Deb Elam, Founder, President, and CEO, Corporate PlaybookDeb Elam, Founder, President, and CEO

The rapid adoption of hybrid working models, the Great Resignation, and changing socio-political environments have led to cultural imbalances in post-pandemic workplaces. The need for well-designed DEI initiatives to solve these issues and foster a culture that drives employee engagement and organizational growth is on the rise. However, architecting a holistic and culturally-fit DEI strategy is no easy task. The leadership and the workforce need to place themselves in the cultural shoes of their colleagues and ensure continuous communication to achieve positive outcomes. A key enabler of this is Corporate Playbook, led by Deb Elam, who has mastered the art of tailoring DEI strategies to meet specific organizational needs.

As a DEI expert and consultant, Corporate Playbook equips companies with strategies to elevate diversity, inclusion, and culture. The company helps clients kick start DEI initiatives or broaden the scope of their existing DEI programs by creating specific plans that align DEI and other key company initiatives including philanthropic efforts, with their brand.

Bringing a Strategic Approach to Diversity and Inclusion

Corporate Playbook takes a highly-customized approach in its engagements. The company collaborates with clients' leadership team and decision-makers to formulate tailored DEI strategies and link those to bottom lines. Through assessment tools and interviews, Corporate Playbook first identifies clients' DEI readiness, perspective, and positioning. It then collaborates with employees to understand the perspectives of individuals and groups to align goals to drive desired outcomes.

Unlike most DEI firms that focus solely on diversity training, Corporate Playbook concentrates on developing comprehensive strategies. Training is one element of a comprehensive strategy. "We try to meet clients where they are and then tailor a holistic approach to address their objectives based on budget and short- and long-term goals," says Deb, the founder, president, and CEO of Corporate Playbook.

By imbedding with and understanding an organization's culture from the inside out and transitioning it to an inclusive one that echoes through every department, Corporate Playbook helps businesses provide their workforce with the opportunities to achieve their full potential. Moreover, by identifying individuals who have the capability to lead, Corporate Playbook coaches them to be their best selves which, in turn, helps them be better executives and senior executives.

Corporate Playbook also helps clients with work culture-related crisis management. For instance, if any representative of an organization makes an inappropriate comment that compromises the organization's reputation, Corporate Playbook's experts assist clients in rectifying the mistake by taking into account stakeholders, board members, leadership team, employees, and external players.

Experience Culminating to Excellence

One of the strongest differentiators for Corporate Playbook is Deb's decades of experience in leadership and in the DEI space. Having served different roles during her career at GE, she made history in 2006 by becoming the first-ever black female corporate officer appointed by GE's board of directors. In her role as a Chief Diversity Officer, Deborah built a diverse and inclusive culture at GE that allowed employees to thrive and contribute to the company's success. She also led GE's philanthropic efforts to tackle the world's most crucial challenges across health, education and skill building.

" We try to meet clients where they are and then tailor a holistic approach to address their objectives based on budget and short- and long-term goals."

Today, Deb repurposes her expertise to serve a large number of clients across different industries, including well known corporations such as Bed, Bath and Beyond, Raytheon, Nordstrom, Roivant, DataRobot and Pinterest. She also regularly speaks on leadership development including women’s leadership via public platforms.

In 2018, to empower women in leadership roles, Deb Elam started a signature offering, Dining with Deb, which provides an opportunity for women leaders across different industries, professions, and cultures to advance personal development and professional collaboration. It is an ultimate leadership dining experience for professional women, engaging them across racial, religious and political barriers, by driving meaningful connections and conversations.

Initially, 200 women participated in the unique experience. The number rose to over 300 in 2019. Then, in 2020, when the pandemic hit, Corporate Playbook conducted a virtual Dining with Deb in partnership with the United Way of Southeastern Louisiana as a fundraiser to provide immediate grants to hospitality workers in New Orleans who were suddenly without income.

Designed by women and for women to celebrate women leaders, this initiative raises the bar on their personal and professional connections, enabling them to be the best version of themselves. It encourages them to explore new opportunities, leaving the fear of failure behind – be it professional or personal. “Surround yourself with phenomenal women who are confident and secure enough to know there is room at the table for each of us. That's what Corporate Playbook is trying to do by empowering women, leaders, and organizations as a whole," says Deb.

Fostering Adaptable DEI

Corporate Playbook has helped many of its clients sail through the trying times of social unrest in the summer of 2020, caused by the George Floyd murder. In the aftermath of the incident, organizations were gripped by a wave of fear that the impact was not limited to employees from underrepresented communities; it affected everyone. While some were afraid of being treated unfairly, others feared a cancel culture. As a result, many companies made commitments and hired diversity professionals without asking the right questions and allocating the right budget.

Some of these professionals were not a perfect fit for the companies and lacked the experience to strategically drive DEI initiatives. Corporate Playbook coached many these diversity professionals to be more effective. Through continuous guidance, the firm supported leaders in dealing with the ever-evolving workplace environment and cultivating an inclusive culture to attract and retain employees from underrepresented backgrounds. It empowered leaders to advance their professional endeavors and find new ways to engage with their teams.

Another great testament to Corporate Playbook's ability is the success of Nordstrom, a luxury department store. Working with the heads of HR and diversity, Corporate Playbook helped them connect their employees, communities and employee resource groups. Deb also collaborated with the executive leadership team to help them understand how to show up as champions, particularly the non-diverse executive team members.
  • It's Surround yourself with phenomenal women who are confident and secure enough to know there is room at the table for each of us..

In another instance, Corporate Playbook worked with a division of Capital One, one of America's leading financial corporations, to successfully formulate and execute a DEI strategy.

The capability to serve clients effectively on a large scale comes from Corporate Playbook's subcontracting model. It enables the firm to run lean and be cost-effective for clients by bringing in people to provide subject matter expertise as needed. Corporate Playbook sets criteria to onboard clients, selecting only those willing to engage at the highest levels for impactful and sustainable outcomes. Prospective clients looking for window dressing or to just tick a few boxes don't fit the criteria.

With their commitment to driving change for companies that are willing to improve, Corporate Playbook continues to empower people to be great leaders so they can implement DEI strategies effectively. Moving ahead, Deb is working on a book that leaders and diversity practitioners can use as a guide on their journey to drive relevant and sustainable diversity initiatives. Corporate Playbook also plans to reinvigorate Dining with Deb later this year.