It’s a Marathon: The Journey to Create a Racially Equitable Workplace

Jordan Ingersoll
August 28, 2020

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Adrianne Pettiford, Head of Client Insights at pymetrics, Ovell Barbee, SVP of HR & Chief Diversity Officer at Spectrum Healthcare, and Shajine Blake, Chief Compliance Officer at Maric Healthcare discussed the overwhelming call to action for a racially equitable workplace and what organizations committed to driving change can do today to foster diversity and inclusion. 

Act now

In light of recent events, leadership teams are being called on to make strides towards a racially equitable workplace. An issue as important and consequential as racism is difficult to maneuver, especially within a multi-faceted, fast-paced work environment. Organizations often err on the side of caution; however, the time to foster difficult conversations was yesterday-- so we have to take action now. 

There are plenty of practices organizations can put in place immediately as catalysts for change. To understand where your organization falls short, consider taking a pulse check on your workforce. Allow them to offer feedback and suggestions that you can evaluate and then implement. Small-scale practices include recharge days that are promoted for self-care and activism, matching donations or creating a company fundraiser for organizations fighting racial inequality, and offering spaces like a company-wide town hall or training sessions that foster dialogue on racial inequality and allyship.

Ovell Barbee of Spectrum Healthcare shared how his organization has been tackling change by laying a foundation to foster dialogue, communication, and education. Spectrum Healthcare leveraged June 19th as a day for educating their employees on the historical context of Juneteenth and the history of systemic racism, as well as teaching their employees to be allies and start important dialogues. Barbee expressed how impactful these platforms were to his employees, as the insightful day has led to continued work around diversity and inclusion. 

Other organizations can follow suit, even if the plan of action isn’t clear or seems overly complex. In this webinar, the panel of speakers agreed that change within D&I can not be rushed because it must be both authentic and intentional. Take the time to create a plan you can act upon that addresses the gaps within your organization’s D&I efforts. Racial equality is a movement not a moment.

Leverage company-wide tools & technologies 

There is plenty of data already available to leaders that can reveal pain points. Workforce data can answer questions such as: Who is engaged? Who are the influencers? And who needs more support? If patterns appear to be different for people of color as opposed to other groups, you have identified a pain point. The course of action should then be to foster connectivity, communication, and influence. One way to do this is by offering sponsorship or mentorship programs within the organization to increase engagement, connectivity, and support. 

Strategize for the future 

To embody a movement and not just a moment within an organization, diversity and inclusion should be top of mind. Meaning, D&I should be tied to decisions made at every level and within every department. Strategies to implement D&I throughout your organization include diversifying leadership, putting metrics in place to ensure leader accountability in performance reviews and compensation, and diverse interview panels, to name a few. 

Leverage tools within HR 

Many organizations implement technology to address problems or inefficiencies. So while many may be turning to technology to remove bias and unfairness in the hiring process, it is important to keep in mind that just because it is technology does not mean it's better. Human bias can turn up in artificial intelligence because AI is often designed to make the same decisions humans do, just more efficiently. However, it is possible to remove bias from algorithms so HR professionals should be mindful of technology and best practices for implementing AI. Two notable practices include 1) ensuring you’re using tools that have been de-biased and audited and 2) continuously evaluating your AI. Algorithms are like shoes for growing children. One day it fits, the next day it might not, so check-in for any necessary changes and correct accordingly. 

Final thoughts  

To ensure diversity is a lasting change and is always top of mind, the silence must end. Conversations around racial inequality and D&I must be had, no matter how tough they are. The reality is that while systems need interventions, we as individuals also have responsibilities for ourselves -- responsibilities to use our voices as allies, and to ultimately catalyze change.


If you’d like to learn more about how pymetrics can help you optimize recruiting practices for for diversity and inclusion, contact us here