“Equity is the acknowledgment that we have a history of unfairness in the United States and society as a whole,” says Hakemia Jackson, the moderator of our latest webinar with ThinkHuman and 15Five.
“In many ways, reparation is needed to even that playing field. But when will we get to the point where we can simply say that we’re all on a level playing field? That’s when we can all bring equality into the equation.
However, we’re nowhere near that. And so at this moment, we have to engage in a conversation about equity. And until these systems of oppression are completely dismantled, we cannot have a conversation about equality because it doesn’t exist.”
Equity is not just a trendy topic that has caught fire in recent years. It’s a mainstay in the people operations field because it’s crucial for creating fair, safe workspaces that give everyone equal access to upward mobility.
Last week, we partnered with ThinkHuman and 15Five to host a webinar with five of the brightest minds in people operations, Francesca Walker, Jennie Yang, Kavita Vora, Shaan Hathiramani, and Hakemia Jackson to discuss employee lifecycle equitability.
Read on to learn about the key takeaways from the webinar.
What Is an Equitable Employee Lifecycle and Why Is it Crucial for the Modern Workforce?
An equitable employee lifecycle is a framework for creating as much fairness and inclusion as possible in a corporate workforce. Equitable employee lifecycles create psychological safety for their employees, especially ones from marginalized groups, so they can be their authentic selves to work without fear of judgement or punishment.
Equitable employee lifecycles also create a more fair and objective system for career development, which gives employees the hope and optimism that they can excel in their careers, regardless of their background.
Make Sure You Stay Aligned With Your Values
After you design an equitable employee lifecycle for your company, you need to ensure that you actually practice what you preach. And according to Francesca Walker, the Assistant Director of Student Experience at New York University, one of the best ways to stay aligned with your values is to make sure that you don’t recreate the trauma that your employees have experienced at past workplaces.
“If my team is comfortable sharing the ways that they might have experienced harm in other organizations, then I need to ask how can I ensure that I am not reproducing that harm. I think that there’s two things to that. One, it acknowledges that harm has and continues to be done. And two, there’s a commitment to action.”
She went on to say, “Of course, that’s not to say that I’m not going to make mistakes. I’m human. But what we’re doing there is we are opening the conversation to get feedback from the people that we are supporting and constantly holding ourselves accountable to what we say we value. And that puts you in a place of being proactive rather than reactive to what may potentially happen down the line.”
For Jennie Yang, the Vice President of People & Culture at 15Five, setting the tone that you want to hear everyone’s voice at each meeting is also an effective way to stay aligned with your values. It creates a safe space.
“As a leader, I cultivate psychological safety on my teams at the beginning of our meetings, especially if it’s a brainstorming meeting or a post-mortem. This sets the intention that I want to hear everyone’s voices. I want to hear your opinion, your experience, and create an inclusive environment.”
Jenny added, “Because as we all know, there are going to be colleagues who are louder than others. So I think it’s also a matter of saying, ‘Hey, I want to hear from you’, but not necessarily doing it in a way that calls someone out for not talking. It’s more of an invitation than anything.”
To Hakemia Jackson, asking your employees who identify with marginalized groups about how you can help them reflect and heal the wounds that social injustice has inflicted on them is another way to stay aligned with your values.
“I know that a lot of institutions, especially higher education institutions, had calls for employees to take a day off to reflect, heal, and deal with the challenges of what’s going on in our society right now. The challenge there is when you have employees who are already overworked, even the idea of taking a day off to heal actually feels unattainable.”
So in this particular moment, Hakemia suggested that what we should be doing is looking to our colleagues who identify with the Asian-American community and, “Ask them, ‘What can I take off of your plate right? And yes, you can actually have this time to heal.’ Those are the kinds of questions that we want to be asking from a place of genuinity so we can embody our values.”
How to Get the Majority to Commit to Equitable Employee Lifecycles
At first glance, it might seem like getting the majority to commit to equitable employee lifecycles might be a tall order. But according to Kavita Vora, the former Chief People Officer at Splice, Jopwell, and MakerBot, creating a safe space for them to discuss diversity and inclusion can clear a path towards greater understanding.
“The majority needs psychological safety too. That’s why it’s important to create a space where we can provide them with feedback on how they are doing along the continuum of understanding cultural mindsets and how they can progress further along that continuum. Something that we did in my last company is ask the board and the executive team to take a self-assessment called the IDI continuum, where you can assess how you view yourself and people who are different from you.”
Through that, Kavita revealed, “We were able to see where we are and where we think we are. And newsflash, everyone thought they were further along than they actually were, including me. So we all learned that we have work to do and have blind spots and areas to focus on.”
In addition to creating a safe space to talk about diversity and inclusion, Hakemia Jackson recommends being human and realizing that everyone makes mistakes and is capable of change. This not only helps you bring the majority guard’s down but also makes them more receptive to your diversity and inclusion efforts.
“You have to understand that mistakes and missteps happen and you’re not at a point of no return when it happens. You can repair harm. I don’t think that people hear this enough. You actually have the ability to repair harm that you’ve done.”
3 Actions Organizations Take Right Now
In order to create as much equity as possible in the workforce, there are three actions that organizations can make today: Invest in coaching, add a bias checker to the compensation and promotion process, and fully commit to employee equitability. Here are three final actionable takeaways from this panel:
“Get coaching. If you need to tap into third-party organizations, do it. Whatever you do, you have to make sure that you’re committed to equitability and viewing it as a value add instead of a cost on your balance sheet.” –Hakemia Jackson
“Add a bias checker to the compensation and promotion process. That’s a big trend I’m seeing. So whether it’s somebody at your company or a neutral third party that trains managers on different types of bias, you need to have somebody who can call out bias if they think they are seeing it. It’ll make a huge difference in the compensation and promotion process and make employees feel that it’s more transparent and fair.” – Kavita Vora
“There are no half measures in this type of work. If your company supports initiatives that make you feel like you’re comfortable bringing your authentic self to work, but you do a sales call and your manager tells you to speak with more polish or professionalism, then that dissonance means that no matter how many resources that you’ve poured into employee equitability, there’s still more work to do.”
Shaan went on to suggest that:
“Viewing this work as a value as opposed to something that needs to be optimized and can hit a number will help many folks realize that they are part of a system that has centuries of compounding privilege in the workplace. This is full court press kind of work. Because even if there is a hint of that dissonance I mentioned above, then all the energy put into your initiatives is for not.” – Shaan Hathiramani, CEO of Flockjay
Want to learn more? To further digest this valuable information, watch the full webinar.