Our continuing journey of building a diverse, equitable, and inclusive culture
This past year was a critical inflection point for us here at Ribbon. Like everyone else, we grappled with the pandemic, grieved the astounding loss of life, missed connecting in person, and felt enraged and frustrated by our country’s lack of social justice progress. As so many people experienced, it was impossible to separate these challenges from our work.
In March 2020, we started as a team of eight people with hopes and ambitions to build a diverse, equitable, and inclusive team and culture. Although we knew it would be impossible to do everything perfectly at once and that we would inevitably make mistakes along the way, we worked hard to make thoughtful and proactive steps to pursue our goals. We’ve made some progress along the way: We are now fully gender representative at 50 percent, and our non-white representation has grown to 50 percent.
But the journey is far from over. Now that we’ve more than tripled our team, we’re continuing to work on creating a diverse, equitable, and inclusive culture and reflecting on our growth. We’re sharing our open reflection, tests, and lessons in a series of posts for two reasons: 1) to help other healthcare and technology organizations that may find value in our learnings, and 2) to ask for feedback and critique on our approach so we can stay humble and keep improving.
In this first blog post in our series, we look at the two main questions we grappled with – How can we expand our network and find people with different backgrounds, experiences, and interests? How can we reduce bias in our recruiting process so anyone is set up to succeed? – and the lessons we learned along the way.
1. How can we expand our network and find people with different backgrounds, experiences, and interests?
When we started as a team of eight, we recognized that we did not have enough gender or BIPOC representation, and we actively sought to fix this. We began tracking baseline metrics on our applicant pool to determine whether candidates belonged to underrepresented minority groups. We learned that inbound applicants, especially for engineering roles, did not represent a diverse pool of candidates, and if we only used inbound applicants for our candidate pipelines, we would likely not find the talent we needed.
This led us to double down on our sourcing efforts to ensure we were seeking out diverse talent. We had leaders at the company send nurture emails, and we learned that emails sent from women leaders led to higher engagement and response rates from all sourced candidates.
We also evaluated channel partnerships with affinity groups, but we recognized that building these relationships well would require investment. At the time, we didn’t have an in-house talent team, and this was a major motivation for us to scale up our talent team and proactively engage and develop these relationships. We’re now kicking off this work and still a bit early, but we will share more as we learn.
2. How can we reduce bias in our recruiting process so anyone is set up to succeed?
As we made progress expanding our network, we wanted to make sure we didn’t have issues that would make it more difficult for minorities, women, or other underrepresented groups to get an offer.
To diagnose, we gathered data in two ways. First, we held feedback sessions with candidates to gauge differences in excitement between pre-onsite and post-onsite. We hypothesized that if excitement decreases after the on-site, we may have inadvertently made someone uncomfortable or raised a flag.
The second data set was through an anonymous survey of our teammates to surface any issues from their own interview experience at Ribbon and their view as an interviewer.
For our candidate feedback, we only saw consistent or increased excitement levels between pre and post-onsite. Our teammate survey surfaced some best practices on interview competency scoring that we quickly implemented.
Every role has a predefined rubric focusing on 3 – 5 functional dimensions of the role where we focus on aptitude, not experience. The rubric also includes alignment to our six values, which we believe do not bias toward or against any group. All on-site interviews have two Ribbon interviewers to counteract potential bias. All interviewers submit scores on a defined rubric with definitions delineating the needed signal for each score, and every score must be supported by a strong fact base. Each submission is blind until the on-site debrief, where we flag any outliers to challenge whether bias has crept into our scoring.
Learnings and Open Questions
We seek to improve our recruiting processes daily, and we own that we are not yet representative of the demographics in the U.S. In particular, we’re working to improve and increase BIPOC representation. This is the driving reason behind our channel partnership expansion efforts to get to know more Black, Latinx, and LGBTQIA+ talent.
As we continue to work on creating a diverse, equitable, and inclusive culture, we still have open questions, like:
- How do we uphold these changes as we grow and scale our team?
- How do we measure success and benchmark without tokenizing people?
- How can we better test for aptitude instead of experience?
- And importantly – how do we continue improving?
We’d love to hear from you! Email us with thoughts or feedback about our process and how we’re moving forward.