2020 caused a positive shift in company proactivity resulting in direct employee conversations. We recently spoke to HR, DEI, and L&D expert, Tasha Kitty, to discuss how this has resulted in new iterations of DEI, Social Impact, and ERG programs.
4 minute read
We interviewed Tasha Kitty, CEO & President of Smart Startup HR, and a 20+ year expert on HR, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI), and Learning and Development (L&D). In 2020, Kitty became a Chief People Officer but this achievement interestingly led to more reflection than celebration: “I was looking for a second mountain, where I can work with companies that make a difference.”
And if her reflection alone was not enough, everything else in 2020 put things over the edge: “As a Black person, events like the murder of George Floyd weren’t anything new, but it was the first time I felt there was the possibility of real change in the world - and workplace.” So, in 2021, she launched Smart Startup HR.
In this blog, we discuss the positive shift companies are making to be proactive (vs. reactive), how this shift has forced direct and vulnerable conversations between employee and employer, and how this all has resulted in new iterations of DEI, Social Impact, and ERG programs that are profoundly grassroots and employee-driven.
Companies shift towards proactive vs. reactive efforts
With several events affecting the workplace in 2020, Kitty shares how this “perfect storm for HR” made companies shift their reactive efforts:
“I saw so many companies issue these Black Lives Matter statements after George Floyd’s murder with no strategy, improvement, or goal after, but if initiatives were instilled when first building that organization, there wouldn’t be a need for reverse-engineering the solutions.”
Beyond companies finally seeing the importance of proactivity (vs. reactivity), Kitty launched SSHR to help young companies “build equitable processes and policies from the beginning, so it is more impactful.”
DEI and social impact has become open & accessible
The shift towards proactivity was led by today’s top talent demanding the workplace become more DEI and social impact-focused:
“The workplace is changing as new generations update what companies need to value. Today’s employee demands more openness and access to direct conversations about DEI and social impact, causing companies to become increasingly purpose-driven and intentional.
For example, certain subjects, like politics, never used to be brought up at work - it was very taboo. But now employees are calling it out, asking for safe spaces to talk about once-taboo social issues.
If companies don’t make a change, they will lose great talent. Employees are continuing to leave companies for the lack of DEI and social impact initiatives.”
Employee resource group (ERG) leaders need support
ERGs give often-marginalized employee communities a broader voice, creating a more inclusive workplace. They’ve been around for some time but are now core to what sets one company’s culture apart from another. Yet, despite their growing importance, ERG leaders still need more:
“Employees tend to raise their hands to support the efforts they identify with or are directly impacted by. That’s great, but if we lose track of supporting these volunteers, it leads to unpaid emotional labor.
But there are ways to support them: How does it fold into their performance reviews? How is that type of leadership recognized alongside other forms of leadership? How can companies provide professional development that’s impactful to their careers?
This is critical for employee life cycles, and top talent sees the differentiator.”
How to start DEI and social impact initiatives
Having established the importance of more proactive DEI and social impact, the one question that remains is how HR and People leaders adapt and act?
When speaking with Kitty, we found that successful DEI and/or Social Impact programs both start in the same way; by gathering employee feedback to ensure these programs are grassroots by design. Employees want more input and inclusivity, so invite them into the program creation stage.
“We start with a DEI needs assessment, and with data-driven recommendations, we know how to customize their program.”
Like Smart Startup HR, Percent Pledge starts with an Employee Passion Assessment to ensure the client’s giving program is employee-driven, leading to better engagement and inclusion.
Learn more about Kitty and Smart Startup HR here.
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