Empowering Diversity: Insights from Nordstrom's DEIB Leader, Colleen Mitchell

The Next Practices Weekly call series has become a well-attended and wide-ranging discussion for HR leaders each Thursday at 11am ET / 8am PT. On this week's call, i4cp's Eric Davis and Nina Holtsberry, along with Jacqui Robertson, Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer at Cleveland Clinic, facilitated a conversation with special guest Colleen Mitchell, Head of Belonging, Equity, Inclusion, and Diversity at Nordstrom. Here are some highlights from the call:

  • Mitchell has previously worked at both Petco and Amazon, and has been with Nordstrom for about a year and a half. She has found that Nordstrom's strong culture infuses all that they do.
  • Mitchell also previously worked as a funeral director, and has found that experience has served her well in her work in diversity and inclusion in the corporate world. Being able to have difficult conversations, demonstrate radical empathy, and being comfortable with her own and others' emotions, have all been particularly important.
  • Nordstrom is still a family owned organization, with their CEO being a fourth-generation leader. They are a deeply value-driven company, both in how they serve customers and how they operate internally, down to the smallest details.
  • Davis shared some recent i4cp pulse survey data (with ~800 respondents) that we entitled "Resetting DE&I".  One survey question was: "What has been most important to your organization's ability to drive progress toward stated DE&I goals? (Select your top five)" The top five survey responses were:
    • 61% Leadership buy-in (beyond the CEO)
    • 52% Clear goals and objectives
    • 40% DE&I is woven into how we do business (daily processes)
    • 37% CEO champion
    • 37% Clearly articulated definitions of diversity, equity, and inclusion
  • Another survey question was: "What is preventing your organization from progressing toward its  stated DE&I goals (select your top five)" The top five survey responses were;
    • 52% Lack of leadership accountability for hitting DE&I goals
    • 42% Lack of clear communications directly tying DE&I to business outcomes
    • 39% Unchecked implicit bias
    • 36% Lack of leadership buy-in
    • 36% Lack of DE&I metrics tied to business outcomes
  • Mitchell noted that for DE&I initiatives, Nordstrom has established accountability mechanisms that mirror the accountability they have for all other initiatives--DE&I is not treated differently.
  • Mitchell said that when they look at the DE&I data, they aren't focused on fixing broken people, but rather broken processes. The goal is to find the norm, practice, or policy that needs to be changed to get a better result.
  • Mitchell shared that she has become more specific in her language, and less frequently generally refers to DEIB or BEID initiatives. At Nordstrom, they are also focused on equipping leaders with the best DEIB language to move from allyship to action in order to drive meaningful change.
  • Mitchell has an operations background, which has been very helpful in making progress in this work at Nordstrom. Her advice for others who might lack that experience, but are DEIB subject matter experts, was to find someone to join their team who does have operational experience (perhaps in other aspects of the business). She called this finding your "who", not "how".
  • Mitchell is very proud of their data non-disclosure agreement with employees, because getting the data is key to knowing where they are and how they know they are making change and reaching their goals.
  • Lastly, Mitchell predicted Nordstrom will end up being a case study for their DEIB efforts, so stay tuned for more coming from them in this area.

Links to resources shared on the call:

This event is approved for certification credits.