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October 1, 2019 8:37am

The Cultural Wellbeing Index: Improving Talent Attraction and Retention in Greater Louisville

Talent Today

Greater Louisville’s four percent unemployment rate presents a host of interesting challenges and opportunities for Louisville’s employers. Together, as an economic community, we continue to grapple with talent attraction and retention to grow Louisville and our region in sustainable ways.

Building a healthy, inclusive workplace is an economic imperative. In my role as SVP and Regional Executive of the Regional Branch office of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, I have seen so many companies reach higher levels of employee engagement by authentically embracing diversity and inclusion and working diligently to unearth any practices, behaviors and trends, alive in the workplace, that contravene inclusion. To be sure, inclusion, unto itself, is rarely the goal. Rather, most organizations embrace inclusion so that employees feel safe at work. That safety leads to greater investment in the workplace and interest in the actual work. That then leads to greater engagement and, ultimately the exercise of more discretionary effort; the foundation of innovation. Innovation, as we know, is often coveted by myriad of organizations.

Corporate culture is at the core of human capacities for innovation, including vision, strategy, ingenuity, collaboration, and perseverance. How do we get the culture formula right in the face of heightened operational and reputation risks because of a legal and social atmosphere which makes it difficult for African Americans, People of Color and LGBTQ+ individuals to bring their “whole self” to work out of fear of discrimination? Inclusive corporate cultures are the future of innovation and growth for companies and communities, no longer relegated to a cost-containment function of HR.

Talent Tomorrow

Recent studies and reports by Gallup Corporation1, Techstars2, Deloitte3 , U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation4, and the HRC Equality Index5 all found that while culture is key to innovation output and market performance, traditional private sector approaches for creating cultures of inclusion are lacking in their design. Only a rigorous, science-based approach can validate that culture change is making a difference.

Enter the Cultural Wellbeing Index© created at the University of Louisville’s Center for Creative Placehealing and Center for Health Organization Transformation, both based in the UofL School of Public Health & Information Sciences. Catalyzing a culture shift toward inclusion and leveraging science to connect the shift to core business outcomes, is the purpose of the Cultural Wellbeing Index—now operational and ready to make an impact on our local and regional businesses.

The research is in action today in validation studies with the National Science Foundation. Along with the UofL team and Grace Simrall, Chief of Innovation at Louisville Metro Government, I am excited to be a key advisor helping to champion this work over the coming months. It is encouraging to see the growing number of corporate partners and large, nonprofit employers coming to the table to find ways their organizations can participate.

Companies may very well benefit from unearthing the various sentiments, experiences and feelings of belonging that various employee groups experience at work. Often times, it is the mounting subtle inequities and stereotypical presumptions and expectations that contribute to increased feelings of unwelcomeness. Many of these feelings are often difficult to capture in an employee survey. Not only have I heard of this exact conundrum occurring within our region’s workforce, I have experienced it, on several occasions, with several previous employers, myself. This not only leads to employees leaving organizations, purporting to embrace diversity and inclusion, but these same employees often leave the region. That’s lost talent, lost community leaders, lost mentors and investors, lost neighbors.

My hope is that we find a real remedy to these issues as we strive to assure that Louisville’s economy remain vibrant and rooted in growth.

Culture in Action

The team at the University of Louisville is now accepting companies and large nonprofit employers to participate in the inaugural 2020 fellows cohort and scientific study for the Cultural Wellbeing Index. As of the publishing of this article, 8 spots remain. GLI member companies have early access and can take advantage of leading the charge for this revolution of inclusion and culturally-responsive innovation grounded in science.

Companies in Louisville have the opportunity to partner with the Cultural Wellbeing Index in scientifically improving innovation output, employee wellbeing and talent attraction and retention. Simultaneously bolstering ongoing corporate citizenship and diversity and inclusion programs, for the betterment of the entire economic region.

Fully loaded datasets for predictive analytics and AI application design of the Cultural Wellbeing Index are expected to launch in November, 2020, at which time Louisville will host the first national summit for corporate leaders focused on Cultural Wellbeing in the American Workforce. Now is the critical time to join this innovation initiative, grounded in culture and backed by science.

The inaugural cohort begins in January 2020. Please contact Theo Edmonds directly at theodore.edmonds@louisville.edu for more information about participating in the Cultural Wellbeing Index Louisville cohort.