Inside Ceridian’s new leadership development program

The Achieving Corporate Equity program supports participants’ mental health and promotion potential.
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· 5 min read

In corporate diversity efforts, we often hear a lot of words and see a lot less action. Especially as HR and DE&I staff were prominent among layoffs in the last year, the variance in commitment to diversity is high.

Software company Ceridian launched a leadership development program in 2022, calling it the Achieving Corporate Equity program. Donnebra McClendon, Ceridian’s global head of diversity, equity, and inclusion, recognized the importance of prioritizing diversity in leadership and cultivating a culture that supports it, she told HR Brew.

Any diversity leader has to make trade-offs on how many new programs and strategies to run, but McClendon said she felt advancing underrepresented populations into leadership was particularly important.

“Our goal was to address the psychological and professional development of underrepresented minorities,” McClendon told HR Brew. “The Achieving Corporate Equity program really came about because I said it would be really cool if, as an organization, we can really concentrate on removing systemic barriers internally.”

One of the standout elements of this development program is the resourcing for mental health support. The first eight weeks of ACE are structured around introspection, with group and individual counseling from a licensed psychologist and on-call support available. The second half of the program revolved around a capstone project aimed at addressing DE&I initiatives within the company.

Standing out. The ACE program launched with 10 individuals from different departments in a 16-week virtual program that employees participated in on top of their full-time jobs. It was open to anyone, but aimed at serving underrepresented minorities, a term that McClendon made sure had a broad definition.

“If you feel as if you are a member of a smaller population of folks within a larger scope, then you are an underrepresented minority,” she explained. “We really wanted to make sure that everyone felt as if there was an opportunity for them to benefit from this particular program.”

The curriculum also included courses or lectures, some led by Ceridian executives or other internal subject matter experts, on a targeted set of topics including negotiation, personal branding, cultural awareness, and understanding the business.

“We knew that when you’re talking about elevating your career, it was really important that you understood the multiple facets of the organization,” McClendon explained.

The experience. Jhenelle Tucker-Faust, an implementation consultant working remotely, remembers liking the tone of the questions in the application and felt a strong connection to the mission of ACE. She said she felt unsure about how to engage further with her company and colleagues, and that’s part of why she pursued the program.

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“In the world of implementation, you’re working on your projects and that particular project team, and sometimes that's where all your energy and your attention goes,” she told HR Brew. She added that it’s important to “prioritize employee growth and personal development as well, because it will only benefit the business overall…It’s just simply human connection, being able to look up from what you’re doing and communicate and connect.”

Tucker-Faust said the mental health support benefited her personal life and family life, and helped her get into the right place mentally to approach work, career, and relationships with new gusto.

“Having licensed clinical psychologists available to us to help us understand certain mental barriers or blockages that we weren’t aware of internally, and working through those individually and as a group really helped to expand my own self-awareness and my own personal development,” she said.

The future. At the end of the inaugural program last year, Ceridian held a graduation ceremony at its St. Petersburg, Florida offices. For Tucker-Faust, it was the first opportunity to meet her cohort in person, as well as McClendon, who she said she’d admired from afar in the past. The company reports that 9 out of 10 participants received either a promotion, a stretch role, or a project opportunity after completing their program.

Tucker-Faust said she’s now working with resource management teams that are adjacent to her implementation group, gaining better exposure across the organization and also improving her understanding of her own job and department.

The ACE program’s second cohort has started, and it’s also expanding globally. McClendon envisions an improved company culture with more diverse leadership.

“Sometimes it may take multiple cycles in order to get it right, but also leverage your community. There’s an amazing DE&I community out there [of non-HR employees willing to help],” she said.

“I think we can really change the way that organizations are working today. And it’s for the greater good of us all…you’ll see it in their productivity. You’ll see it in their lower attrition rate [and] higher engagement.”

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