13 July 2021

Workplace Stories Season 2, Integrating Inclusion: Opening Arguments 

Stacia Garr
Dani Johnson

TL;DR

  • This is the introductory episode of the new season of our podcast, Workplace Stories: Integrating Inclusion. 
  • In this episode, Stacia Garr and Dani Johnson of RedThread talk to Chris Pirie about the previous season and what to expect in the upcoming season. 
  • Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging: What does it look like? Who does it? How do they do it? How should I do it? 
  • “The challenge is that a lot of leaders don’t know where to start within HR. They don’t know, if I’m a learning leader, what is my responsibility? How do I do this? If I’m a people analytics leader, what do I do?” 
  • This season will focus on three areas of DEIB: analytics, learning and development, and leadership. 
  • DEIB is everybody’s business. 
  • Contact us, tell us your own stories and help us understand what you’re facing and what you’re doing. 
  • A special thanks to our sponsor, Workday, for its support of this season! 

Listen

DETAILS

Are we kidding ourselves when it comes to Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging (DEIB)? There’s been a LOT of talk about it, after all: is it being matched by any real action? Is the action that’s happening even being driven by leadership, or is it somehow something we’re getting ground-level folks to do, kind of for free, along with everything else we need off them in the COVID crisis? Are there any numbers, what do they tell us—and are they any good? What does DEIB success look like and what can I do to move the needle here? These are good, maybe even critical questions, for society in 2021. But we don’t know the answers—which is why we’re inviting you to come along with us on a journey to find them together. Welcome to Season 2 of Workplace Stories from RedThread Research, which we have entitled, with some optimism, perhaps, ‘Integrating Inclusion,:’ a series of conversations on this core HR and HR tech issue. And like Season 1, along the way we think we’re going to be hearing maybe just one or two stories from people on the DEIB front line that will inspire, inform, and energize you, too, including from amazing guests like PTC’s Hallie Bregman and S&P Global’s Rachel Fichter. Because DEIB really is everyone’s problem—and everyone’s job. 

Resources

 

Partner

We're also thrilled to be partnering with Chris Pirie, CEO of Learning Futures Group and voice of the Learning Is the New Working podcast. Check them both out.

 

Season Sponsor

We'd like to thank the people at Workday for the exclusive sponsorship of this second Season of “Workplace Stories.” Today, the world is changing faster than ever, and you can meet those changing needs with Workday.  It’s one agile system that enables you to grow and engage a more inclusive workforce—it’s your financial, HR, and planning system for a changing world.

Webinar

Workday will also host an exclusive live webinar at the end of this Season, where you can meet the team (Dani, Stacia and Chris) and join in a conversation about the future of DEIB in the workplace. You can find out more information, register for the webinar, and access exclusive Season content, including transcripts, at www.redthreadresearch.com/podcast and thanks again to the team at Workday!

We hope you follow “Workplace Stories from RedThread Research” on your podcast hub of choice as we start to tell the Workplace Stories we think matter.

 

TRANSCRIPT

Five key quotes:

One of the things that we've noticed  since we started RedThread is there are a couple of things that go across everything, and DEIB is one of them: what I do as a learning manager, what I do as a performance manager really affects DEIB and the culture that you create.

It is absolutely a leadership priority. It's also a culture priority. And also, we've learned this word “systemic” this year; it’s gotta be a systems and operational model imperative as well to go fix.

Sophistication has increased. For instance, we're not just looking at pure representation data; we might be looking at representation data from an intersectional lens, so not just black employees, but black women employees. In addition, we're starting and we're seeing this in the DEIB and analytics study. We're starting to see kind of almost a hierarchy of the way that people are approaching these analytics.

For me, it's really a transformational thing, it’s like the digitization of business; it just completely shifts how we're going to have to do work and how we collaborate, and how we lead if we're a leader.

This is going to be the new way of doing work, and if my two girls are going to work in a place in an environment in a world that is inclusive of them and where they really, and truly, in any organization, have the opportunity to lead the same as anybody of a different gender, then the work has to happen now—the change has to happen now for it to be natural.

Stacia Garr:

Welcome to 'Workplace Stories' hosted by RedThread Research, where we look for the ‘red thread’ connecting the humans, ideas, stories, and data defining the near future of people and work practices. 

My name is Stacia Garr, and I'm the co-founder and principal analyst at RedThread Research, along with Dani Johnson, who is also a co-founder and principal analyst at RedThread and Chris Pirie of the Learning Futures Group. We're excited to welcome you to our podcast Season: this episode is part of our second Season called ‘Integrating Inclusion,’ in which we investigate your role in the Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging (DEIB) journey that we believe is a critical force in shaping the future of work. 

We talk to leaders, thinkers, writers, and practitioners about the current state of the art in DEIB, and we focus specifically on what people analytics, learning, leadership and business leaders can do to move the conversation forward—and why DEIB is everybody's business. 

Chris Pirie:

We'd like to thank the people at Workday for the exclusive sponsorship of this second Season of 'Workplace Stories.' Today, the world is changing faster than ever, and you can meet those changing needs with Workday; it’s one agile system that enables you to grow and engage a more inclusive workforce—it’s your financial, HR, and planning system for a changing world.

Workday will also host an exclusive live webinar at the end of this Season, where you can meet the team (Dani, Stacia and myself) and join in a conversation about the future of DEIB in the workplace. You can find out more information, register for the webinar and access exclusive Season content, including transcripts, at www.redthreadresearch.com/podcast and thanks again to the team at Workday!

Stacia Garr:

To launch this Season, Dani and I talked to our collaborator and podcast partner, Chris Pirie. We share our objectives and our aspirations for the Season, and introduce some of the research and people behind it.

Chris Pirie:

Hey, a lot's gone on in the last 18 months—on the planet and in our worlds and everybody's world. Your business seems to have definitely survived and possibly even thrived through this period of time, but a lot's gone on, even since we started podcasting together about nine months ago: how are you both doing, and what have been the highlights and major activities for each of you?

Stacia Garr:

It has been quite the last 15 months. I think for me, one of the highlights, at least professionally, and I don't say this lightly, has been doing the podcast with you, Chris; it’s been something we have wanted to do since the beginning of RedThread, and so getting a chance to do it with such a wonderful partner has been a highlight for me.

I think some of the other highlights have been the opportunity to help provide some clarity during a time of just incredible difficulty. I mean, difficulty certainly for us too, but just being able to write about how we should be thinking about, for instance, managers and how managers could—we had a report called Managing Better, thinking through how we can design for a work that is more responsive, both to the needs of the employees, as well as to the market. And then quite a bit on this critical topic of DEIB, as well as analytics. I think we've just had an opportunity to write and to advise on some really important things that feel like they matter now; they always matter, but during the pandemic, they've mattered more than ever. So that's been a wonderful thing.

Chris Pirie:

It might be confirmation bias on our side, but boy, the topic of work and how we work, and remote work and how we build back better, the work of the future; I mean, it's just been going crazy! Dani, how's your last 18 months been?

Dani Johnson:

Well, if we're talking about the last year 18 months, a lot has happened professionally, as Stacia mentioned for us and RedThread; RedThread is continuing to grow and we're hitting on some really interesting topics—obviously the pandemic threw us all into a completely different world and we've been able to learn a lot as well as answer some of the questions as Stacia mentioned.

Personally, my view of the world has radically changed; in the last 18 months, I've been married and had a child. And this is, I think, particularly poignant for the conversations that we'll be having, because my perspective on working mothers and the challenges that they face and the way the deck is sometimes stacked against them has completely—I mean, I knew it, but experiencing it is something completely different.

Chris Pirie:

Yeah, well said, absolutely. Maybe we could just refresh a little bit on the objectives and the scope and the aspirations of the podcast. Stacia, you called it “Workplace Stories,” and I know that was a carefully thought through name: how does it fit into the overall business model and the work that you do?

Stacia Garr:

I think as a research firm, it can be easy for us to get kind of caught up in the data and providing stories, but often they're small snippets of stories because there's only so much capacity for people to read them in the context of a broader report. And so the podcast”Workplace Stories” really is a chance for us to lift up some of those wonderful stories and really inspirational moments that we hear from people. Often we hear them in our interviews before we bring them on the podcast, but not always, and so this gives us a chance to do that. The other thing that we didn't mention in terms of a change with RedThread is that we've moved to a membership model, which is a great thing because it gives us much more freedom in terms of the research that we do and really to go after the hottest topics without having to necessarily find somebody to sponsor the work. But that does mean that more of our content is behind a paywall, and so the podcast also gives us a chance to really speak more broadly to folks, and to share some of the great things that we're able to see and do and learn with a much broader audience.

Chris Pirie:

Can you talk a little bit about the rationale for shifting your business model there? I think that was always your plan, right, but it's kind of a big step to ask people to subscribe? How's it going, and what was the rationale for that?

Stacia Garr:

Yeah, the rationale is that when we started RedThread, one of Dani and my core areas of focus and importance was around the independence of the work that we are doing high quality, unbiased research. And that has been the case since the beginning, but at the same time, we also know that there can be perceptions potentially around sponsorship: even though our sponsors were wonderful and always let us do our thing, we thought that moving to a membership model would allow us to just broaden that base of financial support for the work that we do because unfortunately, Dani and I are not independently wealthy, and we do have to pay our mortgages and the mortgages of the people who work for us. So it just broadens that base of support, but it has gone really well; I think that we since the beginning, we've been incredibly fortunate that we have wonderful folks who believe in the work that we do and are hungry for that high-quality insight that they know isn't influenced by us trying to sell a consulting project or sell a piece of technology on top of what we're doing. They just want the facts, honestly, as straightforwardly as possible. And that's what we try to do.

Chris Pirie:

Got it. We had a lot of fun in the first Season, which was called “The Skills Obsession,” and we had some great conversations—I had a lot of fun anyway! Did you get feedback from your community? What was the feedback on that first set of episodes that we did in Season One?

Dani Johnson:

Yeah, so far it's been really, really positive. I'm surprised at how many people have commented and kind of come back to us and said, Hey, I really liked this. The other thing that I love is we talked to some really smart people that are doing some really interesting things. And the podcasts have allowed us to not just tell their stories, which we do in writing, but actually to sort of broadcast the passion that they have for the things that they're doing, which I think has been just really engaging to hear people's stories, especially when they're passionate about it.

Chris Pirie:

We're in the stage of this podcast Season, where we're sort of lining up the guests and we've got our wish list of people that we want to have on and we're reaching out to them. And I think it's a real responsibility when people say yes to help tell that story in the most interesting and engaging way. We were lucky enough to have some amazing people in Season One and who really were extremely honest and shared. One of the takeaways for me was just how hard it is to start to approach work through the skills lens, and people were just honest and shared a lot of great information with us.

Dani Johnson:

Yeah, I think that's another thing that sort of surprises me about the podcast. Generally, when we write, everything has to go through somebody's office of general counsel to make sure that the company is okay with it. But when people are speaking about their own personal experience and what they think, it gives us a little bit of freedom to explore that we don't have when we're writing.

Stacia Garr:

And I think also because we're focused on their story versus necessarily trying to make it a repeatable insight that somebody can copy, it allows us to talk more at a personal and human level about why this was important to you? What did you get out of this as a professional, as a human? And I think that insight and passion really change the conversation.

Chris Pirie:

Maybe we can just talk about the research—the broad spectrum of research that you have on your research agenda: people might not know how you pick your research agenda, so you might want to just refresh us there. And we're obviously going to come back around to Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging, but what's the general landscape of research looking like at RedThread right now?

Dani Johnson:

Yeah. A lot's going on: talent leaders, and just leaders in general, know that a lot is going on. And so we have lots and lots to pick from. Stacia and I spend—I don’t know how long—we do lots of reading: I do an hour of reading every day to sort of get a sense for what's going on out there, and what people care about and what people are struggling with the most, and that's how we pick our research agenda. So on our website we keep a running list of projects that we're doing, and the expected date that we'll be putting things out with respect to those projects, so that's kind of how we decide what goes into it. Some of the things that are on my list, and then I'll kick it over to Stacia, are coaching— we’re seeing sort of an uptick in the coaching discussion again—and then a lot on learning.So when the pandemic happened, the immediate reaction was everybody sort of clinched and went back to the things that they knew, which was LMS and online learning, but we're seeing that open up quite a bit. And so we want to talk about the new skills that L&D needs in order to accommodate the way that the organizations are learning, as well as what are some of the things that the organizations are doing to learn. We introduced a learning framework a couple of years ago, and that will be expanded this year to include everything, not just technology, to really help leaders understand the full breadth of possibilities that they have to teach people.

Stacia Garr:

Yeah, and on my side, I divide it into f three areas. One is broader focus on talent, so we're going to be doing some work on performance management, and as we think about performance management in the hybrid world, what does that look like? And particularly if we think about how some of the breakdowns amongst who is coming into the office and with what frequency—some of that could have some Diversity impacts. So we're looking at that from that angle. I’m hoping to get an update to our responsive managers dataset, because we did a really nice survey on that last October. It'd be fascinating to get some information as we start to return to work—excuse me, the workplace: we’ve all been working really hard!

So that's the talent side. The second kind of group is people analytics, so we just kicked off a study on the C-suite and people analytics, so what do we need the C-suite to know about what they should know about people from a data perspective. And then we're also doing a study on DEIB and analytics right now. And I know we'll reference that in this time, and then we're doing our people analytics technology study. So we've released a deep dive on employee engagement experience. We're working on one on organizational network analysis, and then another deep dive, with the final people analytics tech study coming out at the end of the year.

And then the final area is DEIB. So we've got the DEIB and analytics study that I mentioned, we did a DEIB tech study, a new one in January, and then we're also doing DEIB and skills right now.

Chris Pirie:

So it all feeds together around the sort of common theme of the future of work. Why did you pick DEIB as the topic for the second Season?

Stacia Garr:

Well, we know that DEIB is finally on the agenda of the CEO and boards like it never has been before. And there's a lot of push on HR to do something about it, which I think is wonderful; I think we've been saying we'd do something about it for years and years. But the challenge is that a lot of leaders don't know where to start within HR. They don't know, if I'm a learning leader, what is my responsibility? How do I do this? If I'm a people analytics leader, what do I do? Same thing for leadership. And so we wanted to raise up some of these great stories that we've heard as inspiration and motivation for people on this is what I could do, this is what so-and-so at this company did and to be able to potentially replicate that. I think right now, it just feels like there's a lot of pressure to do something and people aren't sure what they should do that will drive an impact. And with this Season, we're hoping we can accomplish that.

Chris Pirie:

Well, we've got eight conversations, give or take a one or two; it’s a massively complex topic. It's actually the cultural backdrop, the historical backdrop that we're living through—it’s a large part of the forces at work on this topic. Are we going to drill down on some specific areas? How are we going to break it down? How are we going to approach it?

Dani Johnson:

Yeah, we are. One of the things that we've noticed actually, since we started RedThread, is there are a couple of things that go across everything, and DEIB is one of them: what I do as a learning manager, what I do as a performance manager really affects DEIB and the culture that you create.

So we're going to focus on basically three areas. The first one is analytics, where analytics and DEIB cross. There tends to be a little bit of, I don't know if I would call it fear, but at least reticence, when it comes to deciding which metrics you use for DEIB. And as we have broadened the definition from just Diversity to Diversity and Inclusion to Diversity, Inclusion, Equity, and Belonging, new metrics have sort of popped in. So analytics is definitely one we want to cover.

We also want to cover learning and development. Learning and development sort of has a pretty broad reach within organizations, and if we can get L&D leaders to think more broadly about their role past just DEIB training, then I think that they can have a real impact. The third one is leadership; so Stacia mentioned some great research we've done with respect to managers. We think leadership in general has a very, very big impact on the DEIB culture in organizations, and so helping them come to terms with what their responsibilities are and enabling them and empowering them in the organization is another important part of it.

Chris Pirie:

We talk as if we were sort of imagining what this Season might look like before. And I think there's an important thing to sort of get clear at the start: this is not just a primer on the topic of DEIB, is it, Stacia?

Stacia Garr:

No, it's not. The underlying assumption is that people generally understand what DEIB is, and that they understand that it's important—and imperative, in fact—for their organization. And so we're not going to be covering the basics. We are really going to be diving into, okay, if this is something we should be focused on, what can this type of role, this type of area of the organization focus on to make this become more of a reality?

Chris Pirie:

Got it. How do we all take action? How do we put this into systems, or put fixes into systems that can at least help and move us in the right direction on making a more diverse and inclusive workplace?

What if people do feel like they need a primer, are there are some particular resources that you would point to?

Stacia Garr:

I think going to a place like Diversity Inc. is a decent place to get started. Certainly if you're interested, particularly from the women in organizations perspective. Looking at Catalyst would be a wonderful place as well. Those would be solid places to start, but there is just a wealth of information out there in general.

Chris Pirie:

Can you just basically lay out for us, what is the research that you've done to date on the topic, and what are you planning to do in the future?

Stacia Garr:

Since we launched RedThread, a primary focus has been D&I technology: that was actually one of the first studies that we came out with when we launched the company and we updated that, like I said, in January, 2021. We are doing a study on DEIB and analytics, and another one on DEIB and skills—so really that one is about what are the skills necessary to create a culture of DEIB? And we're focused on skills broadly that we are likely already teaching our managers and leaders to understand which ones are most relevant. So those are some areas of focus at the moment. I would say though, that given our general bent, we look at pretty much everything we do with a DEIB lens. So there will likely be quite a bit more even potentially by the time that this podcast finishes running.

Chris Pirie:

Got it. Any sort of headline takeaways from the research that you've done so far that maybe is particularly thought-provoking and underlying some of the conversations we want to have?

Stacia Garr:

Well, one is we published the DEIB tech study, as I mentioned, at the beginning of the year. And we had just an incredible increase in the number of vendors who are now primarily what we call DEIB feature vendors, so they have it as an adjunct to something else that they do. My takeaway, or my question that I've been considering, is should there even be a DEIB tech 2023 study for instance, or will this become so mainstream that it really truly is just a feature of other technologies? And if that's the case, then that kind of leads us naturally to what we're talking about with this podcast, which is, okay, like if the tech's there, how do we integrate it? How do we connect it to all of our systems and practices?

So I think that is one thing I've been kind of noodling on—I don't think I've even told Dani that, so, Hey, Dani, maybe we won't do that study, but that's something I've been thinking about. So I think that's a big takeaway. I think one of the other things that I've been fascinated about in the DEIB and skills study, as well as the DEIB and analytics study, has been almost the transition of responsibility of certain aspects of DEIB to these different groups. So historically, learning, for instance, didn't do a lot of the work with DEIB—so like if you went to the unconscious bias training, it was usually the DEIB team or an ERG who put that together. And that had the benefit of one, it got done, but two, you had real subject matter experts doing that work. But it had the drawback of you didn't have the learning team’s expertise; you didn't have people who actually necessarily knew how to put together a course effectively, et cetera. We just have the same thing with people analytics, where we have problems with the data sets, et cetera, et cetera, where it wasn't kind of the central organization doing that work, but it was a separate team.

I am fascinated to see in our interviews that those groups are now kind of not even reclaiming, they are claiming that work. And the DEIB team is now the SMEs providing insights. And that feels like a very dramatic shift from where we were five years ago with this space.

Chris Pirie:

This makes me think about your work earlier, Dani (I associate you with this piece of work) around the learning organization and kind of learning maybe six or seven years ago; suddenly we realized that it's too important to just leave to one small team in HR—that it has to become everybody's business. And maybe that one small team in HR’s job is to help propagate and accelerate, nurture learning culture throughout the organization. This sounds like a very similar kind of shift that's going on. Surely DEIB has to be everybody's business, and the question is, what do I do in my particular role?

Dani Johnson:

I actually think it's interesting that we're talking about this because for years and years, we've had a DEIB head or an ERG group that focused on DEIB. And that was how we got DEIB “done” within an organization. And it's become an important enough topic where the C-suite is now paying attention to it, and not just putting a chief officer in charge of DEIB, but also saying to everybody else, Hey, how are we going to actually boots on the ground, get this done?

Stacia Garr:

You know what I just saw though, to that point, is also some organizations are beginning to pay ERG leaders for their extra time: I saw that LinkedIn is doing that now, and Twitter is doing that now. And there's some debate. It's fascinating. There's some debate where some people are saying, well, is this like a good thing? Because like, people should want to do this work.

My perspective is like, this is work and this benefits the organization, so the organization should pay for it. It shouldn't be on the backs of just volunteers who are doing this. But I think all of that is pointing to the increased importance and willingness to invest in this that organizations are starting to truly show.

Dani Johnson:

I think that point's interesting—that people think there are enough noble people on the ground, and maybe there are, but enough noble people on the ground that will do this as a side-gig, an unpaid side-gig instead of actually investing in it and the organization. It makes me a little bit angry, actually.

Stacia Garr:

Yeah. The thing that drives me the most crazy about that is that the people who are investing in this as a side gig are the people who have the lowest power in the organization.

Dani Johnson:

Yes!

Chris Pirie:

We know that culture has to come from leaders. We know that it can and should also come from the ground up as well. But boy, without a leadership directive, this is heavy, heavy lifting in any, in any organization, surely?

Stacia Garr:

Yeah. And by paying these ERG leaders, the leadership is saying, “This matters, this matters enough for us to put our money where our mouth is.” You know, I was struck by something, if you guys remember Matthew Daniel said in the last Season, which was something to the effect of there's unexpected biases, for instance, in our learning work. So if we're expecting people to take extra classes on their own time, there's an assumption that those people have that time, right? That they don't have to rush off and do childcare, or whatever it is. And if you think about that in this context, the paying of these people for their additional time that they're putting in the ERG is potentially addressing a bias that exists—which is that they should just magically find the time to do this. Actually you're now paying them to do it. So if they do have childcare needs, they've got a little bit extra money to pay for that childcare, whatever it is. But I just feel like we need to pay for this work to get done, because we're asking our, as I said, our lowest-power people to do this work. And that's unfair.

Dani Johnson:

I also think when the lowest-power people do it, there's not a lot of coordination and cooperation across the organization—and so having the CEO address it and making sure that it rolls down through everything, I'm hoping, facilitates a consistent strategy across the org.

Chris Pirie:

So maybe it's definitely leadership. I think we can all agree on that. It is absolutely a leadership priority. It's also a culture priority. And also, we've learned this word “systemic” this year; it’s gotta be a systems and operational model imperative as well to go fix.

Quick question on the audience: who is going to get the most out of this? I mean, I guarantee the people we're going to talk to are going to blow our minds, and so hopefully everyone will enjoy it. But as we designed it, what was the sort of audience that you had in mind?

Dani Johnson:

Leaders—of all sorts. We plan on talking to learning leaders and leader leaders and leader development leaders, and C-suite folks. We think that if we stand behind the idea that DEIB is everyone's job, then everybody should pay attention to this podcast.

Chris Pirie:

Well, I think we touched on this a little bit, but there's a plethora of tech and services startups that are starting to focus in this area, right: how do you see that market shaping up? I think you mentioned earlier that maybe it's some kind of additional features to existing products and services, or there's some new startups coming with a focus on this?

Stacia Garr:

A few things have happened since we last wrote about this. So when we published this study in 2021, we saw that the number of vendors who are in this space had increased by 136%. So it's a really pretty dramatic change in terms of folks who have joined. We have also seen an increase in the market size; we in 2019 said that the market size was about $100 million. Our projection for 2021 was that it's $313 million, with a compound annual growth rate of 59%. So it's really a lot of folks who are investing in this.

The biggest area that we saw change was in people analytics, and that's not necessarily surprising. We saw that in the people analytics study as well, that focusing on DEIB was a huge change. And so the amount of vendors who are providing a solution focused in this area has increased, but I think more importantly, the sophistication has increased. For instance, we're not just looking at pure representation data; we might be looking at representation data from an intersectional lens, so not just black employees, but black women employees. In addition, we're starting, and we're seeing this in the DEIB and analytics study, we're starting to see kind of almost a hierarchy of the way that people are approaching these analytics. So for instance, the representation data is foundational and that's good. But then looking at things like employee engagement, experience data by different demographic groups is kind of the first step in Inclusion. And then the second step in Inclusion is really a more sophisticated study of areas that you might have difficulties: so for instance, you might see that black women are not getting promoted at the same rates, and so for instance, you might use an organizational network analysis to understand are those people connected in the same ways that their other peers are connected or are there groups that are engaging in homophily, meaning that they primarily tend to just work with people who look like them?

So we're seeing people kind of moving beyond really this representation, even representation of Inclusion data, to much more sophisticated problem-solving through analytics. So that's one of the biggest shifts that we've seen since we published the study in 2019.

Chris Pirie:

Do the analytics tools include AI tools that are looking at, for example, sentiment on employee surveys and pulse surveys and things like that? That has to be a bit of a game changer, too, right?

Stacia Garr:

It absolutely is, because you're no longer limited to just the quantitative analysis that you could do just by demographics; you’re also now able to take the natural language processing, identify the themes that are coming in from comments, and then back them up against demographic information. And that is really changing things.

The other thing that natural language processing is enabling us to do is to understand a little bit more on the tales of feedback. So, okay, in general, we're not hearing this, but we heard this from just these types of people and it was consistent amongst those types of people, and so it's just enabling us to have a much finer understanding of the employee experience by different demographic groups.

Chris Pirie:

I'm super-looking forward to this project: we’ve got an amazing set of conversations lined up for people. And I know if our last two Seasons of work together are any indication, we're gonna learn a lot. How do people tune in, how do they subscribe? How can they follow your podcast?

Dani Johnson:

You can find all of the Seasons that we've done so far on our website. We have very active social media campaigns with respect to these, both Chris and RedThread Research. And then you can also find them on Spreaker, Apple, Spotify.

Chris Pirie:

Google podcasts—wherever you get your podcast! You just search for “Workplace Stories” by RedThread research. And it was very exciting, wasn’t it? When the first one popped up on your iPhone—it’s a really exciting moment. And then when people start to listen, it's great. Can people join in with the conversation—you know, podcasting is typically a sort of one-way street, so to speak, but I guess through your community, people can join them with a conversation, right?

Dani Johnson:

Absolutely, as Stacia mentioned, she's got two ongoing studies, and I'm about to start one on learning and DEIB. So please contact us, tell us your own stories and help us understand what you're facing and what you're doing.

Stacia Garr:
And also we post this on social media, every podcast, so if folks want to comment on particular episodes, we try to be as responsive as we can: we really think this is about fostering a dialogue and enabling people to learn. And we learn through conversation.

Chris Pirie:

One last question from me: I know that you are both super-passionate about this topic and you also, you're a relatively small, but perfectly formed organization. What are you doing in your work practice to help foster Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging?

Dani Johnson:

I think this one has sort of hit home to me this month, particularly. I have been aware of it and talked about it a lot, but there are opportunities to step in it all the time; we unconsciously offend people, we unconsciously don't take them into account. And I think what I've learned more than anything is ask: continue to ask and figure out how people want to be addressed and treated. And talk to people that are dealing with these challenges and see what you can learn from them; to continuously be more aware and more sort of cognizant of the way that you're addressing the topic.

Stacia Garr:

And then I would say, we do some things in terms of interviewing, hiring, I mean just basic hygiene stuff. So for instance, when we're hiring folks, behavioral interviews and structured questions are the best way to assess folks and the least likely to allow biases to creep in. So we use both of those approaches when we interview folks.

Also, we spend time asking ourselves, like, what is our bias on this? We particularly know this is top of mind because we just hired some folks, but we were talking about different candidates and I at one point said, well, I'm not sure if this person is a fit, but you guys check me. What's my bias here? What is it? Am I wrong, what is it—because I have a bias and I know it. And so we're trying to address that. I think also when it comes to some of our own work practices, like we've talked for instance, upon a round table, should we be turning on transcripts so people who have different listening limitations or whatever that they can follow along. So we're always having a conversation about what we should do. Like everybody, there's more we could do, and we're working on that. But it is certainly top of mind for us, as we are thinking about our organization and our team.

Chris Pirie:

For me, it's really a transformational thing, it’s like the digitization of business; It just completely shifts how we're going to have to do work and how we collaborate, and how we lead if we're a leader. And it's almost the opposite to everything that I was ever told about how to be a leader: the model of leadership that I was taught for many years, just like you, you're a leader, do all this stuff, was about being directive and confident, and knowing the answers and being smart. All those things that I subsequently learned in the last quarter of my career were not helpful and excluded a lot of people unintentionally, of course, but you exclude people, you don't leave space for people to talk; you hire people that fit the culture rather than challenge the culture and bring new perspectives.

And I did work on the topic a great deal at Microsoft. I was lucky enough to work with some of the teams that were set up to try and particularly at the time get gender and racial Diversity in the workforce. And it's so hard; it was so hard to get done. And people's instincts were to reduce it to a set of metrics that we can then compete against, right? How am I doing was what managers used to say, how am I doing on representation of women in my team? I saw the data being used in completely the wrong way.

And then I also saw this amazing, definitely at Microsoft, this amazing culture shift that went on where we stepped back and said, it's just not about metrics and it's not about being directive: it’s about mindset and openness and curiosity. And that obviously became much of my work over the last few years. And so that's why I'm passionate about this; I think it's a new way to organize work, or it's part of a new way to organize work. You can't do anything on your own—you have to collaborate. And if you're not inclusive and you're not open to diverse opinions, you will not do good work. Period.

Dani Johnson:

I like that.

Stacia Garr:

I think that latter point is a big part of why it matters to me: this is going to be the new way of doing work, and if my two girls are going to work in a place, in an environment, in a world that is inclusive of them and where they really, and truly, in any organization, have the opportunity to lead the same as anybody of a different gender, then the work has to happen now—the change has to happen now for it to be natural.

For me growing up, my mom went to law school at 40, after she had me, I was like 18 months old. She's crazy. She did that! And I think about the difficulties that she had as a woman lawyer with a young child at home, an older woman lawyer at that time. And yet at the same time, she infused in me an expectation that that is what you do: this is what you can do, and this is how the world should work, and that has strongly shaped my worldview. But for her, that wasn't reality; that was a reality that she in many ways constructed for me, and I don't want to have to construct that for my girls. I want that to be the reality. And I think that every mom, or every parent, doesn't matter what the color is of your skin or anything, that’s what you want—you want to look at your kids and be able to say you have an equal chance to succeed. And I think that we have an opportunity to help accelerate that happening in the world.

And so that's my ‘why ‘really on all of our DEIB work is because as a parent looking at these kids, I want each of them to have a fair shake.

Chris Pirie:

Love it. Our work through our community may help—wouldn’t that be nice?

Dani Johnson:

I think it can.

Chris Pirie:

Well, listen, we're going to wrap up this episode; we’re going to provide a set of resources to help people get a primer, we’re going to share the guests that we have lined up in the Show Notes, and we're going to have a lot of fun over the next few months as we record these conversations. So thanks for your partnership, you two: congratulations on surviving and thriving through all of this, and let's go help people figure out what their role is making a more Inclusive and Diverse workplace.

Stacia Garr:

Thanks for listening to the “Workplace Stories” podcast, brought to you by RedThread Research. Share your thoughts or ideas for guests and topics by sending an email to hello@redthreadresearch.com, and consider sharing your favorite episode with a friend or colleague. As always thanks to our guests, our sponsors, and thank you, our listeners. 

Chris Pirie:

We'd like to thank the people at Workday for the exclusive sponsorship of the second Season of “Workplace Stories.” Today, the world is changing faster than ever, and you can meet those changing needs with Workday; it’s one agile system that enables you to grow and engage a more inclusive workforce—it’s your financial, HR, and planning system for a changing world. 

Workday will also host an exclusive live webinar at the end of this Season, where you can meet the team (Dani, Stacia and myself) and join in a conversation about the future of DEIB in the workplace. You can find out more information, register for the webinar, and access exclusive Season content, including transcripts, at www.redthreadresearch.com/podcast and thanks again to the team at Workday!

Written by

Stacia Garr Redthread Research
Stacia Garr
Co-Founder & Principal Analyst

Stacia is a Co-founder and Principal Analyst for RedThread Research and focuses on employee engagement/experience, leadership, DE&I, people analytics, and HR technology. A frequent speaker and writer, her work has been featured in Fortune, Forbes, The New York Times, and The Wall Street Journal as well as in numerous HR trade publications. She has been listed as a Top 100 influencer in HR Technology and in D&I. Stacia has an MBA from the University of California, Berkeley, and a master’s degree from the London School of Economics.

Dani Johnson

Dani is Co-founder and Principal Analyst for RedThread Research. She has spent the majority of her career writing about, conducting research in, and consulting on human capital practices and technology. Her ideas can be found in publications such as Wall Street Journal, CLO Magazine, HR Magazine, and Employment Relations. Dani holds an MBA and an MS and BS in Mechanical Engineering from BYU.

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