Working on a team towards a common, united goal is one of the most fulfilling experiences someone can have. It’s also extremely difficult to achieve. That united goal requires a broad range of perspectives to challenge norms, make progress, and innovate responsibly. We know we need diverse voices to guard against harmful innovation, but simply having diversity isn’t enough. It requires an environment where all voices will be heard and trusted.
To try to build that environment, we have a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) council that Collective helped us form in 2019. The council’s goal is to take on the work of identifying ways we can advance DEI at a company level, come up with actionable tasks to do that, and then hold everyone accountable. The work the council does comes in the form of many things. For example, selecting vendors for bias training, running workshops or bookclubs, and making policy changes.
The council is made of team members at all levels of the company from leadership to new hires. We aim to have two members of upper leadership participating at any given time so our company goals stay aligned with our DEI work. In addition, a rotating group of non-leadership members help integrate DEI into our culture.
The expectation is that everyone on the council spends half a day per week on these efforts. The council also sets yearly SMART goals visible to all. The specificity of these goals and the time the council spends on them ensures that we can hold people accountable. Otherwise it’s too easy for ambiguity or other priorities to prevent us from making progress.
While most do this work during weekly investment time we trust that everyone will find time that works for them. We even go so far as to explicitly schedule each member for half a day per week to ensure that it remains a priority.
If a rotation on the council is too time intensive, we organize task forces around specific initiatives so people can still be involved. Finally, we try to work on initiatives in pairs or small groups. This work is difficult, nuanced, and can be emotionally draining. Working with a buddy is a guard against that.
Our first iteration of the council was a good exercise in formalizing work that people were already doing and teaching newcomers. It also helped us regularly set aside time to complete that work instead of trying to complete it ad-hoc. However, we found that non-council members didn’t feel up-to-date on what was happening with company DEI efforts. All of the context was siloed to the current council which was a mistake we needed to fix.
We iterated and came up with a new structure. It establishes smaller groups working on specific focus areas. The areas are:
- Continuing Education
- Hiring, Retention & Culture
- Employee Resources & Support
- Feedback & Communication
Some example of how these manifest in our company are monthly internal posts about work the council or task forces have done, setting explicit guidelines and metrics for hiring managers, and reviewing or creating new DEI training material. We also noticed that task forces had fallen by the wayside, so we want to recommit to them.
Taken together, we hope that our focus on outward communication, increased opportunities to participate via task forces, and more focused areas of work, will give more opportunities for more people to learn about and engage with DEI efforts at the company. The more opportunities there are, the more likely we can weave DEI into our everyday company culture. And as always, as we learn more, we will continue to refine our process.
Having a council to direct this work is useful, but creating an inclusive company is the responsibility of all. Everyone has work to do when it comes to diversity, inclusion, and equity. These biases are deeply ingrained in our work and life. We will never be done working to fix them. Our goal is that these efforts lead to an environment where people can be happy, innovate responsibly, and live up to our values. Integrating this work into our profession is a critical step towards the fulfilling environment that we all hope for.