Core competencies in DEI: meet people where they are at and help them move to be more inclusive (Part 3 of 5)

2 blank speech bubbles on a pink background
Photo by Miguel Á. Padriñán from Pexels

This is the third post in a week-long series exploring DEI professional competencies. I believe the five key competencies for DEI professionals are:

  1. be strategic
  2. translate academic research into action and measure the impact of initiatives
  3. meet people where they are at and help them move to be more inclusive 
  4. influence others
  5. get cross functional projects done. 

Yesterday I described how a DEI professional needs to be able to translate academic research into action as well as be able to measure the impact of programs. Today I’ll talk about meeting people where they’re at and helping them move to be more inclusive

For me, doing this work in a professional context means meeting people where they’re at and helping them move to where they need to be. Building trust with leaders is key to being successful in this line of work. When leaders are vulnerable and honest with you about their process of unpacking their own biases or learning about inclusion you can be a trusted partner to help them move forward on their journey. 

I loved working with senior leaders who invited feedback on how they were showing up. I supported a manager in levelling up his knowledge of gender, so that he could continue to foster an inclusive environment. I encouraged several executives to share a bit more about who they are and their fears and vulnerabilities to come off as more human and so that staff would share their fears with them. Trust allows for an authentic relationship where we can do hard and necessary things together.

I had a lot of 1:1 conversations with people at all levels of the organization about the intent of their actions and the actual impact on people. The key to having these conversations well is to be able to offer clear and direct feedback with empathy. Kim Scott’s book Radical Candor offers a great framework for this. 

tattoo of a lit match on the inside of my forearm

Looking back to when I was an activist in my 20s I was extremely self-righteous about my politics and very judgemental about where other people were at. There’s no way I would’ve been able to be effective in this work with that mindset. This tattoo on my left forearm has a few meanings for me. One is to remind me of when I was younger and wanted to burn down oppressive systems and as a reminder to meet people who are in that place with patience and empathy so we can build together. 

This is the third in a series of five posts. Tomorrow’s post will address influencing others as a core competency for DEI leaders. 

Core competencies in DEI: Translate academic research to action and measure impact of initiatives (Part 2 of 5)

closeup of a Pyrex measuring cup
made to measure by Chuan Chew, CC-BY-NC licensed

This is the second post in a week-long series exploring DEI professional competencies. I believe the five key competencies for DEI professionals are:

  1. be strategic
  2. translate academic research into action and measure the impact of initiatives
  3. meet people where they are at and help them move to be more inclusive 
  4. influence others
  5. get cross functional projects done. 

Yesterday I wrote about strategy as a key competency for leading DEI work. Today I’m going to explore translating academic research into action and measuring the impact of initiatives.  

I love doing DEI work in the corporate space because it allows me to bring my values and all the different work experiences I’ve had (feminist organizer, academic librarian, accessibility leader, workshop facilitator) to this work. These are emergent problems, meaning that no company, industry or country, has solved them, so we need to try new things and figure out if they work. This means keeping up with the current research and being able to translate it to programs and initiatives and measuring the impact of programs. 

When I started at Mozilla I started a Zotero library to keep track of all the research and reports I was reading, so I could easily find that specific study on psychological safety in the workplace  that had the survey tool questions. I adapted these for our employee engagement survey so I could measure if a pilot program improved psychological safety on teams. I also read various posts on the impact of hiring referral programs at other companies and then working with our Talent Acquisition team to look at our actual data to understand if the referral program was helping or hindering our diversity efforts.

This is the second in a series of five posts. Tomorrow’s post will explore meeting people where they are at and helping them move to be more inclusive.

Core competencies in DEI – Be strategic (Part 1 of 5)

 

 

a white hand holds up a small round mirror that shows the clear refleciton of the mountains, the background is blurred
Photo by Ethan Sees

Three and a half years ago I changed careers from being an academic librarian who did diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) work in the library technology community to a full time job as a DEI professional in the tech sector. Many people have reached out to see if I’d be willing to have a coffee and chat about DEI work and what the work actually looks like. I hope this series of five posts answers many of those questions.

Diversity, equity and inclusion careers panel event information

I’m excited to be one of the panelists for Andrea Tatum’s DEI careers panel on January 23. Registration is free and I hope you’ll join us. 

For me, the combination of head and heart make this work deeply satisfying and challenging. I think the five key competencies for DEI professionals are:

  1. be strategic
  2. translate academic research into action and measure the impact of initiatives
  3. meet people where they are at and help them move to be more inclusive 
  4. influence others
  5. get cross functional projects done. 

Over the coming week I’ll get into more detail on each of these competencies.

Be strategic

DEI means different things to different people and most people have an opinion on what the priorities should be. A clear strategy is important to focus on what you’re going to do, and more importantly, what you’re not going to do. 

While I’d facilitated and written strategic and operational plans for academic and library organizations, I really levelled up through conversations and a planning session with technology strategist John Jensen. My mentor Candice Morgan also shared her strategy and the thinking behind it. Seeing how others approach this was really useful. 

At the start of 2020 I adapted our existing strategy at Mozilla to connect the work we’d been doing on diversity and inclusion to the goals of the business. We had just gone through a layoff and some of the key business goals were focused on product innovation. Experimenting on how to build psychological safety was a key part of the strategy. Psychological safety is the belief that it’s safe to speak up with great new ideas and to raise the alarm when things are going off the rails. Looking at this through a DEI lens meant asking questions like:

  • Who speaks up?
  • Which voices are valued?
  • What kind of training and coaching can help teams and managers do this better?

DEI is a lens to look at HR policies and processes across the entire employee lifecycle and goes beyond to look at the entire business.

Over the last few months I’ve talked to over 30 companies about where they’re at in their DEI journey. In 2020 we saw many companies take a reactive approach to DEI, quickly rolling out one off workshops on unconscious bias or anti-racism. Without a broader strategy, these types of trainings won’t make a lasting impact.

When many people think DEI they quickly jump to thinking about hiring process. Increasing representation is impacted by who joins the company and who chooses to leave. Hiring is important but maybe your bigger problem is attrition. Looking at your attrition rates and exit survey data is a good place to look to start to understand who is leaving and why they’re leaving. To make the biggest impact these programs need to connect to an overall strategy. 

This is the first in a series of five posts. Tomorrow I’ll share some examples of translating academic research to action and talk about measuring impact of initiatives.