Fairness at Work Episode 2: Best Practices for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

Andrea Palmiter, August 27, 2020

In the latest installment of Syndio’s Fairness at Work webinar series, CEO Maria Colacurcio talked with Lionel Lee, Head of Diversity Engagement at Zillow, and Kim Vu, Global Head of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at Remitly about the what their companies are doing to become more equitable workplaces. You can download the webinar recording here, or keep reading for some highlights.

Belonging happens at your desk. —Lionel

Creating an equitable workplace means employees feel a sense of belonging in the day-to-day of their jobs. Companies have long talked about diversity, which really focuses on recruitment, and inclusion, which focuses on retention, without understanding the root of their problems. Looking at equity, or how systems and processes that make up an employee’s experience to ensure everyone is treated equitably and has a sense of belonging, is newer. Addressing issues of equity are important 

Companies are taking a moment to really look at their performance along hiring, development, promotion, retention. If they’re doing that, if they’re going quiet because they’re heads down doing the work, that’s great. But if action isn’t happening under the surface, what do we do as corporate leaders about that? There aren’t trophies for participation. —Maria

Understandably, there’s a lot of skepticism. Many Black people feel like they’ve seen both the violence against Black people and the public response before, but have seen little change come of it. It’s great to see companies take a stance in support of the Black Lives Matter movement, but companies who want to make sincere change need to find concrete actions that feel authentic to their employees. 

At Zillow, coffee chats and trainings have helped create space for meaningful conversations and build community. Remitly offered a training to help employees understand how to take guidance on advocacy from Black voices who have been most impact, and encouraged employees to call legislators and attend rallies. Engaging all employees, not just DEI leaders, in pursuing DEI work, can help propel change.

Your employees are humans first and employees second. —Kim

It’s important to remember that employees, particularly Black employees, have deeply personal reactions to the events around the Black Lives Matter movement. At Zillow, they had a company-wide meeting to give space for employees to share how they were feeling, what the experience was like for them, and discuss what it means to be a good ally. Creating spaces to hear people’s voices is key to creating an equitable workplace.

But supporting the emotional needs is important all the time. It’s important to remember that Black and Brown employees may feel distrust towards HR, have concerns about asking for additional help, or not take their vacation time because they worry about the perceptions it might cause.

None of that is going to change anything unless you have everyone from the C-Suite down that really believe that everyone belongs. —Lionel

Corporate leaders set the tone and drive accountability for workplace equity. Incorporate equity into your organizations core values, and tie performance evaluations, executive compensation, and other metrics to those values.

People managers also play an important role. Training managers to create trust and psychological safety lays the groundwork for tough feedback conversations. Managers decide who gets visible stretch projects, so it’s important they’re trained to think about how they’re distributed. And when managers have direct reports that are struggling, they should know to look not just at the employee’s performance, but whether the systems and resources are actually supporting each employee.

Creating an equitable workplace is at the core of an organization. Why do you exist as an organization? What kind of workplace do you want to create for the people you work for you? The people you want to serve your customers?  —Kim

When we think about DEI, we think beyond employees. Remitly’s mission, for example, is to serve immigrant communities who have traditionally been harmed by technology. Employees look at their product and customer work through the lens of equity: is this new product feature predatory and cumbersome? Do we ask customers for their pronouns during our interactions with them? Companies’ public facing work can drive equity just as much as their focus on employee experience.

Want more? You can download the full recording of this episode here and learn more about upcoming Fairness at Work webinars here.

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