On February 27th, Turning Basin Labs (TBL), a staffing cooperative focused on placing fair chance and diverse talent into high road jobs, hosted a roundtable on building inclusive brands. This is part of their event series where they will explore the recruitment journey and how to implement diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) strategies throughout. TBL partnered with Think Human, Grid Alternatives and Oakstop to create the event and there were about 20 workers and employers contributing to the conversation below. The overall thesis was such that in order to build an inclusive brand, we need to start with an inclusive culture and allow the stories of your people to shape your brand story. The details of the conversation are as followed.
What is an inclusive brand?
Grid Alternatives (GA), a solar construction nonprofit, gave us an amazing example of what inclusive marketing is and how they use storytelling and community impact to curate their brand. Inclusive marketing is content that represents the community you serve as an employer. GA has an impact report that shares exact numbers around how they support the community which adds to their brand promise.
How do we create an inclusive culture?
Think Human, a leadership development and manager training company, brought an interesting perspective around inclusive leadership and how important leaders are in shaping the culture and ultimately the brand. Leaders start and champion change, including the Board and Advisors. Even if you can’t access the leadership team, there is always someone on your local team that can begin to champion diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives.
What are the key challenges in creating an inclusive brand/ culture and how can we overcome them?
Fatma Ghedira, Think Human
Sarah Howard, TBL
Wanda Lee-Stevens, Grid Alternatives
We spoke a lot about how easy it is to check off a box, or portray an inclusive brand but how hard it is to do the continuous work to really walk the walk. Grid Alternatives has baked DEI into their organization from interviews (requirement to have 3 DEI questions) to their physical environment (inclusive decor, seating arrangements, front desk person). They even took a group of 21 employees to Montgomery Alabama to connect to the history of systemic racism and found this to be a transformative experience that has greatly influenced the culture of their organization. How’s that for walking the walk?
How do we practice creating an inclusive culture and therefore, an inclusive brand?
To create an inclusive culture, we must put in the work to train employees around DEI and implement DEI strategies. This requires budget. DEI initiatives are not cheap, but it is more cost-effective to create a culture of belonging than experience high employee and customer churn. The cost for bringing in outside DEI experts should be viewed as a tool for risk mitigation and compared to the cost of recruiting/ replacing workers. When trying to get buy-in for a DEI budget, remember that people make decisions by emotion and logic. There are plenty of studies out there to support the logic piece around diversity improving revenue and innovation. In order to tap into the emotional piece, ask leaders (in private) about a time when they felt othered as we have all felt othered at least once in our lives.
How do we assess inclusion at a company we are interviewing at?
Lastly, we spoke about how important observation skills are in the interview to properly assess inclusivity in the workplace. Think Human shared a powerful list of questions to ask yourself when interviewing in person.
Before you join
- How does the company welcome you?
- How much time do they allocate to you?
- Do you feel set up to win?
- What is the tone of the conversations?
- What language do they use?
- How are they interacting with each other?
- How do they dress?
- What questions did they ask you?
- Do you see people with natural hair/ styles?
- Are they practicing active listening or just moving through the motions?
After you join
- Do you feel that you have a voice?
- Do you have autonomy and creativity in your position?
- Do you feel heard and understood?
- How do they relate to trust in the company? (Internally and with customers)
- How do they relate to integrity? (Internally and with customers)
- Are you and your fellow teammates valued?
- Do leaders practice what they preach? WATCH THE LEADERS’ BEHAVIORS
- Favoritism and equity?
- Is learning and development encouraged?
If you are participating in a remote interview there are other ways to assess inclusion. First, be sure to ask for a video call to try and observe some of the previous list.
- Ask the employer what they are doing to create an inclusive culture for remote workers.
- Ask about ERGs and what they are (even if informal).
- Ask about the Learning and Development budget over email to document their commitment. (How much, what it can be used for, and what the employer defines as L&D.)
Thank you to those that participated in the conversation! Our next event will be focused on connecting diverse talent to employers committed to DEI and in honor of Women’s History Month, the topic will be based on sourcing female talent and supporting working moms. You can register for the next event here.
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