DEIJ Mini Series #3: Transparency & Communicating Your Organization’s DEIJ Strategy


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Atokatha Ashmond Brew: Hello everyone and welcome to today’s webinar. Thank you for joining us this afternoon for our third webinar of the 2022 DEIJ Mini Series. My name is Atokatha Ashmond Brew and I’m Managing Director of Marketing & Communication at Nonprofit HR. I will be your moderator for today. We have a lot of great content to cover. Before we jump in, I do have a few housekeeping notes.  


You’ve joined the presentation listening using your computer’s speaker system by default. If you would prefer to join over the telephone, just select telephone in the audio pane, and the dial-in information will be displayed. You will have the opportunity to submit text questions to today’s presenters by typing your questions into the questions pane of the control panel. You may send in your questions at any time during the presentation, we will collect these and address them during the Q&A at the end of today’s session. Today’s webinar is being recorded, and you will receive a follow-up email within the next few days with a link to view the recording, and you will also receive the presentation slides.  


And now, a little about Nonprofit HR. 


We empower nonprofits to achieve their full potential through their people. Nonprofit HR is the country’s leading and oldest firm focused exclusively on the talent management needs of the social sector, including nonprofits, associations, social enterprises and other mission-driven organizations. We focus our consulting efforts on the following practice areas: Strategy & Advisory, HR Outsourcing, Total Rewards, Diversity, Equity & Inclusion and Search. Nonprofit HR also offers customized learning and development, in addition to research and events, all with the objective of strengthening the people management capacity of the workforce. Since 2000, our staff of credentialed experts have advanced the impact of some of the world’s most influential brands in the sector. 


And now let’s hear about today’s presenters. 


Dr. Antonio Cortes, Senior Consultant, Diversity, Equity & Inclusion at Nonprofit HR, has over a decade of experience as an applied Industrial/Organizational and Business Psychologist in the nonprofit sector. In his current role, he functions as a senior advisor on methodologies to assess, plan and improve approaches to incorporating DEI into organizational operations. Areas of practice include organizational equity analysis to uncover blind spots in operations which lead to inequities, strategy development to solve unique organizational issues of the EDIJ space, global application of DEI concepts for multinational organizations, and training on DEI topics, such as Building a Business Case for DEI, Implicit (Unconscious) Bias, Microaggressions and Systems Theory Application to Workforce Development. 


And today, you will also hear from Steven Krzanowski, a Senior Consultant for DEI with Nonprofit HR. Throughout Steven’s career in the higher education and nonprofit sectors, he has developed and executed diversity, equity and inclusion programs and strategies. In his current role, Steven works with industry leaders as a thought partner to uncover inequities in organizational systems, address gaps in knowledge and skills related to DEI for staff and constituents, and develop intentional, data-driven, actionable outcomes to advance DEI initiatives. He utilizes best practices rooted in theoretical frameworks, while ensuring concepts and content are applicable and easily understood at all levels of an organization. 


Again, you’ll have an opportunity to ask questions and contribute to the conversation during today’s event. The recording and slides for this event will be sent within this week and live attendees will also receive SHRM recertification credits via email as well. 


And now, without further ado, I hand it over to you, Antonio and Steven. 


Steven Krzanowski: Thank you so much, Atokatha, and we are delighted to join all of you today for this session. 


Antonio, would you like to say hello and then, we’ll dive into the content? 


Antonio Cortes: Hello and again, just want to encourage questions as they come up. This is definitely a meaty topic, so to speak, so feel free to put those into the chat and we’ll answer as many as we can throughout the session today. 


Steven Krzanowski: Great. Well, let’s go ahead and dive in. So, your org— 


We are hoping today, in the next hour and a half, to have a lot to accomplish with you. So on the screen is our learning objectives, and we’re hoping that all participants will be able to identify areas of opportunity where transparent communication is necessary; communicate effectively with transparency with your employees to advance diversity, equity, inclusion and justice; distinguish barriers that hinder DEIJ success; employ different strategies for communicating DEIJ, both internally and externally. 


After we review some concepts and frameworks with you that you can reflect upon and start to think about how you adapt at your own organizations, we’re going to welcome Melissa Forburger who will share with us how Association Management Strategies Incorporated has focused on embedding transparency into their organizational culture. After that case study review, we’re going to end with some participant questions and answers. 


So, before we dive into the material further, let’s pause and hear from you. Throughout today’s session, we have three polls that we’re going to be asking you to participate in. So on your computer or smartphone, please go to menti.com. That’s M-E-N-T-I dot com, and we’re going to ask you to enter the code 6549 9322, and they’re also putting that in the chat box for you. And feel free to leave this open in the background, because you’ll have the ability to access it easily.  


Our first question for you, once you start to answer this in real time, is, what is the level of transparency at your organization? One, not transparent, two, somewhat transparent and, three, very transparent. If you’re unable to access the Menti poll, enter your answer into the chat box.  


And we’ll give folks a few minutes to log in here, again, at the top of the screen, you can see it’s menti.com, and you’ll use the code 6549 9322. 


We’ll give folks some time to answer in real time.  


Atokatha, while we’re waiting for folks to get their answers in here, let’s take a question. 


Atokatha Ashmond Brew: Yes, Steven, here’s a question. 


What are the best ways to communicate where we are with diversity, equity, inclusion and justice? 


Steven Krzanowski: Yeah, so I think that one of the things that you need to do—it’s twofold. 


One, you need to look internally to define what this work means to you as an organization. And then, two, how is it incorporated into your constituents, right? And there’s going to be different messaging that is required to communicate that out for both groups here. 


With staff, you’re going to want to really look at what does it look like to belong at your organization? What does that look like? Areas of inclusion, diversity, representation, what are some of the goals that you’re hoping to achieve as an organization to live out your values? Is diversity, equity and inclusion part of those values? And starting to communicate around that. 


Antonio, what else would you add? 


Antonio Cortes: Yeah, I’d like to focus a little bit more on the how, I think that’s where some folks might get stuck. 


This can happen in a multitude of ways, and actually, it should happen in a variety of ways. So, thinking about, do you have staff-wide meetings on a regular basis? And is there a portion of that meeting that’s dedicated to updates on different things across your organization? Sometimes relate directly to your diversity, equity, inclusion and justice efforts, or it could be more process related. It could be in the form of saying, “Hey, we conducted a compensation study and these are our findings,” and sharing those out. 


And so, I think as much, when we have the total organization in place, communication of information is essential, but it also shows up in other places, such as email updates or updates the policies that exist in the employee handbook. 


It could be external facing, as you’re thinking about this, Steven had alluded to the constituents, your stakeholders, what information is useful or important to them as those considerations come into play? You can also think about your social media and how that’s managed or not. So, I think communication is one of those things that’s extremely complex, when you actually lay out, all out, the different pieces that you could potentially consider. So that’s a big topic, and we’ll come back to that a couple of times throughout today’s session and give you some more specific examples of how and at what frequency. 


Atokatha Ashmond Brew: Right, thank you so much, Antonio. I think some people may have been seeing the wrong thing. It looks like it’s been refreshed. So if you could refresh your browsers on Menti, then you should be seeing the right poll. 


Steven Krzanowski: So, it looks like we have about 10% of folks that are saying that their organization is not transparent, 62%, somewhat transparent and about 31% very transparent. And this is what we’re seeing when we work with organizations across the United States and globally. Most folks are entering around that middle section, right Antonio? And, for some folks that are just beginning that, the practices, or are unaware of where to begin, but I think a lot of folks tend to be in this middle section. 


Antonio Cortes: Something else, Steven, I want to chime in here, is that folks are defining transparency in their own ways a lot of the times. And so, something that we want to accomplish by the end of today’s session is have a little bit more grounding on, well, how do I quantify this? And how do we have some agreement on what we even mean when we say transparency in an organizational context? 


Steven Krzanowski: Exactly. And let’s go ahead and define transparency on this next slide. So, thank you all so much for participating in this first poll. You’ll have two more polls to engage with us on.  


So let’s define transparency, so we’re all working from the same definition. We’re defining transparency as, “An organization that operates by creating and maintaining a culture of openness internally at all levels of the organization and externally with constituents.” 


Transparency practices within organizations can strengthen the management and employee relationship. It can create a level of loyalty that inspires and motivates your team. It can create new levels of accountability for mission deliverables, and ultimately, it’s impacting levels of employee engagement. It’s a way to create buy-in and ensure all staff are on board with ways to fulfill your mission, your vision and your strategy. 


A lot of times, folks, when they’re thinking of transparency, they’re going straight to financials and operations. Yes, that’s one area of transparency that can have a positive impact on an organization. And the reason for that is because the more staff know about the financial health of the organization, the more they can make the best decisions for that company and for themselves.  


We’ll discuss additional areas that require levels of transparency. But transparency can really be boiled down to, how are you effectively communicating with one another across your organization? 


In many instances, we have an ethical obligation to be transparent with each other and our stakeholders. Communication between staff, between teams and different roles, leadership and staff, our constituents, et cetera. The more honest we can be as leaders, the more engaged our teams will become and the more we will trust—trust will develop. 


Strong levels of trust between management and staff will help sustain any challenges, frustrations or negative news that organizational leaders often tend to have to deliver from time to time. When there’s a confidence in your honesty as a leader, it’s the foundation for long-term organizational success. 


Ultimately, we’re striving towards having increased levels of employee engagement, that staff engagement is so critical, and that’s a direct correlation between transparency and employee accountability. 


So, when we think about transparency, one of the key ingredients is developing a culture of trust. So, at the core of transparent organizations is a culture of trust. Trust is one of the most important ingredients, again, to effective transparency, and that’s trust with peers and supervisors, trust with organizational leadership. The Ohio State University Fisher College of Business published an article that focuses on building a culture of trust. The article is a great example of how organizations can work towards establishing a culture of trust. 


One such model is Michelle and Dennis Reina, and their model of trust outlines three critical components: capability trust, character trust and communication trust. 


Capability trust is a trust in competence, it grows when there is confidence in the perceived degree of knowledge, skills and ability of an individual. 


Character trust is the expectation that individuals will do what they say they will do and to be depended on. 


Communication trust is the willingness to share information, tell the truth, admit mistakes when they’re being made and maintain confidentiality. 


Considering all dimensions of trust is important, whether you are building it for the first time or working to re-earn trust after it’s been broken. So, we have a few tips for you on how to build trust. So, when establishing a new relationship, it’s important that individuals strive to build trust with one another. These elements of Reina’s model give us a place to start when building trust, so establishing capability, character and competence, and following these three tips to build trust in new relationships is a great way to start. 


One, follow through with your commitments. Saying what you’ll do, and then following up and doing that is critical to building trust. When commitments are upheld, we build greater trust in our abilities and our intentions. We come to expect what is said to be the truth and that others have our best interests in mind. 


Communicate appropriately. In order to become trustworthy, it’s necessary to communicate well. This includes both sharing information openly and maintaining confidentiality when necessary. 


And the third one here is being respectful. Respect is about treating others with courtesy, listening to their ideas with an open mind, approaching conflict in a healthy way to appreciating them, appreciating each other and bringing all of who you are into those relationships. Treating others with respect shows you truly care and are committed to each other’s success. 


Sometimes, their trust can be broken in organizations, right? So, we may make a mistake, or a betrayal may happen within our organizations and the relationship can be harmed. Employees tend to feel disengaged and the company culture can be damaged when this happens, right? For these reasons, it’s important to consider ways in which to rebuild trust after trust has been broken. And similarly, we have three steps that you can take. 


The first is, acknowledge what has happened. This first step in rebuilding trust is to acknowledge what happened. Rather than ignoring a betrayal, talking candidly about what happened can help both parties to move on. Making amends or apologizing signals to the other party and can show that you’ve taken responsibility and are able to move forward. 


Number two, take the small steps. As you work towards rebuilding trust, you have to take action. These are the same actions you take when building trust initially, following through with commitments, communicating appropriately and being respectful. But after trust has been eroded, you need to look to whatever opportunities exist to take action, no matter how small they may seem. It all will make a difference. And be patient, it can take time to mend relationships. One of the most important things that you can do is be patient and let it grow over time. 


So, as we explore trust, it is important to have an understanding of what are the levels of trust within your organizations. Many of the clients that we serve, we do equity assessments, and we gauge levels of trust within an organization. And those are key indicators of where there may be some issues that are happening within your organizational culture, and those are things to pay extra close attention to. 


And you can find different ways to assess trust within your organization. Again, the more trust you have within your organization, the easier it will be to apply some of the transparency practices that Antonio is going to discuss in just a moment here. 


But before we dive into that, one last thing about building trust, so much of it is relationship building, right? And whenever I have questions, I always find that I can go to Brené Brown. I feel like she just has all the answers, right? And she has developed a model called BRAVING. And these are seven interpersonal practices that, when practiced can build trust and it can build a one-on-one with folks that you’re working with, within teams or within an organization.  


To summarize her acronym, she explains the first one is boundaries (B). You need to respect my boundaries. And when you’re not clear about what’s OK and not OK, you ask, and you’re willing to say no. 


Reliability (R). You do what you say you’ll do. At work, this means staying where your competencies and limitations, so you don’t over-promise and are able to deliver on commitments and balance competing priorities. 


Accountability (A). You own your own mistakes. You apologize when things happen, and you make amends when necessary. 


The vault (V). You don’t share information or experiences that are not yours to share. I need to know that my confidences are kept and that you are not sharing with me any information about other people that should be kept confidential. 


Integrity (I). You choose courage over comfort. You choose what is right over what is fun, fast and easy. You choose to practice your values rather than simply professing them. 


Non-judgement (N). This is when I can ask you for what I need, and you can ask me for what you need. We can talk about how we feel without judgement here. 


And generosity (G). You extend the most generous interpretation possible to the intentions, words and actions of others. 


I love this, and, I saw this a while back, and I have really been intentional around how I am building relationships with my colleagues and friends. And I’ve utilized this as a framework in working with others, and I’ve found great success with it. And I hope you will, too. 


So, as we think more about trust as a foundation for transparency, we want to pause here, and we want to go to one more question. And the next question is, what should organizations be transparent about? 


And we can see some on here. 


And I think it may have accidentally—I’m going to refresh this here. It looks like it pulled from the other…technology. 


It doesn’t look like it’s refreshing. So, what I’d love for you all to do is drop in the chat box, what should organizations be transparent about? 


And Atokatha, if you could read some of those off for us as they come in. But we’ll give folks a little bit of time to get things, to get their answers in here. And, Antonio, would you like to take a question while folks are answering? 


Antonio Cortes: Sure, we can take a question. But it also looks like they are starting to come in now. I think there’s some residuals from the first item where people may have been responding to the text box. 


But, you can just refresh one more time. 


So, I was noting some things, such as decision-making processes, pay, hiring, benefits, everything, which is ideal. 


I also saw earlier, before refreshing, there were some DEI practices mentioned, DEI stats specifically, so some great examples of what organizations can be transparent about. But Atokatha, if there’s another question that we can take right now, we’re happy to do so at this time while folks are adding in their responses. 


Atokatha Ashmond Brew: Sure, there is a question regarding tracking and reporting on pay equity and if you have any insights on that? 


Antonio Cortes: Yeah, that is probably the most contentious topic within organizations is pay and pay transparency. So, one of the first things I will say is that if your organization does do regular compensation audits or equity assessments, there’s no reason to hold that information in private. That’s information that you can share out and report back to your broader staff. Basically say, “Hey, we had a third party conduct this assessment for us, and we learned that either we’re in good shape and that there’s no action needed,” or “that we identified a couple of things that need attention. Some individuals’, maybe, salaries are not where they should be or there’s some things that aren’t in alignment with job bands,” or something else. 


Being honest and open about that information, because, at the end of the day, those types of assessments are conducted with the intent to either determine if we’re in good shape or, if they are places where we can do better, that we actually take action on those. 


When it comes to other aspects of compensation, such as posting jobs, sharing salary bands for individual roles, those are other places where you can consider transparency in process and information. Again, they exist in most organizations. Most roles have some type of range that is documented somewhere. No reason to hold that in confidence as more and more organizations, and even states, are moving in this direction of pay transparency overall. And so, in addition to that, there’s related processes to compensation that you could consider, such as advancement and what are protocols related to promotions and how that impacts pay, et cetera. So, many, many places to consider when it comes to pay transparency. 


Steven, anything you’d add on that topic? 


Steven Krzanowski: I think that sounds great, Antonio, and we have some additional answers in here. I’m just going to read a few off. 


So, decision-making processes, strategy decisions, hiring, compensation policies. There was promotion, anti-discrimination policies, how folks are being hired, pay scales, decision-making framework. 


So, these are really great, great ideas here, and I would agree with all of you. And we’ll dive into that here on the next slide, some additional areas. Antonio, would you like to talk a little bit about where transparency is needed? 


Antonio Cortes: Sure thing. 


And so, as we kind of saw on the last slide, with your own responses and contributions, lots of places that we can consider. So, what we want it to do here is compile a list of specific instances or places where transparency can be helpful, or help us identify any trends or themes that might be happening within our organization. 


So one of the first places that you could consider is access to general information, such as policies, procedures, how to access resources. A lot of the time, I think about employee handbooks. And if your organization has a handbook, it probably has a ton of different things in there. As an example, you may have a policy on professional development resources and how a staff member might go about accessing those. 


The more information that we have on how things work in an organization, and the more clear they are, when an employee actually needs that information, they should be able to know where to go to find it. And then identify, what is the process if I want to take time off? Or if I want to work on obtaining a promotion, or work on professional development? All of those things often come with policies and procedures. And again, the more transparent we can be about that, the more available we can make those to our team members, the better experience that they’re going to have in navigating those systems. 


You can also consider your recruitment goals and your processes that you employ for recruitment. In thinking about, are you tracking and sharing with your hiring managers the demographic composition of your recruitment pools? Are we looking at our hiring pools and how those demographics shift from the beginning of the process to the end? And looking at, again, different breakdowns based off of gender, race, ethnicity, potentially, and other protected classes, and making sure that you’re doing a good job on the very front end, and that you’re hiring processes throughout the system are also doing a good job of maintaining a robust group of individuals that can ultimately make it to that end process to be hired.  


And we talked about compensation a little bit on the last slide, and that’s a big, big topic. But, the compensation bands is one of those areas that, it’s so simple. You can post a hiring range with a job description, and you will actually make your process a little bit more effective. Because, candidates that are well beyond that salary range will self-select out of the process, and you’ll save both their time and your time on the front end. 


And, also, folks that are looking for pay equity will be able to understand, what does this job effectively pay for someone who has roughly my level of experience and skills, what does this realistic salary look like for me, as an external candidate? 


And then, internally, the same is also true in thinking about the fact that people want to be paid fairly. I think that’s probably a foundational thing that most people can agree on, but compensation bands and making sure that my salary is actually in our posted bands is something that helps with confidence in your organizational processes and practices related to compensation. So, sharing this information, I think, is becoming more and more common, becoming standard at this point. But that’s definitely something that we should be considering. 


Also, thinking about when something doesn’t go right, or I have a situation that I need some support with, that I maybe am not comfortable going to my supervisor, are there processes in your organization that employees can use? To report incidents that they have, or they need support with, or they have an interaction with a colleague that they need some mediation with? Is that process to obtain that type of support or action clear and available and known by most of your staff? The answer to that is, hopefully, yes. But if the answer is no, in your instance, what are some things that we can put in place to create a process or to just be more transparent of what the process actually is? 


When it comes to decision making in organizations, this is another area where we can consider how information is shared and the volume of information shared that makes sense for folks that are going to be impacted by decisions. 


So, I’m sure all of you have had an experience at some point in your career, where someone in a more senior role than you made a decision, and it impacted your job on a day-to-day basis. And you had no say or input in that decision. That’s not a great feeling. If you’ve been there, and for those of us that are in decision-making roles, sometimes we make a decision and it has unintended impact or unintended consequences, because we didn’t necessarily do as thorough a job as we could have of investigating, what are the consequences or what are the impacts to other stakeholders or other colleagues? 


And so, as much as possible, decision-making practices, and we’ll come back to this one a little bit later, but decision-making practices can be more transparent in most organizations, from our assessments, and it doesn’t take as much effort as you might think, in some cases. So, we’ll give you some practical examples there on what to do. 


When it comes to updates and sharing progress on different initiatives within your organization, this is another area that, again, super easy and helpful for transparency and updates. I think about, a number of my clients that I work with, they’re doing great work. They are creating strong compensation practices, they’re creating strong performance management systems, they are thinking about how they can develop their talent and retain them and make them feel like they’re contributing to a bigger mission or purpose. But they don’t necessarily do a great job of communicating the progress of all the change and all the great things that they’re doing internally, and sometimes it gets lost in translation. 


And while we may have a great system, a great process or a thing that we’re working on, if nobody knows about it, it’s not necessarily helpful to impact things like employee engagement, morale or trust within an organization. So, even just the small act of communicating, “Hey, we’re working on performance management and improving it,” and every quarter, having some updates on new things that have changed or become available to your team members, those are some examples of things to consider. 


Anytime you do a survey of staff experiences within an organization, it is best practice to consider how this information will be shared back to stakeholders. Anytime that you completed a survey, I’m sure you’ve wondered, in some cases, what happened to that information and how did it get used? 


One of the first ways that we often collaborate with our clients is to say, well, taking stock of this information to think about what we’re going to action is definitely important. But even the simple act of saying, “We heard what you stated,” and being able to share that back with our constituents is an important step in that process. 


Another one that often, again, I think this is probably another contentious one, in some cases, but organizational finances, is another area where we can be more transparent. Do your team members understand how well their department’s doing in relation to other departments? Do they understand how the organization as a whole is faring from a financial standpoint? Interestingly, for nonprofits, this—I would have assumed in the past, as a novice at some point, way, way back many years ago, that this wouldn’t be a big deal for nonprofits because we have to publish our 990s and we do make financial information available publicly, including highest paid salaries in the organization. But I think this longstanding practice of financial and monetary information being held private sticks with us, even still today. 


So the more that our staff can understand the operating environment of the organization, the more they can also draw connections to, “Well, what does my salary raise going—or my salary or merit increase going to be this year, if we’re doing really well financially?” What are the expectations there? Same is true in the opposite direction. If we’re not faring well financially, might I anticipate a lower merit increase this year or might I anticipate organization cost-savings strategies to be put in place, and vice versa? And what can I do individually, as an individual contributor, to help improve our financial well-being? 


Once we start to draw the connections between all these things, people start to understand that their individual contributions do have an impact on the bottom line, even if it’s an indirect or small one. Over time, teams and larger groups do have a major impact as we all know. 


Also, looking at places like retention and turnover reports. The folks that come into our organization, understanding those demographics are important, but what about the folks that leave? And why are they leaving? So, both having an understanding of, are there certain trends with demographic shifts within an organization with us being able to retain or not retain certain populations, is definitely a consideration, and something we’d like to investigate and report back. 


And then the themes of, what are the reasons people leave our organization? Is it because it’s there’s lack of growth opportunities? Is it because they don’t feel supported by the manager in terms of professional development access? Is it because of pay? Whatever the reasons are, we need to be able to know what those are and action them, and there aren’t necessarily reasons for us to, again, hide or put that information into a little box and hide it away. Those are things that I think a lot of hiring managers, when they get certain types of feedback, it’s helpful for them to be able to understand, what can they do differently to improve retention potentially on your teams? 


When it comes to DEI value statements, those are also great. It’s a great thing to use, both internally and externally, to let your internal stakeholders, your team members, understand how your organization will approach advancing diversity, equity and inclusion within the context of how you operate. But also externally, and thinking about how your stakeholders are impacted by your efforts to be a more inclusive and equitable organization, with how you consider service delivery, with how you consider the supports you provide to them. So, a statement is often a grounding factor both internally and externally for a lot of work that transpires. 


When you think about messaging, again, this is both an internal and external consideration. But what are the things that are highlighted by your organization, and by your leadership team, in emails, in social media posts, in public statements, on your website? 


All of those places where information is shared about your organization, or about the things that you’re engaging in, those are instances where you can control the narrative of, “This is what we’re doing and why.” And also, providing additional information that might be useful, again, to those various stakeholder groups.  


And the last area that we’ll highlight here, because there are other places that we can continue to go, but I think this is a good comprehensive list, is supplier diversity. And many organizations can—they have supplier diversity initiatives that they are embarking on. And the more information you can share both internally and externally about that: What are the criteria that you’re looking at? What are some of the considerations and goals that you have around supplier diversity? And then, how do you actively go about improving and ensuring that you do have a diverse pipeline of supplier that you partner with? These are all instances where, again, more information is better, and it also signals to other organizations that, “Hey, maybe I should consider offering my services to your organization, now that you have this particular program that’s targeting an organization like mine,” potentially. 


Steven, any additions to this list that you would make? 


Steven Krzanowski: I think this is pretty comprehensive, and it aligns with a lot of what we were seeing in the poll from participants. 


I always say, anywhere where you can be transparent, be transparent. And there’s a lot of upside to it. And transitioning into the next slide here, we have an additional poll. This will be our last poll for today. And, again, for those of you who may have joined a little late, we’re using menti.com. So please go to menti.com and use the code 6549 9322. 


And our question for you all is, what barriers exist that prohibit our organizations from practicing transparency? 


And, again, if you’re unable to access the Menti poll here, feel free to enter some of your thoughts in the chat box. We’ll give folks a few minutes to answer.  


Antonio Cortes: Steven, while we’re waiting for that, can you double-check to see which one is populated on the site currently, to make sure it’s the correct one? 


Steven Krzanowski: It’s showing me this one, the barriers, is that—I hope that’s what others are seeing. 


Antonio Cortes: We’ll find out shortly if we get some responses coming in. 


All right, and while we sort through that, Atokatha, if there’s another question, we’re happy to field that now. 


Atokatha Ashmond Brew: Yes, there is Antonio.  


When an organization owns its faults, how quickly should they remedy the error after acknowledging it? 


Antonio Cortes: That is a good question. My consultant hat, my first response is, always, it depends. Because the context of what the incident was, the context of your organization’s ability to effectively respond in a timely manner is a consideration. Is a responsiveness or a change needed is also a question. 


So, my default response is that there’s a lot of things to consider. But in general, I would say as a rule of thumb, once it is acknowledged, as soon as it’s feasible and reasonable for an organization to take action on responding to something that was raised as an issue, is ideally when it should be actioned off.  


So, a practical example: If we do a compensation study and we find that there are a group of employees who are under market salaries where they should be. We may or may not be able to practically take action on that as an organization based off of our financial state. And so, acknowledging that, “Hey, we’ve done this process, we identified some things that need some attention,” and then present a timeline of when we’ll get—be able to be in a position to rectify that and share the rationale. So when we talk about transparency, the transparency of the full situation and also the transparency of what is the plan for action, even if it has a stretched out timeline. 


What I’ve found, in my experience, is that the more information that employees have, and people in general have, about what’s going on and the reason why a solution is taken and why the timeline is what it is, the more receptive they tend to be to that action, even if it’s not as soon as we’d like it to be. But, again, at the end of the day, you may also find that once you start working on your rationale, and explaining that, you probably could take action sooner on some things, rather than later. So, sometimes you have to grapple with that reality as well.  


But Steven, and I’d love your thoughts on this one too, this is a really good question. 


Steven Krzanowski: Yeah, I think, get some great points here. One of the things that I think is important is, even if you don’t have the answers at that moment, and you need to reflect on next steps, providing, saying, “Our leadership is pausing, we’re meeting internally with our stakeholders to make sure that we’re coming up with a response or a strategy that meets the needs of our stakeholders,” or whatever the issue may be, right? But communicating that, and showing that, we’re all human, right? Sometimes when mistakes are made, owning them. But then, also, like Antonio was saying, provide what that timeline will look like and stick to it.  


And that is, one thing that you can do, again, to not only be transparent, but to maintain trust, is to really focus in on the timeline and how you—what is your response going to be, and that cadence. 


Antonio Cortes: And here on the screen, we have some great examples of barriers that basically get in the way of organizations being able to effectively practice transparency.  


So, time is a big one. Bureaucracy, right? Recognizing that some organizations, it takes a long time for things to get through, approved and shared back. Past practices, this is the way we’ve always done things. Institutional cultures of silence, right? This is just the situation and the environment that we operate in, and it is what it is situation. Hierarchy, lack of trust, power dynamics, privacy issues, leadership, specifically, individuals, potentially, apathy, lack of time or resources or capacity to manage communications, clear expectations. So those are a lot of things. 


And on the next slide, we’ve also identified some explicit areas where, there are things that get in the way of us being able to be as transparent as we like about certain things. So, as an example, being insensitive to “in” and “out” groups within an organization. 


And then, as you think about organizations becoming more diverse, which I think is kind of a natural thing over time, right? So, generational shifts will happen. And with that, a lot of additional demographic diversity is going to show up in organizations as we go. And what does that mean for our culture and how we are inclusive to new groups that may not have been part of our organization before? And sometimes that lack of intentionality or thoughtfulness when it comes to bringing new folks into the organization, it’s lost in the process. And so, if we form these “in” and “out” groups, we may have instances where certain people don’t feel as welcome or as included as others. 


There’s also just the general idea of what inclusion looks like as an organization in terms of internal actions. 


So, diversity is pretty easy to accomplish, actually. In my experience, if you set up strong processes to have diverse recruitment pools, you can ultimately, over time, get to hiring a multitude of diverse candidates or candidate groups, and including them in your organization, or having them in your organization I should say. So, that’s diversity, it’s just the presence of people that have different backgrounds and experiences. 


But including people that have different backgrounds, experiences and ways of thinking is not always as easy, right? So, in some cases, myself being an industrial organizational psychologist, I see things in a particular way, and if I’m in a group of medical physicians or doctors, sometimes we have a difference in opinion on a couple of things because of our perspective, approaches and our fields, it happens. And I would say the same is true across professions. 


And so, that aspect of, how do we make sure that we’re having an inclusive environment? That could potentially be a moving target over time, as more and more people join your organization. So, being intentional about being on top of that as much as possible is important. 


Microaggressions are another area of consideration. And microaggressions are those commonplace, daily verbal or behavioral slights that are typically unintentional but come across in our communication or our behaviors with each other. The most common one that I’m the perpetrator of is responding to large groups of people as, “You guys.” I’ve done this a few instances over the years where I’ve said “you guys” to a group of women. And recognizing that it’s a very small thing. It’s very unconscious. It’s not intentional. I don’t say things to necessarily hurt or harm people. But those experiences sometimes stick with people over time, and especially if they are on the receiving end of those, those over time become things that get in the way of us being comfortable, raising issues around transparency or being comfortable being transparent. 


Another one is, this is a great one to translate to recover from mistakes, what happens when things don’t go right? What do we do about that, and how do we take action? 


So, thinking about the fact that owning it is the beginning of the process but taking action is definitely the sustaining piece for us to build beyond that. As Steven was discussing earlier, it’s an important thing that we need to continue, continuously work on. And so, even though we make mistakes, it’s not the end of the situation. We can take action to rebuild. 


Fear of repercussions and retaliation is definitely another consideration. 


Internal and external environments are also things that have to be navigated as part of building transparency. So, when you think about internal, you will be considering things like staff expectations of what’s realistic. You may also think about your staff survey experiences. And, again, being transparent about those. You may be thinking about organizational systems, specifically your people systems, thinking about retention, thinking about hiring practices, all the things that we’ve talked about. That’s all part of the internal environment. 


Additionally, with the external environment, when you think about all those other aspects that we had highlighted on the last slide in thinking about your external stakeholder groups and what information is shared or not shared and how do you solicit feedback from them, those are definitely points of consideration. 


Then, the last item that we’ll highlight here is around bias. And recognizing that this—this was one that that you all raised—was, I’ll frame it a little bit differently, we’ve always done this this way. And we have a bias towards doing things the way they’ve always been done. That sometimes gets in the way of us being transparent, because in the past, we didn’t talk about these things, or we didn’t have this information available. Again, thinking about organizational financial health or compensation practices and policies, just because it was in a particular way or handled in a particular way in the past, does not necessarily mean we can’t change it. So having that bias sometimes gets in our way of seeing a different way of doing things. 


And on the next slide here, I want to acknowledge, too, just briefly, that there is risk involved with this. 


I don’t want to lie to you and say that this is all just roses and unicorns, like my youngest daughter loves. Sometimes you have to get that reward of having a more informed, more engaged workforce, we have to risk a little bit of something. And sometimes that means we have to navigate criticisms when things aren’t going well or we may have to recognize that sometimes we get defensive about those criticisms, rather than taking that as feedback that we can use to become more effective or better with transparency. Taking accountability and making sure that we are actioning things that we can action and that we think are going to provide a good ROI on time and investment. And then, making sure that individuals have responsibility for those things to ensure that they are getting done. 


You may also have to navigate social media, so the more transparent you become about information in your organization, sometimes, again, when information is learned that is not the most favorable, sometimes it can land on social media via, let’s say your LinkedIn or Glassdoor reviews of your organization. Interestingly, what we find though is that the more transparent organizations are and the more willing they are to take action when needs are raised, that shows up on social media as well. So, everything from transparency and equity in compensation to how managers support their teams to how leadership shows up. Those are places where you may also encounter that information coming in from current or former employees.  


Something that we also can risk here is getting stuck. And the concept of trying to get everything perfect or right when we do it the first time, is something that, occasionally, will get in the way of us actually being able to make some progress. And so, as you think about how your organization might become more transparent, either in communication or processes, try not to get stuck in that place of, “It has to be perfect. It has to be done exactly the right the first time.” Very few things, when it comes to human beings, is perfect or done right the first time. So just keep that in mind. 


And the last thing that that kind of gets in the way or that we are risking is the unknown or their fear of “what if.” And that’s a tough place to be. But knowing that, if you have your intentions in the right place, and you’re doing your due diligence of obtaining feedback from, again, stakeholders who are impacted by decisions, those positive intentions and thoughtfulness of process will often lead you to a better place, as long as you’re continuously absorbing that feedback and trying to incorporate that into your approach. 


Then, when it comes to leadership, I think, this is where it starts. And I won’t go through all these bullet points, because I do want to get to our case study here. But I do think that leadership is often where transparency can originate from, if that makes sense. And so, it comes from the top. 


And so, if our senior leaders in an organization are saying and committing that they’re going to come up and begin to have more transparency in decision-making processes, as appropriate, to incorporate different stakeholder groups, as they consider making significant organizational decisions, as they begin to communicate more effectively across the organization, as they think about their role in modeling transparency, all of those things are important to ensure that the organizational culture becomes more receptive and in alignment with being as transparent as possible. 


And then, the last bullet point is actually what I want to hit home on, the consistency of how leadership shows up is important to, going back to Steven’s point around, trust and just showing up in an authentic manner. So definitely, leadership is an important consideration here. 


Steven, what do you think here? I think, I want to cover this one, but do you think we should shift to the case study after this one? 


Steven Krzanowski: Yeah, I think that sounds great. 


Antonio Cortes: OK, perfect. So this last piece here is when you think about how to improve transparency, there’s a number of things that you can action. And, these are just five considerations here, that, as we say transparency, I want you to operationalize it just a little bit and say, “Well, what does this mean? When I leave this conversation, and I go back to my job, what am I going to do differently to ensure that I am trying to be as transparent as I possibly can within my span of control?” 


And one of the first things you can focus on, is the method, volume and frequency that you communicate through. So, in order to be transparent, it’s essential to communicate effectively. And communication starts with individuals and can gradually build up a more transparent culture. So, as an example, if I’m on my team and I’m sharing information on, “Hey, I’m struggling with this particular client engagement, and this is what I did to solve it.” Sharing that information just even at a parallel level with my team members is going to help them understand, “Well this works or this doesn’t. And I don’t necessarily have to rethink the wheel on this one.” 


The same is true across the organization. So, the more communication that you can have about different things that are happening that are impacting different teams in the organization, having open lines of communication through multiple mediums is ideal to ensure that transparency is embedded in that. 


Sharing information. I talked earlier in this conversation around policies and practices and how documenting information is important. But ensuring that that is also accessible to your broader staff base is the second piece of that. 


The third item I want to highlight is sharing the rationale. Oftentimes, this is a piece that’s missed in decision making. And so, sometimes we have the outcomes of decisions and sometimes we have the starting point of where we were before the decision was made, but we don’t have the in-between of what we considered: the financial position of our organization, we considered the external environment, we considered the impact to staff and sharing all those things collectively and how they impacted your decision making. Sometimes it’s necessary to share the rationale for why things are done, especially when they’re significant organizational decisions. But the rationale is also a key piece. 


The fourth is to consider how to shift your organizational culture. We talked in a few instances about the roles that individuals such as leaders play, the need to be consistent with your approach, and over time, again, the more that you support and show up and say, “We’re transparent as an organization in these ways,” and show up consistently over and over again, your people managers will start to model that behavior and then your team members and all that will also begin to model that behavior and then we’ll expect it as an organization. And so, it becomes embedded into our organizational culture and over time, will shift how we approach. 


And then, the last piece is feedback loops and ensuring that we have an ongoing volume of feedback. From our teams that are—that’s flowing up through the organization, and then having that information integrated into decision making. And then, going back down in the other direction to ensure that even though, practically, you can’t take all the feedback that you receive, you have to make some decisions along the way. But, understanding that there is a process of how those decisions are made and what information to incorporate versus not. The process is just as important as the information and decision themselves. So, feedback is vital to getting that done.  


So, Steven, I’ll turn it to you, and I’d like to get to the case study here and hear a little bit from Melissa. 


Antonio Cortes: That sounds great, Antonio. And just so everyone knows, we have two slides that we’re not going to cover, but it will be in the expanded deck. So when you download a copy of the today’s session, they will be included and it’s on accountability, power-sharing and decision making. 


So let’s dive in here and introduce Melissa Forburger. She is the Senior Vice President at Association Management Strategies Incorporated (AMS) and has provided leadership and human resources expertise to AMS and its clients since 2015. Melissa’s career has been dedicated to the nonprofit industry working for association management companies and at a standalone association. She’s been intimately involved in both organization and client growth, financial oversight, people management, grants management and operations management. Melissa has worked closely with 15 boards of directors, countless committees, and works and partners with volunteer leaders to advance the mission of their organization. Melissa has served as a mentor to over 25 young professionals during her career and maintains close relationships with many of them today. 


As a graduate of Virginia Tech with a Bachelor of Arts in Communications, Melissa holds the Certified Association Executive, CAE, credential from the American Society of Association Executives, and is Certified Professional (SHRM-CP) through the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM). 


So, Antonio, and everyone, I’d like to welcome Melissa. And Antonio, do you want to get us started with our first question for Melissa? 


Antonio Cortes: Yeah, and just for additional context, too, we’ve worked with AMS and Melissa’s team for a while now in different capacities and just have found them to be a great example of how an organization approaches diversity, equity and inclusion work throughout a variety of considerations, whether it be HR or people experience. So, we just would love to hear a little bit from Melissa today about how that journey has been. 


So, Melissa, first question. As an organizational leader, what prompted your diversity, equity and inclusion journey? And can you give us some, just, description on how it’s evolved over time? 


Melissa Forburger: Thank you. Thanks, Steven and Antonio. I appreciate being here today. So, AMS, we’re an association management company. We manage small trade associations. And in late 2019, we did a five-year action plan, where we were looking at the next stages of what we wanted to do. And one of the things that we budgeted for and included was to do a DEI plan starting in 2020. It was something we decided to invest in and to work in doing. We went through a process of going to an RFP. We selected Nonprofit HR as our partner, and then started to do that process in mid-to-late 2020. That included surveying our staff, working with a team and the development of a DEI committee.  


And I think one thing that, we’re almost two years into it, is and ended up being, I think, even more than we thought it was going to be. 

We kind of knew the things we thought we would go into as kind of anyone does with that, but it’s really evolved over time. And I think the other thing is, for us, we’re also hoping to propel it to something that we can help our association partners with too, in the work that we do with the different boards and committees as well. 


Antonio Cortes: So, I want to go down one path here. So, I know you have a DEI committee in place. Can you talk about evolution of how you identified the need for a committee, and what were some of the things that you consider prior to launching that group? 


Melissa Forburger: Great, thanks. So, we did a survey that Nonprofit HR did to our team, and we were really glad to see that 96% of our staff replied to the survey, gave us their touchpoints of where they were feeling on their DEI journey and through that, we were able to say, “OK, here’s the stages we want to do.” And we knew one thing that we wanted to do was to create a DEI committee, and we intentionally wanted that to be done from the members of our team.  


We have 35 employees, our leadership on our team is not very diverse. We intentionally didn’t want the leadership to be the one running the committee. So, Nonprofit HR worked with us. We developed a committee, and we made sure we had representatives from different teams, different areas of expertise within the company, different levels of experience, different representations along the DEI lines, and developed a committee of about 10 individuals. They worked together and developed their own charter of what they were looking for, what AMS wanted. They would present to the staff and the leadership about what that looked like. They helped us develop a DEI mission statement, and then they kind of really went gangbusters and really took it to the next level. They develop DEI chats and educational series and really ramped up what they were doing.  


And, I think, again, the biggest thing that we wanted it to be, was we wanted it to be something that was coming from our staff and from our team, and not from leadership. While they were coming to leadership, and saying, “Here’s what we’re doing,” it was more just for our leadership to say, “OK, that sounds good,” or “Do you need financial resources for that?” But, to do that.  


And the other thing is, we wanted to make sure that it was a safe space where people could feel comfortable talking about DEI issues. Obviously, in 2020, there was a lot of social injustice happening in the world because the pandemic, we were all kind of propelled into doing more things like we are today over the screen. And we were engaging more and trying to develop the relationships to continue to have these conversations. 


Steven Krzanowski: Melissa, as a follow up question, while you were talking, you mentioned that you all have a DEI statement. How did you go about creating that statement and how do you use it? 


Melissa Forburger: So the committee developed the statement, they work together, wanting to touch on the different ways of DE&I. They developed it, they presented it to leadership, presented it to the staff, incorporated it, also including some infographics, and included it on our website. They took it a step further and included DEI and how we do our approach in the client work that we’re doing, too, how we look at things, and we try to incorporate those themes throughout that.  


And then, again, just really working with the staff and with the team on incorporating those into what we’re doing, blogs, a blog was published about the release of that. And anytime the DEI committee does any work, they present to the full staff of, “Hey, here’s what we’ve done, here’s what we’re working on,” and gets feedback along the way too from the team to see if there’s anything that’s missing as well. 


Antonio Cortes: Thanks, Melissa, it’s always great to hear the amazing work that that committee has done in such a short period of time. 


OK, so today’s workshop session is explicitly about transparency. Can you talk from your own vantage point, first about the importance of transparency when it comes to decision making, but then secondly, how has your approach to creating more transparency changed as part of your DEI journey? 


Melissa Forburger: Yeah, I think that’s something—we’ve done a survey through our company, through an HR system that we have that’s surveyed for a while, and I think communications and transparencies, one that we’ve heard from there. We took that to the next level with DEI of, “OK, we’re hearing this, we’re hearing this feedback. How are we incorporating that? And how are we making sure that we’re letting employees tell us and provide feedback?” 


And one of the things that we heard from our feedback was, what’s going on with salaries? How do I know that my salary is what it is, and it’s comparable to others in the area that I’m being paid fairly and equitably? We actually engaged, and did, a salary survey review of all of our salaries this year. And we’re able to put that together and present that to the team and present to them of, “We’ve gone out to compensation, we’ve looked and we’ve said, ‘This is where you are, based on your position, and where you are there,” to be transparent about that, so that the team is aware of that. 


And, also, a part of that is, we incorporated a new performance management system that we had through our online database, our online HR system. And that was something where we wanted to, again, provide an equitable process, because we know sometimes managers can be subjective in how they’re doing things. And so, we spent a lot of time really talking through with the team about, this is the way that we’re going to be doing this so it’s transparent. So that one manager isn’t doing something different than the way that another manager is doing it. Everyone had to be accountable to the same steps and processes that they were doing. And then, we actually just finished a round of surveys to our team. Just finished our evaluations in April and said to the team, “Can you let us know what you thought of the process?” We asked managers, from their perspective, what they thought of it, and asked employees too.  


And one of the things that we’ve learned in this whole process is transparency is this constant. I don’t think you can ever be transparent enough. I think there’s things we still have to continue to share with our employees and get their feedback on and chat with them about. So I think if you—that’s just one thing that we found, we’ve got to continue to be to be transparent in the process. 


Steven Krzanowski: I love that and you talked a little bit about this, but could you share a little bit around what feedback looks like at different levels at AMS? 


Melissa Forburger: Yeah. So, feedback can be anything from a survey, talking with your manager, talking with HR. We had in the pandemic—pre-pandemic—we used to have just a monthly staff meeting and as we realized everyone was kind of disengaged, we started having a weekly staff meeting. And then as life was coming back to normal, we thought, “Oh, maybe we don’t need to do this anymore.” We actually surveyed the team, “What do you think?” And they said, “No, let’s have the meeting, even if it’s only for five minutes, let’s touch base.” 


And another way that we, I think, one of the biggest ways that we looked for their feedback and being involved in transparency is that, early in 2021, in the spring of 2021, when people were saying, “How did we go back?” We surveyed the team to say, “Well, what do you want to do?” We really left it up to our team. Where, “You’ve been functioning remotely for a year, what do you think?” And we really let them drive that message for us. We did it pretty early. In the past, if you were somebody that worked remotely, it was somebody in a more senior level. It wasn’t somebody who had just come to the organization. And after we have been successful in that process, we said, “Well, let’s get that feedback from them.” 


And we did that through a committee that was put together, similar to our DEI committee, of representation all throughout the company, where people are able to provide their input and say, “This is what I would like to see,” or “This is what I don’t like.” And that committee has evolved and is continuing to get feedback from employees, as we’ve been doing this for a year, what do what do we need to do? What information aren’t you getting now that we’re working remotely? The things you used to get standing at the water cooler, how can we continue to share that information while remote? 


Antonio Cortes: Thanks, Melissa, and I appreciate you reaffirming my feedback loops on one of those earlier slides that I shared and showing that in practice. I’m curious, Atokatha, do we have any questions for Melissa from the audience? 


Atokatha Ashmond Brew: We do. Here’s one.  


Who leads the DEI committee? Did a staff member volunteer to lead or did the group self-select? And do they rotate leadership? 


Melissa Forburger: So, we, at the time, did a call for committees for several committees, that was one that employees signed up for and they had the option of selecting if they were interested in being chair and the situation it was two co-chairs. They were two junior members of the team, they co-chaired it. I sat on the team as HR just there, in case they needed feedback from something, and we’re just finishing a cycle now, where all of our committees are re-upping and that’s one where we have folks that are volunteering in that place, as well. 


Antonio Cortes: Awesome. Any additional, Atokatha, specifically for Melissa? 


Atokatha Ashmond Brew: Yes, there’s one other one.  


How has leadership in the organization changed with their engagement with the staff DEI committee? I’m curious to know more about how leadership is engaged and if it’s framed as a staff-centered DEI committee? 


Melissa Forburger: If it’s framed as a staff-centered DEI committee? Sorry. 


Atokatha Ashmond Brew: Yes, that was the question, yes. 


Melissa Forburger: So, we’ve had times where the DEI committee has presented to leadership. One of the things that we wanted to incorporate for 2022 was to do some manager training. That’s some feedback we’ve gotten from some different surveys, is, not all managers manage the same. So, what surveys—what questions we asked about that, and one of the things that we instituted was a microaggression training for managers, and, which was great. We did the session and it was very well received, and the DEI committee got the feedback from it. And they’ve actually now come back and said, “We want to have the whole office have that training, not just the managers from that.”  


So, the leadership team does think of it as a staff-run committee. Partially, not wanting to feel like the management has control over that committee, that they’re helping us guide the organization. Now, if they came and said, “Well, we want to do this initiative,” and it costs more than we can possibly imagine, we would—we may need to budget for that or work through that there. 


But we’ve really tried to put that in the area of employees handling that. And I think that’s one of the ways that we’ve pivoted in this transparency is, before, it was probably pretty old school, where leaders were the ones always running the committees, because they were the first to volunteer and maybe weren’t given that opportunity before. And now, with our new cycle of committees that are coming up, actually, no one from leadership is managing any of those committees. Those are being run by different members of the team. 


Antonio Cortes: It’s always just exciting and interesting to hear about your team’s experience. I, personally, I’m definitely biased. I think the AMS staff is just an amazing group of people. And so, I’m not surprised at just the amazing progress that they’ve made over a period of time.  


Melissa, I have one last question for you before we open it back up for questions from the audience. But I talked about risk earlier, and I’m curious now, what do you think is the business case for transparency? And what are some of the tradeoffs that you should probably—we should probably—consider here? 


Melissa Forburger: Well, I think, with risk, there’s transparency. But sometimes, if you’re transparent, or I think there were some worries on being too transparent. Are we are we showing too much information? 


You know what, what—That’s been kind of a little bit of a challenge, I think, that has been overcome in the beginning. I’m sure there was a little bit of pushback of “Well, gosh, we’ve never shared this information before,” and I think the answer was like, “Well, why not?” So, I think that’s a little bit of the challenge.  


I think the risk for some of our staff members was, we let them be vulnerable and talk about issues that were uncomfortable and things we as a company had not talked about before. I think one of the great things, Antonio, that your team did is you talked to us about this theory about “ouch and oops.” So, if the group was talking about something, that we could apologize for it, as we were going through it, coming after. And you referenced it in your slide here, we definitely still have situations where somebody will say something or post something, and they realize they may have hurt someone’s feelings. And what I’ve seen that’s been great is that they’ve stepped back from that and they’ve said, they reached out and said, “Hey Melissa, I’m really sorry. I said this, I didn’t mean to offend you,” taking that down or walking back through that. And I do think that’s something where people are doing it immediately, and I feel like the staff has felt comfortable coming and saying, “I was offended by this,” or “I don’t like this,” or “Do that.” So, I think that’s something that we’ve seen there. 


I think that we learned that there were things we need to change in some of our decision-making processes about hiring and promotional practices and compensation practices and staff recruitment. And we’re continuing to do those. 


So, I think, I don’t want to say that there’s not—there’s risk, but there’s, I feel like there’s, the team’s kind of said, “Well, there’s no risks. We’re just kind of, we’re going to try it all and we’re going to do it all.” But I think the risk is we continue to evolve and change as we build the process because we’re constantly learning, as you add new staff members and new people come on and learn different things about their backgrounds and what is important to them, what’s of value to them, and some of our clients. We have some clients that are very, very typical, all white, male organizations. So, we’ve had a challenge for sure. And that’s the next level of what we want to do, is how we can help them incorporate that into their process there. 


So, I’m not sure if that totally answers that question. 


Antonio Cortes: No, you definitely hit it on the head, I think, and even just thinking forward like, what does this look like as we continue to advance it externally? Because that’s where the rubber meets the road, and that’s where folks are like, “Hmm, I didn’t know that you all were working on this particular area,” and what does that mean for those organizations? So, I think that’s exciting stuff and looking forward to hearing more about that as it evolves. 


Atokatha, I’m not sure if there’s additional questions for Melissa or ones that Steven and I can field, but we’re happy to open it up at this time, with the few minutes we have left. 


Atokatha Ashmond Brew: Hi, yes, and lots of questions have come in. I think some may be sprinkled in here for Melissa, but I’ll just shoot through as many of them as we can get through. Here’s one.  


How do you handle pay transparency when you have a lot of outliers from acquisition of employees who may have threatened to leave and their pay was increased way out of grade in order to keep them? 


Antonio Cortes: Yeah. Steven, you want to take that one or you prefer me? 


Steven Krzanowski: Why don’t you start Antonio, and then I’ll provide some backup? 


Antonio Cortes: So, this is a real thing, right? I want to first acknowledge that. 


This is a thing that happens, it’s sometimes a situation that you kind of are put into. If you’re a new HR director, and this is something that you’ve inherited in terms of loose processes over the years, a lot of exceptions being made, I would go back to what I said earlier about, what is the timeline for correcting something? 


And being honest, transparent and factual about what is possible, within reason. And so, really thinking about the fact that you want to work closely with your compensation team and a compensation expert to help figure out what is the best way forward. Because recognizing practically, you have to navigate your financial situation as an organization, and how much of that can you absorb quickly? But at the end of the day, you definitely, ideally, would want to partner with experts to help design a process and to then roll out and then communicate to staff, saying, “In the next 12 months, we hope to even out some of these inequities in compensation,” and what does that look like? And, it might come in phases. It might come in different situations. 


But I think at the end of the day, transparency is part of the process of getting to a place where things are equitable. And sometimes we just have to own the situation that we’re in as an organization. And we don’t necessarily all have the knowledge or experience of how to address those types of complex situations, which are definitely emotional, they can be frustrating for a lot of the individuals involved. But having an expert partner is ideal, if you can obtain one, to help you figure out, what’s the most logical way to get this done? What does that timeline look like, that is practical and doable for the organization? 


Let’s see. 


Steven, anything you would add? 


Steven Krzanowski: I just want to re-emphasize the equity piece, because I think that is so important in communicating. So, when you have bands that are in place and even if there are outliers, having an explanation around why those are outliers, that’s transparency. And, unfortunately there will always be folks that leave your organization for various reasons, right? But it was long as you are centering equity in work and in your explanations, I think that that provides a lot of clarity for folks. 


Atokatha Ashmond Brew: OK, here’s our next question. 


How do you create a safe space by establishing ground rules that the group agrees on? Any particulars on how to create a safe space? 


Steven Krzanowski: I don’t think you can ever have a safe space. But I think that we can have brave conversations with one another. And one of the things that I highly encourage folks to do, as they’re starting to engage with one another around topics of diversity, equity, inclusion and justice, is to come up with a set of ground rules that are unique to them, right? These are shared principles that you can all adhere to, right? 


And, when you’re able to create that type of buy-in at that level, then you are able to really engage in more meaningful conversations with one another. But I think it really needs to be reflective of the group in setting the tone for what will you—what will those guidelines be? And then also, if someone makes a mistake, how are you calling them out or in, in the experience? And how are you utilizing it as a learning experience for folks? 


Anything that others would add? 


Antonio Cortes: I think you captured it, Steven. Internally, we call these brave spaces, and we actually have used that language a lot with our clients as well.  


At the end of the day, sometimes we have to have some difficult conversations. And having a level, fair space for us to air out those grievances when they exist and being able to have conversation and dialogue about it, that’s really the key to having a good starting point as a foundation. We may not solve everything today, but at least we can get clear on some of the things that are needing attention or need some action. 


And so, if we can at least start there, I’ve found that to be more productive than avoiding information. I found it to be true across organizational contexts too. So practically, I take that approach with my former roles I’ve had with partner organizations in saying, “We have these really complex issues that we’re trying to figure out together. Let me give you all the information I think is useful to you to make your decisions in the most effective way that will accommodate and intersect with this information.” And so, transparency is key, even in those contexts as well. 


Atokatha Ashmond Brew: Thanks. Here’s another question. 


We are a smaller nonprofit and…demographics of our applicants pools, race, gender, ethnicity, et cetera. Is this something you suggest doing or that larger organizations are already doing? 


Antonio Cortes: Yeah, great question. I can kick us off and say that it’s not necessarily a question about size. 


I mean, larger organizations tend to have more capacity to collect and use this data in different ways. But even small organizations, excuse me, small nonprofits have the ability, in most cases, either via their existing systems or through other processes they can implement fairly inexpensively or very simply. But, yes, this is definitely something that we’re seeing an increasing process of, to understand, what are the trends in our hiring processes? 


So specifically, think about the recruitment pool, and as that pool goes through your hiring process, how does it shift? How does it change? Are we seeing that there is a potential unconscious bias in who our recruiters are putting to the top of the list, so to speak? Are they gravitating towards people with similar names? Are they gravitating towards people with similar educational backgrounds? Et cetera, et cetera. 


You can start to pinpoint places in your hiring process or your recruiting process, where there’s a potential breakdown or potential need for more investigation on what’s going on here in this particular situation with regards to your recruitment pool and hiring pool. 


So, I do think that it helps, it helps give you a starting point of investigation to say, are we in a good place? Or is there some potential need to implement more structure or processes in our hiring or recruitment practices that will allow us to have a less biased process? If that makes sense. And, Steven, I don’t know if you’d want to weigh in here on this one too. 


Steven Krzanowski: Yeah, in addition to not only recognizing bias, I think it’s important—folks are always wanting, organizations are always wanting, to hire diverse talent. We’re all being asked that question. And, if not collecting the data to show that you have diversity in your recruitment process, then you may not be able to end with diversity, right, in the process.  


So, I highly encourage folks to collect the data, but use it solely for the purpose of to make sure that you have a strong representation in the pool of candidates. And, if there are opportunities where you’re seeing that it’s inconsistent, add additional processes. So, have a benchmark that, we want to have X number of diverse candidates at the onset before we even start reviewing applications, right? And that can help set the stage for a successful recruitment, hiring and recruitment, process. 


Atokatha Ashmond Brew: Great. It looks like we have time for one, maybe two more quick questions. Here’s one, I think it’s for Melissa. 


How is the DEI committee… 


I’m sorry—how is the DEI committee recruiting new staff or new participants? 


Melissa Forburger: So, one of the things we’ve done is new employees that have started, we talked to them about the different committees that are there. And, we’ve had people that definitely join midcycle. One of the things our DEI committee did is we also have, we use something called Vonage, which is probably similar to Slack, or any of these chat channels. 


We created, what we have, a DEI digest where we post DEI-related things such as pride month or maybe something that’s happened in history, or if there’s things, unfortunately, that are happening in the world, we’ve talked about that. And we’ve picked up a few members because they have gotten engaged in the conversation and they’ve reached out to one of our chairs and said, “Hey, I’m interested in being involved in that piece there.” So, we keep it open and people can come. 


We’ve also had one or two that have had to jump off just based on client workload, and they just don’t feel that they can keep up with that as well. 


Atokatha Ashmond Brew: Thank you, Melissa. It looks like—I thought we would have more time for another question, but I do want to give us an opportunity for final thoughts from the panel before we wrap up. So, I’m going to turn it over to you three to let the audience know if there is anything, any points, that you’d like to leave behind for them to consider as they move forward with this work that you all have discussed today? 


Steven Krzanowski: I can start. First, thank you all so much for participating in this conversation. It’s super important. And one of the things that I would highly encourage folks to do is explore accountability, and what does that look like? And if you are able to have a DEI committee or a board that holds your organization accountable to transparency, it’s an easier way to continue to make sure that you’re maintaining the culture that you’re hoping to create. And that could also be developing a scorecard to make sure that you are accountable or embedding it into your strategic priorities and initiatives, but really looking at ways that you can consistently embed some of these principles that we’ve discussed today. And practice makes perfect, right? 


Antonio Cortes: Melissa, I’ll let you go first, if you’d like. 


Melissa Forburger: I would just also say, if there’s something you’re trying to think about transparency, why aren’t you sharing that information? I mean, what’s the real reason? What’s the harm? Why aren’t why aren’t you sharing that information? I think in the ways that some old school nonprofits are set up, it just felt you couldn’t do that. And then, if you’re concerned about budget-related items for getting involved in a DEI program or doing that, there’s lots of ways that you can trim that and select that, that works within a budget of your organization and you can do that over the course of time, too, because there’s a lot of things you can do pretty inexpensively. And it pays off for sure. 


Antonio Cortes: Totally agree. 


And, I would say that starting is the ideal thing to do. Just because we can’t address everything, we covered a lot of different areas, different things to consider in today’s session, but figure out where can we start? What are some pieces that we can begin with? Is it our performance management? Is it with compensation? Is it professional development? Is it just making sure people understand that we have policies and practices in the first place, and that they’re documented and where to go if they might need them at some point? 


There’s always ways that we can continue to evolve and grow with transparency, and getting started is the best thing to do, if you haven’t already. And then thinking, as you go and evolve and feel good about some of the changes you’re making in your organization, what are some ways you can continue to advance that? Because there’s always more to do, there’s always different ways we can approach a situation. And just keeping that in mind, it’s a process that takes time and can evolve over time too. 


Atokatha Ashmond Brew: Thank you, Antonio. Thank you, Melissa. Thank you, Steven, for such a great conversation. That’s all the time we have today for this program. And we hope you found it to be valuable. We have many more events coming up. Check us out at nonprofithr.com/events, and register. And please be sure to complete the feedback survey that will pop up once the webcast has ended.  


If you’d like more information about available services or support from Nonprofit HR, please email us at info@nonprofit.com, or visit us online at nonprofithr.com. Again, thank you so much to our presenters today. 


Have a great afternoon.