PURPOSE, INC.

S2 Ep12 Leading with Equity: The next evolution of DEI in the workplace with Michele Lanza and Glenn E. Singleton of Work Wider.

Transcript

Michael Young:

Welcome to the Purpose, Inc., the podcast where we discuss corporate purpose and stakeholder capitalism. I'm your host, Michael Young.

Michele and Glenn, thank you so much for coming on the podcast.

Michele Lanza:

Thanks for having us.

Glenn Singleton:

Thank you for having us. Yeah. Glad to be here.

Michael Young:

Excellent, excellent. And lots to talk about, lots to get into. But maybe just to kick it off, if you could each give me just your potted bio, professional background, and then I want to get into what you do and why you're doing it, all of which is super interesting.

Glenn Singleton:

Want to kick it off, Michele?

Michele Lanza:

Sure. So my name is Michele Lanza. My pronouns are she/her. And I spent what I like to call a million years at Ketchum Communications which is a global communications consultancy. And I ran global talent acquisition and retention strategies and was a key partner in their DEI efforts. And I made the bold, hopefully super smart decision to leave in June to focus on Work Wider. That is my story. Glenn?

Glenn Singleton:

Hey. Well, I am Glenn Singleton. My pronouns are he and him. And I decided about 30 years ago, Michael, that I wanted to address the issue of racial inequity, the lack of racial diversity and the lack of racial inclusion first in the education space and then wherever it would take me. And 30 years later, we are doing that work across the United States across a variety of industries and various strategic points around the world including Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Canada.

Michael Young:

Fantastic. And if you would talk about your collaboration together at Work Wider and let's just get into what the company does and what was missing in the marketplace that had you start Work Wider.

Michele Lanza:

Yeah. So Work Wider is a full career, professional community which brings together the workforce needed by the workplaces of today, and we are for underrepresented talent which means BIPOC, LGBTQ+, people with disabilities, neurodifference, veterans, women, and 50 plus. And we started Work Wider about three and a half years ago and officially launched in January of 2020 which was a super interesting time to launch a business like this. And honestly, Glenn and I were in discussions for what feels like a very long time before we made our partnership official. And I think I won't speak for Glenn, I'll let him chime in, but I think part of the reason that there was an attraction to have Work Wider and have Glenn be a part of it is because of the 30 years of work that he was doing. I say that you can't recruit your way out of the diversity challenge of having underrepresented people represented in companies, and the work that Glenn's doing in Courageous Conversations is really the important work to make sure companies are building cultures of inclusion so that when they go to hire through Work Wider, they can hire people of underrepresented communities into companies that are actually building inclusive communities or cultures rather. Glenn, do you want to chime in on that?

Glenn Singleton:

Yeah. I think the piece that is so important for me that you mentioned was how long we spent just getting to know each other and to understand our purpose beneath the work of Work Wider. And so I remember the conversation, the initial conversation. Michele was introduced to me by our client who is running a major advertising agency and also who is a Work Wider partner. And he indicated that Michele had this vision of creating this workplace but creating an opportunity for people who would populate this workplace that my work was so focused on. In every organization across all industries, it is this conversation about how we have the most inclusive space and how we actually inspire and invite people from all walks of life to bring their absolute best, to bring their wholeness, and to offer those gifts. And so Work Wider is just that. And there's this place in my work that I am helping organizations to create this kind of environment, and there is this place in my life called Work Wider where we are actually helping everybody to find a community where they are valued and in that community, to find organizations, companies, businesses, school districts that really see their value and want to be those environments. And so it was a match after we discovered our aligned purpose, and it's been an exciting journey ever since.

Michael Young:

Fantastic. And Michele, you mentioned not being able to recruit your way to a better representation. I just would love both of your thoughts on how do you create that new space within a workplace and how do you think about the evolution of DEI for organizations broadly? And just would love to hear about some of that from both of you.

Glenn Singleton:

Sure. We are actually evolving that definition in the organization that we're building. Work Wider is a place that is first and foremost thinking about the more complex issues of equity. The population is already diverse. The people are already there. It's just that the organizations aren't yet prepared for the people. And so this whole idea of even removing the pressure on diversity and thus, the diverse hire as it was called and having organizations really look within to see why it is that predictable populations, people of color, people over 40, over 50, women, non-gender binary people, it really is a question that organizations can answer. And it's not really appropriate in my mind to keep bringing people into organizations that we know have not yet prepared themselves, that hold a kind of toxicity that creates stress and trauma for these predictable populations. And so we are really working to be a place where organizations are able to have a guided introspection and able to be acquainted with important tools and ways to do this kind of assessment, do this kind of development. On the other side, we’re really interested in creating a community where this very valuable resource that we have, all of these incredibly diverse people can come together and build those skills and find places that are interested in the skills and talents and perspectives that they bring and make that match. And that's what is different about Work Wider I think. That's what is also very different about the approach that Michele and I share in terms of the more traditional DEI space. The EDI space is really about a deeper transformation of the organization as well as being able to make sure that that organization looks like the world in which it sits.

Michele Lanza:

Yeah. And I think just to build on that, the reason I said you can't recruit your way out of this because you can hire a whole bunch of people from underrepresented communities, but if you haven't done the work as an organization to create the infrastructure, the culture to be able to make them want to stay, it’s not going to matter. It's really why we are putting so much emphasis on not every company is on Work Wider because every company on there has signed. They agreed to the Work Wider pledge, meaning that they are on the journey. Now this is a marathon. There's no company no matter how much money they're spending on this that has like solved this. But every company on Work Wider has to be on the journey to creating a culture of inclusion,. And that's I think the key difference of Work Wider and why people that are looking for jobs or people that are just looking for a community come to Work Wider because for the first time on a platform, candidates can be assured that they're actually engaging with companies that are doing the work.

Michael Young:

That's great. And yeah, Glenn, I heard you meant put EDI in that order. Is that how you think about it? And then I also wanted some thoughts about inclusion because another guest I had on talked about, a similar point but from a different perspective. This was actually in board representation we were talking about this topic. And we said there's really no point in hiring diverse candidates if you're not going to truly include them and give them a portfolio and then ultimately take the recommendations that they make. So I don't want to sort of go around which order these letters need to be in. But I would like you just to further unpack how, because I take the point really strongly here today about the world is already diverse, right? There's no question right there. You just look around. And so then one has to look in the mirror and say, okay, well, what kind of organization would we be if we were to attract that broader workforce? But just a few more minutes on that. And then maybe just sort of transition over to where are companies sort of getting it right and getting it wrong as they go through this journey.

Glenn Singleton:

Sure. Well, Courageous Conversation has been around for, it'll be three decades next year. And so I thought that it was appropriate, and it’s also timely that we call attention to and ask for a kind of moratorium on experimenting on people of color, experimenting on women, experimenting on LGBTQ people in the workplace. We know that the workplaces as they are today were not designed to welcome these groups of people. And so an easy assessment inside that organization at pay structures, an easy assessment inside to look at how policies that govern time off and even the new policies that are going to speak to where people can do their work and this work at home aspect. These are important cues to organizations to become more inclusive environments, to become more equitable environments. And so before we continue to operate in that mindset of canary in the mine, we should really just step back and cause some organizations to do some deep transformation before they launch into real spectacular recruitment efforts to diversify their workforce. And we've seen this as quite a positive. This is what the Work Wider pledge is about. It’s not that the organization overnight is going to become equitable, but they have to be on that journey and that journey has to be more than a performative statement. And so that's why we are pushing the equity piece first, not just to change the letters or create an alphabet soup but to really emphasize that diversity is not hard to attract when the environment is equitable and diversity is not hard to maintain and sustain and promote when we have these predictable and intentional aspects of inclusivity as a part of the culture. The good side of that, we see that because this work has been going on for so long. We are able to bring to this Work Wider environment some best practices if you will of what that looks like. And so organizations are going to have to look to talent much broader than the specific lane of their work. Both Michele and I have a lot of interest experience and love for the advertising industry, and this is a place where creatives flourish. But the definition of who is creative and what does creativity look like has been so narrow. And so when we broaden that definition and when we look to fields adjacent to the advertising industry, we find a much bigger sample of people that can come in and really make great contributions. Also, not just looking at the pipeline but really looking at the top of organizations. To be an executive in a specific industry doesn't mean that you've needed to climb the ranks in that industry. And so finding people with managerial experience who are culturally responsive who know how to supervise and support people of color, to support women to move higher in the ranks, these are people that we need to be looking for. And so we're going to help our partners to broaden that understanding and to reach a bit further than perhaps they've been comfortable reaching. And we're going to help our members to be more discerning, to come to the interview with specific questions that organizations need to be able to answer to ensure that there's a pathway in that organization, that they're just not going to go there and sort of fester with their talent.

Michele Lanza:

To add onto what Glenn said, we were very intentional with Work Wider and made it industry agnostic because I think one of the challenges that, to pick on the advertising and PR industry for a minute, is that there's been this notion of we can't find them. But part of that challenge, part of the reason why is because we keep fishing in the same pond versus what Glenn was saying is looking at outside and what are transferable skills that someone might bring to advertising and PR and what are some of their other lived experiences that actually make them a different candidate but no less important or actually needed into the organization. Because you need to bring different thinking, you need to bring different backgrounds and different experiences. And until we start fishing in other ponds and looking at other skills and weighting skills differently, we're going to keep asking ourselves this question as an industry of why can't we just be more diverse.

Michael Young:

Yeah. Well, and if it's okay with you, I have no problem picking on the PR industry as you know.

Glenn Singleton:

Let them defend themselves.

Michael Young:

That’s exactly right. That's exactly right. They can take it.

Michele Lanza:

I mean all industries have the same challenge, but that one in particular, the amount of underrepresented people that are saying, I'm going to get into PR or advertising. So we have an entry level problem. We need to get more people excited about the industry. But then to Glenn's point, we also need to look at mid to senior level people. What are the adjacent industries we might want to tap into and what are the skills that we're going to need to train someone on to make them successful? But what are the things that they bring that outweigh somebody with a more traditional background?

Michael Young:

Yeah. Well, and cognitive diversity is an immediate byproduct of that because I think, and again, having grown up in PR myself, an agency myself, I know there's that fallback comment that we make, well, they don't have agency experience, right? That's this hideous safe word if you will that needs to be abolished, and I'm pretty adamant about not just looking for people with agency experience. Yes, it's great, but it's going to lead to the same outcomes. And I think we're seeing that and we're learning that.

Glenn Singleton:

It's fascinating because I have this lifestyle, this work that allows me to spend a great deal of time in a variety of industry settings. And I spent very little time working in advertising. I spent some time working as a professor in higher education. But when I'm in the banking industry, when I'm in the healthcare industry, I know I can't be a doctor and that's really a very specific set of skills and knowledge and training. But I work with a lot of people in human resources and in marketing inside these organizations, and I know that I could step in and learn those jobs. And that's not my specific background. And I also know that I have a whole host of friends and family members and acquaintances that are not in those specific lines of work but have these translatable skills, this ability, this intelligence, this sort of cultural proficiency if you will to step into a variety of industries. And so I think we need to break loose of this idea that you have to sort of pay your dues and climb the ranks and all of that kind of stuff. That is such an antiquated way of thinking about talent and talent development. And so I think the harder question, which is what I pose to our clients and what we're posing to our partners, is do you have the management capabilities, do you have the supervisory capabilities to show a person who is not of your demographic, be it your gender, your race, your sexual orientation, your religion, your perspective, do you have the capabilities to really coach and develop that person to move from one step on the ladder to the next? And that's where organizations tend to fall down. It's not that the talent is not there. It's that the ability to cultivate and develop that talent is sorely missing across industries in the workplaces today.

Michael Young:

Yeah. That's a really a really good point about you've got to change as a manager, you've got to think differently as your team doesn't look like you, doesn't come from the same backgrounds, etc. It is a more challenging approach. And I think there's this other sort of hideous fallback which is cultural fit, which my blood boils. And look, I grew up in a house, Michele knows which one, where culture, this was just code for we don't want to try to make, we don't want to change to make this person feel comfortable, right? And it wasn't just so-called diverse candidates or even minorities. It was simply anybody that just didn't fit this very antiquated mold of well, they came up, they came through the ranks just like I did. And I do think there is, at least well in our organization and a lot of the people I talk to, I think people have finally gotten it, that that's just the road to reifying the status quo. But I really think that some of this cultural fit or some of these things are just, it's just weak management and weaker leadership.

Glenn Singleton:

There you go.

Michael Young:

Yeah.

Glenn Singleton:

That's it.

Michele Lanza:

Yeah. That is literally code for they are not like me.

Michael Young:

That's it, that's it. Yeah.

Michele Lanza:

And why would you want to hire someone just like you? Because you already have you on the team. So the coaching that we give is like every hire you make should be a cultural ad. You should be shifting and evolving your culture because honestly, that's what our clients, that's what clients are asking for is different thinking. So if you keep hiring a cultural fit, you're not satisfying that need that your client is asking for.

Michael Young:

Well, and I do think that things have at least in a small measure moved. And what I'm seeing and what I focus on with clients and the same advice of clients on any topic is we need to sort of collapse the say and the do. And what are you seeing in terms of, because I agree with you, Glenn. Yes, it's a journey and we are going to make a pledge, but there has to be action put against that pledge in the now. It's not the net zero pledge to take another example. We're going to be net zero by 2070. Well, nobody here will be around but be that as it may. So I think that's one thing that I'd love some thinking around is how do you drive accountability for change on this particular area and what are you seeing? I don't know if you either of you know Mellody Hobson. I'm a huge fanboy of hers. She's the chairman of Starbucks among many other huge accomplishments. But she said, look, we're going to tie executive comp to the achievement of not just S in ESG, the DEI dimension, but environmental social and governance. So what are you advising clients about in terms of okay, how do we make this accountable and actionable?

Glenn Singleton:

I'm a big fan of Mellody’s as well. And I think that the importance of placing these critical values where compensation sits, where evaluation sits is important. And in fact, it's essential. But it still steps over the point that the business schools of yesterday at least did not prepare people to manage and lead the organizations that we need right now. And so to continue to hold people accountable but yet not equip them with the skills and give them the tools to do the work that they need to do is still going to end this up in 2070 or 2050 or next year, still not approaching the targets in a way that that makes us feel good, that makes us feel like this is critical. And so what I believe is, and in running a business for the past 30 years, business development is key. And so when I look at the calendars of my staff and I look at how much time has been contributed to business development, then I have an indication of where we're going to be down the road. But just because business development is on the calendar doesn't mean that it's being done efficiently and effectively. And so what is it that I need to put in place in the organization to help people to really be able to do this development in an extraordinary way? I need to tie the EDI aspect to what already is valued in the organization that we can pinpoint and say this is the marker. So business development or we just think of the issues that are critical, that are on the calendars of the C-suite, right? And we don't want to put a separate marker for EDI. We want EDI integrated into the important values that are already embraced. And so how does EDI show up in your business development as an example, right? And what tools are you using and what tools can we actually give now to really bolster and fortify that? That's how we're working with our partners and that's how we want the Work Wider partners to benefit from being a part of this particular movement that we have going now.

Michael Young:

Fantastic. We're going to have to leave it there. That was 30 minutes that went by in the blink of an eye. Like I can't believe we just barely scraped the surface. But any closing thoughts?

Glenn Singleton:

I have one closing thought and I hope a lot of folks hear this. And that is we have been asking for this Work Wider community for quite some time and for everyone out there who is a part of one of those constituencies that Michele mentioned up front, and we all know who we are, right? This is the place finally for us to convene and for us to be recognized and to be exposed to the kind of workplace that we have been demanding. And for all of the companies out there and the school districts and the healthcare systems that really believe that they are more than performative in their desire to diversify, to create equitable and inclusive environments, Work Wider is the place where not only you can come and find that talent pool but you can come and find a source of development, both in terms of what we can provide to help you move forward with that pledge and also the audience, the community of other organizations working to do the same thing. And so I'm just calling out to everyone to join us because this movement is the right movement for today.

Michael Young:

Fantastic. Glenn, Michele, thank you both for coming on the podcast.

Michele Lanza:

Thanks for having us.

Glenn Singleton:

Glad to be here. Thank you.

Conclusion:

The Purpose, Inc. Podcast is a production of Actual Agency, helping innovators communicate in a changing world. More at www.Actual.Agency.