Home > Podcast > Recruiting Future with Matt Alder > Ep 488: The DE&I Journey

Ep 488: The DE&I Journey

December 28th, 2022

One of the key lessons from 2022 is that implementing effective strategies for DE&I is always a long-term journey rather than a quick fix. Sharing insights to learn from the experiences of others is a critical part of the process; progress cannot happen in a vacuum.

My guest this week is Eric Thomas, Chief Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Officer at Genesys. Genesys is on a journey to become a more diverse company, and a vital part of this is increased workforce representation to align with the markets they serve. Eric has some valuable insights to share on the lessons they are learning, particularly around talent acquisition and employee experience.

In the interview, we discuss:

• Eric’s journey to becoming a Chief Diversity Officer

• The lessons Genesys has learnt during its ongoing evolution to being a more diverse company.

• Empathy and helping employees understand the why

• Inclusion and belonging

• The innovation required for effective DE&I work

• Determining priorities and experimentation

• Reimagining talent acquisition

• Redesigning the interview process

• Employee experience as a differentiator

• Advice to other employers on a similar journey

• Setting industry benchmarks and building an ecosystem.

Listen to this podcast on Apple Podcasts.


0 (0s):
This episode is sponsored by Seek Out the number one in talent intelligence and diversity Recruiting software for enterprise companies.

0 (28s):
Hi there. This is Matt Alder Welcome to Episode 488 of the Recruiting Future Podcast One of the key lessons from 2022 is that implementing effective strategies for DE and I is always a long term journey rather than a quick fix. Sharing insights to learn from the experiences of others is a critical part of the process. progress cannot happen in a vacuum. My guest this week is Eric Thomas Chief Diversity Equity and Inclusion officer at Genesys. Genesys is on a journey to become a more diverse company, and a vital part of this is increased workforce representation to align with the markets they serve.

0 (1m 18s):
Eric has some valuable insights to share on the lessons that they’re learning, particularly around talent acquisition and employee experience. Hi Eric and welcome to the podcast.

3 (1m 30s):
Hi Matt, how are you?

0 (1m 32s):
I’m very good, thank you. And it is An absolute pleasure to have you on the show. Please, could you introduce yourself and tell everyone what you do?

3 (1m 41s):
Oh, sure, sure. Welcome. First of all, thank you for having me on the show. So, Eric Thomas and I have the privilege of serving as Genesys first. Chief Diversity. Officer Genesys is a global leader in the customer experience space serving, you know, a number of of customers with our contact center platform around the globe in 30 some different countries. And we, two and a half years ago, set out on this path of elevating the work of diversity, equity and Inclusion. And I was tapped on the shoulder and, and again, have the privilege of, of helping us launch those efforts across the company.

0 (2m 23s):
Fantastic, and really keen to dig into those in a second and, and find out more about what you’ve done and the lessons that you’ve learned. Before we do that, just tell us a little bit more about your backstory and how you got to do what you do now.

3 (2m 35s):
Oh, great. So, you know, I, I am not a seasoned d e I practitioner. I have always been a champion of the work. You know, in in, in the various leadership roles I’ve served in. I’ve always either sponsored employee resource groups or supported, you know, the company’s efforts of Recruiting diverse talent and bringing diverse talent to the company, but never led the way I have the opportunity to lead today as a, as, as, as the actual d e i practitioner and leader. I, I spent the first 25 years of my career leading business lines doing leading digital transformations, mostly customer facing in the IT and Consulting professional services space.

3 (3m 20s):
And, you know, two years ago, or two and a half years ago, as I mentioned before, you know, as when we all were, you know, sitting be at home managing and, you know, and working around the pandemic, I think we all were sequestered and was able to see the video that surfaced, that aired the, the, the murder and the lynching of, of George Floyd. It was an incident that happened local to the us but obviously became quickly became a global phenomen. And, and it put a lot of companies into a mode of, of being more intentionally focused around the work. It was a catalyst for a number of companies to step up and say, we need to, we need to do more. And Genesys was in the same category.

3 (4m 0s):
And I, at the time, I was working with our Genesys leadership with our C E O and our chief communications officer with some efforts that they were facilitating across the company. We, you know, like a lot of companies, we made some public statements about how we felt about what we were seeing in the aftermath. Basically taking a, a position of solidarity with the black community and announcing wrong is wrong and, you know, taking positions against hate and systemic racism. We had a number of internal conversations with our employees to, you know, around the topic of race relations and, and what it looks like to, to empathize for each other and how we show up for each other in an empathetic way.

3 (4m 42s):
And, and so I was part of helping to organize those, those activities. And one of the other actions that we took was to launch a diversity office office and hire a Chief Diversity officer. And it was through those conversations with our CEO and some of our other leaders that I was asked to take on that responsibility. And that’s how I came into this role.

0 (5m 8s):
And tell us about the journey over the last two years to become a more diverse company and, and perhaps some of the lessons that you’ve learned so far along the way.

3 (5m 17s):
In my conversations with Tony Bates, our c and it was during a period in which we were talking about the possibility of me leading this role. You know, he, he had joined the company in 2019, so he was about a little over a year and a half at his post. And, you know, he came on to help drive our corporate transformation, our business transformation from being a prim based to a cloud SaaS based solution. And he had a member of initiatives as you might imagine, that he was putting in play as being, you know, the new c e o. And he, you know, he shared with me at that point that he, you know, it was always his intention to have diversity as part of our corporate initiatives. You know, Empathy is one of the cornerstones of our corporate values and it was something that Tony brought as part of his leadership style.

3 (6m 6s):
But as I mentioned before, you know, the, the, the George Floyd murder was kind of the catalyst for elevating this work for him. And, and, and it launched our journey. And, you know, one of the first things we did was to set out, to build a solid foundation for a long term and sustainable set of, of DE EI practices, something that would outlive me or even Tony. And we focused, we first started our focus on Inclusion and belonging and in educating our workforce on the why this truly has been an and continues to be a transformational change. And one of the things I’ve learned throughout my career is that anytime you’re driving change of this nature, having a clear communications plan and making sure that your workforce understands the why and more importantly the role they play in, in instituting some of that change is a key part of the change management strategy.

3 (6m 55s):
So that’s what we focused on in year one. And then as we, you know, rounded the corner of year two, we expanded our focus to start getting ahead more our head around our data and understanding different data insights like in the representation of women around the globe and, and people of color in the US understanding employee sentiment, how they feel around about topics such as, you know, fairness and, and equity. Their ability to have a fair chance at growing their career and expanding their, their, you know, their capabilities at Genesys as well as as retention, you know, or do we have challenges with, with retention when you look at it across various demographics.

3 (7m 35s):
And, and the data provided key insights into helping us understand the challenges that we had, particularly if we were having challenges with how we administer certain policies and practices that have a direct impact on employee experience, but also in helping us, you know, develop our strategic framework or d e i framework and set some of our earlier priorities in terms of what the focus on in the beginning and in leveraging the, you know, the knowledge gained from the data, we, we were able to set goals, diversity goals, representation, goals for, you know, aligning the diversity of our workforce with the markets we serve, you know, which would mean we would need to increase the representation of women across our workforce and among the leadership ranks over the next four or five years, as well as increasing representation of, of, you know, people of color in the US And then, you know, some of the lessons learned, you know, one of the key lessons I learned from, from leading these efforts is just how innovative the work is.

3 (8m 45s):
How innovative d e I work is. You know, there, there truly is no one size that fits all approach that folk can take. Every company has to determine how to define diversity, equity and Inclusion within the context of their environment and determine what’s important to them and what are their priorities. I think you have to give yourself room to experiment with different ideas and different initiatives to really discover, you know, what your workforce will embrace and, and, and where you think what will, you know, what efforts will help drive a high amount of employee engagement, which is really important in order to really, you know, move the needle on the type of change that you’re looking to foster. And, and quite frankly, we’re still figuring some of this out.

3 (9m 26s):
We’ve made some good strides in a number of areas and we’ve seen, you know, the response rates for employees and as a result we’ve pivoted, you know, at times with, with different things. We started out in certain path and found exit ramps cuz we realized it wasn’t working for us. And we’ve pivoted two things that we’re now starting to see will help us really drive, you know, create sustainable practices. So that’s One of the key lessons from,

0 (9m 49s):
You mentioned there, the, one of the objectives was to increase the representation within the business. What’s the impact been on your talent Acquisition strategy?

3 (9m 59s):
Yeah, you know, So, we, we have to really, we have to completely reimagine how we do talent Acquisition, right? One of the key things we did was expand our list of sourcing partners to include organizations and institutions who focus on producing, you know, high amounts or high rates of diverse talent. And that of course helped increase the, our, our abilities to, to source diverse talent and present diverse slates of candidates to our Hiring managers. We also piloted and are now looking to deploy at scale a competency-based interviewing model for our recruiters and our Hiring managers to minimize the number of subjective questions posed In the interview, which can create, you know, space for biases to creep in and to focus on a set of questions allowing us to really improperly assess the candidates skills and capabilities against the competencies needed for the role.

3 (10m 56s):
And then the other thing we did is we launched anti-biased training for all of our recruiters and all of our Hiring managers, and we made it mandatory before engaging in, in any part of the Recruiting process. You know, these changes some of the, you know, the short changes or quick changes that we’ve made to our talent Acquisition approach and procedures. And, and it’s quite frankly, I believe it has been the difference maker in helping us realize some of the progress that we’ve seen in an increased amount of representation of both women around the globe and various underrepresented groups in the us.

0 (11m 31s):
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0 (12m 17s):
I suppose just to dive in a second into the way that you changed your assessment and what you assessed for In, the interview questions, I mean, that sounds like that would’ve been quite an in-depth process. How did you go about doing that?

3 (12m 30s):
We transitioned from a less subjective approach of how both recruiters and Hiring managers interview candidates to a more mechanical approach with a scripted set of questions. And, and, and that that you would be limited to asking a candidate that would, would be geared towards, and even you to assess is this individual in terms of their resume, their capabilities and skills and how they are articulating their ability to, to deliver on certain things. You know, it based on that assessment, are they a fit for the competencies and the role and the role and the skills required in the role.

3 (13m 12s):
And it removes, you know, room for, you know, Hiring managers asking women as an example. You know, do you have, do you plan to have children in the future? Do you have an issue with traveling? Or some of the other things that w you know, questions that we discovered were really being asked through some of these, these interviewing process that unfortunately was putting certain demographics at a dis disadvantage but really had nothing to do with, with whether or not they could do the role or not. And So we, it, the goal was to mitigate those types of scenarios surfacing during the process.

0 (13m 48s):
Absolutely. You mentioned sort of em employee engagement and the employee experience. How do you differentiate yourself as an Employer?

3 (13m 58s):
Genesys really leans in the concept of Empathy. It is a cornerstone, our corporate values and enables a gateway to, you know, evolving what does Empathy look like, right? In terms of from a DE through a D E I lens, how do we show up and create and foster an Inclusive environment? How do we develop leaders that know how to lead inclusively, right? And, and so, you know, with with that being at the cornerstone of our corporate values, it it’s, it’s woven, woven into the fabric of how we do things. If you take for example, our employee engagement and the poll surveys that we distribute to get a sense of employee sentiment.

3 (14m 43s):
It’s a, it’s a key way of listening to your employees, but more importantly when you get the data back, are you acting right? And I think that’s one of the things that really differentiates Genesys. I, you know, you can pick up the, the paper or, or any type of article and talk about how different companies are addressing the, the return to work approach and, you know, our employees, you know, we did a survey and, and we kind of, you know, took it under, got it obtained an understanding from our employees of how they felt about coming back to the office post pandemic. And it was pretty clear, I think it was over 60% wanted the opportunity to continue working virtually So. we created, you know, a strategy our, our return to work strategy or, you know, workplace of the future around that.

3 (15m 30s):
We have hybrid scenarios where If, you are within a certain distance of the office, you can choose to drive in or you can only come in certain days of the week. If, you wanna be in the office every day because you really desire that type of, of communal approach and, and interaction. It’s available to you or If, you wanna be completely virtual, it’s available to you and we make sure that we, we outfit or equip our employees with the tools to where they can be just as productive either virtually or in that hybrid fashion or in the office because we saw tho those capabilities surface during the pandemic. And it’s just one of the many ways I think that, you know, Genesys differentiates itself in terms of how it, it deals with its its employees.

0 (16m 8s):
There are a lot of companies who are on a journey to become more diverse organizations. What advice would you give to other employers based on your experience so far?

3 (16m 20s):
Yeah, so, you know, I I think there’s, there’s, there’s, there’s three things that come top of mind. First of all, If, you were looking to launch your d e i efforts like we did from, you know, from, from concept or even If. You’re looking to expand on some of the work you’ve been doing. I think it’s critically important for companies to take the time to really understand and define what diversity, equity, and Inclusion means within your workplace, within the context of your environment, what’s important to your workforce, listen to your employees because that, you know, what I’ve learned and what we’ve learned is that our employees will tell us what challenges are or, or what diversity efforts are important to them.

3 (17m 3s):
Diversity can take on such a broad spectrum and If, you try to boil the ocean out of the game, you know, it’s like anything else. You can do three things, one to one, two to three things very great. Or you do 10 things very mediocre and you know, I I think our employees, your employees will tell you what are the things that are top of mind and important for them. The other thing I would, the other piece of advice that I would give folk and I kind of referenced this earlier, is give yourself room to experiment with different ideas and initiatives to discover, you know, what actually works within your environment and, and what your, your workforce will embrace, right? It’s okay to, you know, to start out certain efforts and, and realize that because the work is very innovative, that maybe this doesn’t work for you, maybe it doesn’t fit for you.

3 (17m 48s):
And give, give yourself room to, to find exit, you know, ramps and, and to start again. And then I think the last thing I would say, probably I should move it to number one is make data in analytics your best friends, right? People can argue the marriage of d e i all day long. You know, is there truly an roi? You hear that conversation all the time or you know, you hear, do we really have issues at our company? Do we really even need this work? And the data doesn’t lie, it’s like a suitcase ready business justification. And, and that’s, I think those are the probably the three key things I would share with anyone looking to you to launch or expand their d e I efforts. And

0 (18m 28s):
As a final question, how do you hope DE and I will develop over the next two to three years?

3 (18m 34s):
You know, Matt, one, one of the things I’ve come to appreciate about this, about the work The DE e I work, one of the things that, that is different from the work I’ve done in the past is just how communal the space is through the network of other d e I leaders that I, I engage with. We share openly share our experiences with each other, our best practices, if I can use that term. We share anything that we’ve discovered that works, Hey, give it a shot, see if this works for you. See if this helps you move the needle on various initiatives that you’re driving within your company because we all want to see each other be successful, right? In this space. There’s really, you don’t really have that competitive nature that that, that you see on, on the commercial and business front.

3 (19m 22s):
And you know, I I think it’s past time for some type of industry standards to be produced to help us align on what good looks like and they get the, right now we, we all pretty much benchmark ourselves against our own work and, and we set out on course we’ll set goals and, and if we’re, you know, retaining those goals, then, you know, we can say, oh, okay, we’re making good progress. But at the end of the day, you know, without a a very strong industry ecosystem, I, I don’t know how much progress all of us can really make in terms of, of it being really truly material If. you think about the telecom space, there are standards on how and protocols on how technology evolves, and that’s how you go from 3G to 4G to 5g If.

3 (20m 6s):
you look in the software development space, you know, things like open sourcing and those types of things has helped us come up with new applications and ways for the technology to evolve. And I think it’s way past time for us to develop a set of industry standards around diversity, equity and Inclusion So. we not just don’t have ourselves at benchmark against each other, we’re benchmarking against what, what good, what, how good has been defined for the industry. One other thought I’ll share about the future, I I, you know, I think collectively d e i leaders and maybe it, it, it is somewhat aligned with, you know, you know, Defining industry standards. I think we need to, we need to start preparing ourselves to address an increasing amount of organized opposition in the us.

3 (20m 53s):
You know, we have in the next week or So we may have a shift in the judiciary and that shift has a direct impact on how companies, in some cases, policy impact on how this work can or cannot be done. And I don’t think that collectively we’re prepared to address some of those challenges head on that allows us to continue to move needle in space. That’s, I think that’s what we need to be thinking about in terms of the future of D E I.

0 (21m 20s):
Eric, thank you very much talking to me.

3 (21m 23s):
I enjoyed it. Thank you Matt. I appreciate you having me.

0 (21m 26s):
My thanks to Eric. You can subscribe to this podcast in Apple Podcasts on Spotify or via your podcasting app of choice. Please also follow the show on Instagram. You can find us by searching for Recruiting Future. You can search all the past episodes at Recruiting Future dot com on that site. You can also subscribe to the monthly newsletter, Recruiting Future Feast, and get the inside track about everything that’s coming up on the show. Thanks very much for listening. I’ll be back next time and I hope you’ll join me.

The post Ep 488: The DE&I Journey appeared first on The Recruiting Future Podcast.

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