While many organizations have metrics to measure diversity, the elements of equity and inclusion prove more challenging to measure. As diversity leaders make gains in diversifying their workforce, they must also work to offer the same opportunities and resources for all employees in an environment where they feel included and supported.
According to McKinsey, employees who feel included within their organization are approximately three times more likely than their peers to feel excited by and committed to their organization’s mission. To create steadfast loyalty within Unqork, Netta Jenkins, the VP of global inclusion, weaves inclusion into employees’ everyday work experiences.
Read on for an edited excerpt of our exclusive interview with Jenkins, who is also a member of the Senior Executive DEI Think Tank, to learn about the innovative tool she uses to measure inclusion and how she found “synergy” with Unqork’s people team and C-suite.
Senior Executive Media: As the vice president of global inclusion at Unqork, what measures have you taken to build an inclusive culture?
Netta Jenkins: The first step was making sure there were policies and benefits instituted that focus on folks from marginalized backgrounds and that support [employees] who are caregivers, those who are veterans, and those who are a part of the LGBTQ+ community. Then, working alongside the people team to retool some of those policies, like reimbursement policies.
Earlier in my career, I was working for an organization at a senior level and I had to travel for work. They said, ‘We’ll reimburse you,’ but the problem was I did not have the funds to even cover it. It was very awkward for me, and I had to push myself to share [my personal] business. That experience is still top of mind… Unqork uses a system called Teampay where employees can preload virtual credit cards so they do not have to cover purchases with their own money. We also use a tool called Liquid in the event someone does need reimbursement after a purchase. All employees also get a $2,000 stipend each year to use on anything they need.
Then, I dived into implementing employee resource strategy groups (ERSGs). We now have nine employee resource strategy groups with three leaders each. They are compensated for their efforts [$1,300 per leader, per year], ensuring they received a budget per group [$5,000 per year], and also making sure I had developed roadmaps for them. That way, they were able to implement the things they were working on and the impact they were looking for. We also created an allyship program and a women’s program, so there are a lot of programs that were instituted.
We had a free tech program as well that brought in folks that didn’t really have an extensive technical background but were interested. We had them go through our boot camp for [six] weeks and after the boot camp, they were guaranteed a full-time opportunity if they passed a course. We were also compensating them [$625 a week] while they were in the boot camp as well. We wanted to make sure that it was an equitable process… Then they were guaranteed an opportunity once they passed, which was cool to see. We still have people within the organization that went through that program.
Senior Executive Media: How do you measure inclusiveness at Unqork?
Netta Jenkins: I measure [inclusiveness] through my new company, Aerodei, and there are two parts to the platform. It’s really cool because it’s a gamified tool that measures the DEI employee effort throughout the organization — meaning, every single employee has a [DEI] goal…they need to accomplish. With that one goal, we’re giving specific steps that the employee needs to take because we’ve tested what works, what hasn’t worked. Due to that, we’re able to really measure the impact, but also employees are able to see the results of their efforts…
There can be a number of people within the organization working on that same goal. Organically, what’s going to happen is, depending on the goal, you may see an organic increase in representation of a specific population of people. You may see higher retention rates; it could be higher growth and development. It could even be profitability for a business, so there’s that piece of it.
The other side is there are a lot of ATS (application tracking systems). I want to say almost all ATS systems don’t really provide a psychologically safe space for people to self-disclose or identify. With Aerodei, we have accurate demographic data because people have the ability to self-identify, and it’s really robust. It’s not just, OK, you are part of the LGBTQ community, now you’re in that bucket, click on that. Now, [the platform asks]: ‘Do you identify [specifically] as lesbian, gay, transgender, transsexual’ — whatever the case may be.
What was really striking within Unqork that we had identified when I was testing the prototype is that there was a population of people that said, ‘Hey, we don’t identify as white. The platform was showing us that people wanted to also identify as Middle Eastern, and what we learned is many people that identify as Middle Eastern don’t identify as white. Now there was an opportunity for folks to identify [as Middle Eastern]. When we looked into the ATS system that we use, it didn’t provide people with that option. In fact, the U.S. Census doesn’t even provide people with that data and information.
The other thing that a lot of platforms aren’t showing is who’s a caregiver within the organization… There are so many other breakdowns. If someone has a disability, what type of disability? When we think about two or more races…what does that even mean? It doesn’t show us anything. So within Aerodei, it really breaks it down. Folks can see…we have a certain percentage of indigenous Native Americans also identifying as white or Asian or whatever the case may be. Here’s the breakdown of the representation of the intersectional representation. Are these folks caregivers? If they are, let’s retool our policies. [Aerodei] allows DEI leaders or HR leaders to pull a report; they don’t have to crunch data. It allows all employees to see what’s happening from a demographic standpoint, and here’s how we can do better.
“When I came on board at Unqork, it was really important for me to establish a trusting relationship with Unqork’s CEO. I wanted him to understand DEI, but even more importantly, I wanted to understand him.”
Senior Executive Media: Can you share examples of DEI goals employees have set within Aerodei?
Netta Jenkins: The platform auto-populates for goals, which…gives employees an opportunity to flex their muscles with a goal they haven’t explored. One of the goals may be you have to attend…a free conference focused on the Asian population. What will then happen is the steps come after that. While you’re at the conference, connect with, let’s say, five people. Share your contact information or a recruiter’s contact information, or the link where they can apply to [work at Unqork]. Based on the amount of people that came through that link, then you’re able to see the direct traction from you attending that conference and making those connections. There are about 60 different goals that my team and I have tested for about two years.
I will say Gary Hoberman [Unqork’s CEO] was one of the first people who selected his goal for the year…it shows the level of executive buy-in that we have within the organization… His goal was under branding and engagement.
Senior Executive Media: You mentioned working with the human resources team to retool Unqork’s policies and make them more inclusive. Why is it important to have a collaborative relationship between the DEI and HR teams?
Netta Jenkins: I think it’s really important for organizations to have DEI as its own department and the people team as its own department, but I think there’s still so much synergy. There’s so much value in DEI and the people team working together because essentially you need data, you need all types of things. If it comes to benefits and you’re wanting to retool, you’re wanting to assess, you have to go right back to the people team. They have all of that information, so I think it’s incredibly important for there to be a level of collaboration, but still having the two as two different departments.
I did an informal poll a year or two ago on my LinkedIn because I wanted to see how people felt about having a people team versus DEI. Folks shared that they see DEI as a kind of advocate center… Not to say the people teams won’t, but I think there’s a fine line and people find security and value [with the DEI team]. It also allows DEI leaders to work directly with…the executive leadership team to bring them in and ensure they’re helping to drive these efforts forward.
Senior Executive Media: How else do you engage the C-suite and ensure they’re committed to DEI?
Netta Jenkins: When I came on board at Unqork, it was really important for me to establish a trusting relationship with Unqork’s CEO. I wanted him to understand DEI, but even more importantly, I wanted to understand him… What hasn’t he learned about DEI? What are some of those insecurities? What would he like to see? Just really getting to know him on a personal level. Because that relationship was developed, it allowed him to advocate for me, to promote the things I was saying, and to trust what I was saying and trust my judgment. Something he’s always done is leaned in, and said ‘OK, if this is the advice that you’re providing, this is what we’re going to move forward with,’ as opposed to second guessing it…having that trusting relationship was really critical. It also allowed him to share the impact of the work that I was doing with other executives, and then they were bought in…so there was a lot of traction there.
All executives have been really committed to this work. Every one of our executives is an executive sponsor of an ERSG, even if they don’t identify, and they rotate per group. They’re learning about barriers that exist. They’re doing some of the work. They’re helping with the roadmaps [which outline expectations and goals for the groups and leaders]. They’re really in the weeds. Then they’re also identifying who individuals are within these ERSGs. What type of work are they doing? How can that relate back to the work they may want to do? How can they move up? There’s been a tremendous amount of amplification within Unqork. The executives don’t want to stop…because now people are getting to know them on an intimate level. [ERSG members] are connecting on a regular [weekly] basis with their executive sponsors. They’re connecting. They’re working together. They’re collaborating, and it helps a lot of these individuals grow.