The First Step on Our Journey Toward a More Inclusive and Equitable Workplace

by Extension Engine | April 28, 2021

Estimated time to read: minutes

Last summer we made a commitment to hold a mirror up to ourselves. Using our values as a guide, we aim to Be Honest with ourselves about the state of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) at Extension Engine. To Be Humble, identifying and owning the areas in which we needed to do better. To Be Excellent, by holding ourselves accountable to doing better. To do the work needed to create a more inclusive and equitable work environment, where team members from diverse backgrounds can be their whole selves, do their best work, and thrive.

As part of that commitment, we’re sharing with you the results of our assessment of DEI at Extension Engine and our strategic plan to move the needle. Here are our goals and what we’ve accomplished to date.

Get the basics right. Set targets. Be transparent.

Transparency is a powerful signal. Making our policies, practices, and target goals visible gets everyone on the same page around expectations, demonstrates the importance of those expectations, and helps hold us accountable. Here’s what we’ve done so far:
  • Created and implemented core policies aimed at the prevention of discrimination, which clearly and directly describe expected behaviors and the actions to take when unacceptable behaviors occur. These are policies every company should have, regardless of size, sector, and age, and they are essential to preventing discrimination and supporting diversity and inclusion. 
  • Established diversity targets and a dashboard reporting process. It’s hard to measure what you don’t know, and it’s hard to fix what you don’t measure. We’ve identified DEI data we want to track and report on a regular basis and created the tools to do so.

Be intentional with recruiting, and limit unconscious bias in hiring.

Hiring is an obvious lever for improving representation of diverse team members. We’re honing our practices now so that when we hire new team members, we do so strategically and thoughtfully. 
  • Created an overall recruitment strategy that is driven by metrics and aims to create more-equitable and -inclusive practices to increase diversity across the entire pipeline. We will continue to evaluate and fine-tune goals throughout the year.
  • Diversified our outreach to organizations, recruiting partners, and candidates, which will help place open positions in front of the right people at the right time, bolstering diversity in the earlier stages of the recruiting funnel. 

Ensure reviews and promotions are unambiguous and transparent and that they minimize the impact of unconscious bias.

Beyond bringing diverse team members in the door, we need to make sure that we retain and promote all talent in a meaningful way. Combined with intentional recruiting, structured performance reviews that use job-essential assessment criteria, along with appropriate, relevant promotions, ensure diverse representations across all levels, especially the top.

  • Established competencies for roles and embedded them into the performance review process.
  • Facilitated a series of workshops and developed tools for team members and managers on competencies, latticed career pathways, conducting performance reviews, avoiding bias in reviews, and giving and receiving feedback.

Foster an inclusive and respectful culture.

Again, it’s not enough to get the right employees in the door, we need a culture that addresses microaggressions and supports and celebrates our diversity. 
  • Created an Inclusion Slack channel with regular posts on best practices for creating an inclusive culture, such as a series on Inclusive Language Principles that included a discussion on person-first versus identity-first language. We also created a Celebrate channel to educate each other on holidays and events that are important to us. 
  • Facilitated ongoing conversations in our weekly team meetings. We’ve had prompts and mini-workshops that encourage self-reflection on our own bias, how it might translate into the learning solutions that we create, and how to begin to prevent it. 
  • Launched a book club where we are reading and discussing works that address intersectionality, access, and diversity to create a broader diversity in our thinking and designing in order to promote inclusivity in our work and in our lives. 
  • Trained leadership in 50 Ways to Prevent Bias to educate on common biases women face in the workplace and management’s responsibility in combating those biases. We’ve also committed to having ongoing conversations to actions we can take as leaders to effectively minimize biases specific to our context.
As designers and thought leaders in digital learning design, we also consider accessibility in our work. What can we do to ensure the needs of all learners are addressed? Our team advocates for making accessibility an expectation.

You might wonder how we got here. How did we identify the areas for improvement and next steps? Our cross-functional DEI Working Group modeled our comprehensive assessment after best practices, taking a holistic approach to assess the employee experience and life cycle.

We collected and analyzed data from multiple sources to identify trends and ensure we had an accurate picture of DEI at Extension Engine. We: 

  1. Audited our structures, policies, and processes to understand whether employees know about them and use them. We also compared them to best practices to find gaps in how we support IE 
  2. Reviewed our approach to recruiting, assessment, and promotions to identify unconscious bias and systemic inequities in how we source, screen, and hire candidates and assess, promote, and compensate employees. 
  3. Analyzed our employee experience to find ways to foster a culture and working environment that create space and provide support for diverse people to do great work and thrive professionally. We conducted an employee survey to understand our employees’ experience with crucial issues surrounding benefits, working conditions, and meetings and daily interactions with colleagues and clients. 
  4. Interviewed employees confidentially to dive more deeply into these key issues, raise voices underrepresented in the survey, and bring our lived experiences to life.

Empowered by quantitative and qualitative data, we looked for trends across multiple experiences and multiple data sets. After identifying the four main goals above, we set to making a plan. We conducted research and identified two initiatives for each area. We broke down the initiatives into two-month, six-month, and twelve-month goals with corresponding activities and got to work!

Teasing the priority areas apart into main initiatives and smaller goals with activities has helped us continue moving forward and monitor progress. We will continue to share progress reports on our journey in the months to come. We hope you will follow us along the way! 

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