DEI. We are all talking about it. Or we should be. At OpenTent, we are making efforts in this area a priority. But for real, not just in words or a drawn up plan no one looks at.
We want anyone to feel empowered to focus on equity in our workplace, so we revitalized a taskforce we had created a year ago and gave it better wings for flying.
It's called the Equity Function Team (EFT) and it's our best attempt at bringing awareness, effort, and transparency to our company's Anti-Racism Plan. The team is made up of 5 teammates and a DEI consultant the company has been working with over the past year. Everyone on the team asked to be there and our COO, Sara, is also a member and representative of Leadership.
In the past, the policy stated that someone needed to be at OpenTent for 6 months before they could join. That had its place (needing to understand the company and climate first) but with further exploration, we realized it would be better to empower folks who had excitement and adrenaline to work on these initiatives at the moment they felt motivated.
Because we know from past experience that great ideas and initiatives can get lost during busy seasons, we have put a few things in place to ensure the EFT can be successful.
This component is huge. The team shares every week at an all-hands meeting ensuring that
the greater team holds them accountable in sharing out and moving the work forward. During these meeting shares, the EFT shares meeting updates, DEI resources relevant to the week, and asks for feedback from teammates.
A few other ways the EFT has increased transparency include:
- They are re-launching a team survey where teammates can share candidly how they feel on a day to day basis and about committing to the anti-racism plan.
- They did a robust session during the recent retreat to talk about and shape, impact and future of the company's DEI mission statement.
- An active #talk-dei Slack channel is open to all staff to share stories, resources, concerns and celebrations for things internal and external.
Overall, the more structures in place to allow for transparency, the closer we get to our goals.
The team started with a 2 hour monthly meeting and quickly realized that wasn't creating the momentum they wanted - progress felt too slow. So, they moved to bi-weekly hour long meetings for the remainder of the year. The more frequent/regular meetings are an increased investment for the company and everyone has experienced the impact.
You can't get where you want to go without a roadmap. OpenTent is a big fan of creating and measuring Objectives and Key Results (OKRs), a goal setting framework to define measurable goals and track their outcomes. The EFT is no exception. Using a visual planning board, the team started off in September letting each person talk about what they wanted to contribute and what impact the EFT should have on teammates and the company as a whole.
To that end, there is a company spreadsheet outlining multicultural holidays so that the EFT can bring awareness to days not always celebrated and provide an action that is low lift but still has an impact (like reading/learning more through resources, providing ways to celebrate or support artists related to the holiday, or showcasing events that might be happening locally).
There is also a detailed list in our HR app GURU of days the company recognizes as days off (paid time away from work) or days on (time when the office closes and the team gets together for planning, learning and team building)
Most importantly with all of these plans, having action items for teammates to engage with is KEY.
Leadership & Teammate Buy-in
For most company initiatives to be successful, there has to be buy-in from the leadership level and the company as a whole. In our case, everyone in leadership is in full support and agreement and the motto is "let us know what you need!" Members of the EFT feel supported in asking for help from leadership and spending work time in meetings, sharing with the larger group, and furthering the action items.
Even more encouraging is that our COO, Sara Habib, is a member of the Equity Function Team. Though the EFT values having no hierarchical structure while working together, Sara is able to act as a representative and bring ideas and questions to the greater leadership team to ensure faster decision making timelines. During the recent team retreat, our founder & CEO, Sam Adiv, co-led the intro and conclusion to the DEI section of retreat, jumping into that role with little notice and a lot of enthusiasm.
The EFT members are also building a calendar of events and conferences that teammates can attend to keep themselves inspired and engaged in the larger community conversation.
A few other ways teammates have been involved:
- At the retreat, everyone at the company actively participated in group discussions and posted sticky notes sharing their thoughts about DEI related prompts.
- We also shared about ourselves in small groups through an activity called the Story of Now, Me and Us
- Each week when the EFT shares out at the all-staff meeting, the EFT makes a point to encourage the team to take action on issues that matter to them and share out with the company in our dedicated slack channel
- Participating in the #talk-dei Slack channel discussing internal conversations, policies and celebrations as well as external current events and resources.
Leading and managing these components as the EFT lead, is our Senior Project Manager, Linnaia McKenzie. As a person of color navigating professional landscapes over the past several years, she has had her share of good and not so great work cultures. She is founder and president of a nonprofit in her hometown, Advocacy and Awareness Group of Johnson County (AAGJC), which 'advocates for underrepresented groups in Johnson County by bringing awareness to their value in our community, organizing events centered around diversity, and educating all people about what the definition of social justice truly means.'
Linnaia is an amazing person to champion and organize our DEI efforts. She believes that "OpenTent can be that company that really has an impact on the DEI space and technology. We might be doing some things that other companies aren't doing and we want to be able to share (working out loud!) how we identified and overcame challenges as the Equity Function Team."
Here's to keeping our DEI mission and Anti-racisim plan off the shelf. We are thankful and proud of all our dedicated Equity Function Team members and their consistent work calling us to action and change.
To learn more about OpenTent's way of Working Out Loud, get in touch here!
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