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RfH Workshop Recap: How to Make DE&I a Lasting Part of Your People Strategy

August 5, 2020
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The police killing of George Floyd made us all reflect on society’s long-standing struggles with race, privilege, and prejudice. For HR teams, it served as a reminder that workplaces need to make an intentional effort to support people of color.

This year’s events led companies to either start or expand their diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) commitments. That’s welcome news — but does the trend represent a long-term shift or just a temporary reaction? That’s for leadership and HR teams to decide.

Resources for Humans (RfH) is a Slack community of over 9,000 HR leaders. RfH recently hosted a virtual working session for members to share their tips for making this year’s added interest and investment in DE&I stick. Here are some of the key takeaways shared.

Education and Awareness

Employees need to understand what the issues are and how to talk about them. While each person’s level of understanding will be different, it’s up to company leaders to help inform employees and use clear language to bring about lasting change within your company culture. Leaders encouraged teams to start small and build up, brick by brick.

“We're all on different levels of conversation. Some people are talking about race for the very first time. How do you articulate that and not be offensive? How do you get across and be direct? I think one of the key parts about education is first learning where each of us are, so we can actually hold a conversation right here to drive the point.”
- Morgan Williams, HR Manager at Casper / Consultant at MWHR Consulting

“We needed to take a step back and give our folks some preliminary training, just so that there's some shared knowledge, some core concepts around diversity and inclusion, and some things that they can learn around first before they're immersed in [a more] intense program.”
- Dawn Morgan, Director of Talent Development at Articulate

“It really starts with having a conversation and getting I think a lot of times in just being honest. Now's the time to reopen that talk and make it a point that we have to drive home and we got to be brave in some ways and we have to be able to say, let's not let fear dictate our directive on doing the right thing.”
- Fred Leong, VP of People at dv01

“We had the National Equity Project lead a session for our full team. And then this past October, we took our full team to the Equal Justice Initiatives, the Lincoln Museum and Memorial which was extremely powerful. I did a two-day workshop with an outside facilitator which definitely ramped up more of our diversity, equity, and inclusion work.”
- Odiaka Gonzalez, Director of People & Talent at Global Citizen Year

“[Crescendo is] a Slack integration tool that helps get people starting a conversation more about diversity and inclusion. It will automatically post things to Slack and share it with the people who request information. It's not like a forced education, [and] we could choose the frequency, things like that. And then it'll prompt people to connect together in a channel on Slack.”
- Karina Neretich, People & Talent Associate at Yieldmo

Surveys and Feedback

What are employees feeling? What do they need? Ask them directly through one-on-one conversations or engagement surveys. The data will shed light on where you should start — whether it’s creating employee resource groups (ERGs), starting a DE&I committee, or hosting town halls. Make DE&I a priority by setting goals pulled both from survey data and direct feedback.

“We try to analyze racial attitudes in our employee engagement survey that we have every year. And that's really been impactful for us because then we automatically have demographics in our survey so we know what communities are thinking. And so from that information, we have data to move in an impactful way, whether it’s more training or more engaging conversations, so we can all be on the same page.”
- Marvin Webb, VP of Finance & Administration at Funders for LGBTQ Issues

“[I said to our VP], before we do anything about where we stand socially as a company, we should be talking to our team members, the people that are going to be really impacted...Our customers can leave us for whatever stance we take, but if we don't take the stance, it's going to impact our team members, then we're not doing anything right.”
- Susan Fierro, VP of People at Bigleaf Networks

Facilitating the Conversation 

ERGs can help create safe spaces in the workplace — but don’t expect or rely on colleagues that are Black, Indigenous, or people of color (BIPOC) to lead the conversation. By opening up the space for conversation and giving all your employees resources, they can come up with some great ideas themselves.

“It's hard to understand the pain that someone people are going through if you've never taken the time to sit in the moment and to feel that. I'll be completely candid and honest about that. But how can you really get to a solution if you haven't taken a chance to really assess the problem.” 
- Morgan Williams, HR Manager at Casper / Consultant at MWHR Consulting

“[Having a facilitator] sparked a new employee resource group at our company. And it's an ally-ship group doing a lot of work during the workday where they invite the entire team to come and support certain actions that support social justice and change in the community. They also host their own discussions internally so people can discuss how they're feeling about what's going on right now. It's amazing because they're actually contributing a lot to our DE&I initiatives and goals without the People team having to coordinate everything.”
- Myrtle Ossai, People Operations Coordinator at Guru

Accountability and Moving Forward

Saying you’re going to build a more inclusive workplace isn’t enough — you need to set leadership (and yourself) accountable to that promise. Set goals, create the infrastructure for ongoing learning and development, and make sure there are leaders in your company to represent every facet of the DE&I strategy you’re preaching.

“We definitely had those discussions that although we have limited diversity, because we have different cultural areas as well to think about, we want to make this a global program. We don't want it to just be a US thing. We're trying to make sure that we're crossing not only racial borders, but cultural borders as well, and helping [international teams] understand because they don't truly understand what's going on here in the US. They struggle with even understanding how to support the teams over here.”
- Marvella Smith, People Operations Manager at 99designs

“We really try to be specific and what our goals are. And when we assess the goal, we look at how to address it. Then we assess the issue again to see if we created either a space for failure or space for success. And then that plays into questions into our employee engagement survey annually, and then we can go year over year and see, are we getting better in those areas?”
- Marvin Webb, VP of Finance & Administration at Funders for LGBTQ Issues

“This is a chance to build a framework that we can duplicate for disabilities and other classes. Don't get so focused and driven on, ‘this is Black Lives Matter,’ and that’s all it is. We're building a framework that's sustainable and you can use it to adapt in other areas. Really take the time and do it right instead of hastily.” 
- Morgan Williams, HR Manager at Casper / Consultant at MWHR Consulting

“You’ve got to put your action behind your words as you make that first hire. Because really, as HR knows, our folks model behavior off of leadership, right? They set the tone for culture, and we really need to have representation at the leadership level.”
- Fred Leong, VP of People at dv01


Those are just some of the insights shared during a recent Resources for Humans virtual working session. If you haven’t already, join the over 9,000 HR leaders that make up our Slack community