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raceAhead: How To Tell If Your Employees Feel Welcome At Work

June 28, 2018, 8:45 PM UTC
Empty colorful chairs
Chairs in Kunsthal Museum Rotterdam. / Getty Images

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.”

On Point

Add this data point to your workforce development worriesTurns out, we don’t know where lots of children are. The annual report from The Annie E. Casey Foundation (AECF) on the undercounting of children in the census was published yesterday, and it paints a troubling picture of communities at risk of not getting the funding they desperately need. Some one-in-four kids under five live in areas that are likely to undercount them, and black and Latinx kids are twice as likely to be missed than their white peers. The reasons for the undercounting are varied and complex. It tends to impact poorer districts that rely on government funding. The implications are profound. “It’s often the children who need [funding and resources] most that don’t get counted,” says one expert. A must read and share.Fortune

A new book explores why it’s so hard for white people to talk about race
Author, researcher and workplace inclusion expert Robin DiAngelo first coined the term “white fragility” in 2011. She's back with a new book that doubles down on her thesis: White people are too sensitive and it’s holding everyone back. The book is written for white people by a white person, which she acknowledges is the default dynamic. “I am mainly writing to a white audience; when I use the terms us and we I am referring to the white collective." Reviewer Peter C. Baker says the book is going to make its audience uncomfortable. For one, it catalogs the defensive movements used to deflect conversations about race – “I don’t see color, I treat everyone the same,” etc. “Even for readers relatively wise to the ways of white defensiveness, it is usefully bracing to see so many maneuvers standing in a line-up together,” he writes. “This posture shuts down honest talk about racism, making it less likely that people of color will share their perspectives, let alone have them understood by whites.”
Pacific Standard

Older technologists are more successful entrepreneurs
A new study from the Kellogg School appears to bust the myth of the young Silicon Valley wizard and finds that the best entrepreneurs tend to be middle-aged. Among their conclusions: The average age of founders of the fastest-growing new tech companies was 45, and a 50-year-old entrepreneur is nearly twice as likely to have a breakout hit as a 30-year-old. “If we’re not allocating dollars to the right people in entrepreneurship, we may be losing, in terms of the advances that best raise socioeconomic prosperity,” says co-author  Benjamin Jones, a professor of strategy at the Kellogg School.

How Nigerian Americans are transforming Hollywood
The list of on-screen stars is growing: Yvonne Orji, from the HBO series Insecure, Uzo Aduba, from the Netflix hit series Orange Is the New Black, Chiwetel Ejiofor, from 12 Years a Slave and David Oyelowo from Selma and beyond. But the list of Nigerian-origin talent is growing behind the scenes, too. Nigerian-born Pearlena Igbokwe is president of Universal Television, the first African-American woman to head a major TV studio. “A lot of Black people in Hollywood still don’t have a huge network, but it’s growing,” says Igbokwe. “And for Nigerians, it’s because there’s a great amount of preparation and training we put into everything we do.” Others say the success is because they’ve been naturally steeped in different cultures.  “English wasn’t my first language, but I also grew up in Minnesota,” says Sam Adegoke who stars in the Dynasty reboot. “My background allows me to straddle those different worlds.”

The Woke Leader

The time that Isamu Noguchi visited a Japanese internment camp to be helpful and was then forced to stay
Noguchi was already a well-known and highly sought after sculptor and designer, working on large-scale public projects like one in NYC’s Rockefeller Center, and sculpting portraits of the Hollywood elite. But when a Bureau of Indian Affairs official suggested the Los Angeles born artist set up an art center at the newly constructed Poston War Relocation Center, he agreed. It was only after he arrived that he realized that he too, was under suspicion, and the authorities would not let him leave. A fascinating profile of a profoundly optimistic and resilient spirt, who thrived despite the deep and bitter racism of his time. A must read.
New Yorker

Everything you need to know about reporting sexual harassment
BetterBrave, an organization aiming to combat sexual harassment in the workplace, has published a must-bookmark guide for any U.S. based employee. It offers a clear and unflinching definition of sexual harassment and a helpful set of talking points to help anyone feeling unsafe to make it clear that you want the behavior to stop. But it also offers an important reminder: Human resources is often tasked with protecting the company, not you. Their advice? Talk to a lawyer before you kick your issue upstairs. Most employment rights lawyers will give you a free consultation and will help you plan your next steps. Either way, document everything. They offer a handy tool to help you organize your thoughts and create a thorough timeline of the events and transgressions. “Reporting sexual harassment the right way sends a clear signal to your employer that you are informed of your rights, taking steps to protect yourself, and that retaliating against you would be a big mistake.”

The lost history of the Confederate Flag
Harvard professor Sarah Lewis shares her research with the team at Race/Related. Turns out the Stars and Bars we’re so familiar with were the efforts of two years of work by Confederate leaders, trying to find an emblem that best represented their values of freedom for whites and slavery for blacks. The other designs often hung is gallery rooms provided by secessionist newspapers; they were explicitly pro-white and attempted to ennoble slavery. “This rarely discussed history emerges from the work of Raphael P. Thian (1830-1911), who was in charge of transcribing Confederate records from the seized rebel archives in Richmond, Va., after the Confederacy’s surrender,” she writes.
New York Times


The Japanese race is an enemy race, and while many second and third generation Japanese born on United States soil possessed of U.S. citizenship have become “Americanized” the racial strains are undiluted. It then follows that along the vital Pacific Coast over 112,000 potential enemies, of Japanese extraction, are at large today. There are indications that these were organized and ready for concerted action at a favorable opportunity. The very fact that no sabotage has taken place to date is a disturbing and confirming indication that such action will be taken.
John L. DeWitt