Diversity and inclusion took center stage at the Alphabet annual shareholder meeting.
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By Ellen McGirt
Updated: June 28, 2018 4:52 PM ET

SurveyMonkey has teamed with Paradigm, a diversity consultancy, to create a belonging and inclusion survey template that they believe will help them better understand the lived experiences of their employees. They’re also making the survey template public, so you can better understand yours, as well.

“We wanted to be better than benchmarks,” says Becky Cantieri, the company’s chief people officer. “And we wanted to be able to use our own survey expertise, and share that with others.”

SurveyMonkey launched their first survey measuring inclusion in August 2017, part of a series of initiatives they designed to build on the findings of their first diversity report, published some two years earlier. While they were generally encouraged by the report — they were mostly at or above industry benchmarks — they wanted to do more. “Dave Goldberg, our CEO at the time, had organically built a diverse team, we wanted to be more formal around it,” she says.

The company began their efforts by tapping leaders across the company into a steering committee, establishing employee resource groups, and engaging in a series of conversations with researchers at Stanford to help shape their thoughts.

“There are many theories on what enables underrepresented groups to feel included in the workplace,” Priyanka Carr, SurveyMonkey’s vice president for strategy and operations told CNET.

Carr earned her Ph.D. in psychological science at Stanford University with a focus on motivation, social connection, and intergroup interactions/bias; while there, she also researched growth mindset with Professor Carol Dweck. Growth mindset is the belief that people can evolve and grow, a key element of belonging, and an essential counterpoint to the persistently annoying meritocracy narrative found in the tech sector. “Environments that affirm a fixed mindset or a culture of genius (i.e. there are special skills that can’t be learned that are needed to succeed) hamper a sense of belonging and success, especially for underrepresented groups.”

The company set out to measure whether or not employees feel like they belong at the company. The first survey was generally affirming of their efforts, but two issues stood out.

“One was about a path to growth,” says Cantieri, the sense that people knew how they could get ahead. And the second had to do with conflict and concerns. “People felt comfortable sharing their concerns, but didn’t always feel like their concerns were resolved.”

The company launched a variety of responses, including abandoning annual reviews for quarterly ones, a “learning hub” where employees can get coaching, training and find mentors, and a “career ladder” that helps make individual progress more understandable. They also created an employee escalation tool that helps make the complaint and investigation process more transparent.

Their latest belonging and inclusion survey builds on their previous work.

“You get the most interesting insights when you measure how people feel about the organization and slice those results by demographic,” says Joelle Emerson, CEO of Paradigm. “It’s about getting data you can take action on. A lot of times companies will measure outcomes but not measure anything about lived experiences,” she says.

And that can mean thinking about experiences that happen in the outside world, as well.

Emerson offers some advice for any leader who is struggling to decide how to weigh in on the complicated situations people face outside of work.

“Make sure whatever those patterns of inequality that exist in the world, don’t exist in the company,” she says. “It takes extra work to make sure that biases aren’t baked into your systems.”

And leaders need to recognize that the things that happen – shootings, racist rants, issues around justice, etc– affect people’s overall sense of safety and belonging.

“If your employees are saying ‘I never hear leaders talk about what’s going on in the world,’ after something bad happens, it can cause people to question whether they’re fundamentally valued,” she says. “Leaders and managers need to start engaging differently on these topics.”

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