In this episode of Thrive, learn how you can improve inclusion to better engage your employees and your community.
In today’s episode of Thrive, host Steph Lenk is joined by associate principal HR analyst Brian Westfall and Celina Zisman, owner of Dug Fresh Productions, to talk diversity, equity, and inclusion—DEI for short.
We discuss what separates D from E from I, why inclusion is so important to engaging today’s workers (yet so hard to get right), and how Celina was able to build inclusion with her employees and her community through her own small business.
If you’re a small-business leader or HR manager keen on improving DEI, give this episode of Thrive a listen.
Listen or watch this episode of Thrive below.
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You can also catch new episodes of Thrive over on our YouTube channel. And if you’re looking for additional DEI help, check out these resources:
- 4 Tips for Recruiting Diverse Candidates From a Small-Business Owner
- Don’t Conflate Diversity and Inclusion
- Working From Home Is Making Company Culture Less Toxic
Note: This transcript has been edited for clarity and conciseness.
Steph Lenk, senior manager of brand strategy at Capterra: Welcome to “Thrive: How to Drive Small Business Success”. A podcast from Capterra focused on providing business leaders of growing organizations with actionable insights and technology recommendations to help their businesses thrive. I’m Steph link, senior manager of brand strategy at Capterra and your host for today’s episode.
This is part three of our series on building an engaged workforce. And today we’re zooming in on a really important topic: diversity, equity, and inclusion, or DEI. We know that DEI has a positive impact on business performance, innovation, and happy workplaces. And in today’s job market, where folks are rethinking, realigning, and re-imagining—essentially looking for purpose and work that aligns with their values—it’s critical for businesses to do the work to get DEI right.
To underscore the impact [of DEI on] talent attraction and retention, a recent survey by CNBC found that nearly 80% of employees want to work for a company that values diversity, equity and inclusion. Today, I’m joined by two experts who will share research, personal stories, and helpful advice on how to build a diverse workforce and create a culture of inclusion.
I’d like to introduce Capterra’s associate principal HR analyst, Brian Westfall. Brian’s research has been featured in Forbes, TIME, and the Society of Human Resource Management. Hey, Brian, I’m excited to chat with you today!
Brian Westfall, associate principal HR analyst at Capterra: Thanks for having me, Steph.
Steph: I’m also joined by Celina Zisman, owner of Dug Fresh Productions and vice chair of the Austin Arts Commission. Welcome!
Celina Zisman, owner of Dug Fresh Productions: Thanks for having me, Steph.
Steph: So, before we dive in, it’s so important to start with definitions so we all have a shared understanding. Brian, can you walk us through the definitions of diversity, equity, and inclusion. And, in particular, can you break apart equity versus equality?
Brian: Yeah, definitely. I think this is such an important question because the conversation around DEI has really evolved over the last 20 years or so. So, it’s important to know the distinct differences between D, E, and I, because companies can be successful at one without being successful at the other. So thinking about diversity, diversity is “are you allowing diverse groups to be a part of your organization?” Are they getting through the front door, essentially? And that could be, looking at your job listings, what language you’re using. It could be your interview practices. It could be how you’re making hiring decisions. Those all impact the diversity of your organization and who you’re actually hiring to be a part of your organization.
The next one, equity, that’s giving everyone equal access and resources based on their unique situation. Which is different from equality. Equality is giving everyone equal access and resources regardless of their situation. So if you think about it, if you give all your remote workers laptops, that’s equality. But if you have, let’s say you a blind employee, for example. If you give them accessories like a braille tablet, text-to-speech software—that’s equity. You’re giving that unique person the tools they need to be able to do their job.
And then there’s inclusion. Inclusion is the hardest one to define, and it’s really the hardest one to measure. Because it’s the idea that diverse ideas and viewpoints are actually reflected in the culture of the organization. They’re actually reflected in the decisions that a culture makes, or that a company makes. So yeah, it’s really important to know the differences between those three things. Because, like I said, you can have one without the other.
Steph: That’s really great, thank you for that. Right now, when we think about the current environment, hiring is a pain point for many organizations. How can business leaders be more effective in making sure that they’re attracting diverse candidates?
Brian: Yeah, hiring is so hard right now. There are actually two job openings for every one unemployed person in the country. So, when you’re thinking about hiring diverse people, I think a big conversation that organizations need to have is expanding their idea of what diverse workers look like.
Rightfully so, a lot of diversity efforts stem around race and gender, but there’s other underserved groups that also deserve your attention when you’re hiring people. So, for example, the fastest growing segment of the workforce right now is actually workers 65 and older. A lot of older workers are putting off retirement and coming back into the workforce. But, despite this, we found that only 21% of organizations actually focused more on recruiting workers 65 or older last year. This is an underserved group that really deserves your attention, and can provide a lot of value to your organization. Another group of workers I want to highlight are workers with disabilities. Again, only 21% of companies last year said they focused more on recruiting workers with disabilities, despite the fact that most accommodations for workers with disabilities cost absolutely nothing to the organization. So, I think that’s a good place to start, is really expanding your idea of what a diverse workforce looks like.
Steph: Absolutely. Are there other ways to attract a more diverse talent pool?
Brian: Yeah, I think the big thing is really looking at your job requirements and getting rid of unnecessary job requirements. Think about something like a college degree, right? So two-thirds of U.S. workers actually lack a degree. And when you think about the growing cost of getting a higher education degree right now, you’re really excluding a lot of people who have inequitable access to that type of education. A lot of people are turning to more affordable options like bootcamps and certification programs to really learn new skills. So if you really focus on the skills you actually need for the job, rather than just some degree that doesn’t necessarily reflect whether that person might be a good fit for the job, I think that really opens up your talent net considerably.
Steph: Those are really great tips, Brian. Thank you. Celina, before we jump into why DEI is so important to you, can you just give us a bit of background about yourself?
Celina: Absolutely. So I founded Dug Fresh Productions in 2015 with my partner as a resource for the creative community. I grew up in a family business and I studied fine art in school. And when I got to Austin, I realized that there was a real gap in the understanding of what it takes to be a full-time artist, and what it requires to actually do so. So I work alongside creatives, makers, and musicians as a guide for crafting professional practices, for one-on-one consulting, and workshops. Over time, our production company has grown to include entertainment services and event production. And, as you mentioned, I also serve on my city’s arts commission.
Steph: Amazing work! Your company empowers artists with a strategy they need to take their small businesses to the next level. Was serving underrepresented artists a specific choice that you made starting out, or did that just develop naturally over time?
Celina: It wasn’t a specific decision at its founding, but I think by virtue of being a woman, by being a woman of color, a lot of my clients end up being women of color. You know, I think opening up your business to somebody who looks like you, who is in your community, is a big source of comfort for somebody just trying to practice their craft. And, yeah, it can be a really scary thing.
Steph: How are you intentional about incorporating diversity, equity, and inclusion in your business? And do you have any tips on how others might be able to do the same?
Celina: Well, I’m a woman, and I’m a woman of color. I’m queer. I’m a mom, I’m a creative. I’m a business owner. I’m on the board of a nonprofit gallery that serves artists with disabilities. I serve on my commission. I think by nature of my existence, I provide a pretty intense example of intersectionality. I don’t have the exact metrics, but I can definitely say that over two-thirds of the talent that we book are from underrepresented communities. And knowing that we’re putting cash in hand to those communities is why we do what we do. Diversity, equity, and inclusion, and fair and accurate compensation are pretty much the bedrock of our practice.
Representation is so huge in this industry, in any industry. Artists need to see themselves in every role, from backstage to front and center, from exhibiting artists to executive director. If you’re working toward DEI goals for your company, be wary of tokenism and be authentic. Equity training and workshops are a great way to start understanding communities that you’re not a part of.
Steph: Those are great tips. In thinking about the current environment, the pandemic has been incredibly challenging for small-business owners like yourself. How have the connections [with] people that you’ve made in your community really helped you and your business to survive? And not just survive, but thrive?
Celina: Word-of-mouth referrals have always been a huge contributor to our success. When things went sideways with the pandemic, those genuine connections within the community kept our business afloat. Artists and educators that I had met before were sending their peers and students my way. Makers I’d met long, long before were reaching out for guidance on how to pivot their business and go virtual with art fairs and vending opportunities for in-person totally drying up. With any sort of public assembly at a total standstill, I took on services that helped businesses take their business online and make that pivot to—by and large—really sustain themselves. I got some interesting new clients over the pandemic that were not within the arts sphere: I’ve worked with a veteran bodybuilder who was offering virtual exercise services. So, you know, that really expanded beyond the clientele I was normally working with.
Steph: That’s really great. The expansion sounds awesome, and just sort of plays into the whole aspect of DEI. I know we’ve already talked about this before, but why is DEI important to you?
Celina: DEI promotes innovation, full stop. If you and your staff are operating in a completely homogenous environment, how are you going to continue to evolve and grow in what you’re providing? Having a full spectrum of the population represented, it’s essential to providing a real offering, product, or service to your markets. We don’t exist in a vacuum. Having a variety of voices in the room is going to really shine light on blind spots and opportunities.
Steph: What is your number one tip for building inclusivity? Did you already touch on that, or is there somewhere you can expand?
Celina: I think asking questions and listening deeply is the wisest thing that you can do. Don’t assume, you know, everything about a certain community. If you’re not a part of that community, be open to feedback. And really tough conversations, because those inevitably follow. There’s so much we can learn from one another, and really creating space for those conversations to happen.
Steph: Great. Brian, how about you? You’ve done a lot of research in this field. Any tips that you can share?
Brian: Yeah. I think Celina made some great points and I’d like to emphasize three tips that can really put into practice what she was talking about. I think the first thing is encouraging the formation of employee resource groups, or ERGs.
So, ERGs are employee-led groups to promote the advocacy for underrepresented communities. So, for example, at Capterra, we have a women’s advocacy group to really promote [things like] “Are we putting women in leadership? Are those ideas and frustrations that they have being represented and getting taken care of in our organization?”
Another tip I have is implementing tools for continuous feedback. You’re not going to know what problems you’re having in your organization, or which groups are being misrepresented or underrepresented, if you don’t get that feedback coming in constantly. So, it’s sending out surveys. Letting people voice their opinion, and really highlighting areas that need to be looked at.
And the last thing is just being a more agile organization that embraces change. I think I said earlier that DEI is not a box you check, right? It’s not actually a goal like, “Oh, we did it. We’re diverse, we’re equitable, and we’re inclusive.” No, it’s something that you’re constantly working toward, right? So, you just need to embrace change and realize if you’re bringing in diverse people and actually letting them morph your organization, it’s going to change it, but it’s going to change it in valuable ways.
Steph: That’s amazing. And I really love that Celina and you both hit on ERGs, and the fact that they are an opportunity for communities and allies to come together in a workplace. So incredibly valuable. And also, I think Celina, you mentioned chatting about unconscious bias training, which I think is a big opportunity as well. But it doesn’t just stop with training, right? It’s taking it to the next step and making sure that there are frameworks and systems in place so that there truly is that sort of equity that’s built in that environment, and that inclusion is truly felt. Because Brian, you mentioned inclusion is so hard to measure. Having those check-ins and those systems can really be beneficial.
So with that, I want to just say a big thank you to both Celina and to Brian. Really great advice and tips today. And I think we’ve got a lot of great things I hope people [can use to] kick off action in the future.
Brian: Yeah, thank you for having me.
Celina: Thanks so much.
Steph: Thank you. If you’d like additional insights, check out Capterra.com—the leading resource for software buyers, where you can compare software, read verified reviews, and get the insights your business needs to thrive. Subscribe to the Thrive podcast on your favorite platforms, including Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, and our YouTube channel. Don’t forget to leave us a rating and review, and thanks for tuning in to Thrive.