Guest Post: 4 Tangible Ways to Start Building a More Inclusive Team

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Editors Note: Forefront believes that Philanthropy is more effective with new voices and perspectives informing its board and leadership, investments, and community engagement. This guest blog, from See3 Communications, is the first part of an ongoing series on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) practices in the philanthropy and nonprofit sectors. Read more about Forefront's DEI work and learn how to get involved here.

For the past year, my team at See3 has been working to create and implement a diversity and inclusion strategy with tangible results. We’ve known for a long time that we needed to do some serious work on this issue, particularly when it came to recruiting and hiring more people of color. We have been - and still are - a really white company. Our staff doesn’t accurately reflect the audiences that we want to help our clients reach, and that’s a big problem for us, on both personal and professional levels. We knew that if we didn’t develop a plan and hold ourselves accountable, we’d never make progress.

As a small digital agency that serves nonprofits, I felt overwhelmed while doing my initial research developing a plan for diversity and inclusion. Most companies that publicly “commit” to diversity and inclusion programs are massive - like Google, LinkedIn, and Facebook. And even with billions of dollars at their fingertips, none of them have done all that well when it comes to racial and gender diversity. Over 50% of staff at all three of these companies are white, and over 60% are male. Reading these numbers, I felt so discouraged.  I thought that, perhaps, that my dreams of creating a company-wide strategy that actually shifted our culture to allow for lasting change was too ambitious.

But thankfully, it wasn’t. I turned to people in my networks who actually knew a thing or two about inclusion strategies that were more than just a PR play, like Desiree Adaway, Shireen Mitchell, and the folks at Chicago Regional Organizing for Anti-Racism. And they gave me advice that has helped develop the plan See3 is implementing today, which is already seeing results.

We still have a lot of work to do, but here are 4 things we’ve done over the past year that have helped our company become a more inclusive, equitable place to work.

1. Focus on bringing more people of color into your networks.

Historically, See3 had a tendency of hiring from within our networks. Those networks are overwhelmingly white, and thus, had resulted in many white candidates being referred to and hired for jobs at See3.

After recognizing this, we’ve made a more conscious effort for leaders within our company to build out their own networks. A few of the ways we’ve done this include:

  • Reaching out to people of color within our networks first when new jobs are posted, and asking them for referrals. This reinforces our relationship with them, and helps us continue to expand our network.

  • Connecting with people of color on LinkedIn who work in our industry, and meeting with them to get a sense of how we might be able to work together in the future.

  • Getting out of the office and into spaces that reflect the more diverse community that surrounds us in Chicago. This doesn’t even need to be events that have an explicit focus on diversity and inclusion (though that doesn’t hurt) - I’ve found that making time for real face-to-face networking has been one of the biggest ways we’ve made progress in the past year.

 

2. Include a clear ask for people with lived experience that your team currently lacks.

Including a diversity and inclusion statement in all of your job posts is a powerful signal to job seekers from marginalized communities that they are wanted and needed at your company. See3’s diversity and inclusion statement says:

"As an equal opportunity employer, See3 is committed to recruiting and retaining a diverse workforce, and we look for candidates who have a high level of demonstrated comfort with cultural competency; people of color, people with disabilities, veterans, women, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people are encouraged to apply."

We also include “Commitment to cultivating diversity in our team of staff and freelancers” in the actual job requirements. This way, candidates are aware that dedication to principles of inclusion and equity are not just nice-to-have, they’re necessary to do the job well.

 

3. Set clear goals and audit your performance.

As a company, we made a decision that we never want to implement quotas for hiring. At the end of the day, we want to hire the best person for any job. However, to hold ourselves accountable to the larger goal of developing a more diverse, inclusive company, we decided that if at least 30% of qualified candidates who received phone interviews were not people of color, we had a failed search.

The excuse that, “no people of color happened to apply,” is something we all hear time and time again when conferences defend all-white panels or companies explain why they picked another white male CEO. And it does not sit well with us. It is not on people of color to undo the burden of racism that has disconnected them from the networks we can most easily reach with our job postings. That’s on us. So if we don’t hit that 30% mark, we have not looked hard enough. It’s a failed search, and we need to look harder before moving forward to a hiring decision.

We also reported on this goal at the conclusion of our most recent search for a full-time candidate, and were happy with our results:

Step in hiring process

% POC candidates

Phone interviews

38% (5 of 13)

In-person interview

33% (2 of 6)

Finalist

50% (1 of 2)

 

4. Get your staff talking about race and racism.

Maybe the most important thing you can do to create a real, lasting diversity and inclusion strategy is to get people talking about race and racism. These are challenging, difficult conversations that are easier to ignore. But the truth is that your strategy won’t go far if it isn’t grounded in ensuring everyone on your team has a common understanding of institutionalized racism.

At See3, we dedicate regular staff meetings to talking about race and racism. We read articles or watch videos that spark conversation about this topic, and get together to discuss (both in-person and remotely). A few resources we’ve used in the past:

After these conversations, I’ve been so impressed hearing my colleagues talk about how it’s shifted the ways that they’ve chosen to teach their children about race. It’s made a lasting impact on the company, and a lasting impact on the families of our team.

Let me say clearly - companies that do not make a real commitment to building more diverse, inclusive teams do not have many decades of profitability left. Same goes for fundraising dollars that nonprofits can anticipate if they don’t take action to diversify their staff and boards. See3 has lost business due to the lack of diversity on our team. But thankfully, we’ve also had clients reach out to us for new projects recently, specifically because we’ve made efforts to become a more inclusive company.

We know we’re not experts here. We admit that we still have a lot to learn and know we might mess up along the way. But we also know it's our responsibility to do this, and we think it’s important to come forward as a small, progressive company who is doing this work.

If you’d like to learn more on this issue, check out our webinars from experts in the field on Creating Inclusion Strategies and Dismantling Racism Within Nonprofit Organizations. And if you’d like to talk more about implementing a diversity and inclusion strategy at your own company or nonprofit, don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Bridgett Colling is a Director of Content Strategy at See3 Communications, the digital agency for do-gooders. She is a frequent speaker on nonprofit digital marketing and productivity. More importantly, she’s a proud intersectional feminist and racial justice advocate. Connect with her at bcolling@see3.com or @BridgettColling.

 

Have a story to share about your organization's diversity and inclusion efforts? Forefront would love to feature you! Email Kathleen Murphy, Director of Communications, Forefront.