Episode 378

podcast photo thumbnail
1x
-15
+60

00:00

00:00

Diversity in the workplace is the cornerstone of running a modern and successful agency. Without it, you’re not only selling your agency short, but you’re also passing up on an immense pool of talent and ideas that you won’t find by staying in a comfort zone.

This week, we have Dr. Ella Washington, a professor, organizational psychologist, and DEI expert, on the podcast to share the purpose, pitfalls, and progress behind effective and measurable DEI work. Whether your agency has fallen behind the times or you just need a fresh perspective, we all have work to do in this area.

So, take this episode with an open mind, actively listen to it, and use it as a guide for refocusing your DEI efforts in 2023.

A big thank you to our podcast’s presenting sponsor, White Label IQ. They’re an amazing resource for agencies who want to outsource their design, dev, or PPC work at wholesale prices. Check out their special offer (10 free hours!) for podcast listeners here.
diversity in the workplace

What You Will Learn in This Episode:

  • The metrics for tracking DEI work progress
  • The three P’s of starting DEI work
  • How hybrid work environments promote diversity in the workplace
  • Inviting more diversity into your organization
  • Why diverse backgrounds of all kinds matter at work
  • Inclusive leadership
  • Acknowledging and addressing microaggressions
  • How to create a safe space as a leader and invite conversations about DEI

“The three things you must think about are purpose, pitfalls, and progress.” @EllaFWashington Click To Tweet “You need to be really honest about those pitfalls. We all have them; every organization and every person has them. I think that's been the toughest thing for people to really wrap their minds around.” @EllaFWashington Click To Tweet “People that have hybrid work environments feel like they have a higher sense of belonging, a higher sense of inclusion, I think for multiple reasons.” @EllaFWashington Click To Tweet “We can do things how they always have been done, and we're going to get the same results. So we must be willing to shift, challenge, and change the status quo of how things have been done before.” @EllaFWashington Click To Tweet “It's those everyday opportunities for inclusive leadership. It’s those everyday moments to make your colleagues feel like they're seen and valued.” @EllaFWashington Click To Tweet

Ways to contact Ella:

Resources:



Announcer:

Welcome to the Agency Management Institute community, where you’ll learn how to grow and scale your business, attract and retain the best talent, make more money, and keep more of what you make. The Build a Better Agency Podcast presented by White Label IQ is packed with insights on how small to mid-size agencies survive and thrive in today’s market. Bringing his 25 plus years of experience as both an agency owner and agency consultant, please welcome your host, Drew McLellan.

Drew McLellan:

Hey everybody. Drew McLellan here from Agency Management Institute. Welcome to the podcast. Welcome to the New Year. Welcome to the month of resolutions and new beginnings and hope and promise and all of those things. And I am hoping for you a really amazing and wonderful 2023. I hope I get to see a lot of you in person, either at one of the workshops or the summit.

Just want to remind you, the Build a Better Agency Summit is coming up May 16th and 17th. If you’re a member, family day is May 15th in the afternoon, and then we’re all going to have dinner together. We have amazing speakers. We’re going to talk about leadership. We’re going to talk about handling stress. We’re going to talk about project management and how to get that done better. We’re going to talk about the core of how to be a great leader.

We’re going to talk about presentation skills, small P in terms of just sitting across the table, and also big P from a stage. We are going to talk about gratitude. We are going to talk about imposter syndrome. We are going to talk about how to level up your leadership team and what a great leadership team looks like.

We have all kinds of amazing speakers. You’re also going to learn a ton from each other. I actually think that’s what happens the most at the summit. It’s the thing that makes me the happiest. And so we would love to have you join us, May 16th and 17th. Again, if you’re an AMI member, come to family day.

At family day, we’re going to talk about estate planning for high wealth individuals and entrepreneurs. We’re going to talk about unconventional investment opportunities. And Susan Baier and I are going to release the member-only version of our 2023 research.

So lots going on at that conference. We would love to have you join us. If you’re interested, head over to the Agency Management Institute website and grab a ticket. As you know, the closer we get to the conference, the more expensive it gets, so please grab your ticket now.

All right, so let me tell you a little bit about our guest today. Dr. Ella Washington is brilliant. She is a professor. She is a organizational psychologist helping organizations run better, and she is a DEI expert. And so I’m going to ask her all kinds of questions about all of those things.

And we’re going to start off the year thinking about how we want to build the agency for this year and the future on all of those aspects and much more. So I’m really excited to introduce you to her and for you to soak in her smarts. It’s a great way to kick off the year. So let’s get to it.

Dr. Washington, welcome to the podcast. Thank you so much for being with us.

Dr. Ella Washington:

It is my pleasure to be here. Thanks so much for having me.

Drew McLellan:

So will you give everybody just a sense of your background and how you became to be such an expert in this topic?

Dr. Ella Washington:

Certainly. So I’m an organizational psychologist by training. So my whole career has been spent helping workplaces be more welcoming and places that everyone can thrive. That is what I see the mission of my work. And specifically I focused on the area of diversity, equity, and inclusion, helping organizations of all sizes understand where they are on their DEI journey and how can they make progress.

Drew McLellan:

Beautiful. As you and I were talking about before I hit the record button, this is a topic that I think for our industry is so important, not just because we own businesses and need to show up in a way that is inclusive as business owners, but also because we often depict the world in our work, in our a television commercials or in brochures or in anything we produce that gives people a snapshot of the world that we live in. And I just feel like we have an opportunity to really be influential in this space.

So I want to start with just talking to you about where you see the world today. After the George Floyd murder there was this huge uprising in attention and concern about DEI issues and we saw lots of big companies come out and make statements and start to work on this. And then of course it started to quiet down.

So when you look at us as a business community, give us a letter grade and help us understand … It seems like every time something big happens, this all gets brought up again for a brief period of time and then it sort of fades away. How do we sustain the momentum of this?

Dr. Ella Washington:

To your point, the murder of George Floyd was unfortunately not the first time we have had these conversations. It’s not the first time that there’s been awareness that social justice is not really just for everyone. But it was the first time that organizations seemingly were comfortable or forced, however you want to describe it, to enter the conversation in a meaningful way.

I mean, you had companies who had never come out with public statements saying really bold things around racial equity or justice, even within their organizations or even just the word equity, adding that to their DE and I initiatives. And so I think there has been progress.

I think that attention though it has waned, that waning of attention is natural for anything. Morality can only get us so far because that wanes, it goes up and down. I do think that more organizations than two or three years ago do have DEI strategy. They are paying attention now.

Are they really making progress? I’m not sure. I think that’s where it becomes a little unclear, but they certainly … I think the attention is there. I don’t think, for example, any company is comfortable in the business community saying, oh, we don’t have a DEI perspective, we don’t talk about those things. I think that is no longer the standard or even acceptable for most organizations. Those organizations who do do that, they’re probably the anomalies.

So I think there has been a shift, but in some ways it’s too soon to tell as far as what the long term impact of that is going to be. For example, in 2020, companies pledged $67 billion towards racial equity. And at the beginning of this year, only 652 million have been spent. And so we still have to see the long term effects. And even that 652 million that have been spent, we don’t know exactly where that went. We don’t know exactly what the impact is.

And so what I’d like to see is I’d like to see progress reports from companies and not just those annual reports that are like, oh, we have these 10 programs in place. Those are good, but I really want to see tracking mechanisms. I really want to see what exactly has the progress been over the past two and a half years.

Drew McLellan:

And what would some of the metrics be in that kind of a tracking system? If we’re thinking about our own companies and we’re saying, okay, we not only want to talk about this, we not only want to put a statement on our website, but we actually want to grade ourselves to see if we are making progress, how would somebody do that?

Dr. Ella Washington:

So in order to make progress, you have to be really clear where you’re starting. So it’s not a one size fits all thing, like these are the three things you should look for. That’s easy, I could say recruitment, promotion and employee engagement scores. Sure, those are metrics, but rather than have a cookie cutter approach, you want to be really clear on first of all what it is that you’re trying to achieve. And so I say the three things you have to think about are purpose, pitfalls, and progress.

So purpose, what are you trying to achieve? What is your goal and why not because someone else has this goal, not because you see it on a company’s website that has nothing to do with your own. You can get ideas from other people, but you have to look internally to your organization, what’s our mission and purpose and how does this work specifically connect with what we are trying to do as an organization?

As I always say, we all can’t be Ben & Jerry’s, and that’s totally fine, but what Ben & Jerry’s does well is they’re really clear on their purpose and who they want to be in the business community and their actions follow that. Every single organization can do that no matter if social justice is a core part of their mission or they’re really focused on making sure their workplace is someplace that everyone feels like they can be themselves, et cetera.

So the first thing, you have to be really clear on what you’re trying to achieve. Then you have to be really honest about what’s holding you back. And so people often want to set metrics and figure out what’s next without being honest about, okay, we are saying that we will-

Drew McLellan:

Here’s where we are right now.

Dr. Ella Washington:

Right. Here’s where we are right now, and this is what’s held us back. Maybe our recruitment efforts have not really looked thoughtfully at diverse pipelines. Maybe our process for hiring isn’t as objective as it could be. It could be more rigorous in that way. Maybe we haven’t been honest about how things really get done internally. We think we have a place of equity, however, if we’re really honest, there’s a lot of informal conversations that actually lead to promotion, for example, in our organization.

You got to be really honest about those pitfalls. We all have them, every organization has them, every person has them. I think that’s been the toughest thing for people to really wrap their minds around.

And then I would say the third thing is that that’s the progress, that’s the metric. So once you handle the first two, then you’re in a position to say, okay, what are our short-term and long-term goals? And what are the key indicators that progress has been made? I think if you start with just layering in metrics without that thoughtfulness on the front end, the metrics don’t mean much.

Drew McLellan:

Right, because you’re right, they’re the generic everybody metrics as opposed to how can we move our needle knowing where we’re at?

Dr. Ella Washington:

Exactly.

Drew McLellan:

How has the post COVID shift in work where people are working from home or its hybrid situations, how has that changed what’s possible and how companies approach DEI efforts. I mean, it used to be everybody was in the office together and that had its own dynamic and now culture is shifting because people are meeting on Zoom and meetings and all of the other things that we do today. Has that made it easier for companies to attack these issues or has it made it more complicated?

Dr. Ella Washington:

The hybrid work environment provides opportunity to rethink the way that we did things before. So I think many companies are in a place of rethinking and reframing what they previously did, not only just around inclusion, but their culture in general. I would say that it doesn’t make it easier. It’s harder in fact to have deep connections when you’re on Zoom because for example, at the end of the call, you just hang up. There’s no coffee chat. There’s no walking to the next meeting. There’s no let’s grab lunch. So you do have to be more intentional.

But the research does tell us that people are feeling more included working from hybrid environments, probably because they feel a little bit more like they can be their full selves. And so organizations have to balance that increased nature of, I feel a bit more comfortable because I’m working from home most days with the necessity to be intentional about creating human connection even in a hybrid work environment.

So I’ve done work with Future Forum, it’s a nonprofit by Slack, and they survey 10,000 global workers every quarter. And what they have found specifically in looking at what people are expecting and how inclusion and belonging, how those feelings are, people that have hybrid work environments are feeling like they have a higher sense of belonging, a higher sense of inclusion, I think for those multiple reasons. So I don’t think it’s been a bad thing, but it does change the way we have to be intentional about those things.

Drew McLellan:

So if an organization is doing some self-reflection and … One of the things that we talked about a lot right after the George Floyd murder was our industry is pretty homogenous. Compared to other industries, we don’t have a lot of diversity among our ranks, and certainly we don’t have a lot of diversity in the leadership roles. And that’s true not only of racial diversity, but honestly, we’re a pretty white man world, especially at the leadership and ownership level.

And so if somebody is looking at their organization and saying, A, I want to create an environment where people of all kinds are comfortable here, but B, I want to actively recruit more diversity, but I’m in a pretty whitebread city in a pretty whitebread industry, how do I go about inviting more diversity into my organization and attracting more people of various backgrounds into my world? How do I do that?

Dr. Ella Washington:

So the first thing you have to do is debunk the implicit myth that there is not diversity available. No matter, if you are in a industry or a location, there is diversity available. And that may sound basic, but it is foundational. We have to debunk the myth that it’s not available to us.

Drew McLellan:

Well, I think you’re right. I think a lot of people have used that excuse. I live in either a small town or a very homogenous town or our industry, just we don’t have candidates. I’ve talked to a lot of agency owners and they’ll say, “Look, we are recruiting, but our candidates all look like each other.”

Dr. Ella Washington:

Right.

Drew McLellan:

Right?

Dr. Ella Washington:

So my next question for them is, where are you recruiting?

Drew McLellan:

Right.

Dr. Ella Washington:

Some industries have figured it out. I truly don’t think it’s rocket science, it does take effort though. It’s not easy. It’s not rocket science, but it’s not easy. You have to search for schools that have diverse populations that are maybe specializing in your industry. You have to be willing to maybe stretch a little bit.

One thing that the financial industry did about 15 or so years ago, they stopped requiring everyone to have finance backgrounds. They were like, there are certain skills that we can teach on the job. So maybe if you had an engineering background or maybe if you had another adjacent background that still you have the core skills needed to do the job, but maybe you just didn’t major in finance, that opened up the pipeline in the financial world, just for example. And I think we can learn from that.

Drew McLellan:

That’s a great example.

Dr. Ella Washington:

I mean, I remember back when I was in college, it was the first time that many of those financial institutions were welcoming people with liberal arts degrees. As long as you had some math skills or whatever the skills needed for the job, you didn’t have to have that specific degree.

And so that’s one of the things that comes to mind for your industry because we can do things how they always have been done and we’re going to get the same results. So we must be willing to shift, challenge, and change the status quo of how things have been done before. So that may look a little bit different than how you grew up in the industry. That’s hard for people.

In my book, I interviewed the CEO of Infosys, and one thing that he did was look for non-traditional backgrounds in the tech world. And so in the tech world, it’s been pretty homogenous in terms of what schools people go to, what their backgrounds are specifically.

And what he said, he said, “We’re going to go to community colleges because community colleges have so much untapped potential. And looking at the statistics, we want to leverage the potential, especially from these folks with these community college degrees that are in these technical spaces.”

And so that was a amazing idea and it definitely pushed the status quo, but what he didn’t expect is that internal resistance of people saying, well, I had to have a four-year degree, so everyone has to have a four-year degree, or that’s the pathway to success. And so we have to shift our own mindsets to say, just because that was how we did things doesn’t mean it was the best way to do it, and it certainly doesn’t mean that that’s how we have to continue to do things in the future.

So a lot of this is mindset shift as opposed to there’s this big secret of how you get more diversity. So once you shift your mindset, then I think it’ll become a lot clearer to say, oh, there’s these historically Black colleges and universities in my area or in my state, there are historically Hispanic serving institutions in my state.

Or we’re in such a global workforce, a hybrid workforce, they don’t have to be co-located. Maybe we think about what a career pathway could look like for someone who does live across the country but has interest in this field. Can we grow them? Is there an opportunity for a hybrid type of working relationship?

Drew McLellan:

I was thinking that the new work world does open up, literally open up the world to a much larger candidate pool. And by accepting the fact that everybody’s not going to live down the block from your brick and mortar office and figuring out ways to make that work, which honestly most companies are doing today anyway, even with their employees who do live down the street from their brick and mortar. We just have to think a little differently.

Dr. Ella Washington:

Even employees that live down the street don’t want to come into the office every day.

Drew McLellan:

Right.

Dr. Ella Washington:

They’re like, the commute’s not bad, but I still don’t want to do it every day.

Drew McLe