HRchat Podcast - Interviews with HR, Talent and Tech Experts

What DEI in the Workplace Actually Looks Like and Strategies to Adopt with Dejannae Lang, Workzinga

August 22, 2022 The HR Gazette Season 1 Episode 474
HRchat Podcast - Interviews with HR, Talent and Tech Experts
What DEI in the Workplace Actually Looks Like and Strategies to Adopt with Dejannae Lang, Workzinga
Show Notes Transcript

In HRchat episode 474, we ask 'what does DEI look like within the workplace and what strategies should be in place?'

Our guest this time is Dejannae Lang Research Analyst, Doctoral Student, Associate Consultant, and Industrial and Organizational Psychologist at Workzinga.

Questions Include: 

  • Why join the dedicated science team at Workzinga? What's the role? How does it help HR, Talent pros, and leaders? 
  • You're new to the company, talk about the culture fit between you and Workzinga. 
  • From your experience and perspective, what does DEI look like within the workplace? What strategies should be in place?
  • What would you say to the suggestion that employee resource groups work best in larger orgs? 
  • DEI practitioners are voicing concerns of burnout and lack of resources, how can organizations address these problems?
  • Let's talk about headcount and combatting 'weak'/misleading DEI metrics: How do we avoid fake interviews to meet a diversity quota
  • With the uncertainty of a recession, why is it important for DEI to not be part of budget cuts?

About Dejannae Lang

Dejannae has over 5 years of experience with identifying interpersonal skills to fit the proper work environment, diversity, equity, and inclusion issues and assisting organizations with leadership development, and servant leadership training. Her experiences and training in I/O psychology over time has sharpened her awareness to cultural relations, organizational processes, employee engagement, and employee development, and employee wellbeing. She is currently certified as a Predictive Index Practitioner.

Dejannae has consulted for colleges and universities since 2019. She has specialized in providing presentations and training on servant leadership in the education sector, as well as others. She continues to provide strategic diversity, equity, and inclusion training and leadership development consulting. She also works on the use of interpersonal skills within the workplace to impact productivity and communication within organizations. She speaks at several engagements throughout the year to draw attention to the principles of I/O psychology.



We do our best to ensure editorial objectivity. The views and ideas shared by our guests and sponsors are entirely independent of The HR Gazette, HRchat Podcast, and Iceni Media Inc. 

Speaker 1:

Welcome to the HR chat podcast, bringing the best of the HR talent and leadership communities to you for more episodes and the latest articles covering what's new in the world of work. Visit HR gazette.com subscribe and follow us on social media.

Speaker 2:

Welcome to another episode of the HR chat show. I'm your host today, bill Bannum . And in this HR chat, we're gonna ask what does di look like within the workplace and what strategies should be in place? And my guest today is deja Lang research analyst, doctoral student associate consultant, and industrial and organizational psychologist over at work zinger. Hey deja, thank you very much for joining me on this episode of the HR chat show.

Speaker 3:

Hey bill. Thanks for having me. I'm excited to be here and have this conversation with you dive into a little more.

Speaker 2:

Well, absolutely. But before we dive into the , I , I wanna start by getting to know you a little bit. So why don't you take a minute or so , and introduce yourself to our listeners, telling them a bit about your academic and your career background.

Speaker 3:

Thank you. Thank you. You are correct. Currently. I am a doctoral student in industrial organizational psychology at Kaiser university. I received my master's from there as well. I did my undergrad in psychology at Florida international university. Prior to that, I enlisted to United States air force as a reservist . I served in the United States , uh, air force from about 2012 for about six years. So I started my career very young. I enlisted in my senior year of high school and that was an amazing bout for me. It really pushed me forward into my career and a lot of knowledge and success and diversifying my skills. So, which was really exciting for me. I had the opportunity to work in the corporate sector and the construction sector afterwards because of my skills that I occurred in the air force, which further pushed me into my current career with being at work Zinga and being diving into psychology and DEI due to all of the things I've experienced over the last few years.

Speaker 2:

Well, that's a perfect segue because , uh, I I'd love to ask you now , you know , why, why joined that dedicated science team over at work zinger? Talk to us maybe a bit about the role too and, and how your role and, and the science team as a whole helps HR pros, talent pros and leaders. Um, just avoid talking a little bit about yourself and, and the fit with work zinger just yet. Cause I'd like to get into that in just a moment. So let , let let's for the time being focused on the , the functional, why of your role and, and the science team as a whole

Speaker 3:

Work Zenga is an amazing company. Um, it's interesting. I, funny enough had the pleasure of them reaching out to me to join their science team, which was an amazing opportunity. And I'm so happy that I took it works . And as you know, looks forward to using culture fit to really help HR teams understand in the pre-hire phase about why it's important to make sure that you're aligned with your employees and vice versa. I love culture fit and what it really stood for because it popped out to me because of how it eliminates many biases. And when , I mean, what I mean about eliminates is for someone like me, my name, for example, how you mentioned is deja . A lot of people in the past have looked at me and said, that's an ethnic name. And sometimes I have to stop and think how many jobs did I not get? Because on my resume, they seen this name that appears ethnic to them. Culture fit assessment does exactly what I would've even needed it to do. It eliminates that bias or perception of who I might be. And it only gives the HR team, the ability to see is this person really a good fit for my culture. It allows people to come in and really say, okay , uh, those who we might not have given an option or a chance, they now have a chance. And what really came in in my role now being on the team is really to make sure we incorporate those DEI aspects and initiatives. What can we make sure that, like I said, from the beginning, when you know your name, it falls into that DEI aspect of discrimination and making sure that companies from the start get it right. And initially used D I as part of alignment,

Speaker 2:

It sounds to me like you are you're , you're on the same page when it comes to the mission of, of work Zenga . Um, but a company is more than just the mission. It's its people , um, it's its history. Um, it's its goals. Talk to me now a little bit about the culture fit specifically between you and work Inga

Speaker 3:

The culture fit for me. I took it personals. When I got to speak with Dan , I love with his idea and his morals implied about DEI DEI for me is my passion. And so for me to be aligned with any company and be able to do any work, I need to know that it's more than , uh, a social statement, something that we post on social media when injustice happens. I need to know that it's a core value to you all . And for me speaking with Dan speaking with the science team, margarita, the head of our science team, I was able to understand that they were committed to actually taking actionable steps and making sure that we in house one take care of DEI initiatives, but we also created amazing products for HR management teams and organizations to properly use DEI, understand DEI, and for us to even assist them going further, whether that mean we offer them consulting services in the future or whatever is necessary. So the alignment in working with a great team and those in the executive level they bought in, they buy in , shall I say, Dan is someone who absolutely believes that from the start. We need to understand our cultural backgrounds and not just understand them, but how do we include them? And that for me was important. And it sold me immediately after speaking with him

Speaker 2:

And listeners can check out conversations that I've had with Dan and with margarita and with Cole and other members of the, the , uh, work zinger team right here on the HR chat feed. Uh , I'm sure we'll have links in the show notes, but if not, just go to the HR chat feed and , uh, and control F work zinger. Um , and , and you'll be able to find , uh, other episodes to learn more about the company . Okay . So I'd love to hear from you now , from your experience and perspective , what does DEI look like within the workplace ? And as part of the answer , what strategies should be in place

Speaker 3:

DEI in workplace is interesting before an organization can tackle or get to strategies or initiatives. We first need to think about what does the D E and I actually mean not to just the organization, but to each individual. So a part of that is breaking it down. And I , the reason I like to go that approach is because diversity isn't one size fits all . What diversity might mean to me might be completely different to what it means to you. Bill research has shown us that millennials value cognitive diversity in the workplace. For example, they , they value backgrounds and experience in people's viewpoints. While we know that boomers are more traditional in the sense of what diversity means, they think about fair treatment, gender, race, religion , uh, sexual orientation. So we first need to break down the actual definitions and have clear definitions of what DEI means to this organization. We also need to take accountability and be aware that DEI might mean something different to every individual within this organization. DEI also means that we in the workplace means that we need to be aware and address the cultural , uh, background, cultural diversity, and a part of that. I love what margarita said. In a previous episode, it was episode four. Uh , I believe it was four 17 or in the four hundreds . She mentioned cultural addition . And what that simply means is, is from the start. We have to be aware that because we're working on diversity, that means we need to address the cultural addition and to be prepared for those new people coming in, they have different cultural experiences, their backgrounds, and what that's gonna do into the , and bring into the workplace. And so for me, we have to take all those things, sit down, have a collaborative effort and buy in . And when , I mean, buyin, we need buy in from the top. We're talking about CEOs, Csuite executive level all the way down DEI is really important to make sure you manage it with a proper DEI team. You wanna make sure your HR is on board and understand what each of these groups are going to play a role in of how we pass down initiatives in the workplace. It's all about making sure the right people have the right information to even tackle a strategy. When I get, when we say strategy, we have to make organizations understand that in order to be successful in this moment of where we are in society and going forward, that history repeats itself. People love to say, why is DEI important ? It's only important now because of the things we've seen in the pandemic , that's not true . DEI has always been around since the civil rights act, they addressed it . Then with employee discrimination, where here in 2022, we're still addressing it. SHRM just put out reports that showed , uh, there was 200 studies that demonstrated employee diversity led to higher innovation, growth, engagement, and customer service. So the so there's importance. There's a need. It's always gonna be around no matter what year you're in. So the strategy has to be actionable. It has to be transparent. You have to, you know, employees want to know, okay, we have these things in place, but where are we in the process? Where are we in the growth? Did you just do these things? Are we now saying, okay, we have a di training this month, but there's nothing that shows for it two months from now, that's not the right strategy to have the proper strategy. You want to think about your company's overall goals, your company, and what that really means. You wanna embrace things like ERGs, be transparent and what the ERGs actually mean. Do they show , uh, any racial tension? Did people report that on their ERGs because you do have that opportunity. Something that's being valued right now is prioritizing women's development, making sure that they have the equity in organizations to have the same access. Correct. You know, we want to reframe the role of coaching in the organization. Sometimes coaching in an organization can be such a taboo thing . You get it when you aren't doing well . No , we wanna approach it to the fact that you're doing , doing great. Here are the things that we can work on. We need to make it to where it's a positive aspect and outlook. We also need to make sure that DEI from the start is framed in a positive outlook. I think some people think DEI is always addressing a race issue. It's not DEI can be so helpful. It can be about making sure those who fall into the , the neurodiverse group or those who have disabilities are provided the same access. We need active, actionable strategies for all of these things. We need to have a strategy about how all these diverse perspectives enter into this room and how we include them going forward. And when I say include them, that means all of your policies that you may have written in the past. You need to revisit them, make sure that there are actionable states statements and actionable goals and initiatives that address your employees, concerns from all cultural backgrounds. It's a very tedious task. Sometimes it can be a daunting task even for companies, but it's so important. And it's so valuable. We know that research says in order to be in the top 20% of your sector, you need to include DEI . And that is more than enough evidence to show why you and your team and your organization to stress and strategize DEI properly.

Speaker 2:

Okay . Thank you very much. Um, you mentioned employee resource groups there as part of your answer. Um , just a quick follow up on that, cuz um, I did quite a bit of work on this last year. And uh , what would you say to the, to the suggestion that employee resource groups work best in larger organizations, where , where there are more resources, would you agree with that? Or would you say , um, no, that's just not good enough. Uh , that's an example of something which needs to be in organizations of all sizes.

Speaker 3:

I think ERGs in my personal opinion can work in all, all sizes. Why do we need to put limitations on what they can do? So for example, in a small group, you're still going to talk about things like people, culture, platform, community , uh, community customers. And you're still gonna also address the lenses of DEI , correct ? It's not gonna change just because you have 25 people versus 5,000 , you're still addressing the same information. Yes. Your organization may be smaller, but that doesn't mean ERGs aren't beneficial or can't be powerful, correct. It's about what you do with the ERG, how you take that information and where you go from here. It's an amazing tool that has great success rates when used properly. I know there is also a flip side of people out there who sometimes criticize ESG. Uh I've I will be honest. I've spoken with many employees when I'm on the ground in consulting who feel like ERGs are nothing more than a piece of paper or something that they do every quarter or every year. Correct? We have to be honest with ourselves and , and init , that is, that is the side of an opinion . But when ERGs, like I said before, are used <inaudible> properly. I'm sorry. They are critically valuable in an organization. And for me, I don't feel like size matters. I feel like it's more about strategy and how it is used. And those who had that.

Speaker 2:

So di practitioners are voicing concerns of burnout and lack of resources. Uh , how , how can organizations address these problems? But before you answer, I'm gonna challenge you to answer in 60 seconds or less go

Speaker 3:

<laugh> . Uh , this is a good challenge for me. Uh , you have to defrost that middle organization. And , and when I say the middle organization, I'm specifically talking about middle management, for example, middle management is the organ is the group that is normally handed , uh, an actionable plan. And they're saying, here, here you go. This is this plan. You have to lead the initiatives. You have to bring this down. And they are the people that most people look at and they're saying, okay , you made these decisions without me. You're now just someone sitting in a , a lead position and you're passing it down. You have to be able to give middle management. And those who push how DEI initiatives, the proper resources, that's what it's all about. Burnout is happening because DEI practitioners, they don't have the proper resources. You hire them on. You give them all these daunting tasks . You're expecting a change overnight when DEI is not an overnight change, you have to be realistic from the start. So it's about real expectations, real dates and timeframes that can happen. Making sure it is clear communication, but more importantly, making sure from the start that you have proper resources, whether that brings in assessment tools or whether making sure you even have the proper budget, you can't have a chief diversity officer and expect them to make all these great changes. And there's no budget

Speaker 2:

Cannot . Indeed . I agree. I agree. Okay. Now that I wanna , I wanna talk to you a little bit about , uh, headcount and combating week or misleading the metrics . Um, I was doing my homework ahead of this interview and I came across this interesting post that you shared on LinkedIn, not that long ago. Um , and uh, you make some comments in it and you, you finish your comments with a question. So I'm just gonna ask you this question and then I'm gonna let you explain the question and give your , your answer to that question as well is how do we avoid fake interviews to meet a diversity quota ?

Speaker 3:

Great. This was a great question and a great , a great post on LinkedIn , uh, for the viewers who may not be aware the post was done by the New York times, it was about Wells Fargo and how Wells Fargo has been accused of using fake job interviews to increase their diversity leads. As we know, Wells Fargo is not the only organization , uh, as of late in recent to be accused of, of this practice, DEI practitioners see, and we hear about it all the time. The data and research is there organizations implement policies that say, we need to interview this amount of diverse candidates. And when I say diverse, that means minorities. We need to interview this many African Americans . We need to interview this many women. Even for example, with Wells Fargo, they were trying to make sure they interviewed as many , uh, African American women or women. And they were called out a good part of this that we have also seen is in the NFL recently, the NFL has been accused of actually having a rule that says, I need to interview this many African American coaches for a head coach position. This is problematic because what we have seen is we know that candidates of minority backgrounds are being interviewed. In many cases, after these organizations have already selected the candidate that they're actually gonna get the job. So in this event, they simply are only interviewing these people to fit this palace . Now you are nothing more than a seat filler. I E a fake interview. It's unfortunate because you are wasting great talent. You're wasting individual time, but it's also a very poor practice for an organization. So in order to encounter this, you need to be internally accountable from the start. So those who you have sitting on your hiring teams and, and those in HR, those who come up with these policies, we need to make them accountable. I love the posts that came out by New York times. And that was one of the reason I commented on it because it's national news . And now we're holding Wells Fargo accountable. It makes them have to go back to the drawing board and say, okay , they're not accepting this anymore. We have to make sure that , uh, we make these organizations come forward. And it also takes a lot of employees or potential candidates being brave enough to say, I think this is happening. That's a big thing. Cause I know it can be very intimidating. Uh , if you're a potential candidate to come out and speak out against some of these larger organizations or even if it's small, but we have to start there with the fake interviews. DEI practitioners also have to be honest and open with organizations. I know sometimes it's daunting for DEI practitioners to get an organization, see all these horrible practices and say, how do I address this without losing my place here? That's not, that's not something we can hold on ourselves to worry about. We come in and we need to do the job and we need to do it properly. And that's a part of us who , when I get in there, I'm gonna , I'm gonna make sure I say it. If you don't like what I said , that's your choice. But at the end of the day, I need to make sure you're aware. This is a very poor practice. It's going to affect your revenue in the long one , because that's what organizations care about their revenue. We need to make sure that if you really want to get down on your, you know, your retention and employee engagement, that you need to look at proper hiring practices. And that means eliminating poor policies that I make you , uh, simply just do interviews for the sake of doing interviews in minority fields.

Speaker 2:

It's that time of the interview, where I mentioned that word recession , uh, because technic technically, technically according to , um, seems like everybody else's definition apart from the us , uh, federal government's definition , um, uh, the us is in a recession right now, as we record this interview in early August, 2022. But there again, if you look at the numbers, so for example , uh, the job numbers, there are , I think it was 528,000 , uh, new jobs created in the month of July, 2022 . That doesn't sound like any kind of recession that we may have seen before, or certainly not in our lifetimes. Right. But you know, if there is this uncertainty of a recession, why do you think it's important for, for de to, to not be part of budget cuts? And just before you answer, I wanna preface it by saying , uh, you'd be a pretty shoddy company. Wouldn't you really, if , um, if the first place you went to to make cuts is , uh, DEI efforts. I mean, that would be, that would be a pretty bad , bad PR effort if nothing else, right?

Speaker 3:

That it would be very bad PR, especially right now, DEI , as we know , uh, for some people is nothing more than a bird , uh, buzzword or trending topic. However, DEI has been proven , uh, to work and is essential. But for those who are not committed necessarily to the change and to the work, it's very easy for them to say, okay, we're in a recession, here's the budget. Where can we save money? DEI can go. However, I do agree with you in a recession. This isn't the time to make those changes. This isn't the time to make those cuts . This is the time to actually be committed even more . We know that historically employees have not always been prior prioritized in times of EC economic hardships, but this is a chance to make sure we avoid making those mistakes. History has repeated itself. It's going to continue to repeat itself. When we were in 2020 , we seen the us economy take a deep dive. Then we seen many professionals that were in underrepresented groups, including women, people of color, those with disabilities. For example, women with children, they took a downward spiral in unemployment due to it and eventually led to burnout. How do we avoid that? Right now? We can ex we can use this moment, put all our efforts into making sure that we are ahead of a game . So my advice right now to organizations is not to cut the budget, but make sure that we use the budget and stay on task and be ahead of the game. Because one thing that is very true is employees. Don't forget employees, don't forget when you don't address their needs. When employees don't forget when you don't make them feel included, employees don't forget, especially right now, when you mention PR they don't forget your strategies and employees are not afraid to go to news outlets and do what they need to do to bring views and the knowledge, and really put the pressure on these companies to make sure that even right now, that you're addressing and giving proper support for your employees and aiding their ex anxiety in this, you know, forecast economic recession that we might have, or if you want to call it a recession at this moment, but it's really important to give out the support that's necessary. And by giving out the support, it's making sure those black women, those black men, those mothers of , uh, school, age children, those are the people that we normally seen take a really long time to regain their employment. So how do we consider making DEI a business need and necessity, and making sure that we understand that a diverse workforce, even in a recession still has its benefits. And it's the research doesn't change just because we're in a recession. The research doesn't change that more diverse employees are 35% more likely to experience, you know, greater financial returns than their respect of counterparts. We know that these things are here and no matter whether we're in a recession or not, we still need to address that by obtaining the proper talent, making sure that we retain that diverse cultural , uh, fit alignment. It , it doesn't, it doesn't sway things left or right. You are setting yourself up for failure. If you back down and move backwards. That's why I love what word Zenga is doing right now with the CFA, regardless of if we're in the recession or not making sure people are culturally aligned and culturally diverse right now, in this point in 2020 in August, 2022 in August , we are still making sure that we push those efforts because we understand that even if we come out of this recession, or if we don't officially in the us call it a recession, that being culturally diverse is still impactful in the organization who doesn't wanna be in the top 20% of their sector. I'm pretty sure the , the C-suite in the boardroom are still wanting to do that in , in a recession. And so this is how we address that.

Speaker 2:

Okay. Wonderful. Thank you. Hey, we are already pretty much out of time before we do wrap up for today , though. How can our listeners connect with you? So perhaps you wanna share your LinkedIn email address , uh, any other social medias, and also, how can they learn more about all the cool things happening over at work ? Zer

Speaker 3:

Works . Zenga is amazing. There's a plethora of information at works , zenga.com. Please, please go to the page, subscribe to our newsletter. You will receive that you can join us as well at the workers in LinkedIn and catch me and the science team every Thursday on our LinkedIn lives, we will be talking about different topics weekly. So there's a great chance for you to us questions. You can also fault with me on LinkedIn at deja Lang, or you can send me a personal email. If you have a specific question related to DEI or any other topics at deja , I worked zing.com and I look forward to chatting with you all in speaking with you further .

Speaker 2:

Okay . On that email thing, maybe not any other topics, guys, don't , don't start bombarding

Speaker 3:

Deja

Speaker 2:

With just random randomness, at least try and keep it work related , uh, culture related . But other than that , I'm sure she'd be happy to hear from you. Um, Hey, that just leads me to say for today , FIJA a , this has been a great conversation. Um, I've learned a lot. You are a very charismatic, warm person who , uh, loves to offer her her knowledge with the world . So thank you. Thank you very much for being my guest on this episode.

Speaker 3:

I look forward to in speaking with you again and thank you for having me. It was a pleasure being here with you, bill

Speaker 2:

And listeners, as always until next time happy be working.

Speaker 1:

Thanks for listening to this episode of the HR chat podcast. There are hundreds of conversations with business experts available for free on the H or Gazette website, Apple's Spotify and all the main platforms. And remember to like subscribe and follow us on social media.