No Box Checking for DE&I. Do the Work

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Here at GoTo, we are all about bringing your whole self to work, and in my role as head of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion, it’s my goal to make sure that we are valuing the uniqueness of each employee and ensuring they feel supported to not just do their best work, but live their best lives. As I reflect back on my 16 months in this role, so much has happened in the world, but one thing has remained constant, I did not want my role to just check a box. I was committed then, and even more so now, to do the real work to create meaningful and lasting change for GoTo and our communities.

I am grateful to have had this year for us to look introspectively. This meant having a lot of very honest conversations to understand what people are experiencing. Our approach to DE&I has been focused almost entirely on being the best from the inside out versus a program aimed at generating external recognition. What’s important is that we are making credible strides that impact our employees directly and I’m proud of the work we have done so far. But we are nowhere near done, and I look forward to continuing to do the work each and every day.

As other small and midsize businesses are looking to attract and retain the best talent, I wanted to share some learnings to help grow a diverse, equal, and supportive work environment:

Ask questions, reach out and be vulnerable

  • Your employees need to feel like they can come to leadership or peers with questions or concerns. It’s important to provide a safe space for people to come together.
  • Highlight your leaders sharing their stories. Personally, I have shared many stories about myself and have admired the strength of other leaders that have done the same. It established a great sense of trust and authenticity and led us to establish stronger connections and a sense of unity despite our differences.
  • Here at GoTo we built a framework for learning and engaging. They can join a discussion, listen in more passively or engage actively. There are different entry points. When people felt comfortable it resulted in creating great empathy, inclusion and a stronger bond. Especially in a remote, flexible environment. Offer ways to connect that are accessible and easy for people to engage and find connections and support on their terms.

D&I won’t be successful in a vacuum: Involve as many people as possible

  • DE&I isn’t about the head of DE&I setting mandates and expecting the organization to follow them. Everyone has a critical role to play in the DE&I program. This program is not meant for just the underrepresented groups. In fact, in order to evolve, there has been much focus on engaging the majority here – such as white cisgender males. In order for real change to happen, you need recognize that we are all better together.
  • We all have biases and we have to make a conscious effort to minimize how they impact us especially when we are making decisions that impact other people's lives. By bringing together people of all backgrounds you are exposed to different points of view, increasing our understanding of key issues and how they impact people in different ways.

Drop the Shame Game – Listen and Learn

  • To encourage engagement, we need to drop the shame of making a mistake. The goal is to learn and strengthen our cultural IQ. If people are so afraid to say the wrong thing, they won’t even consider engaging. So, we create a space where messing up is ok because the purpose is to do better.
  • We need to practice the idea of a growth mindset and try to be stronger together. We also must recognize that people in underrepresented groups haven’t always had this concept of a “growth mindset” extended to them. Second chances and mistakes come with great costs or never come at all so leaders need to understand this.
  • As DE&I leaders we need to be humble and always learn. The landscape is constantly changing. Listen more and talk less. Follow the signs that the team you are helping are showing you what they need and not what your colleagues' companies are doing. Ask yourself, “What can we do to make this more inclusive or more equitable for the team here and now?”. If it doesn’t, then you are probably checking a box. Ditch it.

The foundation of any great company is built on embracing differences, learning from others, and evolving. We will never stop embracing change and checking a box on DE&I is not what we are about at GoTo. The benefits of embracing DE&I are well worth the effort. We’ve made good progress, but this is only the beginning. The world we live in is evolving and we don’t have all the answers. No one does. Be willing to take action that will make a difference for the people in your organization and stop looking around to see what everyone else is doing.