Episode 354: Solving Problems and Developing Empathy With Natalie Egan, CEO at Translator

DEI is a layer that sits on top of everything that we do. If you’re a product manager, like, you have responsibilities for DEI for your organization. If you’re a salesperson, right? If you’re a recruiter, like, everybody has a role to play. Getting that change where people understand that, you know, that’s change management, is going to take time. And it’s going to take that buy-in from the very, very top.

Episode 354: Solving Problems and Developing Empathy With Natalie Egan (@nataliejegan), CEO at Translator

 

Welcome to the Workology Podcast, a podcast for the disruptive workplace leader. Join host Jessica Miller-Merrell, founder of Workology.com, as she sits down and gets to the bottom of trends, tools, and case studies for the business leader, HR, and recruiting professional who is tired of the status quo. Now, here’s Jessica with this episode of Workology.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:00:49.35] Welcome to the Workology Podcast, sponsored by Upskill HR and Ace The HR Exam. This podcast is part of a series on the Workology Podcast focused on diversity, equity and inclusion in HR, DEI. Diversity, equity, inclusion are not new ideas in the HR and corporate arenas, but in recent months and years, the importance and significance of DEI in the workplace has gotten leaders throughout corporate America to think about what doing the right thing in our community looks like. For many of us in HR, this means we’re not just taking DEI initiatives to stakeholders. Those stakeholders are coming to us looking for answers, and we must be ready to respond. Today, I’m joined by Natalie Egan. She’s the CEO and Founder of Translator, Inc., where she and her team are on a mission to scale empathy and equality with technology. Natalie is a thought leader at the intersection of technology and diversity, equity and inclusion. She has over 20 years of experience driving digital change, developing high performing teams, building complex products and selling enterprise solutions. Prior to founding translator in 2016, Natalie was CEO and Founder of PeopleLinx, a venture capital-backed sales technology solution that was acquired in 2015. In addition to her entrepreneurial pursuits, Natalie has worked in leadership positions at large public companies like LinkedIn, Autonomy and Ecolab. Natalie, welcome to the Workology Podcast.

Natalie Egan: [00:02:23.85] Hi everyone. My name is Natalie Egan. My pronouns are she, her and hers. And I am the CEO and Founder of Translator, as Jessica already mentioned. We build diversity, equity and inclusion, training, and analytics software for corporations, schools and nonprofits. And it’s just really good to be in this conversation with you and, so thanks for having me.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:02:45.06] Absolutely. Well, I’m excited to dive in because one of the areas that I have found is our topic for today, HR leaders need to know more about how to measure DEI so that that’s what we’re going to be diving into. But before we get into that, I wanted to talk to you and ask about your background as an entrepreneur and leader in the technology space. How did this lead you into working diversity, equity and inclusion? How did that happen?

Natalie Egan: [00:03:12.81] Yeah, I mean, so it’s, it’s been a journey to use that word. But, you know, it sort of traces back to my, to my childhood. I, I identify as a serial entrepreneur. I have been trying to start businesses and help people and solve problems and make a little bit of money on the side since I was like seven years old, I think I founded my first business. And I always joke with people that I’ve, I’ve founded over 250 businesses. It’s just that the joke is that most of them didn’t have any customers at all. In fact, many of them were just sort of like ideas in my head. But I always sort of took this meta approach of like, when is a business a business? I’m kind of a fail-fast kind of girl. But Translator is my second major venture capital-backed business. And yeah, I’ve, it’s, it’s part of a bigger story of my identity and, and things like that. But prior to prior to Translator with my company PeopleLinx, you know, I, I looked a lot different. I, you know, I came out as a transgender woman in 2016 after sort of sunsetting that previous business. So prior to Translator, you know, I, I looked to the world like a cisgender man. I, I didn’t feel that way inside. But that’s, that’s kind of how, that’s how the world interpreted me. And, you know, and I built this business called PeopleLinx, as you mentioned earlier, which was a very cool sort of success story in some capacity.

Natalie Egan: [00:04:57.45] I mean, it was sort of like the American dream, you know, kind of concept. I started it in my basement. I grew it to a global customer base. And with I think we went from like three employees to like, I don’t know, 55 employees in 18 months. So we like grew really fast and sort of living this is perfect looking life, you know, with lots of privilege and resources. And, you know, I was married and had children and I might as well have had the white picket fence and the dog and the yard kind of thing. I did have a dog in the yard. There’s just no white picket fence. And it was all very much a dream, if you will. I mean, it was, it was not real. It was something that I was fabricating. I was, I was living my life based on what everybody else wanted me to be. And that goes back to my, my childhood. I had two older brothers, and my dad was very conservative and structured and had all these expectations of who I should be. And obviously, it was like 1980. I was born in 1977, so in the early eighties and nineties and the 2000s and all the way into the 20 tens like you didn’t deviate the way that I felt like a deviant, if you will.

Natalie Egan: [00:06:19.63] You know, you couldn’t, you couldn’t step outside the norm of especially of your gender expectations. But going back to a child, my childhood, I mean, all I ever really wanted to be was a stay at home mom. You know, I wanted to have kids and, and be a very nurturing person. And again, I wasn’t allowed the opportunity to do that. So I became what everybody else wanted me to be. And my dad was effectively a CEO. And so I decided I wanted to be a CEO, too. I was seeking his approval. I actually bought a book in high school called “How to Become a CEO,” and I, I can’t remember the author’s name. I probably put it in the footnotes or something. So I started that company and called PeopleLinx, and it sort of rose and then it fell. Ultimately, culture was the downfall of that company. There was some other problems for sure, but at the core of it, I believe that culture was the downfall. We didn’t have the culture to survive the challenges of the startup space. And so ultimately that company came crashing down and my identity and my life came crashing down with it and, and sort of at the bottom of the barrel, after I had gotten fired from my own company by the CEO that I put in and my marriage fell apart, that’s when I figured out my truth, you know, and kind of finally came to terms with my identity and that I had been repressing my entire life.

Natalie Egan: [00:07:53.89] And I ended up coming out as a transgender woman in 2016, as I mentioned earlier. And, you know, I always tell people I experienced bias, discrimination and hatred for the first time in my life at age 38. Academically and theoretically, I knew what those things were but I had never actually experienced the, you know, the sting. Right? You know, I never, I had never experienced a threat to my physical or psychological safety just for being me. And it was a, it was an eye-opening experience. It still is. I mean, it’s an ongoing thing. But, you know, I kind of became an overnight minority and a very misunderstood minority for to, to, to boot. But I decided that I wanted to do something about it. I decided that I was going to, to solve for the problem of inequity. Like, I felt like I felt drawn to that I didn’t have anything else. Like I was I, I had lost everything and I had nothing, so I had sort of nothing to lose. And so I decided I was going to, I was going to fix this problem. And that’s how I kind of got into DEI. I, I started studying diversity, equity and inclusion and, and because I wanted to put technology behind it.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:09:09.37] I’m, I’m guessing, but you can tell me that this experience really was the reason behind starting your company Translator Inc., and kind of your own personal experience and then the research that you did learning about diversity, equity and inclusion more.

Natalie Egan: [00:09:28.87] Yeah, exactly. I, you know, I started Translator as a response to, I think actually just to back up a little bit, as an entrepreneur, I was always trying to solve problems and I, I was, I became, I tended to try and solve problems that I had, you know, thinking, well, if I have this problem that other people have this problem. And it was sort of selfish, to be honest. And, and I came across this problem, right? Of, of being marginalized and, and, and seeing it through a whole new lens as a, as a, as a trans woman. And I just thought to myself, like, wow, this is like the biggest problem in the world. And yes, it’s self-serving for me to solve this problem. But I felt like I had a duty and a responsibility to try and fix this, like for everyone else, you know, like I was just like, people shouldn’t have to suffer like this. And it really just comes down to like misunderstanding of who people are and why people are who they are. And it all really comes down to like, how you are educated. Like, like where you’re born into.

Natalie Egan: [00:10:36.03] And, like, who, who your peers are and your parents and your, your school systems and your culture around you teaches you. And my sort of thought process was, is if you could, you can learn it, right? You can unlearn it. And so I started to put together this thesis around using technology to scale empathy and equality, which I now would say is empathy and equity. But the original idea was like, how do we, how do we use technology to help us understand each other better? And what I quickly realized is that you can’t understand other people better until you understand your own identity first. And that really became like the core of the technology is what I would call self-awareness technology. It’s designed to help you understand your own identity and your own lived experience. And then that becomes sort of a gateway to learn about other people and their lived experiences and their identities and potentially other concepts as well, like microaggressions and unconscious bias and all the things that we, we preach about. But people aren’t ready to learn about those things. And so that’s, that’s how Translator started.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:11:47.01] I love that. And it and your perspective and experience I think is, is really what I just felt like the story is so meaningful behind it. It’s not just a technology that sells widgets or that analyzes something like it’s designed to help organizations, the people within those organizations understand how to do better in diversity, equity and inclusion.

Natalie Egan: [00:12:19.26] Yeah, I mean, it’s, it’s, it’s really I think it’s unique in its in our goal and our vision and our design. And it’s, it’s, we help people develop empathy and by, adjacent to that or as a byproduct of that, like we help organizations develop empathy. And, and that’s if you have an empathetic organization, I mean, that’s just good business, right? I mean, like, you know, but you can’t, you can’t have empathy as an organization until like the same, same way. It was like you can’t have empathy as an individual until you understand your own identity and your own lived experience. And you can’t have empathy as an organization if you don’t understand your people and their lived experience. And that really is the key to culture change, which more directly is measured in employee engagement, employee retention, diversity, recruiting referrals, like those three things like you should be able to measure. And that’s, that’s what defines your culture ultimately.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:13:22.86] So one question that I get a lot, because we’ve done a number of interviews on diversity, equity and inclusion. We have interviewed DEI leaders in organizations. I have interviewed, just, I feel like there’s more conversations that need to be had. So but for somebody in HR that is just starting to establish their DEI programs, what advice would you give to them to establish a business case for that?

Natalie Egan: [00:13:54.46] Yeah. I mean, fortunately, it’s getting easier. You know, I think for a long time it was you really had to find, like, we had to find certain organizations that were like more predisposition to work with us based on their culture. I remember in the early days of starting this company, I would pitch venture capital firms, you know, back in 2016, 2015 time period. And, and they would almost laugh at me because they’d be like, who’s going to buy this? Right? Like, who’s your market? And I, and I would sort of list like, I would say like Google and Campbell Soup, you know, like these companies that were like good companies with good cultures. And, and then they would they laughed at me and they’d say, Yeah, but who else? And, you know, these days, it’s, it’s like who’s, who’s not looking to establish a business case or at least establish a program. Right? I mean, I think people are, you know, they might be looking to figure out how to create the business case for it, but everybody’s trying to do it. And it’s awesome. I mean, it’s it’s a, it’s a great time. It’s, it’s a period of great change. And we’re very privileged and honored to be a part of it. But, you know, I think the business case for DEI, besides it being the right thing to do, is in exactly what I just listed. Right? It’s, it’s about culture change. Right? Companies used to traditionally not be able to manage their culture or, or measure their culture.

Natalie Egan: [00:15:22.33] You know, they would just have I’m just making this number up. But like on average, the number is much higher these days, but they would have 22% voluntary turnover like that was just a number that they accepted. Right? These days it can be upwards of 30 and 35% with companies on a yearly basis, if not more. But companies can’t afford to stick their head in the sand anymore. Like they have to do something about that. They have to do the work they have to. You literally won’t survive, right? If you’re not drawing business to you and retaining that business. So it gets to what I said earlier. It’s about employee engagement, it’s about employee retention, it’s about diversity, recruiting referrals. And ultimately and this is kind of like what’s really making it easier these days. It’s about environmental-social governance. It’s a compliance issue, right? It’s a Wall Street issue. It’s an investor issue like boards of directors are demanding it. I saw a study earlier published by Deloitte and 67% of the C-level executives interviewed said that diversity and inclusion is the most important thing for their business right now. Now, ironically, most of them, you know, they didn’t have a plan, they didn’t know what to do, but they were prioritizing it. And what it’s getting prioritized at that level of an organization. Things will change. It’s going to take time, right? Like, there’s still people being hurt on the front lines. You still aren’t, you, you won’t be able to feel that for quite some time.

Natalie Egan: [00:16:57.18] But there is change. It’s coming. And I think for HR leaders who need to establish a business case for DEI, like you need to start to look at the metrics you have to. And that’s what’s great about Translator, but not just shamelessly plugging Translator. There’s a lot of DEI solutions out there, tech-driven, metrics-driven solutions out there right now. And so you almost have to take an approach of, of trying things, you know, like ten, 15 years ago my previous company was in sales acceleration or marketing automation was kind of the, the category. And at the time, in the early days, Chief Marketing Officers didn’t buy technology. And now today, they’re one of the biggest buyers of technology because digital transformation is sort of taken over marketing and sales. And we’re at the cusp of at the very beginning of that happening for culture. So we need to encourage a more curiosity of experimentation kind of mindset for DEI leaders and business leaders in general to say, let’s try new things, right? Let’s try these technologies, let’s see what happens. And you’ve got to be sort of experimental because then you can start to bring back the data to say, Hey, the results of this program are showing this deficiency or that opportunity or, hey, we need to do something about this and it’s measurable. And that’s what’s going to help get bigger budgets and more buy-in and ultimately drive change.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:18:30.75] I’m so glad that we’re talking about this, and one of the reasons why I wanted us to focus on this conversation is because I do feel like CEOs are waking up and going, Oh, we need to do something about diversity, equity, inclusion. So they are bringing in someone and this person doesn’t have a budget, they don’t have a team, and they’re not necessarily starting with metrics and measurement and lot, in mind so that they can establish a baseline or a benchmark for the organization and then be able to tell the story about the work that they have been doing and the plan and the strategy and how it is progressing, which is why we need metrics. So I’m glad we brought in all these DEI folks. It’s so important for them to be in our organizations in this area. We need to have a metrics mindset so that we can understand and communicate to the leadership team and stakeholders, board members, customers, whoever, how these changes have impacted the business and maybe their experience as a customer or an employee.

Natalie Egan: [00:19:39.06] Yeah, yeah. I mean, it reminds me of, again, like the early days of marketing automation and sales acceleration and or sales automation. But what, what really was sort of an interesting parallel was like the, the introduction of social media marketing, right? I mean, it was like it was sloppy, right? Like it wasn’t easy to measure and like it was sort of being like, okay, well, we have to do something, but like, let’s just get somebody some recent college graduate to do this. And, you know, but it was the beginning of a lot of change, right? I mean, if you look at where we are today versus where we were ten, 15 years ago with social media marketing, like there’s a lot more technologies to help us actually measure the real value of it. And there’s actually the other side of it is there’s more talent, right? There’s more experienced people that, that understand it. They’re more native with it. And that’s just starting right now. Like we don’t have enough supply right now of established, credentialed DEI leaders. It’s all very new. There’s, Chief Diversity Officers are like one of the fastest-growing C-level titles for the past three years globally. But they are coming from other parts of the business, like they’re, they’re not necessarily they haven’t been Chief Diversity Officer very long. And a lot of the old school Diversity Officers that were, have been around for a long time because some companies have had them. They, they’re, they’re not so much with it. They’re not like they’re not upskilled in, in technology or kind of understanding, like the modern DEI challenges. So there’s a lot of change there. But I think fast forward five years, ten years, 15 years, we’re going to have real leadership that really understands DEI. Both the CEOs will be kind of natural. It’s part of being a CEO, but also just DEI professionals that, that’s their job. So it’s exciting to watch.

Break: [00:21:40.02] Let’s take a reset. This is Jessica Miller-Merrell and you are listening to the Workology Podcast sponsored by Upskill HR and Ace The HR Exam. Today we’re talking about diversity, equity and inclusion with Natalie Egan. She’s the CEO and founder of Translator Inc. We are focused today on measuring DEI, how to get executive buy-in, how to make this happen. More conversations with the executive team.

Break: [00:22:04.97] Personal and professional development is essential for successful HR leaders. Join upskill HR to access live training, community, and over 100 on-demand courses for the dynamic leader. HR recert credits available. Visit UpskillHR.com for more.

How to Get Tangible Traction and Accountability Around Our DEI Efforts

 

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:22:20.48] Another question that I am thinking about. So we have a plan together or and we’re thinking about our strategy and we’re making our business case. But how do we get tangible traction and accountability around our DEI efforts? I love that we have somebody in place maybe overseeing DEI at the organization, but how do we make or have leaders, executives, employees be accountable and be able to move forward?

Natalie Egan: [00:22:49.19] Yeah, I mean, I think it’s about getting small wins. I don’t think people have realistic expectations of what it takes to change culture. It’s, it’s really almost impossible to, to see culture change in less than two to three, sometimes four or five, six, seven years inside of a company, depending on the size of that company and, and where it is in its journey. Right? I mean, even a startup is going to take a couple of years to really see culture change. And you need to have full-on buy-in from the, from the organization, from the top down. And it needs to start at the top to really influence change. Oftentimes you see sort of these ground swells, but they tend to sort of peter out if there is no buy-in from the top. And it’s not just, hey, the CEO gave permission for us to do something like the CEO needs to, to live it and breathe it and believe in it. And I’ve seen a lot of situations where the CEO is just like, Oh, Jessica, keep talking about this. It’s really annoying. So I’m just going to tell her to go do something. Right? That does not buy in, right? Like they may have given permission, but that inevitably is not going to, is not going to create any sort of sustainable change. In fact, it’ll probably just lead to frustration because people are going to try things they won’t necessarily if they don’t have resources and support, they won’t be able to measure it. There will be some sort of fatigue. And then eventually, like Jessica just moves on to the next job. There is a lot of upward movement right now, right? Where it’s, it’s challenging because a Chief Diversity Officer or somebody in a DEI role is sort of accelerating quickly through the ranks and then being poached and brought over to somewhere else.

Natalie Egan: [00:24:35.42] So you don’t get that like continuous, like long term kind of commitment from one person necessarily right now. And it’s the same thing for CEOs, especially of more public companies or even more private venture capital back. They’re just so focused on the quarter. You know, they’re surviving. They’re not thinking multiple years ahead. So it is, it becomes a little bit of a systems problem. But you need to have, you need to have buy-in from the CEO, which ultimately is buy-in from the board of directors, because theoretically, they should be outliving CEOs. And that all gets back to Wall Street and the private equity firms and the venture capital firms that are bringing the money to the table. So they need to be bought in. And that’s how we’re going to start to see real, tangible traction besides these kind of one-off flash in the pan type of things. But in terms of accountability, I mean, it’s, it’s really everybody’s job. It’s great, like you mentioned in this sort of like fictitious story, like we have a person in place, but it can’t all be on one person. Like DEI is a layer that sits on top of everything that we do. If you’re a product manager, like you have responsibilities for DEI for your organization. If you’re a salesperson, right? If you’re a recruiter, like everybody has a role to play and that, getting that change where people understand that, it’s change management, is going to take time. And it’s going to take that buy-in from the very, very top. Environmental social governance will help with that quite a bit.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:26:10.26] And this is why we’re talking about this now, because what I don’t want to happen is it’s no longer in the news. It’s no longer being talked about, maybe in major media. But that doesn’t mean that it’s not it shouldn’t be a focus for organizations. It shouldn’t be a priority just because the major media isn’t covering it every day. We didn’t have a murder or somebody being killed or hurt or some story in the news doesn’t mean it’s not happening. So making sure that the conversation continues is something that I feel very strongly about.

Natalie Egan: [00:26:50.73] Yeah. And I feel optimistic that, that the conversation will continue and it will continue to be prioritized, even if it’s not in the news, in the media every day. Like I think we’ve reached a tipping point. I hope we have, but I do believe that we’ve reached a tipping point where this is now being like permanently installed and it shows up like in ways that are a little bit like less tangible or at least maybe a little bit less obvious. But I think like if you just look at like advertising, which is like the media more broadly, but like it was responsible for that as it pushes. But I don’t think we’re going to go back to a day where it’s like, Oh, here’s an advertisement for X product, and it’s all a homogeneous group of people that all look the same of a certain kind of look or background. I don’t think that’s going to we’re going to go backwards with that. I think that we’re starting to install a new sort of paradigm of how we think about representation and, and how do we think about allyship, and the business case for diversity, equity, inclusion is not new anymore. Like I think there’s just so much proven research out there that helps us think about our, our business and are about our, our trajectory that it’s not going to be excluded. I do think it will fade from the, from the headlines, and that’s probably appropriate in some capacity. And I think that some people will get anxiety about that because they’ll feel like it’s being deprioritized. But based on what I’m seeing working with megacorporations all the way to academia and nonprofits like I don’t think that you can reverse this at this point, but we’ll see.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:28:44.82] Well, we’re doing our part to continue the conversation and drive awareness and, and measure them and understand so that we can ensure that we’re getting traction, that we’re holding ourselves and leaders and organizations accountable so we can move forward. One of the things I also wanted to talk about is the intangibles, because there’s a lot. And in my conversations with DEI leaders on the podcast, it’s been evident that there are so many intangibles at the intersection of HR and DEI. So I wanted to ask you, as HR leaders, how can we use DEI metrics to help us do better? What’s the, the strategy or the tools for success to help make this happen?

Natalie Egan: [00:29:30.36] Yeah, I mean, I think there’s a lot of opportunity with measurement, and I think there’s kind of an old school approach that you really can’t measure this or you shouldn’t be benchmarking it because that’s not the right approach or defeats the purpose. And, and I think that that is ultimately a little bit of an excuse coming from like the old guard of DEI people that didn’t have metrics and data and technology and ROI. And I think that in order to exist in this world of business, it has to be data-driven. Like there’s an old saying that if you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it. And so we have to benchmark and we have to measure, and we’re starting to be able to measure things that we could never measure before. And we’re starting to have better systems that can look at the most basic things, like turnover of certain identities or people, and start to be able to correlate that to things like employee surveys and, and basically like compensation like, tha, those things are coming together like in, like it’s almost like becoming standard with our HRS systems. But you can start to use that data in conjunction with new data sets that really start to help you understand the lived experiences of your employees. And again, not to shamelessly translator, but that’s what we do. There’s other solutions out there that also do it in different ways.

Natalie Egan: [00:31:03.36] But, you know, if you really want to retain and engage in your employees like you have to understand their lived experiences. You have to understand what it is like for a black queer man to work, not just for your organization, but just to exist in the world. And when we, when we start to better understand their lived experience, we can start, I mean, part of it is just acknowledging it, right? So that’s part I think when you think about the intangibles of all this, like just acknowledging that people have different lived experiences is so important. Right? Like there’s and then you kind of look at the difference between inclusion and exclusion. Like, it’s like, it’s, it’s, it’s so tiny, right? It’s like, it’s like, it’s so subtle. And, and when you can start to look at behaviors that one, one is like a micro exclusion, right? Or it’s an, it’s a microaggression, some people would call it, right? And then you flip that around and it’s just one very subtle thing, it becomes a micro inclusion. It’s pulling people towards you, right? If you can start to measure those behaviors and hold your employees accountable for their actions, for their language, right? Like that’s where we start to make a huge difference. And one of the intangibles of all of this is language. It’s the words that we use. I have this philosophy or this point of view that I learned from my executive coaches that everything happens through language.

Natalie Egan: [00:32:40.74] Everything, everything in the world happens through language. Like, like nothing happens with that language. Like nothing can happen anywhere without language. And if you can sort of just buy-in or just hang with me for a moment in that conversation, if everything happens through language, well, then our language matters. Right? I oftentimes kind of conclude my, my talks with like #LanguageMatters. And language can take many different forms. But there’s written language, there’s spoken language, there’s body language, there’s coding language. And then there’s many different forms of language within that. But your body language is just a subtle look in the eye or not look in the eye, it can be the difference between engagement and disengagement for an employee, especially over time. And especially becomes more challenging through Zoom and these web-based conferencing tools. So we have to take a hard look at the intangibles, but then make them measurable. And there’s, there’s a direct correlation there. And a lot of it just has to. With like how we behave and start to look at like, are my managers delivering inclusive meetings? Are they following inclusive meeting standards? It’s a little intangible, but it’s actually pretty tangible. It’s like, follow this checklist, but then the results of that are inclusion and engagement. Hopefully that helps.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:34:05.09] What are inclusive meeting standards? I’m just curious.

Natalie Egan: [00:34:07.97] Yeah, I mean, it’s pretty simple, actually. It’s, I think some people out there are building technology around it. I would love to see that. But you can Google inclusive meeting standards and find a checklist that you as a manager could, could implement this afternoon. Right? You could start today. It’s just the basic structure of how you run a meeting to make sure that everybody feels seen and heard and valued and respected. Like if you have eight people in a meeting, historically, there might be one or two or three people that dominate the meeting. Right? And that could be for a number of different reasons, including their identity. Right? Like depending on the other people on the call, like there might be reasons for their to play more a less visible role. And a lot of it has to do with their identity. Right? It could be their, their, their blackness, their transness, their womenness, like their, their ability, their, their learning style, their age. Right? I mean, there’s all of these things that take into account like their participation in any given meeting. So one of the things in an inclusive meeting checklist is especially when you’re making decisions to kind of go around the room and call people out by name. Jessica, would you like to add anything? We, we haven’t heard from you. I’d like to hear from you. Right?

Natalie Egan: [00:35:40.13] Just going around to each person and at least giving them the opportunity and then potentially giving them a back channel to be able to share with you without saying it out in front of people, because there’s issues with that sometimes. So it’s pretty simple. It’s just, it’s the way you introduce the meeting. It’s making sure that things are accessible, making sure that you give people with different learning styles, different time to process things, right? Sharing the objectives and the agenda for the meeting ahead of time so people have time to think about it. Sharing meeting notes afterwards. We actually use a technology called Fellow. I have no affiliation or endorsement of them except that we’re a happy customer, but it’s a really great meeting tool, not necessarily for inclusive meetings, but it allows for you to, I mean, it would technically allow you for you to put your inclusive meeting checklist into meetings, but it gives you like a template to take meetings really well in a digital hybrid workforce. And so sharing the notes afterwards is just another very meaningful thing that people oftentimes overlook, especially in the fast paced environment of our companies.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:36:52.04] Thank you. Thank you for that. I was just curious, as you were talking, I’m going to link to the research. It’s a red thread research report in the show notes so they can go to Workology.com and and grab the research here. But I wanted to ask you to talk a little bit about how we can help HR leaders understand DEI technology, because there’s a lot of new tech and particularly there’s a lot of new DEI tech.

Natalie Egan: [00:37:19.07] Yeah. And RedThread is a great organization that’s sort of leading a leading analyst for a research firm on DEI technology in particular. And so they’ve published, I think like three or four reports over the last three or four years, comprehensively looking at the DEI space and the compound annual growth rates and the number of new vendors and solutions and kind of where, where things are headed. And I think it’s a great place to start. There’s also Forrester and Gartner have published reports on DEI technology in particular. So I would a great place to start is just to go out and do the dive in, do the reading, find out what’s out there. Why are these decisions being made? Like what does this market look like? What are the capabilities? And then also audit your own internal needs. What are you doing? You know, like a lot of times companies aren’t really doing anything, right? They they may have put somebody in place, but they haven’t equipped them with budget or objectives, KPIs or OKRs around DEI. And so you have to start to really dig into this and do the work, trying to make it as easy as possible for you.

Natalie Egan: [00:38:35.90] I mean, the RedThread Research reports in general are just really strong, fresh looks at the space. I would say, I would say start there, but also experiment. Don’t be afraid to experiment and try things. You know, most of the startups that I know that are building DEI technology, like, it’s not like you’re switching from Oracle to SAP or it’s like, it’s not like a massive multibillion dollar initiative. You can experiment. And I think we need to have that mindset of curiosity and trying things and and not being afraid that something doesn’t work. I mean, that’s actually worth paying for, you know, to, to find out that it doesn’t work. So I would just encourage people to, like, get that report and pick out some vendors and, and contact them and get a demo and start to look at how you can pilot these things and then start to have maybe a, a DEI committee or a group internally that can start to review the outcomes. That’s a great place to start.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:39:40.63] I love that and thank you for that. And you’re the one who turned me on to Red Thread. So we’ll, yeah, we’ll link to that research report because I really think that for someone who is new or getting started or wants to dive into the DEI technology space and start looking and and evaluating new tech for the organization, it’s a great first, first place to go. Last question for you. What does being intentional about company culture look like from an HR perspective? I wanted to talk about how we can make diversity, equity and inclusion a more organic part of our organizational culture.

Natalie Egan: [00:40:19.36] Yeah, I mean, sort of piggybacking on what I said earlier, it has to start from the top. I mean, again, there’s a lot of organic groundswell stuff, but you need to have the buy in from the top. And I sort of laid out one of my four principles that I oftentimes share. So I’ll kind of, I’ll talk about that kind of wrap us up. I talked about language matters, but even before language matters, I always say participation matters like #ParticipationMatters. Like you have to get involved, like you have to show up. You have to listen to the podcast, you have to read the reports. You need to, your participation matters, like you, people need to get involved. And the second thing that I would say is representation matters, right? So and this is representation, by the way. So thank you, Jessica. You know, like just people showing up that that don’t look like everyone else is kind of the more basic way of thinking about representation matters. But representation matters in the boardroom. It matters at the, at the C-suite. It matters all the way through the organization, down to the front lines. It, it matters in advertising. It matters in, in panels. Right? Like when we have a group of people talking, it matters in teams like decision making. And there’s a ton of research out there that shows you that diverse representation equals better business results.

Natalie Egan: [00:41:50.53] And the reason for that is pretty simple, right? Like if you have a homogeneous team, people that all look the same and think the same and probably like all like they recruited each other, you know, like they move faster, right? There’s no doubt. And it’s actually it’s easier to find them to build your team. Right? That’s why homogeneous teams like come to market because it’s easy to, to build them, but they make worse decisions because they don’t have diversity of perspectives and backgrounds and experience to be able to see things that other people wouldn’t be able to see, like homogeneous groups of people. So representation is extremely important. And I can’t thank you enough for the opportunity to, to represent today. That third piece, which I talked about was language matters. I’ve already talked about that. But like the language that your leadership team uses is really important, right? I mean, that’s it’s very nuanced. It’s quite subtle. People oftentimes don’t understand completely why yet that it matters that we, for example, don’t use gendered language. Right? That’s just one example of, but we also want to avoid language and terminology that has racist and connotations or backgrounds or roots. You know, there’s all kinds of language that we don’t realize is excluding people or including people.

Natalie Egan: [00:43:12.13] So there’s a lot of work to be done there in terms of your participation. Get out there and do that work. But the last thing I’d say is allyship matters. So #AllyshipMatters. Like allyship is, is, is so important for diverse and underrepresented in marginalized communities. It’s how we’re going to get where we need to get to. And I’ll tell you, it’s very easy for people to say that they’re an ally and that right off the bat is, is part of the false premise or the sort of slippery slope, right? Like you really can’t call yourself an ally. I decide whether or not you’re an ally. Like the person in the moment is, can, based on your actions, right? Historically and/or at the moment is what decides whether you’re an ally or not. And people say, I’m an ally. But like chances are, if they were to sort of audit their allyship footprint, they would realize that they’re really only an ally for like one particular dimension of diversity. I’ll use myself as an example, like, I’m a pretty strong ally, I’d say an advocate for the LGBT community, but I could certainly be a better ally for other, more marginalized groups of people, in particular people with disabilities. You know, that’s an area where I have work to do and it goes back to the way I was raised.

Natalie Egan: [00:44:38.56] I know it. I’ve become a where of why I have challenges in that space. I think when I was growing up, my parents, without any real mal intent, told me not to stare at people you know, especially if they were different. And so I ended up sort of being conditioned to not look people in the eye, certain, certain people. And that’s a pretty big obstacle for me today. Like, I really am intentional about trying to make eye contact with people, in particular people with disabilities that are different than me. And there’s something very human that happens when you do connect with them. And so that’s just an example of me being vulnerable to share, like where I have work to do. But, you know, it’s an ongoing thing. You’re constantly auditing and and trying to make improvement. And, and in order to do that, you have to do the work. You have to participate. You have to go read the books, listen to the podcasts and hear the stories. So that’s kind of like what I would recommend to anybody. And so if you’re at a company and you’re looking to improve workplace culture and invest in diversity, inclusion like those four principles will help you get started.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:45:49.93] Awesome. Well, thank you so much, Natalie. We’re going to link to Translator in the show notes as well as to your LinkedIn profile, too. So people are like, hey, I love this. I want to connect with you. They’re able to do that and connect with you as an individual and then learn more about Translator as well.

Natalie Egan: [00:46:07.48] Awesome. Yeah. And I just, I just remember the name of the CEO. The book. The book “How to Become” a CEO is Jeffrey Fox. So you could maybe link to that as well just for fun. But anyways, thank you so much, Jessica, for having me here. Thank you for linking to the website. If people want to get a hold of me individually, you can find me on social media, @NatalieJEgan. I’m mostly on LinkedIn and Instagram, but you can also email me directly at Natalie@Translator.Company and its DOT company like COMPANY. But thank you so much for having me, Jessica.

Closing: [00:46:44.83] I appreciate it. Thank you, Natalie. Conversations about leadership and culture are extremely important, and we need to have more of them because those conversations spark change. And that is what we’re doing right here, sparking change. As HR leaders, we can support our organizations with resources and training that can open up your DEI initiatives in a way that sets your company up for long term success, while also setting an example of what doing the right thing looks like. I appreciate Natalie sharing her expertise. I appreciate her sharing her knowledge, information, experience with us on today’s podcast. And thank you for joining us today on the Workology Podcast. It’s sponsored by Upskill HR and Ace The HR Exam. This podcast is for the disruptive workplace leader who is tired of the status quo. My name is Jessica Miller-Merrell until next time you can visit Workology.com to listen to all our previous podcast episodes.

Connect with Natalie Egan.

RECOMMENDED RESOURCES

 

– Natalie Egan on LinkedIn

– Natalie Egan on Instagram

– Natalie Egan on Twitter

– Translator, Inc. 

– DEIB Tech 2021 Overview | RedThread Research

– Diversity, equity & inclusion perspectives | Deloitte

– How To Become a CEO by Jeffrey Fox

– Episode 337: The Difference Between Equity and Being Equal With Dawn Frazier-Bohnert

– Episode 325: Community Building and DEI With Melissa Marshall, VP People & Organization, Banfield Pet Hospital

– Episode 318: Building a DEI Team With Nadine Augusta, Chief DEI Officer at Cushman & Wakefield

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Jessica Miller-Merrell

Jessica Miller-Merrell (@jmillermerrell) is a workplace change agent, author and consultant focused on human resources and talent acquisition living in Austin, TX. Recognized by Forbes as a top 50 social media influencer and is a global speaker. She’s the founder of Workology, a workplace HR resource and host of the Workology Podcast.

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