Improving inclusivity in the workplace is an ongoing process that requires a company to create policies and enact practices that help candidates, and employees feel heard, valued, and included. Being empathetic is a great start, but it's essential to be committed to continuous learning (and re-learning), having candid conversations, and vigilance against unconscious bias.
At Impira, Maggie McKinney, head of People Operations and Human Resources, helps drive a lot of the conversation around inclusion. We sat down with Maggie to discuss how Impira tackles inclusion and diversity initiatives.
What is your role at Impira when it comes to inclusivity?
My job is to initiate discussion around DEI by asking questions like, "Hey, have we thought about this decision through the lens of who may feel included or excluded? Where are our blind spots?" I use this same lens when making decisions or designing programs, and when listening actively to the team and my stakeholders.
It’s also part of my role to facilitate continual learning and awareness to the extent that I can. And to the extent that is valuable, I’ll lend my perspective when approaching various situations. For the sake of self-education, I continuously seek out resources like books and webinars from thought leaders in the space. But the real work happens when I look to apply these learnings to affect Impira's policies and practices. Any work-related to DEI (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion) is equal parts learning and unlearning.
So, what is Impira's approach to inclusivity in the workplace?
Inclusivity has been at the core of Impira's values since the beginning. For us, that means creating environments in which any individual or group feels welcomed, respected, supported, and valued as a fully participating member.
An inclusive and welcoming climate honors differences and offers respect expressed through words and actions for all people. And while we strive to be inclusive in all aspects of our company, like hiring, day-to-day team dynamics, or interactions with clients, it isn't easy to put it into practice, particularly at an early stage of a company. We're building a brand new team and launching products, so being inclusive when there's so much else going on requires so much focus and intentionality.
We also know that business outcomes are tied to diversity and inclusion initiatives. Having a robustly diverse set of people in the same room is beneficial in so many aspects of life and business. Impira’s team culture was built through inclusion, and this culture fosters continued innovation and collaboration for new products and campaigns.
Further, allowing more voices to speak also helps shape Impira’s company policies at every level. We are accountable for building an inclusive environment by recognizing that every member of our community contributes in a meaningful way, and is responsible for maintaining it. We take responsibility to challenge and alter it, both at an individual and collective level.
During the hiring process, it's important for us to hire people with a diverse set of backgrounds, voices, and experiences to jump into our team and contribute. We understand that true diversity within our company directly results from a thoughtful and deliberate hiring process, and a truly inclusive work environment results in retention.
So, when it comes to hiring, a company can spend all the time, money, and effort into acquiring the right staff, but if the experience within the workplace isn't satisfying, retention suffers. That’s why I spend a lot of time thinking through the entire experience for hiring as well as our culture and experience for team members.
We put forth a lot of effort to create an environment where each person feels free to show up as their most authentic selves. They can voice their honest opinions without feeling the need to fit into a certain cultural expectation. We lay that groundwork with how we make product and business decisions. We listen and hypothesize, experiment and try new things, and continue to adjust and improve accordingly.
Why spend the energy to push for inclusive hiring practices that emphasize inclusivity at all?
When I think about how inclusion has affected me personally, I think about the fact that my background was not in tech at all when I first interviewed at Impira.
Considering my nontraditional background, Ankur [Impira's CEO] and the team took a gamble on me, which changed my life in significant ways. My life took on a profoundly new trajectory as this opportunity has afforded me the chance to learn new skills, grow, and make bold attempts (and some mistakes) — but ultimately have a sense of autonomy and mutual trust with teammates. When I look at growing that team, I want that opportunity and experience for everybody.
Some skill sets can get overlooked by some traditional hiring models, which typically have super specific background experience requirements or rigid ways of thinking about employee-added value for a company.
I like that we have the opportunity to look beyond traditional constraints and create processes that aim to bypass biases to discover people who are willing to apply passion and intellect to whatever they pursue. This can happen when an organization steps outside a rigid hiring standard that only focuses on a specific amount of experience or narrow scope of background without considering any alternatives.
What are some important ways Impira is championing inclusion in the hiring process?
A real tangible way we're being active about inclusivity is by bringing in third-party folks like LifeLabs and Paradigm to teach our recruitment team about inclusive hiring practices. The internal response to these training sessions was overwhelmingly positive despite the understanding that raising these topics would inevitably lead to frank and candid conversations. These conversations have the potential to be tricky and uncomfortable, but the Impira team has responded with an eagerness to learn and evolve.
Seminars and training sessions like these teach us actionable things to identify and reduce personal biases, set up new candidates to present their best selves, and build processes to most fairly assess hiring criteria. Moreover, we move forward with shared frameworks and vocabularies that facilitate ongoing conversations about diversity and inclusion, and that has been powerful.
A way we're battling bias in our interviews is to standardize our sets of evaluative questions. This standardized set of questions becomes an objective rubric that guides us during the interview process instead of improvising a conversation. Having an organic conversation can be really wonderful, but it's important to provide a similar experience for all candidates to help avoid individual biases within the interview process. This system creates an environment where candidates can feel free to be their best selves and set up structures for fair assessments.
In early 2021, we wanted to further reduce interviewer bias by introducing anonymized skills assessments designed to closely mimic the day-to-day responsibilities of a role. The deliverables had a very focused scope, and we were considerate of a candidate's time. We designed these skills assessments to take 1-2 hours, or roughly the time one would spend in a round of early interviews.
Once the assessments were complete, they were anonymized and graded on a specific rubric by a panel of folks who would work closely with the potential employee. By anonymized, I mean the team hadn't yet met, heard, or known anything about the candidate's experience. We've made some outstanding hires using this approach, and I've received a lot of positive feedback from leadership, hiring managers, and the candidates themselves. As with other practices promoting inclusion, we are iterating and expanding on this for current and future hiring plans.
Another internal approach to inclusion at Impira is for the benefit of our current staff. As our team grew and introduced people of varied backgrounds, we learned that several new team members were from different life stages and family situations. As a result, we adjusted our benefits and perks offerings to include additional resources for folks with family and caregiving responsibilities. This includes expanded parental leave and tax-advantaged accounts for dependent care.
Big decisions like these result from a habit of making small daily decisions that contribute to creating an experience for people to thrive.
What's next for Impira?
We'll start the new year by analyzing survey feedback from our team and identifying core hotspots where we need to improve our diversity and inclusion efforts. Once we identify those areas, we'll work on plans to operationalize improvements. I anticipate this will look like improving inclusivity for our now hybrid team. Operating as a hybrid business is still new for Impira, so we'll continue to pull feedback and improve the experience for the team.
As we grow the team, our hiring plans will continue to evolve to build upon some of the new practices we've incorporated to reduce bias in the hiring process, like anonymized skills assessments and standardizing our interviews. In addition, partnering with organizations like LifeLabs and Paradigm has positively impacted our efforts toward inclusion and diversity, so we'll continue to offer training and upskill our team across the organization.