an organization with Oakland University Executive MBA students and alumni in its most recent Executive Speaker Series event.

Scott, who pioneered the role for Rocket Companies almost five years ago, started with a mission to first understand the organization, its people, roles and processes.

“Before I started with what does it mean to be inclusive, I had to start with what does it mean to be a mortgage banker, an underwriter, an appraiser or any of the many other roles in the organization,” she said. “It’s so important to first understand perspective of what people are doing before you come in with implementation.”

Through Scott’s leadership, the model Rocket Companies adopted is centered on talent, community, culture and marketplace.

“As a leader I don’t talk about diversity, equity and inclusion with those terms,” Scott said. “Instead, I ask do you care about the work culture? Do you hire people? Do people get promoted? Do you buy things? Does the organization you work for care about the communities it is in? What does your talent look like?”

Those questions start conversations, build understanding, expand perspectives and create support.

“It’s not about you have to hire four women, three people of color and one person with disabilities,” she said. “It’s about having the best people on your team to have the most innovative and healthy discussions, so you come out with the best outcomes. And if you have homogeneous teams – whether it’s all women, all men, all Black, all white, all whatever -- you’re not going to get the ingenuity.”

Welcoming different perspectives, experiences and skill sets help organizations grow, innovate and stay in business. Navigating that path requires a long view, intentional action and a firm commitment.

“For us, it wasn’t putting up numbers, it was about digging into the processes. The process of hiring, the process of promotion. Where are the gaps, where are the inequities,” Scott said. “Directly correlated to that is raising the awareness of why that is important, and why having a diverse panel of interviewing is important, understanding why presenting a diverse slate is important. The big piece is understanding that we all have bias and that bias plays into all our thoughts. And it’s being aware of that bias so you can push against it.”

Intentional action distinguishes the Rocket Company’s commitment to nurturing this culture in its organization.

“You have to be intentional. You can shrug your shoulders and say the talent isn’t out there, or you can do what you need to do to build it,” Scott said.

She described the various ways Rocket Companies does that, including the Gilbert Family Foundation’s support as one of the founding partners in reopening Michigan’s only historically black college and universities (HBCU), the Lewis College of Business. Opening March 2022, the new Pensole Lewis College of Business and Design will offer free tuition and programs for Black creatives, designers, engineers and business leaders. Rocket Companies also works with HBCU’s throughout the U.S., on developing sales and business programs, recruiting students, and providing mentoring and resources.

“So, you can say it’s not there, or you can say, all right, we recognize how valuable it is, now we’re going to put the resources behind it to bring the talent in,” said Scott.

While data and metrics are critical tools to measure success in business, two concepts Scott touched on were proof of progress and perspective not perfection.

“It’s not about ROI, it’s about the inputs that show you’re progressing,” Scott said. “When the Rocket executive team wanted an update on the partnerships with the HBCU’s, I didn’t just go in with a list. We talked about outreach in terms of Black and brown home ownership, our connection with students and deans, building relationships on campus and becoming the number one employer on HBCU campuses.

“While our goal may be hiring 10 percent from HBCU’s, what we really care about is building those relationships so five, ten years down the line, we’re not at the place we are right now.”

Even with a strong commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion, Scott said one of the biggest challenges to overcome is mindset.

“I want people to understand, it’s not about othering, it’s not about marginalizing majority groups,” she said. “It is about how you continue to innovate as an organization.”

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