Like many people, my start of June 2020 has been filled with much conversation surrounding the protests around the country and the world in the wake of the death of George Floyd. As I believe we cannot fully understand and move forward until we take the time to absorb what is happening in the world around us, I wanted to time listening before formally before formally responding
I want to first thank those people who have shared so much and taken action against what is knowingly unjust. Promoting diversity and inclusion and a comfortable workspace for everybody in our organization is fundamental to how we succeed. Finding the right words is a challenge for CEOs from companies of all sizes as the thoughts we convey now are not political statements, but a course of action and responsibility. And while some may feel that as a startup the impact of a statement is smaller; I disagree. I feel that because we’re a smaller startup that our voice holds more weight in this matter. We have the responsibility to lead by example not just amongst our peers, but as the next generation of leaders of industry.
For Wabbi, diversity and inclusion has always been seen as being core to our success. It will allow us to build better products and serve the market more effectively by attracting and retaining the best talent. But it is not enough to just say that we will always keep it at the forefront; as we scale if we don’t codify it, we know we run the risk of losing sight of some of the principles we’ve built into the company since Day 1. On the heels of these conversations we’ve taken the time to formally set the tenets that will build a sustainable path for inclusion at Wabbi – and be a role-model for an industry that has long suffered from a lack of diversity across many underrepresented groups.
While not the only lever, we believe our workforce is the greatest asset we can contribute in the fight to combat systemic discrimination. From income equality – tech jobs in Massachusetts pay 2x the average state income – to creating an inclusive community that will make our employees ambassadors for diversity beyond our four-walls – we know we can enable our workforce to be part of solution.
1: Jobs Must Be Accessible
If you want to tackle diversity head-on, you have to start at the beginning: hiring. While this may seem like a no-brainer, the reality is that the way most companies write their job descriptions make them inaccessible to a diverse set of top talent. For example, while men feel they only need to be qualified for 60% of a job description in order to apply, women feel they must meet 100% of requirements. If we expand that beyond gender – you start to realize how many great people you’re missing out on, just because you didn’t write the job description correctly. This is how even the best of intentioned organizations fail to hire a diverse organization – they keep hiring the same person over and over again because that’s what their job description attracts. This compounds itself as when prospects look at the composition of the workforce – especially at a leadership level, it conveys implicit bias.
At Wabbi, we know that issues with accessing diverse talent is not a funnel issue; it’s systemic. And so we a started at the beginning: our job descriptions are written based on outcomes, not profiles that have no correlation to ability to perform and continually reinforce the existing systemic issues to diversity. Who says you need a 4-year degree to be a good Customer Success Manager? A high-school educated stay-at-home mother or veteran can have just as good communication, ability to stay calm, and problem solving skills. When we get out of the mindset that the right person has to check a set of boxes, and focus on the value they will bring to the company, then we can tap into diverse, often overlooked communities of talent.
Pillar 2: Diversity Must Be Measured
Do we want diversity? Of course we do! This helps us solve problems better and create a better experience for everybody from our employees in the trenches to our clients in the C-Suites. We’ve spent a lot of conversation on diversity internally and with our cohorts to not only identify opportunities to learn and grow as a unit, but also ensure we have meaningful diversity – not diversity for diversity’s sake. It can be too easy for a startup to say “We’re a startup, we take what we can get. We don’t have the luxury of diversity.” And while it is true, we do have our limitations, but that does not mean that we have to put diversity on the back burner.
We’re constantly working towards our ideal state, but until we reach that state we will be a work in progress. This is why we have joined our fellow members at MassTLC in signing the Compact for Social justice, which includes committing to annually reporting our aggregate demographic data starting by June 2022 to ensure that as individual companies and the broader Massachusetts tech community we’re enabling the industry the welcoming and diverse sector that we know it can and should be. A common phrase in business is “if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it,” and diversity is no exception.
Pillar 3: Build Inclusion Into Our DNA
Even if you go so far as to have a diverse work culture, it doesn’t mean much if you don’t have inclusion. Without inclusion, diversity is just a vanity metric. Inclusion not only removes the hidden “templates of success” that often reinforce homogenous workplaces, but also improves employee engagement, productivity, and happiness. And all because with inclusion, you create a workplace where everybody feels comfortable to be themselves.
We’re at an interesting time where we can no-longer just rely on the office interaction to foster inclusion as most workforces continue to work from home – and observe when employees are being excluded. This means inclusion has to be innate as a company and employees. This doesn’t mean everybody is best friends, but rather that they will always reach out to one-another, include those that may not step forward on their own in conversation, and be accepting and respectful of what is different about each other. This will become part of our performance evaluation process – both to provide feedback to employees, as well as get feedback from employees on where we can improve as a company to foster inclusion.
As a company and a team, codifying our principles around not just D&I, but making them the foundation of how we recruit, retain, and manage our workforce is just our first step of our journey to build a more inclusive world. We know that we are imperfect as individuals and an organization, but we will make sure every step along the way (even the missteps) becomes for a moment for education.
As my team knows, I always have an open door, and I extend the same to our broader community. The conversation certainly does not stop here, so if you have any comments or suggestions – or even just want to chat about our approach, I invite you to reach out to me directly at email@example.com