There’s No One-Size-Fits-All Approach to DEI. But Here Are Some Starting Points.

Kelly O'Halloran
December 15, 2020
bigcommerce
bigcommerce

When employees don’t feel like they belong — they leave. 

“Lack of belonging has been identified as a key reason for voluntary turnover, especially for traditionally underrepresented groups,” a national survey said last year. 

The study estimated that of 2,000 participants, more than 25 percent left their roles due to non-welcoming environments. 

It’s one of the reasons BigCommerce’s new (and first) Head of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Sharon Brogdon has focused on creating DEI programs that not only attract diverse talent, but also retain it. 

“I believe now more than ever, having an established focus on DEI is critical to business success. Diverse talent is in extremely high demand and those candidates absolutely take a company’s level of demonstrable commitment to DEI into account during their decision-making process,” Brodgon said. 

But where is a company to begin when it comes to developing a sound DEI strategy? 

Brogdon, who has led DEI initiatives at Microsoft and Intel, and who is tasked with building on BigCommerce’s existing approach, answers that and more in an exclusive interview with Built In Austin. 

 

Sharon Brogdon
Head of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

How do you begin a DEI strategy implementation, and what are the biggest challenges? 

There is no one-size-fits-all solution to implementing impactful DEI initiatives. Given that every organization is at a different starting point in their journey, my approach begins with a quantitative and qualitative analysis of the current state. I then take this understanding and craft a strategic plan that identifies the desired end-state and outlines an approach to work toward that end goal. The final step in my process is to implement the strategy and leverage agreed-upon metrics to guide and gauge progress. It’s also important to point out that this is not a one-off project. A company’s DEI efforts should be constantly evaluated and adjusted as internal and external needs change.

 

"Humbitiousness”

Employees at BigCommerce, which provides hosting, management and content tools for online shops, adopted the term “humbitiousness” to describe their humble and ambitious approach to work. “That mentality really stood out to me,” Brogdon said. “I saw a company that, while early in its DEI journey, had an openness to learn, a willingness to be vulnerable and a hunger to grow.”

 

How can companies go wrong in this process? How would you advise them to avoid making those mistakes? 

There are many opportunities for companies to misstep along the way. Expecting overnight results is one example. Many action and results-oriented companies expect that once they have a full-time focus on DEI they will turn around long-time challenges overnight. While there are often opportunities for “quick wins,” sustainable long-term behavior change takes time and individual personal work. Organizations have to accept that creating a diverse workforce and an equitable and inclusive workplace is a long-term and ongoing commitment.

A second misstep is the expectation that hiring a DEI lead is the be-all, end-all. While establishing leadership and a full-time focus on DEI is an important first step, enabling sustainable change requires the work and commitment from every employee in the organization.

 

 

Looking back on your experiences at Intel, what were some practices or initiatives you spearheaded that were first of its kind? 

Retaining our diverse talent was my first priority and focus at Intel. We needed to ensure that our company was welcoming to diverse talent and enabled their growth and progression. One initiative I led to improve retention was a program intended to mitigate the challenges of isolation faced by many of our diverse employees. This award-winning program improved retention and progression of Black and Latinx talent at the company. Additionally, I crafted the “warm line” strategy, which enabled an earlier capture of employee challenges within the company with a goal of minimizing attrition. Today, the warm line is a signature DEI program at Intel.

 

The ultimate end goal is for the company to reap the full benefits of DEI in its bottom line while simultaneously creating that ideal workplace.”

 
What are you planning to do first at BigCommerce?

As I assess the current state, my first action is to listen to our workforce. I’ve already spent time with the leadership within each of the company’s five employee resource groups to talk through their role within the organization and what they have seen from a DEI standpoint, and I will also be spending time more broadly with our global employee base. I want to understand their point of view regarding our organizational strengths and where we have opportunity for growth. Their insight will help guide my strategic approach in the coming year.

 

What’s your ultimate goal?

I view my role as being charged to chart a course that progresses BigCommerce on its DEI journey and do so in a manner that increases awareness of what it means to create and sustain a diverse, equitable and inclusive organization, as well as guide both the leadership and employees on how to activate that state. From my perspective, the end goal is for the company to reap the full benefits of DEI in its bottom line while simultaneously creating that ideal workplace.

 

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