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A Strategic Approach to DEIBA

By OpenComp


Crafting inclusive spaces characterized by belonging and acceptance takes strategy and consistency, and it starts in the hiring process and extends throughout the entire employee experience.

In this episode, we speak with Paul Tucker, Racial Equity Advisor at The Rise Journey. He walks us through his work in diversity, equity, inclusion, belonging, and accessibility (DEIBA) and how he’s worked with dozens of clients to apply DEIBA across hiring, culture, and communication.

Join us as we discuss:

  • Best practices for creating spaces of acceptance and belonging at work
  • Top hiring and retention tactics that support DEIBA
  • How HR leaders can measure the impact of their strategies and tactics

Additional Resources:



CAITLIN ALLEN: Hi, everyone. This is Caitlin Allen, the VP of Marketing at open comp, I am one of your co hosts,

NANCY CONNERY: and Nancy Connery, your other co host, co founder of open comp and principal at Connery consulting.

CAITLIN ALLEN: Thank you so much for being here today as we speak to racial equity advisor Paul Tucker from the rise journey, which is an HR and dei consulting firm. And we are going to discuss the importance of workplace culture at growing organizations, something that I'm sure we all think about, as well as the strategic approaches that can help small HR teams and solo practitioners succeed in a fast growing environment. Paul has over 15 years of experience in dei be a work and at rise, he helps small HR teams design and implement strategies to build the best teams and develop sustainable and empowering cultures. Paul, thank you so much for being here.

PAUL TUCKER: Thanks for having me. Great to be here.

CAITLIN ALLEN: We're really excited to dive in so we can start with something personal. How did you get into diversity work?

PAUL TUCKER: Great question. Seems like I was destined to get into this work if I'm honest. So I grew up the product of black man and a white woman never married. So I actually never met my father. And my mother passed when I was six. And I, apart from learning about after my mother's passing this other side of my family, and my sister and spending time with her and living with her for a time, my sister on my father's side, you know, I had grown up. And other than that experience, which is by the year, I had grown up largely in a white conservative, relatively religious household of working class folks, so grew up with my mother's family. After her death, I'd moved from sort of families, depending within the family some some time with the cousin, who was older, some time with my grandmother, spend some time at a children's home. So I had this really rocky childhood, and one that was sort of deeply concerned or sort of focused on questions of belonging, and where to find it. So on top of being a biracial kid, I was also grappling with my identity as a as a gay person. And really gay adolescent youth didn't have a lot of support from the family that I was in. And like many folks went to college, I found my people found folks, and really did that actually, through a race relations program at the undergraduate level, where we focused on building community and building genuine relationships across difference. And doing that through dialogue. So you would have and be a part of weekly roundtable discussions about race and class and gender and sexuality and all of these aspects that make up who we are, and afford some of us privilege and deny access and opportunity. Others and looking at those things, both historically, but also in the present day, or the present day back. It was it was a while ago now, since it's been a moment they've been in college. But that's really how I got oriented to this work. So the personal experience, but also really dialogue and relationships. 

NANCY CONNERY: Fascinating. Paul, thank you so much for sharing that that was heartfelt and really Yeah, it's amazing to see you turn this into your career and make such a an impact. You know, can you help us understand the difference between DEI and DEIBA?

PAUL TUCKER: Yeah, I think for me the difference between DEI and DEIBA is really intentionality. Right? So are you going to be holistic? Are you going to be systemic or systematic in your approach? To me when you say the DEIBA or DEIBA in short, it's diversity, equity, inclusion, belonging and accessibility. That's what we sort of how we frame it had the writers journey. It really looks at the intersections of all those things and the interdependent nature of all of those things and all Again, all of these aspects of who we are. Whereas DEI, maybe it's not as holistic. And you know, I'll actually give a bit of a hot take on this one too, I think it landed for me and matters, less what you call it, and more how you are orienting your work. So DEIBA is a signal and sort of a signifier, because it does encompass more, it is thinking about additional things that maybe the DEI alone isn't really stating on face value. But you have various iterations. We know organizations that we've worked with it's, it's just diversity, or it's just inclusion or its diversity and inclusion or diversity, equity and inclusion. Sometimes, there's justice thrown in there, sometimes, you know, the order of the words is different. I think, again, for me, it matters less about what you call it and more about your intentions. What are you really working toward? And how is that reflected in the work that you're doing, and less of what you call it at the same time, I do recognize that deeba can be a more holistic signifier of signal to folks, and let them know that you're not just thinking about diversity, equity inclusion, but you're also really focused on belonging, you're really focused on accessibility.

CAITLIN ALLEN: I think that that point about going beyond simply intention to actual action and outcomes is a really important one. And I'm fascinated to hear Paul, in your work with HR teams at fast growing startups. And I believe you work across a variety of industries. So you give us a quite a swath as best? Sure. What for creating spaces of belonging and acceptance at work? What are those type of best practices? And where do they get applied in the employee experience?

PAUL TUCKER: Wow, they get applied in a variety of ways. I mean, I think, I think one of the things that is a bit underrated and that we help our clients think about is just processes and practices as it relates to belonging and acceptance, right. So there's a lot of conversation about bringing your authentic self to work are bringing your whole self. And one of the ways you can take action on that, as an employer, and that we work with our clients to do is really, okay, you have different or different perspectives, are you giving them a chance to be heard, and heard and valued and supported and nurtured in similar ways as maybe ideas and thoughts and perspectives that are more sort of mainstream are also heard. So I think that's one of the ways in which I really see this as a best practice, but also an underutilized practice, right, really just thinking about processes, and ways of approaching things and nurturing the working across difference.

NANCY CONNERY: Very positive impact on a lot of organizations, I'm sure. And it's so meaningful in so many ways. Let's talk, you know, a little bit about the top hiring tactics and support DEIBA.

PAUL TUCKER: Yeah, so a lot of times, clients come to us and they ask us, you know, we want to diversify our staff. How do we do that? How do we appeal to folks, and there are a number of actions that different organizations of various sizes can take, I think one of the key things that you can do, again, going back to intentionality is really be intentional, intentional about qualifications, right? Do you need to have a degree? Is that really important? Does that degree need to come from a particular college or university? Or even if you are sourcing from, you know, coding programs, or different boot camps, or what have you? Is it the same ones? Are you looking at a variety or a wider scope or funnel for the sourcing? So I think this is really important to note in terms of being intentional about qualifications, because most of the jobs that exist today weren't named or didn't have a name either. 20 years ago, right? No one I think 20 years ago would be like, oh, a podcast is a thing right? Or 30 years ago, right? But now it's a thing content creation thing. But does it really mean that you need you know, particular quality occasions from traditional in a traditional sense, I think. Really? Let me say that again. I think really being intentional about qualifications is important. And when you think about qualifications, I think aptitude, or people's potential is more important than some of the research bears this out as well, that potential it's really important, what we're doing because the jobs that exist today didn't exist 30 years ago, and the jobs that exists will exist 1023 years from now may not exist today. Can you assess? Can the qualifications be more tailored to what people are able to learn, and the speed at which or the velocity at which individuals teams and your organization as a whole can learn? And that would be more appropriate qualified qualification or criteria that you're looking for from candidates?

CAITLIN ALLEN: You know, it's interesting, you say that learning agility as a topic that my boss and I have been speaking a lot about something that differentiates our high performers and the others? What are what are ways? Maybe, maybe it's diagnostic questions? Or maybe it's something from someone's resume that HR leaders in their their talent teams can use to really pinpoint somebody that has high learning IQ?

PAUL TUCKER: Yeah, I think that's right, I think, assessments and doing them in a standardized way, right, like really thinking about, we don't want to, as we're thinking about new ways to engage in the practice of hiring, we don't want to introduce biases or let our existing biases play out with those modes of hiring. But definitely thinking about assessments, structured interviews, or processes that really get at folks learning ability. And again, the speed at which they can they can learn.

CAITLIN ALLEN: So a standardized process that makes sense. 

PAUL TUCKER: Yeah, standardized process.

CAITLIN ALLEN: I think to that one of the things that, that I always ask on for that, in pursuit of that characteristic to to suss it out is a lot of questions around things they've done wrong or learned. Articulate articulates. Yes, the answer is really a symptom of how they'll learn on the job. I think you make a good point.

PAUL TUCKER: Yeah. And I think you can ask questions that get to, you know, what did folks learn, right? Like, how reflective, are they? I think that's an important question to ask, like, what it what did you learn? Or what does reflection look like? Do you take time out to do that? And also just engaging in not for the sense of like a cultural fit, per se, but engaging in questioning? That's non work related to see how curious are folks outside of the workspace? Right, like, do they have interests or hobbies, that they're really like learning things from as well, because this is not just a way of working, it's a way of being that I think is really helpful. And it's more integrative or holistic, or part of the whole experience, and not just how we perform or how we show up at work.

NANCY CONNERY: And really taking the time to understand the whole story about the potential employee in your potential co worker, really goes a long way.

PAUL TUCKER: Yeah. Yeah. I think one of the other things that is undervalued or under practice, in the hiring context, as well is there's advice out there that says, Okay, you have diversity statement, include that in the job description. That's great. Not gonna complain with that, or push back against that, but more important than that. And Caitlin, I think this gets to, you know, intentions. And then actions is connect folks, right? If this is, you know, a woman, and that's joining an engineering team, like, Do you have a woman's BRG that you could connect that candidate with? That could talk about, okay, you know, there's not a lot of women on the engineering team. So this is what our experience is like. So you're providing truth in advertising, about not what's just expected, on paper in terms of these other projects that we're working on and the, you know, coding language we use and all of the things, but also what does the workplace experience look like for a woman for a person of color and providing that connection and then access to, you know, current employees who are living that experience on a day to day basis, you'll get some of that from the interview process, but really having a separate standalone opportunity that's more informal in nature that you can say, Okay, give me the nailed down on what the situation is like, what work is like here? What the culture is like?

NANCY CONNERY: Yeah, no, absolutely, that will play into retention and setting, setting up your employees for long term success and loyalty. Which really, really, really does go a long way. You know, and, you know, we're really in very interesting times right now, particularly, you know, in the workplace. And, you know, there's a lot of hard news to deliver these days around work, particularly in tech, you know, how should employers communicate with employees in a time of crisis?

PAUL TUCKER: Yeah, it's a great question. And it's hard not to be cliche in responding. But I, I feel from just looking at the past two years, and what has transpired in the US alone, as it relates to racial equity, or racial justice or social justice more broadly, there's a lot that has been said, and a little bit of which has been done. Right. So I think, what's most important to me, and I think what resonates with current employees with prospective employees, is being honest. Right. And, again, this goes to intentions and actions, what really do we care about have integrity, so be honest, have integrity about what it is that we care about what it is that we are speaking on? And then I think, again, it's not, for me, it's not just worth it to make a statement, because at some point, you can make a statement about everything, something happens. In the world we live in, there's so much going on that every day, you could be making a statement, but that's not particularly helpful, because then it all becomes noise. And there's no signal that gets through. So what I think is important for folks to do, and actually, what we've been doing more and more with our clients, we've always had a communications piece to the work that we do in the projects that we support them with. But being more intentional, and being more focused on developing a framework for internal communications in particular, but also external communications, that says what's important to us, as a company, as an organization, what aligns with our values, what aligns with our purpose for being, what's reflective, the various stakeholders that make up who we are our current employees, our customers, all of that. So to me, if you have a framework, if your that keeps you honest, and keeps you and keeps the integrity in your communications, and that's gonna resonate more than a million statements that you can make.

CAITLIN ALLEN: I think that's so important, what you just said, in terms of the the consistency, the symmetry between values and action, and the importance of honesty. And I think, one of the areas where I see companies, maybe the leaders, and the laggards separated is in manager training. So then they want to see and the consistency is is there out the organization? Yeah, I appreciate you bringing bringing that up, Paul. You know, it wouldn't be we wouldn't be talking about business if there weren't a question about measurement. So my next question for you is how can HR leaders measure the connection between their their strategies and tactics related to DEIBA and company performance? Is there anything that you've seen across your customer base there that you can speak to?

PAUL TUCKER: Yeah, I think from our customer base, really, a lot of times, particularly the clients that we're working with, they're, they're smaller, or they're like, they've been so invested in like, product market fit, go to market all of these things, that they haven't had a lot of time to focus on the people side of the equation and the culture that they're creating. And so they also don't have a lot of data, or metrics. Some of them don't have an hrs, or a system in which they can keep data about their employees. So I think one of the biggest things that smaller organizations in particular fast growing organizations can do is just like, start sending our collect baseline data, right? And get a sense of where are you now? Get that snapshots and then Make some intentional decisions about what you're going to do as an organization. This is what we help our clients do. In, we do a discovery and analysis, project with folks to get a sense of where are things at. So you're going to do some sort of survey, we're going to help you collect data, demographics about your organization, see where things are more broadly from a business perspective as well. And then figure out, okay, what do we want to do as an organization? And what are the actions we're going to take as they relate to diversity, equity, inclusion, belonging, and accessibility? And then you have the ability there after to say, Okay, this is where we started. We tried these things. And this is where we are, right. So I think doing things from an experimental approach, I think, is most important. And again, I'm not sure that many organizations do that. I think there's a lot of sort of Keeping Up with the Joneses. And the way I've sort of framed it is today, we know this from the great resignation and quiet quitting. And all of these things, employees want to work for companies that uphold their values that again, speak something, but also do something they walk the talk. So in a lot of ways, diversity, equity inclusion, that's table stakes, but that doesn't mean that it needs to be boilerplate, right, that you should do something that's unique to you. And if you do it, well, that I think, is your sustainable competitive advantage, right? Like, so many organizations, like bringing people into the organization from a variety of backgrounds, it's great. And if not done well, you can just get a lot of conflict and chaos. But if done really well, you can make that and more and more organizations are or resources suggesting that your strategy should be informed by diversity, equity, inclusion and your ability to do that.

CAITLIN ALLEN: Just a really quick comment, I feel like you accurately just summarized data science. Have your baseline data, have a hypothesis rapidly test and measure?

PAUL TUCKER: Yep, exactly.

NANCY CONNERY: Well done. And also, you know, congratulations on, you know, the rise journey, you know, recently success successfully launching a new product called one person human resources. Very fascinating. Can you tell us about that?

PAUL TUCKER: Yeah, thank you for celebrating that we're really excited about the launch of this new offering to clients, particularly clients that are smaller in nature, right. So we've always had as part of our founding an ethos that all businesses deserve equitable HR and debug practices. And so we really wanted we created OPA HR to facilitate positive, organized organizational change at a smaller scale for those organizations. So we've been offering consulting, coaching and nice learning experiences for workplaces of all sizes. One of the amazing things that we do and that we offer is our sport, spoken word poetry events. So really bringing the arts and diversity and inclusion together. As well as you know, we have a whole bunch of healing and restorative roundtables and over 200 learning and development sessions that are focused on diversity, equity inclusion, that we call Lunch and Learns but rise with OPA HR or one person Human Resources is a new offering that we're super excited about. It's a subscription self service built to help guide organizations missions, and objectives into alignment with culturally shifting HR initiatives. So the goal is really to provide affordable, easy access to the tools and playbooks and resources needed to build and support and engage workplace culture. Because even if you only have a very small HR team, or it's an HR team of one, and maybe it's an HR team of point five, or point two, five because they're doing a number of other things, they have the support and feel confident that they can provide for their employees are really engaging and enriching workplace culture and experience.

CAITLIN ALLEN: What a timely offering to give them certainty of the economy and budget. So congratulations. Thank you. What one final question, Paul, as we wrap up our time together, and we ask this, everybody, because like this one often conversations are very content rich of all the amazing things that you have told us about today. If our HR listeners acted on one of the things, you've said, what would it What would you recommend it be?

PAUL TUCKER: So again, this is going to be a little cliche, given the name of our organization, but I would say the journey is yours, and you want to make the best of it, right. So do something that is going to be unique and authentic, to your organization, and to your company, that it may not be all of the things, in fact, it won't be all the things we try to do, all of the things will be too much. But if it's just being intentional about qualifications, if it's just setting baseline data, or collecting that and going from there and figuring out how you're creating a hypothesis and figuring out how you're going to move the needle on these issues, whatever it is, make it or tie it specifically to your values, your vision, your mission, your purpose as an organization and the culture that you're trying to build the workplace that you want to create. And that's going to be your defining way to address this issue. And we'll give you something that is uniquely yours and uniquely attributable to your organization and your employee experience.

CAITLIN ALLEN: Thank you. Well, thank you so much, again for being here. It's been an absolute pleasure speaking with you.


PAUL TUCKER: Of course, thank you for having me.

NANCY CONNERY: Thank you, Paul, what wonderful work that you are doing. So congratulations and thank you for educating and sharing this with us today.

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