In episode 36 of Mission: Impact, Carol, her guest, Anne Hilb discuss:
Anne Hilb, MSOD is a community and culture architect, an expert at conflict resolution, and a champion of restorative and racial justice practices. As a community and culture architect, she partners with managers, executives, and front-line employees to repair conflict and restore trust so they can succeed and organizations can thrive. Her approach to this work is unique due to her blend of a decade of hands-on experience with more than a half-dozen degrees and certifications. Anne harnesses the power of circle and uses her deep listening skills to help build healthy workplaces. She develops deeply connected people and communities by leading with authenticity, transparency, curiosity, and care. Her work is centered around building confidence and accountability while mitigating blame, shame and guilt. When not repairing harm, working through conflict, and restoring trust, she can be found searching out the best taco, hosting circles, and spending time in nature.
Important Links and Resources:Transcript:
Carol Hamilton: My guest today on Mission Impact is Anne Hilb. Anne is a community and culture architect, an expert at conflict resolution, and a champion of restorative and racial justice practices. Anne and I talk about why so often people wait too long to deal with a conflict or have someone help out or mediate. Why a first step to resolving a conflict is to define what the conflict is actually about and whether the parties are in agreement about that and why organizational culture is dictated by the worst behavior we allow.
Mission Impact is the podcast for progressive nonprofit leaders who want to build a better world without becoming a martyr to the cause. I’m Carol Hamilton, your podcast host and nonprofit strategic planning consultant. On this podcast we explore how to make your organization more effective and innovative. We dig into how to build organizational cultures where your work in the world is aligned with how you work together as staff, board members and volunteers. All for this is for the purpose of creating greater mission impact.
Anne, welcome to the podcast. I like to start each conversation with the question of what drew you to the work that you do, what motivates you and what would you describe as your why?
Anne Hilb: Yeah, so, I was drawn into this work from a lot of different points of entry. I think my own experience of belonging or not belonging in probably more cases and wanting to promote healthy dialogue and use my skill set to create safe environments for folks is really my why. Because in a lot of ways I didn't feel like I saw that. And in a lot of ways, I also feel like or experience that rather. And in a lot of ways, I just feel like it's the best use of the gifts that I have from. Childhood and also from developing those through educational experiences, life experiences.
Carol: You often work with groups where there's a lot of conflict going on. Can, can you set the stage of what that might look like or a typical scenario that you might be walking into?
Anne: Sure. A couple of different sorts of groupings of those scenarios. And so conflict work is definitely my area of expertise, but I do, I do a lot of different work but in the conflict realm in particular, I'd say there's a couple of buckets, so it's usually. An incident, an incident of harm. Most often sexual harm I would say is what I get called into the oftentimes racial or sexual, but usually sexual harm these days. Two founders fighting or two or more founders fighting or senior, the senior level leaders and the mid level. Leaders fighting or having some big incident or just in general, poor culture or the senior level leaders or the leader not, not doing well with the rest of the organization. So again, those are sort of the three buckets. I'll give them a more specific one example. So Well, let's say that the founders are not doing well. And they call me in because they, for whatever reason, have reached a point of no return and they're deciding how we can continue? Right. Like, do we shut down? Do we buy each other out? It's just, it's no longer sustainable now it's affecting their home lives. It's really, really affecting their employees because they're screaming at each other. Or maybe they have decided to take a temporary close if they're a business that's a product business or like a restaurant or something. So they call me and depending upon the service, right? Because I offer different ones, they might need a mediation. They might need to come in and consult. They might even need to come in and do a circle for them. And so I'll come in and I'll work with them to work through what's going on.
Carol: For those mediations. What are some of the steps that you typically take to I don't know, bring the temperature down, I guess, between the two folks who are in
Anne: conflict. Yeah. So if it's a mediation, right, I'm going to do pre-work and talk to everyone first to find out what's going on the same way you would in any of the work that we do and find out. What success looks like ultimately, and really find out what the different perspectives are because one person might be thinking something's totally different than what the other person is, and they might be experiencing it totally differently. And also. What's really bothering one person might be completely different than the main thing that the other person wants to tackle is. And so one of the main things in conflict that's really important is to land on what the conflict is about. So, you can all be working on the same thing at the same time.
Carol: Yeah, it's interesting. I was on a board where we had a conflict between the two leaders of the staff leaders of the organization. It happened to also be a faith community where they went to mediation a number of times. And by the time climate got to us as the board, once we heard both sides of the story, if you will, it was almost. We couldn't find that common ground of figuring out the kernel or each person saw the situation so differently and described it so differently. It was hesitant, being in different countries, speaking different languages on different planets. It was, so it wasn't one where, where we ended up, the folks ended up staying ultimately over time. But one where we could find a good resolution. I felt like in that situation, we only have bad choices to make, but that was just interesting to just hear they are so far apart in terms of how they're seeing this situation. It was really hard to find that common ground.
Anne: Yeah, that's unfortunate. I think oftentimes folks wait and it's anything where we talk about preventative work, right? Like we, I mean, just last week I had a new computer installed. Right. And I'm thinking to myself, I'm talking to my tech person. I'm saying, this is really necessary. Like I, my computer works fine right now. And we're installing antivirus software on my new computer and I bought a new computer. Right. And I'm like, but this seems like a really expensive thing to invest in. And I know of course that I need to do that, but because I can't see it, it doesn't feel like it's necessary yet, but it, but I know that just because you can't see the embers of a fire that's burning in the wall. Doesn't mean that it's not possible to have a fire burning low and people wait until the flames are bursting through the wall to take care of it. And I think that's the issue sometimes with something like conflict is people wait until the whole building is on fire.
Carol: And another, another situation that you described or one where there is sexual harm, I'm assuming sexual harassment or racial harm. What steps would you take in entering an organization where that type of thing has been going on perhaps for a while, or perhaps it's part of the culture. Certainly we're seeing a lot of that in the news these days. But I'm curious how you approach it.
Anne: Yeah. Delicately definitely with Vanessa. Yeah, so I think I would say I approach every conversation and every client by asking a lot of questions. Right. So with sexual harm or racial harm but I'll start with sexual harm, I think Aye, try and find out more about the feelings and the facts more than anything, right? I mean, the facts are important and it's important to find out more about first, like what happened here and it's usually more about what's residual than it is about what happened in the first place. Because first and foremost, when I'm coming in, unfortunately it's usually after things have burned. Ideally folks would bring me in before that has happened to support a healthy culture. And unfortunately I usually get called in after the fact. So when that happens, I'm coming in and I'm Working usually with HR and the founders or the CEO. And typically when it's sexual harm, it happens to you more of the women in the workplace. And there has been someone who's caused harm. So we will. Group, group people into like, what assess, okay. What harm do you think has occurred and try and do some understanding of what's happening to those who feel that. They have been harmed. So oftentimes in organizations, there is a lack of understanding around sexism and toxic masculinity. So how do you group folks up so that they can speak in a way, the same way that when you do white cops, and caucuses for people of color and give them a safe space to talk about the culture of the organization. Right? Sometimes the harm has occurred in a different way where maybe the culture is such that it feels out of alignment, right? So conflict is a clash of ideas. And it's also to me when there's a lack of alignment, so. In organization development speed, right? A lack of alignment leads to difficulties, right? If there's misunderstanding or miscommunication, we know that something in the organization has gone amiss. And that means that we're saying that we have these values, we have these espoused values and we're not practicing those values in action. And that's going to lead to conflict because. We're saying one thing and we're doing another, were hanging up values on the wall and we're running around and living these other values or we're on zoom and we're, saying something or doing something that we can get away with because people don't know how to call us out on it in a virtual room, the same way that we can. We've with our physical bodies folks don't know, oh, I can leave this virtual space in the same way, because a lot of it is new. And so when that happens in a place where there's harm created with sexual violence, like let's say a leader. Creates an instance of sexual harassment and they're covered by the firm's lawyer. And now the leader leaves or gets pushed out. But the firm's lawyer is still there, which is why I've had this incident happen many times. And then there's all this animosity towards the lawyer because he's doing his job and also. Folks feel like, well, why are they still here once that all comes to light? So then you have this schism in what the firm says they stand for, especially if they're an organization that says it supports a women's issue. Right. So how do you then look at smoothing over the, the. Lack of alignment in a way that you haven't technically broken policy, but you have broken the, the values or the espoused values of the organization. So, that's an instance where you're going to have to work with folks in a way that gives them bullets. And those back to the foundation of what do we stand for? What's our mission and how do our policies, our processes and what we say we want to do line up. I don't know if that answered what you were asking.
Carol: Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. And I, I heard I'm not, I'm going to have to look up who it was that said this, because I, I heard this person at a conference, but they talked about how they saw things like sexual harassment as a, as a symptom of an unhealthy culture, rather than you know central. I don't know, it was just interesting to me. I don't know if, I don't want to put a bigger and lower thing, but it was interesting to me how they talked about it, as that's the worst manifestation or some of the worst manifestations of a really unhealthy culture, but what's underneath it. Is that, that culture, I'm curious to know your perspectives on that.
Anne: Yeah, I. I think it's an and also I think that culture is dictated by the worst behavior we allow. So, when we see one person, I heard on a podcast, the analogy of this, that in society, when we allow someone to litter, right? Like. And we don't call it in, then all of a sudden society becomes full of trash, right? Like it's very quick. I mean, like I leave a piece of trash in my car one day. This happens to me all the time. Right. If I take my piece of trash with me when I leave my vehicle, Then I'm pretty good about continuing that behavior. But as soon as I leave a water bottle, after I go golfing in my car, you can be sure that I have five water bottles in my car. Right. So very quickly that that behavior continues. And so as soon as we allow any pad behavior to occur, Then many bad behaviors accrue. And as soon as we disallow bad behavior and we say, no, that we don't have that here. Others are witness to that. And they realize, oh, we don't allow that here. Right. And so I really think with your question about sexual harassment, right? Like if you nip it in the bud, then. People know what the expectation is. And I think that there's a lot of debates about hiring for culture and all these things. And sexual harassment is one that's probably, and sexual harm is probably one that's very complex and nuanced to get into because. A person who will do something like that. There's a lot of complexities with that person. And we could get into all of those things. And at the same time, the cultural component of that is as soon as something that's inappropriate happens, it's absolutely imperative to. Say we do not allow that here. There's not going to be tolerance for that. That being said, there's a very big component of how we handle harm in this culture? Right? So condemning the deed and not the person and separating those, separating those things out. And The way that you handle a bad act versus a bad actor is also going to be something that's important and says a lot about your culture.
Carol: Yeah. And when someone's caused harm, one of the things that folks want often as an apology and we've seen again, I think in the news instances of really poor apology is what would you say goes into making a good apology that could actually move towards some resolution?
Anne: That's a great question. I think a good apology has three parts. A good apology says, I'm sorry. I take responsibility for that and here's what I'm going to do going forward. And here's what I essentially like learned from it and how I'm gonna use this as a learning example. Most people tend to miss it. One part of the apology or when they say, I'm sorry, there's lots of different ways to say, I'm sorry. Like I'm sorry. You feel that way is putting the responsibility back on the person or, I'm sorry, but, or I'm sorry. And here's what's happening, like, and trying to excuse the behavior of the defendant, you know. I won't go on. I'll just answer your question.
Carol: Yeah. I love it. Cause I think, yeah, any, any one of those missing and it's so easy, right? You can be in a conversation. When you are trying to say, you're sorry, did you actually see those for like going forward backtracking? But yeah, so I'm sorry. Plus the plus the taking responsibility, but I appreciate the third one, which is, what am I learned about it and what, how will I do things differently? Moving forward based on that.
Anne: Yeah. And that is, I will say from experience, incredibly hard to do. Don't feel as much remorse in the moment as you might want to. Like, I apologize this week I was on vacation with my family. I apologize to my sister or something. And it was incredibly hard for me to do that part when I didn't feel some frustration towards my sister at that moment. Because I didn't want to say that part. Right then. And so there's a lot of timing involved and apologies, I would say as well. And in a workplace scenario sometimes if you are, if there's pressure on you to apologize because of the HR aspect or the public relations aspect or whatever's going on. You can really make things worse. If the person is put under duress to a pod,
Carol: And it's interesting. I'm thinking of the timing and it takes a little bit, a little bit of time and reflection to know what you've learned and how you might act differently in the future. And so, you might manage to get the first part of the apology out and half of the second part, in a first go, and then it might take a little while to come back and be able to do it. Do the full thing and let me do, let me do sorry. Take it to try again. Yeah.
Anne: A circle once with, with young children, like kindergarten age and the parent and bought one of the parents involved with trying to force me to have one of the children apologize. And I said, I'm not going to force an apology because an apology, if it's not genuine, means nothing. And young people are often forced to apologize, and that is something that. Is ingrained in us as adults that, oh, well, apologize to your sister. And so an apology then comes to mean very little to us as we age as, as do many things that are rote. So. We say a lot of things and we lose their meaning, like, think about when you bump into someone in the grocery store. Oh, I'm sorry. Right. And so many of these things that are meant to have a great bit of meaning lose their meaning when we do them out of learned behavior.
Carol: Yeah. And one, one thing you, I wanted to follow up on that you talked about before was the instance of, well, maybe the incident didn't quite cross the line in terms of a policy, but there's still a ripple effect in terms of lack of trust or, or diminished trust or how people are working with each other. How, how, how, what are some steps to, to deal with those ripple effects?
Anne: Yeah. I would say, clarifying the role, I think is always a good first step in a lot of these interventions. Right. And helping folks understand. What everyone's role in the organization is to play. Sometimes people aren't going to like that. And it's important to acknowledge that individuals can hold their own feelings and those are important. And also that conflicting feelings can hold without creating a conflict. That presents a fight. So a conflict and a fight are different. And it doesn't need to rise to the level of tension that it did the first time, every time. Then I might say that, when you bring in someone who does what I do, they can help you to understand that not everyone is privy to information every time, while at the same time sharing information is helpful. And the more information you share the better while at the same time, that information is not Always going to be going to mean that everything is an open book for everyone, right? There are different ways to be transparent as leaders. And I think leaders think because something's confidential, that means they can't share information. So I think there are ways to say this is what's going on without sharing the details of it also. So you can say. We are doing X, Y, and Z, and not saying the specifics of X, Y, and Z, and then the employees that are not getting the specific details need to also understand that what was shared is enough and the building of trust can happen in better ways by sharing information transparently. But the expectation of transparency also needs to shift. And I think that those are the nuances of shifting culture that happens slowly and also break down that distrust that happens when something like sexual violence in a, in a community does occur.
Carol: I feel like transparency is one of those big words, like communication. Well, if we could just solve our communication issues, if we could just be transparent, everything would be fine. But yeah, I think, and I do think that people see it in an all or nothing context. So it's interesting that you're saying it's more of a continuum.
Anne: Yeah, absolutely. And I do think that that. Need better language around breaking down what their expectations are and the way to ask her what they need and the way to offer it. And when I say asking for what you need, I'm also aware of that. Those who would be doing the asking have much less power in the organization. So, the folks with formal power and titles need to really understand the power over that they have and, and take ownership over that. The understanding of that power, because I think oftentimes we are a manager or in the C-suite, or even just have informal, formal power or hurt in that we are positioned to take power in a manager position purely because of the type of role that we have, because it's a more formal desk job and it can roll into a manager position or because we have Privilege. And we tend not to recognize that. And so working on that, understanding in an organization or just as an individual is really important in order for these shifts to happen.
Carol: And you mentioned that there's a distinction on that. Between fighting and conflict. And for me, I probably use those words interchangeably. How do you see those as different?
Anne: So, like I said, I think conflict is to me, a clash of ideas or lack of alignment. So I see conflict as neutral. When I teach a course on conflict, I will say conflict can be positive, negative, or neutral, right? Like it, I can have a conversation with you where we're in conflict because we. Both are trying to decide where to go to dinner and you want Italian and I want Chinese and we're in conflict, but we're not fighting. And so when we're fighting about it, we're at odds in a way that we're really expending energy, that now we're in a duel, so to speak. And so you want Italian and I want Chinese. Maybe we leave one another angry and you go to Italian alone and I go to Chinese alone and we don't talk to each other for three days. Right. So we are at odds in a way that puts us in a really bad way with one another, as opposed to in the right relationship.
Carol: So it's a question of the intensity and emotions getting caught up in it. And, and I guess in that instance, each person digging in and then somehow taking personal offense and not wanting to speak to the other person over their dinner choices.
Anne: Yeah. And, and, and these aren't like terms that I've looked up in conflict management that I, this is just the way I'm calling it for this conversation. I'd have to go look at, I mean, maybe I know the conflict piece is definitely a neutral pot. conflict is not inherently a negative thing. Haven't looked up the word fight, like I'm, I'm relatively positive. This works
Carol: I mean, it's interesting though. Cause I think you, most people, when they hear the word conflict will assume that it's inherently negative.
Anne: Oh yeah, definitely. And that's the first thing you'll learn in any conflict workshop, every single person who teaches the work will write conflict on the board and say, what does the word conflict mean to you? And you'll hear everyone say all these negative words or draw pictures of dust clouds or fists. And that's like the first teaching of conflict that you'll likely learn in any course.
Carol: Yeah. And I think in our culture and the us in the dominant white culture yeah, we tend to be very conflict averse and tend to be afraid of all of those, all of those pictures that you just mentioned. Certainly doesn't mean the conflict doesn't happen, but with that tendency, how does conflict then show up?
Anne: Yeah. Conflict. Can be creepy and that it creeps in, right. I have a workshop called conflict creeps and to your point, it shows up in very passive, aggressive ways oftentimes. And I think. We often hear the expression elephant in the room because the expectations are not clear. Right. So I talked about lack of alignment. I think that that shows up a lot here. And, I would say that folks are often not seeing the covert ways that conflict shows up. They only see the overt ways that conflict shows up. So if it's not spelled out for them to your point, like in a fight, they think that everything is okay. And that's one of the reasons why I think that right now is such a moment because. I do believe that most people think conflict intentions are so high because they think particularly white, white folks are thinking that the workplace feels and the world or the U.S. I'm talking about the U.S. right now. Their world, I should say, feels like an unsafe place to them because everything is a quote unquote fight. And actually, I think there's a huge opportunity here because if they get it right and have constructive dialogue in a really open way, I think it can actually lead to less harm and less conflict then we were having before. I just think that way people were missing it because it was going on in a lot of ways, without their knowledge.
Carol: Yeah. So underneath the surface and covert or those embers in the wall, as you talked about before. So at the end of each episode, I'd like to ask a question where I ask a random icebreaker question. And so what is one family tradition that you would like to carry on to the future?
Anne: Hm, interesting. I think the first thing that comes to mind for whatever reason is that. My parents gave us contracts when we learned to drive like legit contracts, driving contracts made up by a lawyer that we had to sign. That had like 10 things on them. I have it framed behind me. And we had to know how serious something like this was. And I mean, my parents did a lot of weird things and I would like to carry that on for my kids so that they know the seriousness of. Big things. I mean, they did a lot of mile markers, things like that, but I just always thought that was really cool that they took that so seriously and imparted that on us. That, and I just remember the line that said, driving is a. Privilege and, and a responsibility and not a right. And if any of the following are not followed, then this privilege will be revoked.
Carol: Awesome. That's certainly getting really clear about expectations and communicating them very directly. I did some contracts with my daughter at various points along the way. She would remember better than I exactly what they were about. But we have, we did sign them. There were no lawyers involved.
Anne: We had friends that were lawyers.
Carol: I think getting things down on paper and having it clear can really really help lawyers get a bad rap, but in that way of just making it all clear what, what each party is expecting and is really important. Well what are you excited about what's coming up next for you and what's emerging in the work that you're doing.
Anne: Yeah. I'm really looking forward to a community that. I'm advertising for right now. There are some amazing women signing up called the confidence community. This particular one is for white women utilizing DEI in their work. And If you're interested, people are registering. Now, it's going to be amazing. I've been utilizing circle practices in my work for a long time. So really, really looking forward to sharing that with more women identifying folks and I'm Baltimore. I live in Baltimore city and we are working to be the first Equitech city. And There is an amazing entrepreneur community tech community in Baltimore. And they have This incredible group of folks building out this Equitech space. And Techstars is like the BC engine behind it right now. And I'm just really, really excited to be a part of what's happening with that work.
Carol: And can you define that term?
Anne: Aquatech? So the idea is that it's equity meets technology and they're working to put equity at the center of the tech work in Baltimore. So that rather than just doing diversity, equity and inclusion in technology work in Baltimore, they are trying to make it the first. Like a full equity city. And they're trying to be really thoughtful about how they are disrupting that and how they are thinking about the entrepreneurs that are already here. Baltimore is a huge hub because of Hopkins in the biotech sphere. The same way that Silicon valley is for chips. So. Really looking at how they can draw folks here as there's a new opportunity in the tech space because of everything that's been disrupted because of COVID and everyone moving around again. And it's just a really exciting time to see where folks are gonna land.
Carol: Well, thank you so much. It was great having you on.
Anne: Thank you. Great to see you.
Carol: I appreciated how Anne described the impact of an instance of sexual or racial harm – and even when technically a policy or the law has not been broken the trust within the team has been broken. There still is a ripple effect in the organization. Morale is impacted and trust needs to be repaired. As part of this I thought it was interesting how she described the residual feelings about those who were involved with managing the issue – whether it is the lawyer or HR professional or other organizational leaders. While the offender may be gone, trust in those who remain is likely much lower than before and it going to take a process of healing to move through the remaining feelings about what happened. I was struck by Anne’s comment that culture is dictated by the worst behavior we allow. What behavior are you allowing to slide in your organization that may be eroding the trust within your team and your organizational culture?
Thank you for listening to this episode. I really appreciate the time you spend with me and my guests. You can find out how to connect with Anne as well as any links and resources mentioned during the show in the show notes at missionimpactpodcast.com/shownotes. I want to thank Nora Strauss-Riggs for her support in editing and production as well as April Koester of 100 Ninjas for her production support. If you enjoyed this episode, please share it on your favorite social media platform and tag us. We appreciate you helping us get the word out. Thanks again for listening.
In episode 35 of Mission: Impact, Carol, her cohost, Peter Cruz, and their guest, Nathaniel Benjamin discuss diversity, equity and inclusion and its intersection with human capital management. This episode is a release of a podcast Carol planned to start with her son-in-law and has many transferrable ideas and concepts to the nonprofit sector. We talk about:
Nathaniel Benjamin approaches the space of Diversity and Inclusion as not only a profession, but as a passion that’s taken hold of his life’s work. As a graduate of Johns Hopkins University, University of Baltimore and the University of Maryland Eastern Shore, his educational endeavors led him into a marketable career in Human Resources -- working in the C-suite level --managing workforce planning, strategy, policy and talent management. But to “really” understand how an organization works, he later found that you must understand its people… the diversity of those who make an organization thrive. He brings 17 years of experience as an organizational Change Agent and a D&I Strategist, ready to exceed your organizational needs.
Nathaniel Benjamin:Peter J. Cruz:
Carol Hamilton: Today’s episode of Mission Impact is a little different. As with episode 33 where I had on Stephen Graves and Peter Cruz – this is another of the series of interviews I did with Peter on diversity equity and inclusion. I worked on a short project with my son in law Peter Cruz and New family obligations in the form of his son, my grandson and new career directions meant that we just did 5 interviews and 5 episodes. I am going to feature those episodes on my podcast feed. While each of the people that we talk to in this series do not necessarily focus on the nonprofit sector, there is a lot to learn from each conversation. Today Peter and I talk to Nathaniel Benjamin. Nathaniel is a graduate of Johns Hopkins University, University of Baltimore and the University of Maryland Eastern Shore, His career has been in Human Resources -- working in the C-suite level --managing workforce planning, strategy, policy and talent management. With a special focus on diversity equity and inclusion
Mission Impact is the podcast for progressive nonprofit leaders who want to build a better world without becoming a martyr to the cause. I’m Carol Hamilton, your podcast host and nonprofit strategic planning consultant.
Peter Cruz: So this week we have Nate Benjamin. How are you doing Nate? I am. Well, how are you, Peter?
Nathaniel Benjamin: I'm doing well. I'm doing really well. I'm halfway there halfway to feeling very well.
Peter: So for our audience, could you introduce yourself and your professional background?
Nathaniel: Absolutely. So I'm Nate Benjamin. I am, I have been in the industry for about 17 years. worked in the space of human capital as well as inclusion, equity, and diversity. I do small projects with my business Benjamin and associates consulting group. But from a full-time perspective, I am a senior executive for a federal agency.
Peter: The industry that you're talking about is diversity equity inclusion, right. And hence your presence here. I think one, the first question that we want to start off with is, So I've been recently unemployed, due to budgetary cuts as a result of COVID and have been trying to make the switch over to becoming a diversity equity, inclusion professional, and having that be like my main function. but in my search, I found that these roles exist in different departments, whether in the for-profit space, government space or nonprofit space, but mostly they require some human resource experience. So, from your perspective, do you think that DEI strategies and their rollout and that whole part of their infancy belongs or should be responsible for human resources are probably living in different departments.
Nathaniel: Yeah, that's a good question. So I think part of it is, I do think it depends on your organization, right? So, I do think that based on organization, there are times where it should be aligned with your human capital or human resources program, but then depending on the organization, maybe things that are going on, culture as well, there are times where I think that DEI should be aligned directly direct report to your, to your senior leaders, to your CEO or your, your team operating officer, if you will. So I do think that they belong somewhere together. We'll tell you where I don't think it belongs if I can go there. Against it being within the equal employment opportunity space because this organization that is focused, oftentimes in EEO is, is a needed function, but it's very compliance for, and I am very, this is a part of the organization its culture, it's what we're supposed to be doing. And so it impacts your human capital. So you have to be able to take it out of a compliance exercise and put it in a place where it can stand on. and if it's within human capital, it should still be a function that's supporting your overall human capital strategy because diversity is about your people. And it's about the experiences that these people leverage. So for me, if I were to create the perfect organization, your human capital in terms of your processes, then you look at culture, you look at engagement and belonging, and then you look at diversity. And all of those areas together to me is the, the, the strongest framework to create a human capital, centric culture.
Peter: That makes a lot of sense. I think from some of my personal experiences that the human resources staff at an organization is very minimal. and they are responsible for a multitude of different things and to add on diversity equity inclusion on top of that just doesn't seem to work at all. So in, in like, yeah, going backtracking, Is it more of a development and training type of function that they should live just so it promotes that internal exercises and then builds those internal muscles that we should have?
Nathaniel: So, I think there needs to be partnership with your learning and development group. It should live there at all. generally I always look at learning and development as a part still as a subset. I mean, And then if you diversity and inclusion under learning and development, you are devaluing the actual program because you're saying that it belongs under two layers under your human capital strategy. So me, I would want to see either diversity and inclusion equal to your human capital or infused into your human. But to put it lower in the organization, it sets a tone, even if that's not beaten. And then going back to something you said in terms of the human resources, generally being understaffed, which is a common theme across the industry. But if an organization is committed to diversity and inclusion, then they have to be able to. Find the resources, the best support, because DEI should not be an ad hoc responsibility. It should be of your organization. And so when you have your, whatever, your mission is, your human capital strategy is going to align to your overall organization. A DEI is missing from that. Then you're missing the opportunity to hit the mark when it comes to whatever your mission is focused it's as well. So we can't put it in like a backroom activity. It needs to be on the forefront and it needs to have the exposure.
Carol: Yeah. In terms of. To really have it infused throughout the organization, not just throughout the human capital strategy really is talking about, in, in most cases I would guess, some sort of culture change and, and that, that's a, that's a huge endeavor. I was listening to another podcast where the person talked about, I'm always listening to Brene Brown's podcasts. So it was probably one of hers. And, she was saying the, how, if, if they're going into an organization and working with an organization, if DEI is not infused, and if the HR folks are not on the leadership team, they're not working with the organization because that structure alone just shows how it's either valued or not.
Nathaniel: Correct. And, and even adding into the human capital stress. Diversity and inclusion needs to be a part of every segment that you have in human capital, bouncy your management. if you break out the layers of human capital, you have things that are dealing with your executive space, your culture, engagement and belonging. You have your performance management, your employee relations, or labor relations, all of these subsets of HR. And you have to use the DEI in that. So. You have supervisors who don't necessarily know how to manage a diverse workforce, right? So how are you holding them accountable, but then how are you also giving them the tools to be successful? So just that sentence alone, you talk, we've talked about diversity and inclusion, learning and development and performance management all in the same breath. So if you start with diversity and inclusion and separate from human capital things are disconnected.
Peter: Yeah. And I think speaking for myself and I probably Carol as well, like being, an entry level brown man and really experienced about when you have. People who don't share your perspective or from a different generation or from a different workforce generation, or you could say, just have a difficult time connecting and, and not really, I guess, being so open with feedback in general, which and I think we'll talk about this in a future episode, but forces you to assimilate in different ways that. Would be a detriment, not only to your career, but also to their progress and furthering themselves and trying to become a better leader or et cetera, et cetera, whatever they're looking for. the question, my next question, cause it seems like we're, we're leaning towards that now. For organizations or for-profits that may be starting this work and a response to 2020 in general. and the previous administration, they're starting to establish DEI, an entity at their organization where it's going to live. And I think that's, we touched on that already, but we're not to put it, whether where, what are some signs. that you would recommend or not signs that you would share that, they are on the right path, that the work that they're starting out to do seems to be working. and what are some things that they would probably want to avoid, when beginning this work?
Nathaniel: Yeah. So, good question. I think it still goes back to the culture of the organization and I think a way to be able to know where you're going and your progress is to incorporate your feedback mechanisms. Right? So what are ways that you are assessing your org? Because what works for organization A might not work for B, but you have to put, to truly do some type of feedback mechanisms and assessments. And so for instance, there are activities that people use that I've used such as stay interviews, right? Stay interviews are a great way to know what's going on in the pulse of your organization and ensure that questions that you have within your stay interview. Are aligned with the segments of, either areas that you want to see growth in or areas that you have concern. And so if you have a view that has 10 questions, how are those questions linked back within your organizational strategy, right? Looking back into your organization. So if you're looking to see, how, how competitive are we with pay? You want to ask questions that are compensation. If you're looking for clues and questions, then you want to make sure that you're asking questions that can best measure, the, the, the inclusion response of those within your org as well. So I think stay interviews are a great way. They're, they're super easy. And they also show that you as an organization have a commitment to your human cap. And you're not asking the questions when people are walking out the door, hear about you now, and I want to see your success. And so give us feedback to tell us what we can then do.
Carol: Go ahead. I think people are very familiar with the exit interview. Can you say a little bit more about what the stay interview is?
Nathaniel: So the stay interview, it's really a pulse check and you can decide at what point you want to have it. So for instance, if you want to do a stay interview at six months, you joined the organization in January and now it's June. I want to do a pulse check with you to see how things are going. And then I want to be able to assess this data based on this information. And that information is what you're seeking. Now what you also have to do, which is extremely important, is not just to do the state interviews, but what are you going to do with the data? Right? Because if people don't trust that anything will be done, then they're not going to be receptive in providing the feedback. So it's going to be able to say, this is the information that we've captured over X amount of time. And so from this amount of time, this is information that you've told them. We've heard you, these are actions that we put into place as a result of what you said and what that does is it fosters, it fosters buy-in and more people will be prone to be responsive because people know that their words help result in changing or at least shifting organizational [culture]. But human capital space if you lose someone, right? If you're losing your employees the amount of time to be able to backfill the position with a fuse, then with the amount of time that it takes to train someone up to the proficiency level of the person that was in the organization before that's. Right. So you can look at what those dollars and what those costs are, and that can range from anywhere from 30 to 60%. And so if an organization wants to be able to best keep their knowledge management within the organization and to be a talent, then the best way to be able to do this is to be able to, leverage your people, keep your retention low and be able to foster an organization that is inclusive. And here's the needs of the organization.
Peter: And this is different from a three month probationary period where your supervisor just brings you in just to see how, whether or not you're sufficiently getting used to everything. It's really getting a deeper knowledge and understanding of that. It's like a, it's like a reverse evaluation of the 360 evaluation at that point. Right. It's like how they are looking back at you if I'm not mistaken, right?
Nathaniel: Yeah. That's a little bit of. looking at it from, from the organization. So it's more macro than mine. And so from a 360, you're looking at it where, what is the feedback from my peers? What's the feedback from, my, my boss and maybe what's the feedback of someone that's one level below. This is looking at the organization in March. And so if this is Peter Cruz enterprises, how does Peter Cruz enterprises? Because there might be 10 different offices or sub organizations, but how does the organization work? And so you're not just doing this bay interview just for your boss and for your staff. You're doing it in, you're trying to measure this across the organization. What also happens with. Is that you're able to then get the data so that you can do comparison breakouts as well. And so for instance, if you have 10 organizations and nine of those organizations have, let's say, let's stay interviews because the attrition is low and then you have one office where the state interviews, we're doing more of them because there's a revolving door. And then we're getting data that shows that these are some of the same issues that we are reporting. Every time someone comes in the door, we now may be able to use the data. Well, we will be able to use the identity, the data to identify things in particular problems that may exist. There may be, it may not be the result of a supervisor. It may be. It may be, we're not really using the smart use of technology. There may be different reasons why people are staying or going, but you're taking the time out on the front end to diagnose what issues you have so that you're treating the disease. And not this.
Peter: So well, first I want to say like, now I need to get a Squarespace or something for Peter Cruz enterprise and before someone else takes that. How regularly should these types of stay interviews?
Nathaniel: So I'm going to go back to the, it depends because you really want to look at organization, right? If you have a turnover of, the average FTE stays within the organization for 18 months and you probably want to do it sooner. Yeah. If you have an organization where the normal turn is five years, maybe you don't want to do it in the first three months. But I would say that that's where human capital and diversity inclusion have to come together because you have to look at the data from the human capital systems perspective to understand like, okay, attrition is telling me this, right? So that's the human capital folks. Now as a diversity expert, what is this data system? And so now that I have this data and it's suggesting perhaps. When we look at our state interviews that this demographic is unhappy in XYZ and the third, well, why are they unhappy with XYZ third? So at that point, the next step may be okay. I'm seeing that this demographic is experiencing these challenges and is likely to look for a new job within the next six to 12 months. So maybe I then do a deeper dive and focus. And that focus group comprises everyone because we're inclusive. But in that focus group, let's kinda like to hear a little bit more and maybe it's bringing in that third party or that outside facilitator where people will be more candid and open and not have the feelings of, there's any type of retribution should they say? And then that information is then taken and synthesized and then leaders can now say, okay, I have, it's not just anecdotal. I have this information that shares that this is what's going on within my organization. So as your diversity leader, how are you now championing your senior leaders to invoke change? And then that helps you drive your strategy. So that's why going back to what I said before, human capital and diversity have to be. Because there's so much overlap. Can't do it by itself. We can't use diversity as a way where, okay, we're coming up with programs that we're coming up with ideas, but what is your strategy? Because if you don't have the connection to your human capital programs, then you're doing activities for the sake of doing activities without ensuring that there is a clear strategy for your organization.
Peter: And this probably echoes why this type of work should not exist within the compliance driven role, because it requires so much flexibility.
Nathaniel: Correct. And I will tell you, I have lots of friends that have it in their compliance role and, and, and I appreciate it, but if you're asking me for my opinion. I think that that's the wrong place I think is wrong. Is the graveyard for organizations.
Peter: I think we have just one more question. Carol, do you have anything to add?
Carol: No. I mean, I think it's, my experience has been with much smaller organizations, so HR, if there's even an HR person, unfortunately they've been, up to their eyeballs with just the compliance stuff. So, any looking at culture has had to be in a whole organization thing, just because the numbers are so much smaller than I think what you're talking about. but really moving over time it could be that the wording changes around calling it human capital or calling it human resources. Since that in many ways, objectifies people, it makes them objects just like machines and software and all the other things, rather than who they are people and what we want as a healthy culture in an organization. So it'll be interesting to see how those things shift over the next couple of [years].
Nathaniel: Yeah, I agree. If I've seen titles now shifting to more like chief people, officers, and I just think that. I mean, it's snazzy, a little cool if you will, but it's really encompassing what we do in this space. Like everything is about the people and if we don't have the people, you don't have your mission and you're not going to get your bottom line. So, I agree with you. I think that, and, and in an ideal world, I love titles. When I see chief people, engagement, inclusion, belonging. Those are the things that we really are assigned to do. Not necessarily look at, transactional, just resources and capital, because again, you objectify people to just being, a bottom line.
Carol: Yeah. And it probably feels maybe, I don't know, hip or whatever right now, but I'm, I'm my, my hope is that, over time it will just become.
Peter: speaking of overtime and becoming normal. The last question I have is ingrained with educational non-profits and educational institutions. what have, being that we've seen. And have become more and more increasingly aware of how COVID specifically has impacted disproportionally neighborhoods of color, public schools of color or predominantly. And what do you see from your experience and from your expertise may be long lasting effects from COVID in regards to facilitation and, and delivery of, lessons, et cetera. we'll start there.
Nathaniel: Yeah, it's scary. It's scary. my concern and I see it and, I have, I have children as well, and they're going through the pandemic and, interestingly enough, my, my wife was able to start working and she became a full term, homeschooling, parents last year. And so I sit in education, I sit in a seat of privilege, right? We were educated, we could give up one income and be fine, and our children are thriving, but that's one story out of probably a hundred where we're watching particularly, particularly black and brown people who have to not only still work during the pandemic, but are working with. And so when they're working on site, many of their kids are sitting home and they're left to their own devices. It doesn't matter how good their kids are, they're left to their own devices. And so when you look at the one, the lack of resources within black and brown, And then two, when you look at the absenteeism that's occurring, because parents are at work and children have to stay at home. The long-term effects of this is going to be crucial because one who's going to fail children during a pandemic. No one. So you're going to have children that are past the long, and that are going through the system that are inadequately equipped. And so what then happens. You create a pipeline of children that are missing the functional and technical skills that they need in order to succeed. And so then what happens when we get to the 11th and 12th grade SATs COVID is behind us, but the educational gaps are not. And so then you have people. Are ill prepared to go to college might, may not go to college. families are disproportionately impacted. They may not be able to afford college. and then when they get in college, you're systematically taking on some of those challenges. And so what ends up happening is you create a gap really between the haves and have nots. But those that are mostly impacted are those that are on the lower end of the financial total. And unfortunately we see that black and brown people are more represented in that space. So it's not whether or not they can. A pandemic has completely stretched the uneven playing field that already existed. And so what then happened? 10 years from now, 15 years from now, we look at the workforce and do we see people who are more diverse in equal playing fields? Or do we see that there are less people who had less opportunities during this time? So, I say that, all that, to say that I'm nervous. I am, I've seen it before the pandemic. I worked for an organization where we had, and I'll give you this quick example. We had an unpaid internship. And it was a very reputable organization, but most people that were black and brown did not come into the organization. Not because they weren't qualified. Well, it was because who is going to be able to give up for four months of their summer, not making any money only for an experience in Washington, DC where rent and everything else is, above the national average. So there was this ration of who got the opportunities at that point, who got the connections, who could be able to bridge into opportunities once they graduate versus those that couldn't. So now you couple COVID on top of that. You couple that, black and brown people will be disproportionately impacted by that. And you see a system that is not. If you see a system that's so there are organizations that are trying to mitigate that. Of course people are coming up with businesses, of course, where there's more, educational, tutoring and things like that. But like, when we go back to that, who's going to then be able to pay for it?
Carol: Yeah, the ripple effects as you lay them out. I mean, it's just, it could be, and obviously those gaps and impacts were happening before the pandemic. And of course it's just, it just made it so much worse. and yeah, we'll be, we'll be seeing the ripple effects and, and unfortunately, The U S is not very good at history. We're very good at forgetting real quickly, what happened.
Peter: Yeah, because the second part of that question was like, if there are any positive things that have come from it, like, what do you think will like, we'll. moving forward, like, well, being, accessibility is important. Like maybe remote learning, like blended models still exist in 2024, like who? but being that, like what Carol just said, we don't tend to forget about the immediate CMI go back to normal. Cause that's always like what we're seeking. but normal, as you mentioned, wasn't great to begin with.
Nathaniel: Even with the hybrid learning and the different forms of doing that. there may be educational advances that occur, but there's still the, it's the ripple effect. So with the future of work and the future of education, things may be more digital, but then what happens to the businesses that thrive on those, either schools or anything else that is close to that location. I mean, we look at DC right now, DC is half of DC's. And why is it boarded up? Because small businesses especially can't make any money because everyone is in the future of work, if you will. And so then what happens to school? The same exact thing, and who's impacted if you have less schools because you have a virtual model, you have those, the cafeteria workers and the janitors and all of those different people who now they don't have a job or a place to clean because you shut down buildings and impacts your real estate as well. So, I could go on and on and on about it, but it impacts everyone, but we've got to look at the data to see who. Even the greatest impact, and we know what the data is going to show.
Carol: Well, that, that is all true. And we try to, we try to end on a positive note. So I'm curious what, what, you're, what you're looking forward to, what you're, what you're hopeful about, as we move forward in this next year.
Nathaniel: Yeah. So I'm going to flip it because I do actually like to be half-full. I am excited about the future. I am excited about the smart use of technology. I think technology is going to do something for this, for this world in, in, in something that we have never seen. the fact that we can have this podcast and we're doing an interview at 11 o'clock and I have a briefing at 12 o'clock and I have a meeting with clients at one o'clock and I'm able to do all of this, literally from my home. I mean, before. We're literally driving from or flying from or going all of these places and really extending and burning ourselves out. Right. So I think that organizations have the opportunity to, if you seize the smart use of technology in the correct way, and you also are focusing on the culture and the health of your organization. I do think that there are going to be extremely positive, ramifications and impacts from. I'm excited. I'm absolutely excited.
Peter: That's what I mean. I am as well. I mean, if it seems like it's a great time to progress and the cause there's like, I think with a lot of change, that's been instilled over the past couple of months and there's sort of like a whole, like everyone's optimistic at this point, right? We've just been so severely impacted from last year that it's hard to be a pessimist at this point. you just got it just to motivate you. You have to be optimistic. I think that's it for today. So thank you so much, Nate, for joining us. like you mentioned being in a couple of minutes, we are not as important, but thank you so much for taking the time out of your schedule, to speak with us and share your perspective and your insight.
Nathaniel: Thank you. This was a pleasure. I appreciate you so much.
Carol: Thank you for listening to this episode. I really appreciate the time you spend with me and my guests. You can find out how to connect with our guest Nathaniel Benjamin as well as my co-host for this episode Peter Cruz as well as any links and resources mentioned during the show in the show notes at missionimpactpodcast.com/shownotes. I want to thank Nora Strauss-Riggs for her support in editing and production as well as April Koester of 100 Ninjas for her production support. We want to hear from you! Take a minute to give us feedback or ask a question at missionimpactpodcast.com/feedback.
I am Carol Hamilton, nonprofit consultant and podcast host. My passion is helping organizations cultivate healthy, inclusive cultures that live their values, fostering learning, creativity and results. Find me at Grace Social Sector Consulting and download free resources.
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