2022 Catalysts Interview – Kum & Go
While efforts surrounding diversity, equity and inclusion are in the beginning stages at Kum & Go, they’re of utmost importance, especially as the organization is committed to weaving those values into its core culture.
The Technology Association of Iowa connected with Levon Hooks, Chief Information Officer at Kum & Go, to learn more about what the company is doing to promote DEI throughout every stage of the business.
Give us an overview of your role at Kum & Go.
I am the chief information officer for Kum & Go and our parent company, Krause Group. My responsibilities include driving forward the technology strategy for our entire organization and family of businesses. As a member of our senior leadership team, identifying opportunities to make the days of our associates and customers better is a key part of my role. I also have the privilege of serving as chair for our Extended Leadership Team Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI) Council.
Tell us a bit more about the company’s DEI efforts.
We are in the very early stages of our DEI journey as an organization, and although we have a substantial amount of work ahead of us, we are proud of the early progress we’ve made. We are starting by creating an internal strategy to educate, review processes and develop a long-term approach to DEI.
We understand DEI is a journey that is never truly finished. By taking a holistic look across our culture and businesses, we work to imbue these values throughout our culture, and embed equity throughout our systems and practices. We’ve set a behavioral expectation that this is a responsibility for all associates and all lines of business. To assist and affirm our commitment, Krause Group has empowered a committee to help us consider and reflect on a strategy that advances DEI across our organization.
Why does Kum & Go make an effort to invest time, talent and resources into DEI?
We believe the strength of an organization lies in its ability to bring to life DEI, working toward better representation of traditionally marginalized and under-represented groups. We understand bringing together people with different backgrounds, opinions, experiences and perspectives enriches not only our workspaces and outputs, but our culture and lives.
In addition to the DEI committee, we have also invested in full-time internal resources including our DEI Manager, Heather Schott. Heather brings a fresh perspective to our organization in this space. She is driving us to look at DEI through a different lens. Our organization’s commitment to DEI is being brought to life and activated clearly through the work of our DEI team.
What outcomes have you seen thus far?
In the beginning stages, encouraging conversations and helping people see new perspectives has been key. We are seeing significant engagement by our associates to support DEI growth throughout our organization. We are building the expectation that this work isn’t just done by the DEI team, but it shows up in how we talk to each other, how we listen for curiosity and how we turn to curiosity when someone shares perspective. We aren’t perfect, but we are starting this work by embedding a People First – Building Trust visual that guides these behavioral expectations in every learning and development and DEI activity. We have added an inclusion index to our Associate Voice Survey to ensure this is making an impact.
As far as implementing DEI efforts, have there been any challenges?
We are very fortunate to have a very collaborative and welcoming organization, which has made implementing our DEI efforts a positive experience overall. The challenges we’ve experienced thus far are more around the prioritization and focus of key DEI efforts. This takes time, money and an approach based in change management. DEI is such a large body of work that it needs to be prioritized and tailored to achieve both the corporate and individual DEI journey. We have an opportunity to continue to refine and strengthen our position on the areas of DEI which we feel are the most important at this time for us to drive change in.
What are some future goals for such efforts?
Our goal is to build a culture where all people feel welcomed and can be successful, both as associates and in the customers we serve. We will continue to educate our associates and customers on the importance and value of DEI. We will aim to continue to identify opportunities to assist the communities in which we operate to drive our DEI efforts forward.