How to Make D&I a Priority Across Your Business

October 29, 2020
nextroll
nextroll

What does it look like when a company prioritizes inclusivity across their entire organization?

At marketing and data technology company NextRoll, this means following extensive audience surveying strategies to avoid making assumptions around customer wants before launching new products or features.

At Tray.io, prioritizing inclusion shows up in its hiring strategies that include anonymous technical tests and objective interview scorecards — the results of which have helped the company recruit 57 percent of its new hires from underrepresented groups in the past year, Emma Copeland, an account executive said.

Meanwhile, after spending several years developing internal initiatives to deepen D&I, the text, image, video and audio communication company Discord has turned its attention to creating a plan for measuring the reach of its recent external efforts. 

“For us, D&I is not a problem to solve but a series of fundamental changes that we will constantly be evaluating and re-evaluating as we work to create, support, and shape the kind of company and industry that supports everyone,” said Heather Sullivan, Discord chief people officer. 

Sullivan and leaders from four other tech companies told Built In SF how they continue to integrate their D&I efforts with their teams, users and audiences. 

 

Margie Mader-Clark
Vice President of People

Gladly’s technical team is 40 percent women and 53 percent people from minority groups. VP of People Margie Mader-Clark credited these numbers to the customer support platform’s early efforts to hire diverse candidates. Mader-Clark shared how they’ve sustained these practices and what impact they’ve made. 

 

What steps have you taken to make diversity and inclusivity a priority across your entire business? What was the key to aligning everyone behind this effort?

From the very beginning of Gladly, we made the hiring of people from underrepresented minority groups core to the success of the company. Four years later, our technical team is made up of 40 percent women and 53 percent people from underrepresented minority groups. By hiring senior technical people early, we could pair them with people from different, non-CS educated technical backgrounds, like Women Who Code. Then we could give people the coaching they needed to become strong engineers. The hiring process has grown easier, as we’re able to interview candidates with a diverse slate of interviewers and highlight real success stories of career advancement within the ranks.

We have an active social justice agenda.

 

How do you ensure your products, branding and messaging cater to a diverse audience? 

Our product is engineered for accessibility by all and is uniquely focused on putting people at the center of the customer service experience. Because we put people at the center of everything we do at Gladly, all of our messaging and company and employment branding shows a diverse slate of employees and customers. Additionally, we have an active social justice agenda and are working to educate internally on people like John Lewis, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Fannie Lou Hamer.

 

What impact have external D&I efforts had on your internal culture, employer brand and/or hiring? How do you measure or gauge that success?

The most important impact our efforts have made is on our culture and business. By bringing different viewpoints into problem-solving, we are able to come up with creative solutions. Different ways of thinking enhance our customer experience, internal development and product. Making space for different voices has made us more patient, better listeners and has added holistically to being a “gladiator.”

 

tray
tray.io
Emma Copeland
Strategic Sales

Leaders at automation and integration platform Tray.io developed core values and objectives and key results (OKRs) aimed at establishing a diverse, inclusive and belonging culture. Emma Copeland, an account executive, shared how these initiatives show up across their organization.

 

What steps have you taken to make diversity and inclusivity a priority across your entire business? What was the key to aligning everyone behind this effort?

Our values emphasize the importance of starting from a place of humility, positive intent, a bias for action and openness to new perspectives. These have been critical pillars for all of us to lean on while having vulnerable conversations around what we’re bringing to the table, like our own privilege, identities and experiences, as well as how we make hiring, promotions and product decisions. They guide our day-to-day actions by taking accountability and being open to new perspectives. 

Additionally, this year, a committee made up of our founder and CEO, head of people and head of talent inaugurated “Tray’s Diversity and Belonging Council” that is intended to facilitate programming and discussion on diverse and inclusive topics and ensure Tray’s employees feel connected to the culture, mission and values of their team and the business. 


How do you ensure your products, branding and messaging cater to a diverse audience? 

From a people perspective, Tray takes a prescriptive approach to branding ourselves to new recruits and prospective hires. For example, all new job postings or public-facing requisites go through a tool called Textio to ensure equitable language is used and we aren’t inadvertently introducing bias to our recruiting efforts. Once candidates are in our pipeline, we use a scorecard-based system to interview and make decisions to avoid fuzzy, “gut-based” hires. 

Regarding our product, we focus on accessibility in product design in an effort to make our technology available to a more diverse audience. We use a foundation similar to this to offer an accessible design — think color contrast, focus on features, quick access, summarization, and more — and have a framework in place that consistently interviews our prospects and customers for input on the platform.

We focus on accessibility in product design in an effort to make our technology available to a more diverse audience. 

 

What impact have external D&I efforts had on your internal culture, employer brand and/or hiring? How do you measure or gauge that success?

There has been a huge impact on hiring, and thus, on internal culture. We anonymize our technical tests to reduce bias, build purely objective interview scorecards and ask our managers to present diverse and inclusive panels to interviewers as a way to bring various perspectives. 

This structured process, combined with commitments from leadership on filling pipeline and headcount with a diverse candidate-base, has resulted in, so far this year, 57 percent of new hires coming from underrepresented groups across two global offices and a number of remote locations. This new employee pool, melded with the heightened attention to social justice in 2020, has contributed to a steady rise in engagement with our events. Our Pride month panel saw over 80 percent participation and roundtable virtual discussion on unconscious bias saw similar attendance. 

 

Heather Sullivan
Chief People Officer

“We have a workforce that is passionate about diversity efforts, and we also all recognize that it is something we have to work on as a team,” Heather Sullivan, Discord’s chief people officer, said. How is the communications app improving its efforts? Sullivan mapped it out. 

 

What steps have you taken to make diversity and inclusivity a priority across your entire business? What was the key to aligning everyone behind this effort?

The executive team has been behind our diversity, equity and inclusion efforts from the start, and we want to continue to build on these as we grow. Some steps we’ve taken so far include the following: mandatory unconscious bias training, six employee resource groups, a clubs program aimed at supporting the different ways people connect and come together, and the adoption of a language tool to make sure language bias is removed from job postings. We launched a social justice squad that raised $150,000 for organizations fighting systemic racism and a campaign on our platform to encourage users to vote. We’re also hiring a new head of I&D, hosting biweekly hiring meetings to discuss representation within pipelines and strategize ways to de-bias our hiring practices, and we implemented a modified “Rooney Rule” for senior leadership hires to ensure representation in late interview stages. 

 This is only the beginning. For us, D&I is not a problem to solve but a series of fundamental changes that we will constantly be evaluating and reevaluating as we work to create, support and shape the kind of company and industry that supports everyone.

D&I is not a problem to solve but a series of fundamental changes that we will constantly be evaluating and reevaluating. 


How do you ensure your products, branding and messaging cater to a diverse audience? 

When Discord launched in 2015, we didn’t have any idea how big we would grow to be. As we’ve grown, our vision has evolved to creating a place where everyone belongs, and we consider that in everything we do, from building the product, to developing trust and safety policies, to evaluating our employee benefits and how we hire. Our users and our team want a place where they can have genuine conversations and spend time with people and communities that are important to them. The more we do to create and support that space, the more diverse and inclusive our community is. 

 We spend time thinking about our reach and how we can support and educate our community, which was the driving force behind our in-app navigation bar to drive people to register to vote and our blogs and social media posts that informed our users about organizations and nonprofits we think are making strides in fighting against systemic racism and inequality for Black, Indigenous and people of color.

 

What impact have external D&I efforts had on your internal culture, employer brand and/or hiring? How do you measure or gauge that success?

 This is a big challenge for us. Our diversity efforts have been internally focused until recently, so we are learning how to gauge success. Working with language tools like TapRecruit, supporting events like Wonder Woman Tech and using our social media to reach wider audiences are steps we are taking to extend the work we do beyond our four walls. Part of what we look at to measure that success is the diversity of the application funnel and examine if it reflects the world around us.

We also know this is a long-term investment. Right now, our goal is to lay the foundation of all this work, make connections with communities around us, learn more about what we can do, and generally empower the team to get involved. We also recognize how much this is a moving target. There is no end goal with DEI. We should always be working on it. 

 

NextRoll built a corporate strategy around diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging from employee feedback and industry progress. Each category includes metrics like diversity hiring goals, promotion and retention goals, and employee sentiment goals from the marketing tech company’s annual D&I survey. CEO Robin Bordoli said these measures help ensure accountability.

 

What steps have you taken to make diversity and inclusivity a priority across your entire business? What was the key to aligning everyone behind this effort?

For the past six years, we have surveyed our employees with a research-backed D&I survey created by Culture Amp and Paradigm. This survey helps us understand the experience of everyone in our company, uncover our blind spots and focus on opportunities to move the needle. We have questions across various “factors” to measure general sentiment around NextRoll building diverse and inclusive teams, and we end the survey by asking what we can do better. This year, with the heightened spotlight on racial injustice, we added a question asking, “What is one thing NextRoll can do to make progress towards racial justice?” We evaluate the survey with an intersectional lens and pull out themes to help us focus and evolve our D&I efforts.

We’ve activated our employees across the organization through our D&I core committee, which aims to engage and progress our ability to innovate and challenge the status quo as it relates to creating a more diverse, inclusive and equitable workplace. We also have eight ERGs and a D&I training series that has covered unconscious bias, ally skills workshops, addressing microaggressions and leading with cultural humility. 

 

NEXTROLL DEI EFFORTS:

  • Recruiting partnerships with external organizations to diversify pipeline, like Jopwell, Women in Sales, Everywhere, SV Academy, and Women in Product
  • Annual participation in Women in the Workplace study to evaluate progress toward gender diversity with intersectional lens
  • Building corporate employer brand to highlight diverse voices on blog and culture page
  • Releasing representation metrics to communicate commitment to diverse representation

 

How do you ensure your products, branding and messaging cater to a diverse audience? 

Before we launch new products or programs, we go directly to the source. We do our homework to ensure that products don’t represent what we assume people want, but rather what they want and need. We hold focus groups and product demos with customers, demo our own products across teams, work closely with customer success to understand how we can solve customer questions intrinsically with our technology, and leverage internal data to understand the impact we’re having on performance and customer patterns. We’ve also created external programs where marketers share feedback and suggestions with us, demo new products early and brainstorm new capabilities with the goal of helping us understand how our products are being used and applied in the real world. 

Additionally, we tier out product launches to different audiences. We A/B test with one group and roll it out to different-sized companies at different times before an official go-to-market launch to ensure we’ve taken insights from a diverse group versus launching to everyone all at once. 

This work also helps us understand and co-create our messaging with our customers. We work diligently to ensure that we’re not making assumptions or using language that could be misinterpreted. We want to make sure NextRoll is an inclusive place, including the very language we use on a daily basis. This year, we updated our coding language to make sure that no one felt excluded, targeted, denigrated or offended by industry words we’ve adopted and used. For example, we changed using “master” as a way to refer to a version of something to “primary;” changed “blacklist” to “denylist;” “whitelist” to “allow list;” and more.

 

What impact have external D&I efforts had on your internal culture, employer brand and/or hiring? How do you measure or gauge that success?
 
Over the course of four years, 2016 through 2019, we’ve tracked our diversity hiring goals which include our external hiring, internal hiring and internal promotions. As a result of our efforts, we’ve nearly doubled our overall representation of underrepresented minorities and overall people of color in management roles. We’ve also increased our representation of women in management roles to 40 percent and were featured in the 2019 Women in the Workplace as a case study for our progress. 

In 2015, we began tracking our progress toward general internal employee sentiment around building a more diverse, equitable and inclusive environment via Culture Amp’s D&I survey. The biggest drive for engagement in the survey is measuring whether someone feels like they belong, and we’ve seen a 6 percent increase in sentiment. In 2015, we ran our own version of the survey and have continued to track our progress against our original questions. We’ve seen a 17 percent increase in sentiment on “NextRoll builds teams that are diverse,” and a 10 percent increase in sentiment on “people from all backgrounds have an equal opportunity to succeed.”
 

 

Tina Lin
Lead Product Manager

In addition to the internal steps GoodRx has taken to support diversity and inclusion, the health prescription platform has adopted an educational approach to understanding its large set of users. Lead Product Manager Tina Lin shed light on the surveys, conversations and other data they use to help inform their product, branding and messaging.

 

What steps have you taken to make diversity and inclusivity a priority across your entire business? What was the key to aligning everyone behind this effort?

Our mission of giving all Americans the knowledge, choice and care they need to stay healthy isn’t just a set of words. It’s embedded into each employee’s DNA. With the momentum from critical events around the nation, we realized that GoodRx has the platform to make impactful differences in the lives of the underserved. We’ve formed a cross-functional team empowered to prioritize and push through changes in the GoodRx product in order to serve our customers and the community better. To make sure we’re effective, we set OKRs to meet each quarter, just like any product and engineering squad in the org, share our progress and solicit feedback at monthly company all-hands meetings.

 

We recognize that external and internal D&I efforts are two sides of the same coin. 

How do you ensure your products, branding and messaging cater to a diverse audience? 

We have to first understand our audience’s needs, how they make healthcare decisions, what areas they live and work in, and more. We’re all-in on learning and educating ourselves. We launch surveys that target underserved communities. We talk to a network of experts and community leaders, and we compare our internal data with census data to find opportunities in marketing and community outreach. 

This year, internal teams participated in a company hackathon addressing racial injustice and improving diversity, equity and inclusion in healthcare. With our learnings, we’ve added initiatives to company roadmaps, such as translating our website to accommodate Spanish-speaking users. Other organizations also striving to make a difference for diverse audiences inspire us. We are always reading, sharing and discussing acts of social impact. 

 

What impact have external D&I efforts had on your internal culture, employer brand and/or hiring? How do you measure or gauge that success?

We recognize that external and internal D&I efforts are two sides of the same coin. Our squad that works on product and marketing DEI initiatives is always in communication with teams working to improve company culture and hiring. We are making “think about everything with a DEI lens” the new normal, so people feel more comfortable raising questions and ideas and holding the company accountable. Our social action Slack channel continues to be active, with colleagues sharing ideas and asking for more details on in-flight work. Continued engagement from the rest of the company is a sign of success, and it pushes us to keep innovating and delivering in this area. 

 

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