All Inclusive Interview with #SHRMDIV Presenter, Joe Gerstandt


Last year, I attended the SHRM Diversity & Inclusion Conference in San Francisco on behalf of the Garden State Council-SHRM (GSC-SHRM, NJ’s SHRM State Council) and really had a great time, met wonderful people, and learned best D & I practices, among many other things.  I’m very fortunate that I will be attending this month, the SHRM Diversity & Inclusion Conference in Atlanta on behalf of SHRM, as a blog contributor and the GSC-SHRM as the Diversity & Inclusion Chair.  In this particular blog, I interview Joe Gerstandt.  

Joe Gerstandt is a keynote speaker, author and consultant bringing greater clarity and new practices to diversity and inclusion.  Joe brings greater clarity, action, and impact to organizational diversity and inclusion efforts.  He has worked with Fortune 100 corporations, small non-profits, and everything in between. He speaks at numerous conferences and summits, and blogs at  As Joe’s LinkedIn profile indicates, he brings his unique perspectives and trademark energy to keynote at conferences nationwide and facilitates training workshops for corporate and professional groups.  Additionally, Joe is a featured contributor for the Workforce Diversity Network Expert Forum and his insights have been published in Diversity Executive, HR Executive, and numerous other print and on-line journals.

Joe Gerstandt will be presenting a Concurrent Session, Inclusion by Design: Designing and Delivering an Inclusive Employee Experience, on Monday 10/22/18 10:15 AM – 11:45 AM – Room TBD at #SHRMDIV in Atlanta.  

Check out my interview with Joe below:

Please tell us a little about yourself:

My name is Joe Gerstandt, I am self-employed and have been doing Organizational D&I Work for almost 15 years now, with organizations of all shapes and sizes. I live in Omaha, Nebraska. My wife and I have three children, our oldest just started college, and we have a 5th grader and a 3rd grader. We also have a dog and two cats. I am a Taurus and aggressively introverted and spend most of my free time at home with my family or with my nose in a book.

What should an attendee expect to learn from your concurrent session, Inclusion by Design: Designing and Delivering an Inclusive Employee Experience?

I want to equip folks with a more tangible, actionable, and feasible approach to making their organization more inclusive. This begins by bringing greater clarity to the idea of inclusion. In spite of the popularity of the word, inclusion remains a vague, abstract idea in most organizations. It is an experiential and intangible thing we are talking about, so our definition will be imperfect and incomplete, but it will be actionable. If we have some clarity on what it means to be included, we can work back from there to identify specific behaviors, specific practices, specific polices that need to be introduced to more consistently deliver the experience of being included to the vast diversity of human beings in our workforce. And we sprinkle on a bit of design-thinking as a way of re-designing specific aspects of the work experience (meetings for example) to meet our aspirations.

How would you define inclusion?

A fantastic question that I wish more organizations and more leaders would struggle with, as I think it matters, and I think it should mean something a bit different in different organizations.

I use the word in a couple of different ways: 1) I talk about the active process (to include), and 2) I talk about the experiential outcome (to be included). I think that a lot of organizations and a lot of leaders want to be more inclusive, but they have not gotten any clarity on that experiential outcome…they do not know what they are trying to create, so they are not sure what to do or what to measure along the way.

Again, I think it is going to mean different things in different organizations, but a simple working definition might be something like this:

An inclusive space is physically accessible and psychologically safe, rewarding both belonging and authenticity (creating insiders with integrity) - it is a place in which:

  • people, all of whom are naturally different from each other, are willing and able to be true to themselves and to tell the truth to each other,
  • decisions are accessible, transparent, and shaped by shared values,
  • the employee experience is consistent, with minimal or no consequences for real or perceived identity. 

Why is inclusion important and why does it remain so vague?

I am not going to regurgitate the business case as I think that is terribly disrespectful and dismissive to the actual human beings on the other side of this conversation. Inclusion is important because the alternative is simply wrong, and unacceptable, and incredibly wasteful.

I think it remains very vague because our expectations relative to inclusive have changed a lot faster than our actual understanding of it. It is now expected for leaders to “get it.” So leaders, and organizations, and communities have gotten really good at letting us all know that they “get it.” But they don’t. If a fraction of the people who claimed to get it and be about it actually did, we would be much further down the road than we currently are. Most of the talk about inclusion is simply talk.

How does a company know if they have an inclusive environment?

I think the best way for a company to know is to establish a clear, and concise definition or framework for what it means to be fully included in that organization and then to ask their employees if their experience matches that. Without some kind of clarity around what it means, these conversations are nearly pointless.

How would you describe yourself in one word?


Please describe how you got involved in the area of diversity & inclusion:

It is a pretty long story, but a lot of personal change had to happen first. 30 years ago, I probably would have rolled my eyes at what I do today and I had a lot of prejudiced beliefs about people. But, for a lot of different reasons and in different ways my heart and my mind were changed relative to this work and here I am. I take great pride today, in being a weak link in this work that is nothing less than world changing.

What would you recommend to someone that wanted to work in the field of diversity & inclusion?

Get crystal clear on your “why.” Study, study, study…not what is currently being done or said, but the underlying issues. Build a network.

After researching, I saw that you co-authored, Social Gravity: Harnessing the Natual Laws of Relationships. Please share information about your book. Is there another book in the works?  

Social Gravity is a book I wrote with Jason Lauritsen several years ago that examines the what, why, and how of building a big powerful network of relationships. I am currently working on a book on Inclusion, which I am fairly certain will never be complete…but it should be awesome.

How can the attendees connect with you via social media?  Please share.

@joegerstandt is probably the easiest

Are there any videos or articles that you would like to share?  If so, please provide the link (s) & description about the link so those reading can view.

Here is a short video of me talking about Inclusion, titled Inclusion: You Keep Saying That Word, I Do Not Think It Means What You Think It Means.

Joe, thank you for an awesome interview.  We are looking forward to your session!

Feel free to check out my other blogs that have been posted on SHRM:


The SHRM Blog does not accept solicitation for guest posts.

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