John Schultz, Chief Legal and Administrative Officer, Hewlett Packard Enterprise

Schultz shares his insights about the importance of an inclusive culture in winning the battle for talent.

There continues to be a heated battle for talent. The battle has been happening for a while, but I think it just continues to intensify as more and more leaders try to figure out what environment they can create, and what culture they can promote, that will attract the very best talent and allow it to thrive. Every law student and every early career person you talk to wants the opportunity to become the very best at what they can do – and that is the responsibility we have.

We’ve had a longstanding relationship with Street Law (which educates about law and government in schools and communities), because we recognize there is not enough diverse talent coming into the legal profession, and this allows us to reach students early and help them navigate through the legal path. We love the fact that Street Law is allowing us to connect with high school students that are interested in the legal profession. The Silicon Valley Urban Debate League has a similar program that is intended to get high school students interested in the law through a debate-like forum, and we continue to be active there, too.

We’ve gone so far as to hire directly on campus; we’re one of the few companies that do that and and have done so for almost ten years. This allows us to engage with a set of talent that, candidly, most corporate legal departments just aren’t seeing.

Diversity and inclusion is no longer a talking point or a buzz-phrase – you need to live it every day. If your work environment and your culture don’t continue to enforce that, you won’t attract diverse people, those you do attract you won’t retain and, ultimately, you will be playing with the second or third-best talent. That’s just not a recipe for success.

We have a strong belief that if you don’t have the right basic culture, no specific program is going to move the needle, so there is a lot of focus in the legal team on creating an overall culture – whether it’s around work-life balance, the amenities in the workplace, parental leave and the like – that we think is consistent with having a diverse and inclusive workforce.

The office of legal and administrative affairs has a very robust talent program that we call the ‘talent factory’, which is intended to bring talent in at the very early levels of the organization and promote them through thereafter. What that means is every manager understanding specifically where their employee stands, where they need to go next, and how they’re going to get there. It’s very personalized and it allows us to focus very much on diversity and inclusion.

It’s one thing to look at numbers and statistics, and they are important, but at the same time you really need to look at each individual, the role that they’re in, and their career path. I’m proud to say that seven of my 12 direct reports would be considered diverse by US standards. If you look throughout the organization, you see individuals who have come in at entry level and have been promoted through to more and more impactful positions. To me, that’s the key aspect of any D&I program – it’s those individual stories and that career progression.

We are in the midst of a rollout of our next inclusion program iteration across my team, using an outside vendor who brings an intellectually rigorous approach to inclusion, including talking about how the brain works. We all recognize that diverse and inclusive teams are more innovative and they’re more successful. Therefore, acknowledging our own built-in biases – which everyone has – and then understanding how to deal with them in a team environment is incredibly important.

Brian Tippens, our chief diversity and inclusion officer, is a lawyer by background and I convinced him to rotate into my organization and run what I call the ‘OLAA (office of legal and administrative affairs) employee experience’, focused on culture, inclusion and diversity. His task is to look at the experience of our employees end-to-end – to take a fresh look at what it means to be a member of our team and what kind of experience they are getting, and then design initiatives to continue pushing that experience forward. I’m excited to see Brian actually in the process of looking around and coming up with ideas and initiatives. It’s early days, and he is currently formulating his plan. I can’t wait to see what it is and start working for this next chapter of success.

You never stop learning about yourself, you never stop learning about your team, and culture is always changing in some form or fashion, even though the core principles may stay the same. In the last couple of years, I do think we’ve seen a shift in balance between inclusion and diversity, versus just talking about diversity, and we have seen the conversation move to one where many of the inclusion presentations I now see talk much more about how we work as humans, how our brains function – so that we can actually work on strategies to be more inclusive.

We are all continuing on this journey, and I think that’s actually what makes this such a super interesting and exciting issue. In some regards, the way it’s sometimes been talked about in the past was as if we were trying to solve a problem. I don’t think this is solving a problem; I think this is inspiring your talent and building teams that are going to continue to be high-performing. That’s a never-ending opportunity – and what makes these jobs fun, especially when you see some successes, is knowing that you’ve got to continue to progress if you’re going to continue being successful.

We’re also always looking to make an impact in the marketplace with the organizations that we support, and we are very active with my own team in legal pro bono and community service, participating in the Leadership Council on Legal Diversity, the Law Foundation of Silicon Valley, and organizations like the National Center for Women and Information Technology and National Action Council for Minorities in Engineering. We’re constantly looking for that external feedback to make sure that what we’re doing falls into the category of best practice.

One of my personal favorites recently is the fact that we’ve worked with the Girl Scouts of the USA to create a cybersecurity badge, for young girls to get an interest at that early stage in a cybersecurity career. It’s based on a videogame, and other organizations are currently looking at how to try to leverage it for other types of things.

That community piece is also an inspiration inside the company for folks, whether they are in legal or not. We are always looking to make sure that our brand is associated with the inclusion and diversity work that we’re doing, whether it’s joining amicus briefs or signing on to certain compacts around diversity and inclusion. I’m super proud to be at a company that has really been at the forefront of these things since its founding. You don’t feel like you’re trying to push a rock uphill. More often than not, it feels like you’re on the downhill side and just trying to pedal fast enough to keep up with the momentum.

Diversity and inclusion has been a part of our RFP process going back to before I took over running the legal organization. Again, you’re looking for that team dynamic. I think the days of hiring law firms is long past; certainly it is for us. What’s happened is that you’re not even just hiring a lawyer at this point, you’re hiring a team. And if that team isn’t diverse and inclusive, you’re not going to end up with the outcomes you want, so just from a practical and pragmatic perspective, that’s important. It’s been an initiative across numerous companies to continue fostering the growth of diverse talent inside the law firms, and the power of the purse is important in that regard – we are certainly supportive in that way.