Operationalizing our DEI values
Ujima Donalson, Assistant Vice President, Total Talent Management

When President Ana Mari Cauce launched the Race & Equity Initiative in 2015, she galvanized many of us to better educate and organize ourselves. In fact, she charged us to take “personal responsibility for the culture of our campus and the institutional challenges we need to address.” Over the past several years, I believe there’s been a sea change in our lexicon and level of awareness across the University. That said, we are hardly at the mountaintop. The need still exists and the work has not stopped; it has evolved.

Across Total Talent Management, we are now turning our attention to operationalizing our diversity, equity and inclusion values, and by that I mean we are looking deep into our practices and systems in order to effect real and lasting change.

Our work over the past year

We were fortunate to get support for a diversity recruiter position from the President’s Office, and I cannot overstate how pivotal this role is and how much work Ebonee Anderson has already accomplished since she was hired this spring. For instance, Ebonee quickly established partnerships with the Office of Minority Affairs & Diversity, Affinity Group leaders and other diversity champions across the UW, as well as with community groups in order to facilitate outreach with underrepresented groups. Ebonee led the effort to add a diversity statement reflecting the UW’s commitment to inclusivity to all UW job postings, and she has developed a template for a candidate evaluation form and revamped the phone screen and interview question templates to help reduce bias and promote inclusivity. This fall, Ebonee has been piloting “roadshows” in which she visits hiring units across campus to discuss DEI strategies and best practices at the unit level.

Starting in 2020, Ebonee will present a 30-minute introduction to diversity, equity and inclusion at the revamped Welcome Day new employee orientation (which you can read more about in this issue). This module will include a video produced by OMA&D in collaboration with POD that welcomes new employees and highlights inclusiveness.

Meanwhile, along with the work Ebonee is doing, the folks in recruiting regularly participate in job fairs that serve under-represented minorities and other populations such as veterans, the maturing workforce and the LGBTQIA community.

In Professional & Organizational Development, we added a Diversity & Inclusion category in our online course catalog to highlight those classes, and we continue to offer new and more advanced offerings in this space. Our newer offerings include Creating an Inclusive Workplace Through Emotional Intelligence and The Erosion of Empathy, and POD’s own Jeff Leinaweaver developed Leadership for a Global Perspective, which is debuting winter quarter.

The Partnership for Organizational Excellence, a supported group within POD that serves academic leaders and units, has developed and delivered a short workshop around bias, and we foresee continued demand for that topic and related training.

Recontextualizing our work

As is often said, context is everything. Just as institutional racism and systemic bias exist, so too can institutions and systems exist that create a context, or environment, that actively combats racism and bias and promotes diversity, equity and inclusion. We are at the precipice of reworking our work and challenging ourselves to take things to this level.

For instance, TTM has an effort under way to review toolkits and other resources to ensure these incorporate a DEI perspective. This impacts work at every level of employee and employment, and affects hiring and selection, as well as employee development and retention. By ensuring that public-facing resources and materials are diverse, we are presenting our values and commitments to potential candidates. Using a DEI lens in our onboarding toolkit and succession planning workshops, for instance, will help ensure that once employees join the UW, they feel welcomed and included and they can see a future for themselves here. That, in short, they stay.

That brings me to another new project we’re working on to improve the employee experience, which is “stay” conversations. These scripts will be part of a toolkit we’re developing to encourage managers to have ongoing dialogue with employees and to look not just at job fit and employee satisfaction but, for example, how much an employee feels like they can bring their whole true self to work or what obstacles to advancement employees might perceive.

Learning in public

One of our external trainers and consultants, Pat Hughes, has written and taught extensively on gracious space and courageous collaboration. One of the concepts that I find particularly compelling is the idea of inviting the stranger in. As Pat has written,

The term ‘stranger’ refers to the ‘other’: an idea, person, or perspective not typically involved in the conversation. This can be an actual person with a different background, perspective, gender, race, job title, education, or any other quality that may make them seem different. The ‘stranger’ can be a set of ideas or simply the future, which is completely unknown and therefore a stranger to all of us.

In many ways, this aptly describes where I see us going. Within UWHR, our internal diversity committee is sponsoring events and activities that educate and inspire yet also challenge us to recognize our own privilege, examine our attitudes and be open to ideas we might not be entirely familiar or comfortable with. This, in turn, is equipping us to become better at our outward-facing work and at incorporating a DEI lens into everything we do, so that it becomes an innate part of our processes rather than an “extra,” an afterthought, or an add-on.

I would like to close with a component that dovetails with inviting the stranger: learning in public. According to Pat, learning in public “means judging less, listening more, and being willing to change your mind.” In TTM, we are actively learning in public with the work that we’re collaborating on within UWHR and with our partners across the UW. Moreover, through Ebonee’s roadshows, POD classes, the Tri-Campus Institute and other activities, we are actively inviting others to learn in public along with us.

Autumn 2019 | Return to Issue Home