On our last few episodes of the Inclusion in Progress podcast, we’ve been sharing examples of the types of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) work we’ve done with client partners.
In today’s episode, we’re speaking with Jimmy Rose, former Vice President for Employee Experience at Cotiviti. Since connecting with Jimmy in 2020, we were fortunate to partner with him to establish DEI foundations for his company, teams and larger company culture.
In our conversation, we discuss:
- How Jimmy first got into DEI work and how he’s seen the industry shift through the lens of Operations, HR and Employee Experience in Cotiviti
- How it was like to partner with us at Inclusion in Progress — and why he recommends working with an external consultant to focus a company’s DEI goals in the early stages
- How the current landscape affects the urgency of DEI objectives companies set during the pandemic — and Jimmy’s advice for practitioners when facing pushback or discomfort
If you want to partner with IIP to create more equitable, effective teams in your hybrid workplace — email firstname.lastname@example.org to book a free no-pressure consultation with our team.
Welcome to the Inclusion in Progress podcast where we give you the ideas, actions and insights to help you build more equity at your workplace and in the world at large. I'm your host, Kay Fabella, international expert on diversity, equity and inclusion, a Filipina American living in Spain and your guide in navigating this DEI journey. Having worked with teams at companies such as Philips, the IMF, Red Hat, PepsiCo and more, I know firsthand that the work of inclusion only works when everyone has a seat at the table. Regardless of your personal entrypoint into this conversation: your race, ethnicity, gender, ability, age, sexual orientation, country of origin, or educational background, we all have a role to play in creating inclusion for all and it starts with us having conversations we need to create the change we wish to see. So let's dive into today's episode.
Kay: Over the next few episodes, we’ll be highlighting the clients who’ve partnered with our company, Inclusion in Progress, on implementing diversity, equity and inclusion in their organizations. Today’s episode features Jimmy Rose, former Vice President for Employee Experience at Cotiviti.
We know Jimmy to be a versatile leader whose career blends creativity, technical prowess, and a passion for developing talent. He’s navigated three startup ventures, an IPO, a successful turnaround, multiple acquisitions, and three mergers — reflecting his talent for reengineering processes and driving operational excellence. His career journey exemplifies the power of combining technical expertise with creative thinking to build cultures that foster excellence and innovation.
Jimmy's commitment to developing talent led to the creation of two highly successful hiring programs for recent college graduates. His interviewing skills, talent development expertise, and capacity to foster a positive and inclusive workplace culture have earned him a respected place in the C-suite. Meanwhile, his love for mentoring and coaching continues to shape the leaders of tomorrow. Beyond his impressive career, Jimmy is an adoptive father of three children, each with unique needs,instilling in him a profound understanding of personal identity—a skillset that transcends into the workplace.
Jimmy is not only one of our client partners, but a long-time friend of Team IIP as well. We’re excited to share how we met and his story with you. Let’s dive in!
Kay: Hello, Jimmy, welcome to Inclusion in Progress! You have been one of the favorite guests / reviews on our show… and we're really excited to, not just get a chance to feature you and the work that we've done together, but also just to hear more about your story.
So, Jimmy, whenever you're ready… tell us how you got into, call it, DEI or HR or People work — I know that you've had such an interesting journey.
Jimmy: Well… Hi Kay! It's great to talk to you. I’ve loved this podcast for a long time, and it has been a core element of my own education on how to become versed in DEIB and how to become a practitioner, although I think that's kind of a grandiose word for what I am and what I do, at this point. I wouldn't call myself a practitioner — I'm still really just a learner.
But how did I get involved in People work? For a very long time I was in Operations. And the thing that I learned that I loved the most about Operations was driving culture and developing talent. And, after spending 20 years as an obsolete — I said, “Hey, I think I've done about as much as I can in this realm. I'd really love to try having more of an enterprise-wide effect.” And I think, maybe, doing that through HR is the right place. So I made a move in 2018, from Operations into HR and became the leader of Employee Experience. And so that's how I got into HR and People Work by title. But, for a long time, it's really been the core of what I do and who I am.
I think that the first real opportunity that I had to make an impact in the world of DEI was in my role as Vice President of Employee Experience. I had, for a while, really been expanding my personal reading to authors that are kind of outside of my typical sphere, trying to just gain more understanding and more perspective. I knew that the company I was working for was really behind in affirming diversity, other than just as part of talent acquisition… I had the opportunity to advocate for and then find a budget for DEI programs for employees in India. And, I thought, why don't we have something similar in the US?
At the same time, the entire eye of the United States was turned toward the murder of George Floyd and the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement, and that unleashed a kind of urgency that really hadn't been there before. But even with that sense of urgency and prominence in the media, it was clear that nobody was really going to push DEI into a contemporary place if I wasn't the one who was going to do it, because I was the only one who was talking about it or asking questions about it or showing any interest in making any kind of step forward.
Kay: And that, obviously, prefaces how we connected as well. Wild to think that we connected over Zoom in 2020…
Kay: …right in the midst of all the madness! Hey, hanging on three years later — it was a really challenging time. And, I know, it's strange that, without intentionally trying to do this, the podcast has become a snapshot of pre-COVID and everything after and, obviously, everything that happened in 2020, in addition to what you mentioned, which is around why equity and inclusion came to the forefront in a lot of companies in a way that was way more urgent than I think it had been a long time.
Kay: When we think of DEI traditionally, it still tends to very much focus on people we let in the door and not the people that we keep and how we're cultivating that employee culture and employee experience environment. And so that's how we connected. I'd love to hear a little bit more about being the sole person who was trying to lead this or trying to at least bring the discussion forward in a way that was meaningful and thoughtful. Where did interacting with us come in and this idea of hiring an external contractor support you in that journey?
Jimmy: If you're trying to do something more than just check some boxes, if you want to practice DEI rather than perform DEI, you quickly realize that you need help. There's a new language to learn, there's an understanding of scope, there's views into what similar companies are doing, what's working for them and what hasn't, there's goals to set… there's just a lot to think about!
And so a critical benefit really comes from an external partner at that early stage. It's getting advice and counsel about where to start and how. I was really flailing around — I was watching YouTube videos and LinkedIn Learning. I was trying to shoehorn some focus on DEI into everything else that I was doing.
So you and I had a couple of calls that were really about building support for a starting point at the company that I was working for called Cotiviti Incorporated. Team IIP really gave me the words and encouragement to get things going there.
Kay: I love that. And, obviously, we really enjoyed our partnership and we know that you continue to advocate for it.
And I also wanted to just highlight, as well, in the time from when we first connected and when we started to give you, I would say, guardrails around the [DEI] conversation and how to get started — you also managed to not just take what you learned with us and ran with it, but also launched… how many (Employee Resource Groups) ERGs before we recorded this podcast?
Jimmy: So in 2021 we prepared for the launch of four ERGs and launched them in January of 2022. I've since left that company, but the fifth one has launched and I know that they were planning a sixth as well. So they are definitely continuing. My departure has not slowed things down.
Kay: That's amazing. And that's what we want, right? I know that you said earlier in our conversation, “I don't consider myself a practitioner.” I'm like… well, we practice, right? That's what makes us practitioners! And I'm sure Cotiviti and everybody who got a chance to see the work that you were laying foundations of will benefit from it for years to come. So that must feel really encouraging.
Jimmy: Yes, it really does.
Kay: You mentioned a little bit about our work together. But what was it specifically about, whether it was vocabulary or advocacy or whatever specific things that you got out of it in terms of clarity on next steps? I think that remains a mystery for a lot of people as they're trying to vet different contractors or practitioners or people to lead this as partners internally.
Jimmy: I think the first thing that you need to do is give yourself some forgiveness. Like… pre-forgive yourself. And this is something that you taught me — because you're going to make some missteps. And if you wait for the perfect approach to appear on paper, or on the whiteboard, or whatever you might be using, you're going to wait a long time. And it's definitely a situation where “perfect” can be the enemy of good. You need to make a start.
In looking for a partner, I think you're looking for somebody who ,not only can give you the language around this, but can help you understand what your organization is ready for, and how do you determine that?
One of the first things that we did, based on your advice, was develop reporting around how diversity looked in 2018 and what we could pull from our HRIS to really get some data and understand the truth — because you can look at what's in your employee engagement surveys, you can look around, you can have focus groups and get an impression, but the data doesn't lie when it tells you how many people of certain ethnic groups are represented at different levels within the organization and what the rate of promotion looks like between these different levels.
You can have a company that looks extremely diverse if you look at the entire workforce, in terms of cultural representation or racial representation, but then when you start to break that down into what it looks like at each level, you might see some separation that you're not proud of, or that you would like to change, that you would like to see change, to see more diversity, more inclusion at higher levels of the organization. Where an external partner can be really helpful is helping you figure out how to start and what your current status really is. It's that objective — that objective eye.
Kay: Absolutely. One of the things that we got really excited about when we got a chance to work with you… we were like, “Oh, and Cotiviti is also international!” which we were very thrilled about too because, as you all know on the podcast, we love talking about working with folks not just from my birth country, but also from different parts of the world. And so the fact that you were also looking at it with a very thoughtful lens into, as you mentioned, first partnering with your teams out in India, and thinking how to transfer it to the US, I thought was really intriguing. And we really enjoyed that conversation.
Jimmy: And it's interesting how the conversation about diversity and inclusion can be so geographically specific. Like, there were conversations that they were not ready to have among our Indian workforce or our Nepali workforce. But the conversations that were very present were about gender and sexism in the workplace.
That's an area that was really… right, we’re in the US, we're sort of primed to throw it out all on the table: we're going to talk about every possible form of diversity in every case of intersectionality. But that's not true of every part of the workforce, being ready to have that conversation. And so you have to really be attuned and you need someone to help you, the word I learned from you was container. You need a container for the conversation. And that was so helpful… that imagery just was so helpful. Because to throw everything out and say we're going to talk about all these things, all the things we possibly can talk about when it comes to diversity and inclusion, some people aren't ready for it. And it's not the right time, or it's not the right venue to have all of that conversation. So let's put a container around what we are going to talk about and make it safe and make it a brave space for people to share. That was really important. There's lots of reasons to hire somebody from the outside — that's one of them right there. We would never have thought about that.
Kay: And, like you said, practitioners — we're always learning from each other, we always have the ability to draw from different perspectives, expertise, just new ways of thinking. It's always really lovely when you get to see and, as we're highlighting in these conversations, that it doesn't have to just come from one person or one team internally, feeling like they have to do everything for that company. It can be a partnership by reaching out to folks who are in your network who can provide that, even if it's just a quick reframe or a dose of a different perspective that would actually move the conversation forward.
I've loved this. And I've really enjoyed getting to know you and watching you and your work and getting to spend time with you in this capacity.
The other thing that we're also highlighting in this conversation is, at the time that we're recording this, there's the conversation three years later, sadly has shifted. It also means that there's, maybe, a little bit more reticence because of economic or financial reasons that we're not seeing the level and the urgency and the commitment that we were seeing at the time that you and I first connected. A lot of folks who are listening are also, same as you, in HR, People, Talent, Employee Experience, DEI, officially or unofficially. And for any of those folks who are considering embarking on working right now, even considering the current landscape, what would you say to them?
Jimmy: Do you have a few hours?
Kay: [laughs] Let’s do bullet points!
Jimmy: I absolutely understand what you're saying about the shifting nature of resources. I was laid off in May, specifically because of a choice to shift resources, and my former employer is private equity-owned. And private equity companies tend to have a very laser-focused set of goals and priorities, often caring for employees in kind of ambiguous ways, right?
Specifically, yes, we're going to provide benefits. We're gonna provide compensation. But ambiguous ways… like, what really is DEI? It's such a big, amorphous cloud of interests in need. Private equity, venture capital might not be as active around finding a way to resource those efforts. And that certainly was our case. And we simply decided this is important. If we don't do it from within the middle of the company and try to spread it out,it might never happen for us.
So we just started, one can argue whether or not that was good or not. But through a lot of persistent work, we were able to get the leadership to talk about it during an all-hands meeting and that led to an interest survey, apart from our biannual engagement survey, which led to the launch of the ERTs and, essentially, that was done with no budget. That was just people working on the side of the desk.
Then in the next budget year, I was able to pull together about $5,000 for the four ERGs to do something with, and what these groups did with $5,000 is mindblowing! Because you just have this group of people who are so invested and so interested and are so full of energy around doing something, right? Something that supports their community inside the company. The amount of energy and work and effort and result that was returned in that first year, in 2022, with just $5,000 of found money… it really was pretty astonishing. We saw an eight point gain in employee engagement scores over the course of that year. Now, it would be wrong to attribute all of that to the work that we did in DEI, but DEI certainly accounted for [the] energy behind that shift.
What would I say to somebody who's kind of in an environment where maybe DEI doesn't have urgency or it's not fully supported from the top or it's just in the doldrums? Get started. Whether this is the first bite of the elephant, or if you think of it as the first step of a journey of a 1000 steps, whatever metaphor is useful to you, just get started. As I mentioned before, give yourself a little permission to fail. Pre-forgive yourself for the errors that you might make. There's a lot of forgiveness.
I would say get started and find the partner who can help educate you, give you the language, point you in the right direction, just like Inclusion in Progress did for us. That was such a jumpstart for us. Even without purchasing consulting time, there's this podcast — which is just such an incredible resource for people who want to get started, who don't know where to begin and feel like they don't have the resources. And it was really through all of that combined effort that you gave me personally — and also that we paid for — but also through the podcast, that led to this huge umbrella program that's called Inclusivity at Cotiviti that now has five ERGs and is bringing speakers in from all corners of the world and is affecting our diversity and inclusion in the United States, in the UK, in Canada, in Nepal, in India, in Australia, and now in the Philippines, and in Mexico where the company has since expanded this summer. Those will lead to even more opportunities for inclusion and more ERGs, or wherever the company happens to take that effort. I mean, it's not slowing down. And that's the great thing. It started off with a conversation between you and me. That was the beginning.
Kay: You cannot see this, obviously, because you all are listening to this, but I got shivers as Jimmy said that. We don't want to belabor the point here, but it's just you have to start with where you are and with what you have. And, thankfully, we managed to find your earbuds across the world. And we're so grateful for you spending time with us today.
You're doing some fantastic work post-Cotiviti and as a practitioner, which I have officially now dubbed you! Where can folks find you if they want to connect with you?
Jimmy: You can always find me on LinkedIn. I'm Jimmy Rose. That's probably the best place to look for me!
Kay: Thank you so much Jimmy for sharing your experience working with us and also sharing your wisdom with us and our listeners. We really appreciate you.
Kay: So there you have it! That was Jimmy Rose, the former Vice President for Employee Experience at Cotiviti, and one of our esteemed client partners. We’ll be diving into more examples of folks we’ve worked with over the years, so stay tuned for those stories in the coming episodes.
And as always, if you’d like to learn more about how you can partner with Inclusion in Progress to deliver strategic guidance on diversity, equity and inclusion for your team or company; to create greater psychological safety, inclusion and innovation; head to the link in the show notes or email us at email@example.com to schedule a no-pressure consultation call with our team.
Thanks for tuning in and see you in the next episode!