In recent years, all of us, from founders to executives to team managers, have given serious thought to how to build diverse and inclusive businesses. Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) is a topic that is rightly being addressed by more and more organizations. But is this simply being addressed at the board level, or are organizations considering equality across your goal framework? Setting organizational goals around DEI efforts actualize the value and committed outcomes of initiatives, rather than simply having executives update policies on paper.
In a recent episode of Giant Talk, Matt Tucker, CEO of the goal and status platform, Koan, and Jared Wiener, the Project Manager at Prosper Portland, an organization focused on building an equitable economy, were interviewed to discuss the importance of goal setting when it comes to DEI work. Both leaders bring their unique backgrounds to the table and dive into recent industry shifts around DEI, sharing ideas around how to make culture shifts and how to develop goals for meaningful change.
Here are some of the highlights and key takeaways.
As business leaders, Tucker and Wiener have seen the conversation around DEI at work increase in the last couple of years, but especially over the past 16 months they’ve seen a more drastic awakening for folks. For example, over the past five years, Prosper Portland has run a program focused on helping businesses build a more equitable workforce in the local tech industry, called TechTown Portland, and over this past year, there’s been a large uptick. Wiener noted that this interest was not just from businesses wanting to participate, but that it also was from individuals showing interest in widening the programs available and expressing that DEI work is essential and important work for all businesses.
As organizations work to instigate DEI initiatives, collaboration, open discussion, and a learning mindset are all key elements to opening up conversations around diversity amongst teams. While diversity and inclusion can be intimidating subjects to talk about in or out of the workplace, Wiener shares that creating a space where people can talk openly with one another, push past barriers and ask for guidance is the first step to creating meaningful change. This work requires a lot of structure, intention, and thoughtfulness to ensure all voices are heard, especially with a remote or hybrid workforce.
Wiener also encourages organizations to not be afraid to ask for outside resources and support. There are plenty of external consultants and agencies that can help facilitate discussions and provide frameworks for DEI initiatives within organizations. For example, Koan partnered with TechTown and has found it to be very impactful in guiding conversations and providing resources to make a positive impact throughout the organization. Tucker and Wiener share that organizations should work to find a set of peers to learn from, talk with, and be inspired by. This is not easy work, but there’s strength in numbers and by making it collective work, there is likely to be a larger impact.
Live your values
There's been a broader trend from CEOs that discussing social issues at work distracts from day-to-day business and can hinder team unity. But in fact, Tucker and Wiener assert that there are many ways to keep teams focused on business goals while also making space for teams to talk about important social issues. Most founders build a business because it’s rewarding and they want to make a big impact, and what better way to do that than by combining goal achievement with social impact issues? In order to do this, DEI initiatives must be prioritized and integrated into the typical business process, rather than being seen as an add-on, and should have clear accountability with set deadlines, targets, and project leads.
Investing in diversity, equity and inclusion is not only an investment in the greater social good, but it's also a business imperative when it comes to hiring, retention, and creating a positive work culture. There's an enormous amount of data supporting that diverse and inclusive organizations actually perform better than homogenous ones. DEI is a critical investment.
Tucker shares that most organizations, this all starts with a company values conversation. Setting values as an organization is critical to identifying what’s important to the company. But after setting a teams true values, it is essential to ensure that they live out these values in their day-to-day work. It's one thing to articulate something as a value, but it's another thing to lean in and make a commitment to upholding that value. Tucker and Wiener assert that after teams write down their values, exhibiting these values as an organization through behaviors is imperative. That way, values aren’t simply lip-service but are actually a part of how an organization does business and functions every single day.
Set actionable, measurable goals around DEI initiatives
Faced with the enormity of ongoing racial injustice, many people feel helpless. This problem has existed for hundreds of years, and it is a societal and systemic problem. Wiener shares that one company’s DEI initiative isn’t going to solve for the larger diversity, equity, and inclusion challenge our society faces as a whole, but by providing employees with well-defined DEI activities and educational resources, organizations can collectively jump-start change by helping their employees to take the first steps towards making a difference.
In light of this, TechTown and their participating companies have agreed to follow a structured goal framework to track DEI progress on a quarterly basis. Having a structured goal framework for DEI goals not only allows teams to measure progress over time, but it also helps to establish accountability and create meaningful change across participating organizations.
Wiener shared that when setting measurable organizational DEI goals, First, leaders should take a holistic look at their DEI program and be intentional with the culture change work. This DEI work is an amazing opportunity to give all employees a voice and to ensure that not just executive voices are being heard in a goals program. By approaching this goal process from the bottom-up with a holistic strategy, as opposed to a top-down and executive-mandated approach, it actually creates more cross-team collaboration and inclusion and is ultimately more effective.
Tucker shares that by using a goal framework (we like OKRs) to achieve initiatives, organizations can identify what they want to work towards, and then have a structured process for teammates to collaboratively track and report on progress. Structure around goals helps keep everyone focused, aligned, and transparent, and also helps to build trust between employees and to drive inclusion.
When setting DEI goals, Tucker and Wiener advise that teams make sure their goals are specific, measurable and that there are clear owners responsible for keeping the goals on track. This way, there is clear accountability around DEI goals, and progress around initiatives is transparent across the organization. For example, Tucker shares that at Koan, DEI goals are set every quarter (and are shared publicly), and are tracked throughout the quarter so that team members can see meaningful progress in real-time. At the end of each OKR cycle, the Koan team reflects on their progress and discusses how they can improve moving forward. For Koan, having a structured goals process and documenting goals to drive team focus is critical to success. If you’re not sure what DEI goals to set for your team, the Koan team has put together some example Diversity & Inclusion OKRs for you to work from.
Continue your exploration of this topic by listening to S6:E9 of Giant Talk, a podcast brought to you by There Be Giants.