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Lessons in Leadership with Kelly’s Peter Quigley

Peter Quigley, president and chief executive officer of Kelly, joined the Detroit Regional Chamber to discuss how individuals can lead at all levels of an organization with increased awareness of diversity, equity, and inclusion. The long-lasting impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and the importance of sustaining a healthy work environment to allow employees and businesses to thrive was also covered.

“A firm stance on equity and inclusion within the walls of Kelly and more broadly the labor market needed to be taken. And it needs to be much broader than checking boxes for diverse headcount,” said Quigley. “I’m convinced the right thing to do is proactively create spaces where everyone feels welcome in the workforce and experience a true sense of belonging at work.”
Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion and the Four W’s:

1. Workforce: Diversity within the workforce makes the workplace smarter and more creative and creates results. While quantitative improvements impact diversity in the workforce the more telling improvements are qualitative.

2. Workplace: Though the definition of workplace has been expanding for some time, COVID-19 has proven that work output is far more important than work location. The workplace is much more than a location, it is also a sense of community, belonging, and inclusion. Organizations must create an environment and culture characterized by acceptance that allows people to bring their best selves to work.

“We can and should explore the idea that work can be done in places that allow us to be our best selves. Expanding where work can be done can be a game changer for those who have challenges with transportation or mobility,” said Quigley. “When we say some types of work can be done anywhere and welcome these individuals to the workplace, we enable a wider and potentially more diverse funnel of talent.”

3. Work Time: As the workplace continues to change, the concept of working uninterrupted for eight or nine hours at a time becomes more antiquated. In order to create a more diverse and equitable environment, the idea of when work can be done must be expanded to better meet the needs of the workforce.

“Most of us encounter disruptive responsibilities at some point in our lives and we have to do a better job of making the workforce more inclusive of these individuals by expanding the idea of when work can be done and displaying general empathy that employees are whole people who likely have obligations outside work,” said Quigley.

Flexibility in work time allows for greater upward mobility for those who want to obtain additional skills or higher-education degrees.

Notes Quigley, “Work done at both 9 a.m. and 9 p.m. can be both brilliant and valuable.”

4. Work Style: The experience of work during the COVID-19 pandemic reduced the dependence on work style norms, like work wear, proximity to boss, etc., and likely brought work communities closer together as we got to know one another.

“We went through a prolonged struggle together and hopefully built a sense of connection, empathy, and shared human experience. We began dismantling the notion that we need to bring our work self to work, and leave our whole self in the parking lot,” said Quigley.

Society can better thrive when people who want to work are given that opportunity, but far too many capable people are excluded by barriers including hiring practices, outdated societal constructs, and systemic inequities.

In 2020, Kelly launched Equity at Work to dismantle unjust barriers in the workplace one-by-one.

“As leaders we owe it to human-kind to get this right and make work not just about making a living for some but making a life of dignity and joy for all,” said Quigley.

The bonus W is “Why.” Why embark on the journey to bring increased diversity, equity, and inclusion into your organization? For Quigley the answer is simple. He has seen what opportunities can do for people.

“The dignity of work, rooted in human dignity, is sacred and women – and by extension other marginalized communities – have a place, and an important one, in the workplace. When we feel deeply that equity and inclusion and belonging is the right thing in our hearts, and the why is clear, the hard work to bring about change will follow,” said Quigley.