D&I Leader Katrina Jones Shares Her Best Advice
We had the wonderful opportunity to sit down with Katrina Jones, Head of Diversity and Inclusion at Twitch. Jones was previously Director of Diversity & Inclusion at Vimeo, and Global Inclusion and Diversity Manager at Accenture.
In the interview below, Jones shares her valuable tips on:
Kicking off Your Diversity & Inclusion Strategy
Gauging how diverse and inclusive your organization is
The significance of data and engagement surveys
Creating a supportive workplace
Diversifying your hiring strategies
Stakeholder Management in Diversity & Inclusion Work
Avoiding tokenism of underrepresented groups
Integrating diversity & inclusion into all aspects of your company
Facilitating dialogue and conversation throughout the process
Balancing interests of leaders, staff, and ERGs
Building your network of diversity & inclusion professionals
“Diversity & inclusion work is about collaborating to close wealth gaps between majority groups and minority groups, promoting justice, and recognizing the value in all employees.”
Interview with Katrina Jones
Stefan: Can you tell me a bit about yourself and how you got to where you are now?
Katrina: I’ve been an HR practitioner for about 12 years and was always passionate about making a difference for marginalized individuals. When I eventually had the chance to take an official D&I role, I went for it! I’ve always been driven by my faith in HR, to create better workplaces so people can flourish doing the work they love.
Stefan: What does diversity & inclusion mean to you?
Katrina: With diversity, I start by looking at gender, race, ethnicity, gender identity, sexual orientation, disability status, and veteran status. This is a good place to start and some of these are what might be considered the more visible aspects of diversity.
That being said, ideally it's not a mutually exclusive or either/or scenario, because there are so many aspects to diversity & inclusion. It's more than just meeting targets of representation for minority groups. It’s about creating a space where everyone feels welcome, safe, valued, and heard. This can bring major changes in the workplace and even the world. It's about collaborating to close wealth gaps between genders and majority groups and minority groups, promoting justice, and recognizing the value in all employees.
The typical workplace experience of a marginalized person is uniquely challenging in comparison to someone in a majority group, so steps have to be taken to recognize and address that. You want diversity of thought in your workplace, and you want everyone to have an equal chance to participate in the dialogue.
Kicking off Your Diversity & Inclusion Strategy
“Engage employees to understand their experiences, their viewpoints, and their perspectives. This is fundamental to the process - don’t underestimate the value in conversation.”
Stefan: How do you know when your company is truly committed to diversity & inclusion?
Katrina: I look at leader interest. This includes whether financial resources have been appropriately allocated for diversity & inclusion efforts, and the overall attitude of the organization towards this work. To delve into that further:
Look at leader interest in improving the workplace
This would be the earliest stage. Organizational leaders actually need to have that desire to improve their workplace. This doesn't mean that they have all the perfect solutions and answers right away. They are usually on a learning curve and part of my work is to help them through those stages, through education and equipping them with the right language and strategy to talk about diversity & inclusion.
Financial resources dedicated to a diversity & inclusion mandate
Once leaders have been open to embracing diversity & inclusion, the resources need to be there to back that up. A proper budget has to be put into place to take this effort seriously, so there can be meaningful progress and lasting changes.
Ensuring everyone is on board
Diversity & inclusion needs to be embraced by leaders at every level of your company. Staff across positions should see this as something valuable and be thinking about new ways they can contribute to the effort and make a change.
To involve those outside of purely HR roles, a big part of it is conversation. I might have one-on-one sessions or programs on a larger scale. Emphasizing that you are all a part of this as allies helps to avoid a segmented approach. At the end of the day, it has to be part of your everyday thinking in your company.
Stefan: Once an organization is in these preliminary stages, what are the key parts of a diversity & inclusion strategy that they should apply and how do they come up with the right approach?
Katrina: The starting point is always gathering in-depth data and going from there. Specifically:
Gathering data and using it to understand where you can improve
The data will guide you. Start by researching and understanding where your organization falls short in terms of diversity & inclusion, for example in relation to the percentage of women across the business.
Using engagement surveys as a point of reference
Use engagement surveys together with information on demographics in order to piece together a narrative. For instance, the survey might ask questions about the company environment, career development, and opportunities for leadership. Viewing these responses through the lens of gender, race, and ethnicity - to name a few examples - will help you to better understand the dynamics at play, and give you a better sense of direction with your strategy.
If you need help getting started with engagement surveys, Culture Amp uses questions that specifically assess diversity & inclusion that you can take a look at.
Your research should analyze diversity & inclusion across levels in the organization
It’s too simplistic to just look at statistics without giving them some context. Accumulate data on underrepresented groups across leadership levels, throughout the business, and at technical and non-technical jobs. This will help you understand where your organization is lacking.
Have conversations with individuals in your organization
Engage employees to understand their experiences, their viewpoints, and their perspectives. This is fundamental to the process - don’t underestimate the value in conversation. Start that dialogue and create that environment where people are comfortable talking about their lived experiences.
Develop a strategy that fits your organization
Once you have a clearer understanding through research and employee engagement, you will be able to better assess the right strategy for your company. It should correlate with your findings from the data. You can focus on recruiting and setting targets, and include promotion and advancement opportunities as part of that strategy.
Understanding the Issues in Your Organization and Addressing Them
Stefan: Let's say after taking an engagement survey you realize that some of the underrepresented groups in your organization are not feeling included. How can you address that?
Katrina: A lot of this has to do with the prevailing fast-paced workplace culture where there hasn't been room to have an open dialogue about what employees might be facing, at work or outside of work. Going through tough situations takes a huge toll on emotional, mental, and even physical well-being. If we cultivate a more caring atmosphere where we can turn to one another for support, that would help move towards addressing these issues. To start that process, I suggest thinking about:
Training managers to be sensitive and empathetic
We have to work with managers so they are equipped with the skills and know-how so that they are receptive to employees and their unique situations.
Changing hiring strategies especially relating to referrals
It’s common practice for companies to hire through referrals, but this actually further perpetuates lack of diversity and inclusion when we keep picking from the same networks of groups of friends and colleagues. You will find that these networks are really not that diverse.
Starting to consider these issues and getting a dialogue going is critical to change. It makes your workplace open enough so that everyone can contribute to the conversation and hear the voices of others. People in positions of power should be reflecting not only on what they’re hearing, but on their own practices around these topics.
“Diversity & inclusion has to be part of everyday conversations and actions. It’s not just a box you can tick off.”
Stefan: When doing diversity & inclusion work, how do you avoid tokenism while still trying to engage and elevate diverse populations?
Katrina: Don't confine the conversations, dialogue, and visibility of minority groups to specific events or times of the year, like cultural heritage or awareness months. Don't just recognize women during International Women's Day or Women's History Month.
Instead, take steps to recognize value and contribution daily. Have events, write company-wide emails, work it into the internal newsletter. Feature employee achievements, promotions, and customers you are working with.
At meetings, encourage everyone to speak up. Diversity & inclusion has to be part of everyday conversations and actions. It’s not just a box you can tick off. Think about who gets to speak up and who doesn’t. Who is given more responsibility and opportunity? How do you address that? Really embed that dialogue and incorporate it in all the ways that you can.
Stefan: How do you avoid the problem of trying to address everything at once when you have a lot of goals?
Katrina: A way to work through that is to keep leadership on board and figuring out what they are willing to work on with you. You have to make leaders comfortable working on a wider set of goals than they might initially be willing to, craft a set of steps that suit the organization, and analyze data around employee retention.
Working with leaders to set goals
Try to encourage them to step out of their comfort zone and cast a wider net. You'll end up somewhere in the middle which is a good place to be.
Figure out what order makes best sense the organization
You might want to start with brushing up on your outreach strategies first and then working on setting targets for recruitment or retention, for example. You should also think about things like employee retention including career development, and promotion processes. Most importantly, be sure to do it all in a way that fits your organization's specific needs.
Understand your statistics around retention attrition
Keeping current on trends around who is leaving your organization, whether it is more common in some groups over others, and the overall demographics will help you to better understand what is happening. There might be wage gaps, lack of advancement opportunities, or other barriers that might pertain more to specific segments of your workforce. It's your job to figure that out and come up with solutions towards more equitable and inclusive teams.
Balancing Interests of Leadership Goals, Staff, and ERGs
Stefan: How do you strike a balance between the strategy you're developing with staff interests and ERGs?
Katrina: I promote open conversation and make it a collaborative process. It's an exchange - I help focus and develop their priorities and see how they fit into my own plans. It's not that I have a plan set in stone because I might modify it to align with what is being asked - you have to keep that flexibility. Being on the same page is so important
You might face some instances where you wish there was something you could do but you're restricted by budget. Even that is an opportunity to think about a dual purpose to something and see if you can funnel the budget from other places if a particular opportunity has multiple pertinent benefits for the company.
For instance, our ERGs host events where the ERG leads demonstrate what work they are doing, and this fulfills 2 purposes. We get to showcase how underrepresented minorities are leading the way, and recognizing their meaningful contributions.
At the same time, we’re supporting these groups and their efforts and improving our company culture. This ends up having broader impact - we’re promoting diversity and inclusion as part of our company’s goals and image, which will attract more diverse talent. There are long term benefits to that and each one of these aspects fits into an overall strategy to improve the company.
Stefan: Do you have any other recommendations to help support organizations just getting started with their diversity & inclusion strategy?
Katrina: I would close with the following three recommendations to start organizations off:
Research, and stay current with diversity & inclusion work
There is a wealth of research out there for you to delve into this area. Be open to learning from industries outside of your own because you can still learn about diversity & inclusion in different contexts and find a way that it is relevant to your process.
Keep updated on best practices
You’ll find that language and conversation shifts over time and it’s important to be in sync and adaptable to those changes.
Develop a network of diversity & inclusion professionals and groups
You can start off looking at Diversity Advocates by the Kapor Center and see if there is a local HR group with a sub-group or sub-committee of diversity & inclusion professionals. From there, you can start to build that network to turn to for support.
Thank you for taking the time to speak with us Katrina!
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