It was a honor to attend this year’s SHRM Diversity & Inclusion Conference in Atlanta as a SHRM Blogger and represent the Garden State Council - SHRM (GSC-SHRM).  Last year, I attended the SHRM D&I Conference in San Francisco and it was excellent. Attending professional conferences, such as SHRM, enable you to connect with a diverse group of people and continue to learn the best practices.  One of my key takeaways from this conference was the power of storytelling and how it completes and electrifies a speaker’s presentation.  Storytelling provides the attendee with a personal message about the presenter and in return this helps the attendee learn and better understand the material. It allows the attendee to bring what they learned to their organizations so they can initiate successful initiatives and programs by implementing the best practices.

The keynote speakers at this years SHRM D & I Conference included SHRM’s CEO & President Johnny C. Taylor, Brandon Stanton, Denise Young Smith, & Kayla McKeon and Sara Hart Weir.

I attended the following sessions:

  • “Assessing and Addressing Unconscious Bias Toward Trans-women and Trans-men in the Workplace” with Tiffani “Tie” Wang-Jones
  • “Utilizing Diversity Scorecards to Showcase Organizational Success” with Laura Butler
  • “16 Key People and Resources Every D & I Practitioner Needs to Succeed” with Shirley Davis
  • “We All Are More Similar Than We Think” with Ricardo Palmares
  • “Diversity Fatigue No More! How to Make D&I Engaging and Effective” with Michael Baran

In addition two presentations that really stood out were:

  •  “Inclusion by Design: Designing and Delivering an Inclusive Employee Experience” with Joe Gerstandt  
  •  “Creating Inclusivity Through Empathy: Perspectives and

Strategies from a Transgender CEO” with Natalie Egan

“Inclusion by Design: Designing and Delivering an Inclusive Employee Experience” with Joe Gerstandt:

In this session, Joe discussed inclusion and how it is an increasingly popular workplace goal,  while still remaining vague and an abstract concept in most organizations. As a vague and abstract concept, it is difficult for most organizations to reach a certain goal and learn what to measure along the way. 

Joe started his presentation with a quote by Bayard Rustin, “We need in every community a group of angelic troublemakers.”

Inclusion is an active process of change (to include) and is an experiential outcome (to be included).  Here are some statistics provided by Joe:

  • 29 percent altered their attire, grooming or mannerisms to make their identity less obvious.
  • 40 percent refrained from behavior commonly associated with a given identity.
  • 57 percent avoid sticking up for their identity group.
  • 18 percent limited contact with members of a group they belong to. 

A Corporate Leavers Survey indicated:

  • People of color are 3 times more likely to leave due to workplace unfairness.
  • LGBT professionals and managers said workplace unfairness was the only reason they left their employer 2 times as often as their peers. 

What are the characteristics of an inclusive experience?

When I am included:

                  What do I know?

                  What do I feel?

                  What do I believe?

                  What do I see?

                  What do I hear?

                  What do I have access to?

We strive to deliver an employee experience that is consistently accessible, psychologically safe, and open to further adaption.  As individuals, we are guided by our shared values in how we approach our work and interact with each other.

Along with inclusion, the idea of design thinking is a repetitive process in which we seek to understand the user, challenge assumptions, and redefine problems in an attempt to identify alternative strategies and solutions. This might not be instantly apparent with our initial level of understanding. Understand (empathize, define) >>>>>Explore (ideate, prototype) >>>>Implement (test, implement)

Here are some questions that Joe suggested to ask yourself about the organization you belong to:

What aspect of the work experience do you think could be more inclusive? Why?

What can you do to understand the current employee experience?

You can also check out my pre-conference interview with Joe here.   

“Creating Inclusivity Through Empathy: Perspectives and Strategies from a Transgender CEO” with Natalie Egan:

Natalie Egan (she/her/hers) is a transgender B2B software entrepreneur with over 20+ years of experience driving digital change and building/selling enterprise solutions. She is also the CEO and founder of Translator.  Her mission is to scale empathy and equality through technology.  Natalie is a graduate of Cornell University and The Villanova School of Business. She is authoring a book about her transition from a male-to-female CEO and the business lessons learned. 

It has been a proven fact that diverse companies perform better financially:

  • 67 percent of candidates want to join a diverse team
  • 57 percent of employees want to prioritize diversity
  • Inclusive companies enjoy 2.3 X higher cash flow
  • 35 percent of diverse companies outperform homogenous ones
  • 1.7 X more likely to be innovation leaders
  • 70 percent more likely to capture new market

D & I innovation vs. demand has changed over time.  In the 1960s, it was about government regulations and corporate policies.  The 1970s through the 1990s involved mandatory

training and learning management systems.  The millennium incorporated employee resource groups & Chief Diversity Officers. 

D & I 2.0 has begun and new technology is emerging in:

  • Talent acquisition
  • Anti-Harassment
  • ERG Management
  • Unconscious Bias
  • Diversity Training

What is Translator?  As the company site indicates, “at Translator, we are on a mission to spread empathy and equality at scale.  We founded Translator on the belief that the future of Diversity & Inclusion is data-driven and that technology can help us drive the change we need in the world.”  Additionally, Translator is strategically integrated, collaborative & engaging, safe & inclusive, adapting & ongoing, scalable & Repeatable, and measurable / data-driven.  It also includes anonymous D&I training tools, private ongoing Q & A / Chat, and rich de-identified data analytics & insights.

According to Natalie, there are three pillars of empathy: self-awareness, context & strategies, interaction & application. It is not a coincidence that both sessions focused on inclusion.  Inclusion is essential for diversity programs & initiatives to succeed.  Diversity is extremely important but diversity cannot sustain itself without inclusion.

Natalie told her personal & professional story in the beginning of her presentation.  Her story was real, moving, & effective.  Without her story, the presentation would have been great but through storytelling, it was incredibly presented.  It was REAL and HEARTFELT.

This has been a tremendous year.  I’ve grown professionally in many ways this year and I want to thank Industrial U.I. Services for their continued support and the Garden State Council-SHRM (GSC-SHRM) for the opportunities they’ve provided.  Additionally, I want to thank SHRM for inviting me this year to blog at #SHRM18 and #SHRMDIV.  This more then likely will be my last blog of the year.  With that, I want to wish everyone a wonderful holiday season and a very Happy New Year!

Anne Tomkinson, Gemma Toth, Anthony Paradiso and John Baldino at Pittypat’s Porch.



The SHRM Blog does not accept solicitation for guest posts.

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