Mo: Hello, hello, hello, and welcome to this week’s everyday inclusion and belonging where we talk about everything under the sun when it comes to diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging and Kevin and I were introduced maybe about a month, two months ago.

It was right when his phenomenal book is coming out and you will see me plug this probably 12 different times in the conversation Kevin and I are about to have.

My background is org dev and a lot of change management and I see everything that we’re doing around creating inclusive cultures as one big transformational daily culture change. Kevin, I’m going to let you introduce yourself and then we’re going to dig in because I gave him a preview of like the thousand questions I want to ask him today and I will get through it. Kevin, the amazing work that you and the I4CP team are doing, tell us all about it.

Kevin: Thanks Mo, appreciate it. Well yeah, it’s great to be here today. I’m thrilled with the reception of the book that just came out a couple months ago, but I’ll give you a little bit of background. I’m the CEO and co-founder of I4 CP, which stands for the Institute for Corporate Productivity.

And we’re doing more HR research than just about anybody on the planet, always with a business lens of what our high-performance organizations doing differently with their people practices versus low performance organizations.

Inclusive Culture Next Practices

And so, we have a team of analysts that goes out and researches a variety of different HR topics and while we come up with a lot of best practices, what we really hang our hat on are next practices and we define those as practices where we see a very strong correlation to market performance or bottom-line business impact.

Yet not a lot of companies have yet implemented that practice and a couple of years ago we did one of the biggest research studies I’ve seen on culture and how to change culture, and that’s really the basis of the book which is now in its third printing.

It’s been the number one new release on Amazon and a dozen different categories. It’s the bestseller list in several other categories today, and I’ve been really excited by the reception that it’s had.

Mo: Well and I and I love it because it really is truly a blueprint and then the stories that you weave in in terms of you know, here’s what’s actually happened in some of these next practice companies.

So, let’s talk about this idea of just first and foremost that healthy cultures embrace change. I know that you say, and sometimes they actually instigate change, and that has certainly if you look at the past 16 months it’s really served companies well, hasn’t it.

Kevin: Yeah, if there’s anything that’s brought out, the necessity to be agile and embrace change, it’s the pandemic. Our research has shown this for years. We did a research study a few years ago called the 3A’s of organizational agility.

And in that study, it was very clear that companies where employees say they hate change, or you know they hope things don’t change they typically are in low performing organizations.

And companies where the employee base will say they not only feel change is normal, but they almost enjoy it and they take advantage of change. Those are high performing organizations and I think most CEOs would like to have a workforce that embraces agility with passion and uh, like you said, even intentionally shakes things up.

I’ve seen several companies who do that on a regular basis, by moving people on a regular basis, reorganizing on a regular basis, they’re just constantly in motion, and I think those tend to be healthier companies frankly, even though there are some people out there that don’t want that, they don’t want the change. That change keeps you agile and also is more well-rounded for the whole organization.

There are so many benefits to the individual from talent mobility and I talk about that at the end of the book, but also to the organization itself just from a communication collaboration standpoint.

You know, making sure that the organization is never at a standstill I think is always a good thing.

Mo: You know, we really talk about inclusion being woven into daily culture and this idea that you’re never, ever done and it’s always changing when it comes to what you’re doing around those everyday inclusive behaviors.

And this whole growth mindset and having a growth mindset is absolutely about embracing change.

Oh, I learn something new, I hit this, I’m learning something like how to do this better or how to…

And so, when we’re talking about inclusive behaviors, those are what make up inclusive cultures right, that every day. I want to dig in to the blueprint, so let’s talk about the first step, which you talk about developing and deploying a comprehensive listening strategy.

Kevin: Yeah, and before we get into that, let me give a little bit of baseline here for how the book came about.

Most people will use the term culture transformation when they talk about culture change. If you Google that, you’ll get over a million hits. And we were using that term originally as well when we did the research study.

Inclusive Culture Renovation

But as we got into it, I realized that many of the companies that were very successful at culture change they weren’t transforming their culture, they weren’t starting from scratch and making it something completely different. Instead, they were renovating their culture and keeping what made them great originally going forward.

That’s where the name came about, but the basis of the research study was trying to figure out, is there a commonality in the companies that succeed that we could draw out and you know, help other companies who were trying to change their culture with more of that blueprint. Our research and frankly every other study I’ve ever read on this says the same thing.

Only 15% of companies that try to change their cultures actually succeed. So, we honed in on that 15% and from it created the blueprint and the 18 action steps that make up the book that companies can follow in order to successfully change culture. The very first one is developed and deployed comprehensive listening strategy.

And I say this to executive teams all time in fact, I just said it yesterday to an executive team. The worst thing you can do is lock yourselves in a conference room as the senior leadership and decide amongst yourselves what the culture is inside the company because you’ll get it wrong.

Things get filtered by the time they get up to the CEO and senior team and the issues that you know affect the culture uh, generally aren’t that visible to the senior team. And so, the comprehensive listening strategy is designed to get as low as you can in the organization, have frequent surveys and frequent listening strategies so that you can really uncover what the issues are, not just the issue dashier, but the you know the longer lasting issues.

So, you have a good understanding of what are the issues you’ve got to correct, but also, what do people really cherish and what do you want to keep. And that’s all part of that listening strategy Mo.

Mo: Well, and I think there’s something there too, you know, going back to this, I you know when you’re using the blueprint, I think about you when you’ve got the bones of a good house.

Right, you do your renovation, you keep what’s working and the structure you keep what’s working in the layout and then you add right and change around that.

And I think what I saw, and I’m curious your thoughts on this. I saw more listening happening after George Floyd’s murder. Uhm, there was both a vulnerability in a listening that was happening that I hadn’t seen before around every talking in particular around issues around race and equity.

But also, you know, seeing this now right, with the rise in API hate and that’s not, you know that’s been happening since last year It’s just getting the press and the visibility.

 So those companies that were already going in and listening right and making this consistent and constant versus, the one time of year Employee Engagement survey.

And in particular, you know when you’re thinking about inclusion and belonging those are different questions than, are you engaged?

You know, I often use myself as an example, I was highly engaged at a company. I mean, if you’d taken me through the Gallup 12, I would have answered every single one you would have thought I never would have left that company.

But then I became a mom and I started hitting maternal bias, and I didn’t feel like I belonged anymore, and I quit.

So, I think there’s also, what are you listening for? That’s really important.

Kevin: Well, you’re so right, you know. And there’s so many things we can unpack and what you just said. I mean, obviously the pandemic itself has created more of a need to listen, but I think we always can look back on inflection points and George Floyd’s murder obviously was a huge one.

Peer To Peer Conversations

Companies began to really exhibit the empathy that they had started at the beginning of the pandemic and began really listening through a variety of methods to the workforce.

I can’t tell you how many companies I’ve talked to where the CEO was sitting in on various, you know, conversations, and I think that’s where sometimes you get the richest learnings is having peer to peer conversations around tough issues like that inside the organization. They were really taking the time to understand what it was like for you know, for black employees in their organization or any underrepresented class in their organization and hearing their stories directly, I think was very, very powerful.

And then when you know when we talk about inclusion from a mom perspective, this pandemic has been very tough. Obviously on working mothers that they’ve been the hardest hit.

Uhm, there’s even some evidence that working mothers from an underrepresented class has been even harder hit, and so I think it’s going to take some time before we recover from that, frankly going forward.

It’s sad I don’t think any of us would have necessarily predicted that would be the case at the beginning of the pandemic, but all the evidence is clear that it’s an issue.

Mo: Yeah, we’ve gone backwards. It’s been actually devastating, devastating. How do you navigate your way out of that and understanding that impact, and how do you get some of those women back, and particularly women of color?

Kevin: So, a couple things on the listening strategy. I’m excited by technology and how that’s helping in listening today. More and more companies are beginning to use natural language processing to allow employees to share their sentiment in their own voice.

And so, NLP is coupled, usually with some artificial intelligence, but it analyzes text you know across hundreds, thousands, you know hundreds of thousands of employees and provides companies with categorization of that sentiment so that the laborious task of reading through every comment and then trying to correctly categorize it kind of goes away. More and more companies are beginning to use that inside their company but they’re also using it externally as well.

For any large company, there’s a lot being said out on Glassdoor, or Comparably, or you know, Fairygodboss, you name the site.

And while some of that can be a little bit more caustic than what’s said internally, because you know you get some ex-employee sentiment out there, there’s usually a sliver of truth, particularly the more comments that you have. And it’s important for companies to know what’s being said, because that’s what candidates are reading.

You know candidates are going out to Glassdoor and reading about the company before they decide to join that organization. So, I think coupling what’s being said externally with what you’re gathering internally gives you a very comprehensive picture of the cultural issues, both good and bad, that you need to tackle.

Mo: Well, and I think you know Glassdoor announced they’re going to allow people to share their demographic data too.

Kevin: It’s smart.

Mo: Hey, if I’m a black woman, here’s what it feels like to work at that company so that external listening strategy is really important.

Kevin: Yeah, that’s great, I’m glad that’s happening.

Mo: I mean, we say there’s nowhere to hide. Right, there’s nowhere to hide anymore.

Whether you have to renovate your house or get your house in order right, you better be paying attention to this stuff. So, then there’s this idea, #4 is around defining desired behaviors.

And I like this idea of companies switching from thinking about here were the results to, know what were the behaviors that actually got those results.

And rewarding people for the behaviors that got the results versus, we’ve all worked with the people that like they leave dead bodies behind, right? They achieve all the things but leave this awful wake.

So, say a little bit about that and then I do want to talk about culture fit versus culture add.

Kevin: So, you know Bob Sutton wrote a great book many years ago called The No Asshole Rule and it’s really around that whole concept of you know people who internally are just hurricanes, but they get results and a lot of companies tolerate those people because of the results. But they’re so detrimental to the culture itself, particularly the higher up those people are in the organization.

And you know, leading a company, I’m sure you’ve had this experience many times. I joke that for some people the sun always shines up because to you know to me, you know, they’re always the you know, the epitome of a great employee. But to others they were that that absolute wreck and so it’s important to understand that you know where you have that inside the organization.

Employee’s Do What Leaders Do

But for your leaders, when you’re making a culture change, you want to make sure they understand the behaviors that are expected and that are aligned with whatever your purpose is and your values of your organization. Employees are going to do what the leaders do.

You know whatever is written in the PowerPoint or on the wall, it doesn’t matter as much as what the leaders actually do. I highlight in the book several companies who spends a lot of time and budget and energy on training their leaders on the desired behaviors.

And it was very clear in the data that the companies that were successful at changing their culture focused on that probably 7 times as much as the companies that were unsuccessful at changing their culture.

There was one company I highlighted in that chapter that I love talking about, and that’s F5 Networks, and I think what Francois the CEO who I interviewed for the book and Anna White his CHRO they have done and continue to do around their culture change really started with making sure that they had the behaviors of leaders inside the company at all levels, not just senior levels, but mid-level managers frontline leaders.

They put a lot of energy into making sure that they understood the behaviors that were expected.

Mo: Well, and I think oftentimes what we’ll see is that it may stop at the C-Suite. And when you think about your frontline leaders, your frontline managers, they touch 80% of your employees, so you really do have to push that down.

So, culture fit versus culture add when we’re talking about desired behaviors.

Kevin: Yeah, it’s funny, Brené Brown and I, I was on her podcast a couple months ago and we got into that conversation.

Yeah, for some reason, culture fit has become a really bad word in HR circles, and I think a little bit unnecessarily to tell you the truth. And we all know why you know, it’s culture fit can be synonymous with homogeneous right? And you’re just bringing in people that are, you know, like you and like everybody else.

I think companies are smart enough to know you know the difference between that and whether somebody is going to work inside the culture or not. And so that’s where the term culture AD has come in because you know, now you’re bringing in skill sets and experiences and viewpoints, and you know just you know different people to add to your culture versus just fit right in.

To me it’s a little bit of a nuance. It’s an important nuance you know for companies if they are too homogeneous. Brené was surprised that the culture fit had become a bad word. She’s like, really? I thought that was a great term, and I talked to her about it.

Mo: What’s interesting about that is they’ve also very specifically designed behaviors and values around diversity, equity and inclusion.

Kevin: Correct, and that’s what she said.

Mo: You’re fitting into something, and I think that’s what I see, particularly with smaller organizations is when you have people that are a part of that interview process that are untrained and they’re conflating their like me, unconscious bias with culture fit. No, you fit because you’re actually inclusive, right?

OK, so number five, identifying influencers, energizers and blockers and I’m about to say something that that I think is going to be pretty controversial.

Kevin: Before you do that, do you want me to explain what I meant by that paragraph in that chapter? So, this to me, is one of the more important steps in the whole process. Almost all successful culture changes and companies have the support of the CEO and senior team and typically are leader lead from that perspective.

Inclusive Culture Influencers

You absolutely have to have the cooperation and a co-creation mentality of the workforce. That is the recipe for success. But in order to make sure that you get this, uh, your culture change efforts spread throughout the workforce, it’s important to understand who are going to be the culture ambassadors inside your organization.

And in every company, there are people who are go to people. They’re the influencers, they’re the subject matter experts, opinion leaders, you all know those people inside your organization and frankly, senior leadership rarely does. They don’t know those people especially if they’re further down the hierarchy.

Sometimes they’re introverts and not extraverts, so they’re not that easy to spot. We’re big proponents of organizational network analysis, which is a science that shows where is workflow happening and collaboration happening and it will show you and illuminate you know, those people that are so critical to your organization as well as the people on the outskirts that aren’t collaborating and you know people aren’t going to.

And those people that are sort of in the center of the beehive those are your influencers, and oftentimes there are the energizers as well and through surveys you can ask that question. You’ve had this experience many times where you talk to somebody and you walk away just fired up you know you’re excited and then others you talk to and they suck the life out of you, right.

Those influencers and energizers are the people you want to be your culture ambassadors. You want to bring them in early on your culture change efforts and they will help spread the word. And equally you want to understand who the blockers inside the company are.

So now we’ll get to your controversial question.

Mo: Most times in my experience Kevin, what I’ve seen is those influence and energizers could be hidden away in different parts of the organization.

I talk quite a bit on, you know, if you look at who Jack Welch’s executive assistant is a great example of that. The level of influence that she had in that organization. People would go to her, nobody could get to Jack unless they got through her, you know. So, on multiple levels, both structurally but also, you’re hard pressed even find a picture of her right?

Kevin: EA’s are often these people inside of organizations.

Mo: So, here’s what I have seen in the last year, and I think it’s very well intentioned and I think it’s going to backfire. So, I’ve seen the rise of the DEI Committee. Where it’s people who are not necessarily influencers and energizers. A lot of white people, guilty, I want to be on right. I have this feeling of guilt I want to do something right, which is horrible reason. Or we have people from underrepresented groups who are already overburdened. So, then this committee is formed and then suddenly they’re setting DEI strategy for an organization.

They don’t have the expertise. The motivations for why they’re choosing to do things. That would be like saying we have a whole bunch of people that are enthusiastic about product development, so we’re going to put them on a committee and whatever their ideas are for what our next product should be, we’re going to do that. It makes no sense.

 Speaker 2

Yeah, and I think there are some people that are put on those committees that in fact.

It’s actually doing a disservice to the work because they’re not that, and the energizers and influencers are looking and saying, interesting.

Kevin: So, we do more research and DEI than just about any topic and we run a board of Chief Diversity Officers that has three dozen you know, very influential diversity executives in large organizations. We’ve got another group of DEI professionals and so I feel very fortunate that we get to work with so many great minds around the subject.

And one of the core tenets of research that we’ve done is it’s very clear that companies who are putting effort into diversity and inclusion only because of pressure you know, outside pressure from investors or the public, or just to look good, it’s very clear that those efforts always fail, and the research will show that.

It’s the companies that have DE&I in their values in that its core to, you know, it’s really core to who they are as an organization those are the companies that are just marvelous at it. I’m a big proponent of measurement. I think if you’re trying to make progress in DE&I you’ve got to have some goals, you’ve got to measure those goals on a regular basis.

I’ve seen some very effective uses of predictive analytics as part of this process too because I think there are some companies who naively think they can just hire their way to, you know, have a more diverse workforce, and it doesn’t necessarily work that way.

In fact, we’ve seen a lot of companies where if you don’t put enough effort into the inclusion aspect of it, you’ll get diverse populations that opt out after a year or two because you know they just never were included in the organization.

Mo: I want to see your data in a year to 18 months, because this community has heard me say this, I think there is a huge failure of leadership happening right now with a lot of companies that are scrambling to hire for diversity and then putting people in toxic work environments.

There guaranteed is going to be a spike in turnover and also, I think there’s probably going to be a spike in some lawsuits. I say it’s a failure of leadership because putting people in an environment where they are set up to lose and you haven’t given the thought to what is our culture.

Do we even have the bones or are we being performative here? Measurement is near and dear to me as well.

We built into the everyday Inclusion app specific measurement of feelings of inclusion and belonging. They can be predictive to what’s happening and pull survey and ongoing. And I think what will be interesting too is to map some of that against what’s happening out in the world.

Kevin: Yeah, for sure I’ll tell you that the group that has unfairly had this put on their shoulders is talent acquisition. You know, I think when you look in any organization that says that you know they’re trying to be more diverse, a lot of that just flows right down to the TA group.

It’s interesting, we have a whole group of TA professionals, a TA board as well, and that’s number one on their list is DE&I. But it can’t be all on their shoulders. We often put employer brand on their shoulders, all kinds of things about the organization.

I think that from an inclusion perspective, there’s so many other areas that have to get involved to make this successful overtime.

Mo: Well and diversity and equity are really happening at the systems at the leadership level, even belonging. Everybody in the organization, all day long, and so it can’t live in one place. And you certainly can’t just measure sort of, those vanity metrics of, are we changing our diversity?

Teachers As leaders

Measuring that inclusion piece and then doing something about it. Gosh, don’t ask me a question and then not take action. I think this takes us to number 12 which is provide training on desired behaviors and actually having leaders as teachers.

Kevin: Yeah, I love leaders as teachers as a methodology. You know that was something that GE put in a long time ago and made popular. Still today, too few companies put enough effort into this and make it formal. I think there’s a lot of benefits to the company when you have leaders teaching topics, but you have to have a formal program.

You can’t just bring in leaders and expect them to know how to teach. You’ve got to help them teach and teach them how to teach. They’re typically very good at storytelling, but a lot of times when they get brought into a class situation, they’ll take it in a different direction than what you’re trying to do.

But when you have a formal leader as teachers’ program, there’s a lot of benefits to the leaders as well. They get much more in tune with some of the issues inside the organization and exposed to great talent that they might not have been exposed to before. And they develop as individuals, you never learn a topic better than when you have to teach it. I love leaders as teachers as a methodology.

Mo: So, this is where I’ll wonk out a little bit. When you look at some of the neuroscience around behavior change and when you look at some of the neuroscience around inclusion, the one and done training is never going to work for you. It’s not going to be sticky.

You and I both are huge fans of how Starbucks responded. What they did is they knew that that training, shutting down all their stores for a day, that wasn’t going to change behavior ongoing, but it sure did make a statement and the stake in the ground about, this is important, we’re willing to do this, and then ongoing.

Renovation Never Stops

And that for us you know, with everyday inclusion, we’ve got our 52-week playbook for managers right. They can literally 5 minutes at a time keep this conversation going. So, I think when we’re thinking about inclusion belonging, So, what are you doing to equip, particularly those frontline leaders, to be in constant conversation with their teams about inclusion and belonging tactics.

Because it’s not a company that excludes, its people, right? We have to keep teaching our people and putting it in the hands of those team leaders.

Kevin: Starbucks does such a great job at that. It almost seems tame now, but that you know Rittenhouse Square incident, right?

That happened back in 2018 was what sparked that, and I was just amazed at how quickly they responded. Within five days they had announced that they were closing the stores and having the training that they had. That served them well. You know when George Floyd died and then for other incidents afterwards, they repeated the process, essentially that they had started back then. Which was really just centered around those great conversations, those peer to peer conversations inside the stores.

And you know with their coworkers. I love what they did, and I always shuddered at any criticism that they received for their actions. Because they always viewed that as just one step of a longer, longer process.

Mo: In what had already been, when you talk about culture renovation, in what had already been a commitment.

So, I’m going to go through some of the things that we just talked about. So, make sure you’ve got that comprehensive listening strategy. And you know, how are you ongoing getting that feedback through pulse survey.

Define the desired behaviors and then switch from thinking about results, to actually how people got to those results. Lots of great conversation about culture fit, culture add there.

Identify the influencers, energizers, and blockers, and when I’m putting the inclusion lens on this, who are those people and how do you get them engaged in really walking this talk all day. You know when you’re talking about this, are they running a meeting in a way that’s inclusive.

Determine how progress will be measured, and I think about those predictive measures versus we talk about windshield versus rearview mirror. And then provide training on the desired behaviors and leaders as teachers.

We could keep going, Kevin, but we’re at time. I would love for you to leave me with one last truth bomb and we’ll make sure that we put the link both to I4 CP and to the book. The Transcript for this will be out in about a week or two on our site.

I’m giving you some time to think about one last truth bomb.

Kevin: Yeah, that’s fine. There’s a separate website for the book I’ve called through Yeah, and there’s a lot of great in info out there. You know, I think the way I end the book is the truth bomb. You never plant a flag in the ground and declaration that we’ve done it.

You know we have changed culture, right? It’s an ongoing process. I talk about Microsoft a lot early in the book and I talk about them just a lot in general, because I think what Satya Nadella and Kathleen Hogan the team there have done has just been remarkable.

But they get a little nervous when I talk about them so glowingly, because they know there’s so many more things they want to do to their culture, and you know they never stop.

The truth bomb is that this is an ongoing effort, and that’s what the website is designed to do. Just to, you know, keep this conversation ongoing.

Mo: We’re all on the journey. We have to stay on the journey. Wouldn’t it be great though if we could just be like whoo, done, ahhh.

Kevin: Right, sit back.

Mo: Oh, thank you so much for joining me, this was great. Check out Kevin’s book and we’re excited. We’re actually collaborating with I4CP and we’re putting some of their research actually in the app because those sorts of next practices are so key when they come to diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging. Thank you all, we will see you next week and uhm, wherever you are I hope it’s a lovely spring day.

I feel like we’re at the light at the end of so many tunnels right now.

It’s feeling pretty hopeful, so thanks all, get out there and do the next right thing.

Kevin: Stay well, take care.

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