“I want everybody to understand how each person communicates, and how they need to be communicated to,” explains the president and CEO of 5K Technical Services, a managed IT services and support firm based in Plano, Texas. He adds that all team members have copies of each other’s assessments for this same purpose. For example, some individuals function best when they receive concise messaging, whereas others need more time to process out loud. Being aware of these nuances, he says, helps everyone interact more effectively.
Kirkendoll further promotes inclusion by ensuring that any initiative at 5K––such as onboarding a new software offering––is assessed by all team members. If he thinks the software is great but the majority of his employees don’t, it isn’t incorporated into the portfolio. Job candidates are interviewed by everyone on an individual basis, and the entire team makes the final hiring decision. “I want everyone to have a say in who we bring onto this team,” he explains, adding that this minimizes the risk of recruiting someone who doesn’t fit into the company’s culture.
Programs and Training
To reinforce the important role of diversity and inclusion in that culture, 5K also hosts regular instructional sessions on those topics. “We spend a lot of time training people on what that really looks like, and what it means, down to things like micro-inequities––the way we greet one another, the way we talk about one another,” Kirkendoll explains. Promoting conversations about religion, race, and culture, he adds, can help eliminate stereotypes. “We try to help remove as many assumptions as we possibly can.”
Ulysses Smith, head of diversity, inclusion, and belonging at Blend, a fintech startup headquartered in San Francisco, favors folding diversity training into leadership development, rather than mandating standalone sessions, which can lead to resentment. Yet one-off sessions on narrowly defined topics, he believes, can be effective; Blend, for instance is in the process of launching several topic-specific workshops aimed at driving trans and gender nonconforming inclusion.
“[It] can play a huge role in giving people insight into specific populations and help them to hone their interpersonal skills around engaging with different populations,” says Smith, who urges companies to measure the success of workshops and training sessions by assessing if change occurred afterward. If, for example, an organization is struggling with unconscious bias that has led to training on the issue, have people actually modified their behavior based on the education they received? And if they haven't, why not?