Over the past few years, diversity and inclusion in the workplace has moved from niche, issues-oriented topics to mainstream discourse. As someone who has worked in the space, it is a welcome change. But as with anything that generates buzz, the hard work begins when companies translate value statements into concrete action.
So how can companies ensure that diversity and inclusion is carried out on a daily basis, deeply embedded in the company DNA, and not something paid lip service? That’s a question our People team think about a lot (a lot).
We define inclusion as a practice of celebrating and leveraging our differences to promote equality and drive better results. I’ll borrow this amazing metaphor from Verna Myers to encapsulate the difference between diversity and inclusion: If diversity is being invited to the party, inclusion is being asked to dance.
What gives that metaphor meaning is truly a kaleidoscope of activity: loud and subtle, planned and unplanned, from ground-up to top-down. Here are a few practices that we’ve found to be particularly powerful at Planet:
Mandatory Diversity and Inclusion Onboarding. When new employees join the company, one of the first onboarding sessions they attend is all about diversity and inclusion at Planet – how we define both terms explicitly, how they are embedded in the culture, and how we practice celebrating our differences. This is not simply an exercise in information sharing, it sets a tone and a level of expectation about how we act on our values from Day One.
Leading from the Top. It’s important to demonstrate to your team that diversity and inclusion must be fully supported from the top and isn’t a niche interest-based activity. One of our priorities has been to diversify our executive leadership and Board of Directors, particularly focusing on women. Over the past several years, our Board’s female to male ratio went from 0:5 to 2:4, and our executive team went from 1:6 to 3:5. While representation matters, it’s also about participation. Having an executive (or more!) present at diversity and inclusion programming sets an important message. From colloquiums, to movie outings, to book clubs, to holiday celebrations like Lunar New Year, and our Wonder Women ERG events, our executives make a point of showing up, participating, and sharing their stories.
Consistency is Key. We’ve found that much of the work of diversity and inclusion is to meet people where they are and capitalize on every opportunity to reach them. In practice, this means having a consistent cadence and range of programming, featuring different topics and speakers, and engaging multiple dialogues at once. One metric of success is when an employee who has shown up to zero events in the past comes forward and takes part in something for the first time. That revitalizes us and shows our method is working. We take pride in seeing a number of new faces at each of our events.
Presenting at All-Hands Meetings. When we launched the Diversity & Inclusion Team at Planet, our SVP of People Cara Brennan Allamano pushed for us to present each week at the all-hands meetings. It’s a seemingly small act, but has a big impact on how the company absorbs our values and gets excited about upcoming programming.
Seeking out Different Perspectives. Planet deliberately seeks out new perspectives from the shared belief that our differences can foster innovation. One of Planet’s first hires was Artist-in-Residence Forest Stearns, who was brought onboard deliberately because he offered a different perspective from our engineers, and our founders knew from the beginning that bringing diverse perspectives together fostered collaboration, innovation, and creativity. Forest has since built our artist-in-residence program. This ethos informs our recruiting and hiring as well. As opposed to looking for individuals who are a “culture fit,” we look for “culture add” – the backgrounds, skills, and talents that we have yet to come across and that will bring our company to the next level.
If there is one takeaway you get from this post, my hope is that it is the idea that “walking the talk” of diversity and inclusion requires a lot of practice. Not in the sense of perfecting model behavior. Instead, muddling through new territory, nudging ourselves forward, and taking both leaps and small steps to make inclusion a lived reality for everyone involved.