When it comes to inclusion, good intentions are not enough

Why we measure inclusion as part of our company performance.

Earlier in my career, I was interviewing for an HR position and I asked about the company’s work with diversity and inclusion. The response I got was formulaic—like she was reading something from the employee handbook. It was clear they had discussed keeping up with “the conversation” but there was no passion for inclusivity and no buy-in for the measurable impacts it has on business success.

I see this a lot. Companies understand that there’s a huge cultural shift happening. Business success has become inextricably linked to company values —look at Patagonia’s earnings or Uber’s falterings if you need examples—and this extends to employer brand and hiring. Candidates want to know where companies stand on issues like diversity and inclusion, but a lot of companies only offer lip service without a clear commitment.

Companies need a response but they don’t want to make the investment or to make changes to their culture or workflows. Some of them tip-toe around the issue by saying they support “Diversity of Thought”—which, as Michelle Kim points out, corrupts the concept of diversity and inclusion by ignoring the systematic issues of racism that deem these initiatives critical. Some even say they want to hire inclusively but don’t actually do it, offering excuses like the size of the talent pool, or budget constraints or needing to respond to the demands of a scaling business.

Jabu Dayton

It’s a lot easier to dream and ponder than it is to do the actual work. Inclusive hiring and recruiting is actual work but it’s not rocket science. With any type of performance goal, you have to plan and tie your success to measurable metrics. You have to share your goals and hold yourself and your team accountable to them. It’s no different with inclusion, so if you’re not doing this, you don’t have a D&I program. You have a good intention. And that’s just not enough.

What does this look like? Your company has to choose to measure inclusion as part of performance. This means people don’t get a pass because they intended to hire inclusively or bring people of color into hiring panels or key meetings. You measure results. You look at performance. You judge actual actions. Not intentions.

At Abstract, we hold our hiring managers accountable for hiring the best talent inclusively. We have a team of recruiters proactively working with underrepresented groups, but the manager is responsible for the make-up of their team. It’s part of their KPIs to have representation. And if their teams aren’t inclusive, they aren’t performing.

This may sound radical, but we don’t think so. Beyond the proven performance advantages to having an inclusive team, Abstract, as a product, includes people in the design process. We believe our product and our team are successful because they are inclusive. And, because we’re measuring and holding ourselves accountable to this work, we are performing. Women represent more than 40% of our employees, two-thirds of senior leadership and half of our investor board. African American and Latinx employees represent 28% of our company. LBGTQ+ people represent at 14% of our company. And our median age is 33 years old.

Are you with us? For anyone ready to make the pledge to move from good intentions into a committed course of action for inclusion, today we are making our Good Intentions Aren’t Enough shirts available for purchase. All of the proceeds for this go toward Black Girls Code, a nonprofit making black history this month (and all year) by committing to training 1 million girls of color to code by 2040.

We are building a legacy of inclusion at Abstract. If you want to help us achieve this goal and create this vision, we would love to hear from you. Check out our careers page for open positions. We’ll also be sharing more about our process for building an inclusive team and what we’re learning along the way. You can follow the conversation here or join in on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

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