Diversity & Inclusion

Leading with Inclusivity: Olakunle Arowolo’s Journey to DE&I Excellence at Actalent

Olakunle (Kunle) Arowolo stands at the forefront of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) initiatives at Actalent, a global leader in engineering and science services. With a rich background spanning 18 years across various roles from recruitment to DE&I leadership, Arowolo’s journey is a testament to the evolving nature of corporate inclusivity.

Olakunle Arowolo

Career Path to DE&I Leadership

“After completing a master’s program in organizational development, I got a call from a recruiter that led to a job as an Amazon customer service representative,” Arowolo recalls. His early career, marked by curiosity and engagement with recruitment processes, set the stage for his later focus on DE&I.

“I was more interested in his role—connecting people with jobs—than I was in my own!,” he shares. “Soon after, I joined Actalent’s sister company, Aerotek, as a consultant, which morphed into a recruiting role,” he explains. Arowolo’s transition to Actalent and subsequent rise to DE&I leadership was fueled by a supportive network. “I was surrounded by allies, advocates, and mentors,” he says. “They helped me shape my perspective on diversity and understand its importance in the workplace.”

Role and Impact as DE&I Director

As the first director of DE&I at Actalent, Arowolo’s responsibilities are vast and vital. “We have had leaders in DE&I roles before, but I am our first director of DE&I,” he states, highlighting the new breadth of his position. Under his guidance, Actalent has launched several key initiatives. “Our DE&I work at Actalent is anchored in our executive leadership,” Arowolo notes, adding, “From there, we have six cultural task forces that act on our commitments.”

The task forces include: People, Purpose, and Strategy; Client and Consultant Engagement; and Employee Resource Group Operations.” He underscores the importance of communication in these efforts. “Communicating internally and externally about our program and initiatives is a huge reason we’ve been able to move the needle,” he explains. The proactive approach to shaping the company culture is evident in his commitment to inclusivity, “If you aren’t sharing what you’re doing, no one knows about it, which is almost like it didn’t happen. Awareness is so important.”

Distinctive DE&I Strategies at Actalent

At Actalent, Kunle Arowolo has pioneered DE&I strategies that not only distinguish the company from its competitors but also deeply impact its corporate culture. “We’re doubling down on leadership development and support, which I see as distinct from training,” Arowolo says. This approach emphasizes nurturing leadership qualities that go beyond conventional training to instill a sense of psychological safety and trust within teams.

Arowolo elaborates on the concept of psychological safety: “For people to bring the best versions of themselves to work—they need to feel psychologically safe,” he says. Under his direction, Actalent has prioritized creating an environment where team members feel secure enough to voice ideas and concerns. This is achieved through a series of structured initiatives, including workshops and seminars that focus on emotional intelligence and the management of unconscious biases.

“Leaders must understand the psychological impact they have on the people they serve and facilitate an environment where everyone on their team knows they can speak up with ideas, questions, concerns, and mistakes without fear of punishment or humiliation,” Arowolo explains. This philosophy is core to Actalent’s strategy, directed at empowering individuals by ensuring that leadership is approachable and supportive.

Furthermore, Arowolo highlights the role of strategic partnerships and community engagement in enhancing Actalent’s DE&I efforts. “We actively partner with organizations like the Women of Color STEM Conference and the Society for American Military Engineers to extend our reach and influence in the STEM community,” he notes. These partnerships not only help in promoting diversity within the industry but also play a crucial role in talent sourcing and retention.

By investing in these comprehensive strategies, Actalent, under Arowolo’s guidance, not only champions a more inclusive workplace but also sets a benchmark for the industry in how DE&I can be effectively integrated into corporate strategy and operations.

Challenges and Successes

Arowolo acknowledges that, while implementing DE&I strategies at Actalent, several challenges have arisen, particularly around shifting entrenched corporate mindsets.

“The main challenge has been evolving mindsets and integrating DE&I deeply into our business practices,” he says. “It’s about continuous education and confronting uncomfortable truths,” he explains. Despite these hurdles, the successes speak volumes.

Under Arowolo’s leadership, the expansion of employee resource groups and the integration of DE&I into core business strategies have marked significant progress. As Arowolo highlights: “Our six cultural task forces have played a crucial role in turning our commitments into action, significantly shaping our inclusive culture.” These achievements underscore Actalent’s steadfast commitment to DE&I, showing tangible improvements in creating a supportive and diverse workplace.

Future Directions and Philosophy

Looking ahead, Arowolo is committed to advancing DE&I within Actalent and beyond.

“My vision for DE&I at Actalent involves deepening our commitment to these values, ensuring they’re woven into every aspect of our operations,” he asserts. Arowolo believes that DE&I extends beyond policy—it is a practice that enriches both the company and the communities it serves.

His future plans include leveraging data-driven strategies and community feedback to refine and expand Actalent’s DE&I initiatives. “We aim to not only support diverse talent within our company but also influence the broader industry,” he adds.

By fostering an environment where diverse perspectives are valued and psychological safety is prioritized, Arowolo envisions a workplace where innovation thrives. His philosophy emphasizes that real change requires a persistent, holistic approach, embedding DE&I deeply into corporate culture and operational practices.

Kunle Arowolo’s leadership as the Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at Actalent exemplifies the critical role that dedicated DE&I strategies play in modern corporations. Through his efforts, Actalent has not only enhanced its internal culture but has also set a standard in the industry for fostering inclusive environments. Arowolo’s strategic initiatives and his commitment to continuous improvement and community engagement have paved the way for meaningful change.

As Actalent continues to evolve under his guidance, his vision serves as a beacon for other organizations striving to integrate DE&I deeply and effectively into their operations. Arowolo’s journey and achievements remind us that true inclusivity requires unwavering commitment and actionable strategies, shaping not just a better workplace but a better world.

Lin Grensing-Pophal is a Contributing Editor at HR Daily Advisor.

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