“2020 has been a year many of us did not anticipate. From the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic to the injustice and inequality that we’re seeing more clearly here in the U.S.
We want to do our part in sharing voices and perspectives to our community and how we can think about being more proactive and take action to really just improve the world around us.
At Formstack, we’ve come to our own realization that not only do we need to say something, but we also need to do something.”
These are a few of the words Formstack CEO Chris Byers shared at the beginning of the most recent episode of Formstack’s Ripple Effect podcast. This bonus episode, titled Perspectives on Systemic Racism with Formstack Founder Ade, dug into Ade Olonoh’s perspective as a Black tech founder in America, from the causes of systemic racism to the disparities holding the Black community back.
The episode also discusses what Formstack is doing to help our organization become a more diverse and welcoming company. As Chris discusses in the episode, we used to take an “inbound” approach to addressing the needs of diversity within our organization. The thought was that we would organically draw in diverse teammates and easily welcome them.
We’ve recently discovered that this approach was all wrong. As Chris explains, “One of the things I’m realizing is that’s not enough. We need to be much more proactive at saying what are the things that we do in our hiring practices and our onboarding, even in our marketing. How do we show up and how do we look to people who might not look as much like us?”
This realization has spurred us to action. In February, we hired a Diversity Talent Acquisition Specialist to help us better define how we attract, welcome, and retain diverse talent from all over the world. Hannah DeRocco’s charge is to reimagine how we create job descriptions, approach recruiting, and perform interviews to ensure we’re offering a welcoming and inclusive environment to all potential candidates.
We recently chatted with Hannah to learn more about her background, role, and why this work is so important for all organizations to invest in. Here are a few ways Hannah is helping make a huge difference in the diversity, inclusion, and belonging efforts at Formstack.
Realizing the Lack of Diversity in Tech
Hannah has been passionate about diversity and inclusion since college. Although she went to fairly diverse schools before, her college experience was a bit different. “I was shocked by how different students and professors saw me and others from underrepresented groups,” Hannah shared.
This experience lit a fire in Hannah, which only grew as she dove into the tech field. She instantly noticed a lack of diversity.. The longer she worked in the tech industry, the more she wanted to help create change in the ways tech companies recruit, hire, and retain talent.
As Hannah was making this realization, Formstack was too. After making many acquisitions and growing rapidly, it was evident that the diversity of our workforce was not growing at the same speed.
Did you know? At Google and Microsoft, the share of US technical employees who are Black or Latinx rose less than a percentage point from 2014 to 2019.
Starting with the Job Description
“Diversity hiring starts with the introduction of the role to the candidate,” says Hannah. For someone who does not work in the D&I field, this might come as a bit of a surprise. You may think about the importance of where the job is posted, or who you’re targeting to apply, but there are steps that must be taken before the job posting even goes up to ensure it’s inclusive.
“Formstack’s job postings are inclusive and welcoming; very seldomly, you’ll find something ‘required’ on our postings,” says Hannah. “We won’t ask you to have a degree and five years experience unless we absolutely need it. Instead, we’ll list off the key things about the role: what you’ll do, how you’ll succeed, who we’re looking for, and bonus points.”
This is done intentionally to allow a diverse and broad set of candidates to apply for our roles. Not only does this open up positions to a wider variety of people, but it also helps candidates feel more comfortable when applying for roles.
Rethinking the Candidate Experience
When Hannah joined the Formstack team, the first area she focused on was the candidate experience. It was important to expand where we posted our jobs and how we presented them, but it was equally important to focus on what the candidate experienced after they found our open roles.
“Not only did we start posting roles on diversity-focused job boards and sourcing for diverse candidates, we’ve also put processes in place to make sure the hiring experience will be welcoming for all our candidates,” says Hannah.
A large part of this process included assessing which employees are present during interview panels. Hannah helps hiring managers stay accountable when preparing for candidate interviews by reminding them to create a diverse, well-rounded interview panel. This means including employees of different expertise areas, locations, ages, races, and backgrounds.
Creating an Environment of Belonging
One key to creating a diverse and inclusive environment is helping all individuals feel a sense of belonging. You’re taking one step forward and two steps back if the people you recruit and hire don’t feel comfortable once on the job.
This is why creating an environment of belonging is a crucial part of improving diversity and inclusion in the workplace. Verna Myers, diversity and inclusion expert, founder and president of Verna Myers Consulting Group, and star of a TED Talk on overcoming bias, provides a great example of what it means to create this sense of belonging: “Diversity is being invited to the party; inclusion is being asked to dance.”
Hannah takes this statement to heart when thinking about how we continue to create an environment of belonging for our employees. “At Formstack, we want to take it a step further. We want our people—whether they dance, sit, chit-chat, or do something completely different—to feel they belong at that party. Formstack’s party,” says Hannah. “Regardless of what our roles are, or where we sit, or what location we fall under, we want everyone to feel like they belong at Formstack.”
Weaving Diversity and Inclusion Into Org-level Objectives
Formstack is a strong believer in creating quarterly objectives and Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to track our progress towards goals. Adding our organization’s diversity and inclusion efforts into our objectives has been a great way to provide all employees visibility into the progress we’re making on these plans.
“Driving change comes from the top. Formstack’s senior leaders have woven diversity and inclusion into our org-level objectives, and they continue to be transparent about our areas of opportunity, what we need to learn, and how we can all do better, together,” says Hannah.
For instance, one of our high-level objectives is to develop and diversify our teams, thinking, and actions to better serve one another. An array of KPIs fall under this category from a variety of departments. All employees have access to the reporting and tracking of these KPIs and objectives, providing excellent transparency and accountability.
Here are some things to consider when weaving diversity and inclusion efforts into goals and objectives:
- Where is the organization now?
- Where do we want to be?
- What are the problems, and how can we fix them?
- How can we report on progress?
- What are the milestones to report on along the way?
- How can employees easily access this information?
- Are there safe spaces for open discussion?
- Do employees have a way to reach out with their thoughts and ideas?
Measuring What Matters
In less than half a year, Hannah and the HR team have made big strides in reimagining how we attract, recruit, and retain diverse talent. They’ve helped put new processes in place, trained teams, improved the candidate experience, and encouraged employees to be open, honest, and transparent around these efforts.
Yet one of the most important things they’ve instilled is the importance of measuring these efforts. In the past, we have not done a great job of reporting the makeup of Formstack employees. This is all about to change as Hannah tackles her next big adventure: creating a process for measuring, analyzing, and reporting on our diversity and inclusion efforts across the organization.
This reporting will focus on:
- Race and Ethnicity
- Native languages
- Age (Generational)
- Then vs Now
Providing this information to employees on a consistent basis will ensure that our diversity and inclusion efforts stay in the forefront and don’t get overlooked. It will also give a high-level overview of where we’re doing well, where we need to improve, and how our organization changes for the better over time.
Improving Diversity and Inclusion Starts With Transparency
We are incredibly proud of Hannah’s efforts to make Formstack a more diverse and inclusive organization, yet we still have a far way to go. But if we’ve learned one thing during 2020, it’s that transparency is the key to making any type of change.
It’s time to have difficult conversations and break down the barriers that have limited us in regards to being a more diverse, inclusive, and welcoming organization. With the guidance of Hannah, the HR team, and leadership, we’re confident we can continue moving in the right direction to create a diverse, welcoming, and thriving culture for all employees.