It’s an understatement to say I’m a fan of the musical “Hamilton.” I saw it for the first time on Broadway in 2015, and I’ve seen it live three more times since then. The story of an ambitious, scrappy immigrant who earned his place in history during the founding of the United States took on even more resonance this past year, as quotes from the Broadway hit became rallying cries at protests for the social justice movement. Lyrics such as these appeared on handmade posters:
“This is not a moment. It’s the movement.”
If I could adopt a rallying cry for the year ahead, that would be it. When viewed through the lens of belonging and diversity (B&D), all of the crises we’ve endured—from the global pandemic to the social justice movement to economic turmoil and uncertainty—have caused disproportionate hardship for our Black and Brown communities. Our marching orders now are to turn the frustration and inequity of these moments into a sustained movement that creates lasting change.
Yet, how can we achieve lasting change for everyone who has faced hardship because of their skin color, gender, sexual orientation, physical ability, nationality, or other important aspects of their identity? How can we ensure our workplaces are inclusive and welcoming to everyone? Here are some of my thoughts.
When we made the shift from working in an office to working remotely, that change happened quickly. But progress in the area of B&D can sometimes feel slow. As we all work to drive change globally at Workday, I’m acutely aware of three things to keep top of mind:
Lasting change takes time. I’ve shared our ambitious company commitments with you, but we know we’ll need until 2023 to achieve some of them. For example, we want the makeup of our company to better reflect the makeup of our society, but addressing this imbalance isn’t a quick fix. And, while the pace of change may sometimes feel discouraging, we have to continue to push through, learn from our mistakes, and move forward.
Change requires accountability. It can’t be the job of just one person, whether that’s me or another Workmate, or of a specific team. We all need to ask ourselves, “What work am I doing that can contribute not only right now, but on an ongoing basis?”
Change is big. And small. We need to think about the impact of the changes each of us can make in our day-to-day lives to move the needle. That’s vital. But we also need to think big, and examine the entire system we operate in. From a company perspective, that includes the entire employee life cycle, from attracting talent to examining why people leave. For example, to feel like they belong, all Workmates should feel a sense of inclusion. We must empower our workforce, providing opportunities for advancement and growth for all. And, we must strive to partner with organizations that share our values.
We’ve made substantial progress since I joined Workday just over three years ago, and I’m especially proud of our accomplishments in 2020. All of them are rooted in VIBETM (Value Inclusion, Belonging, and Equity), which is Workday’s approach to B&D. VIBE makes us stronger as a company, connecting us to our purpose, our core values, and our culture, and it helps unite us. It’s an approach that drives more long-term systemic change, in part because it’s about being in a learning mindset: gathering and examining data, gleaning insights, and sharing experiences, enabling us to learn from each other and identify our opportunities for improvement.
VIBE is already embedded in many programs and activities we’ve launched for our Workmates, and we’ve continued and increased our commitment to working with our customers, partners, and communities to spread our VIBE approach. For our customers, we launched two new offerings in the fall, VIBE Index and VIBE Central, to help leaders advance B&D initiatives in their own organizations and embody VIBE. Early response has been extremely positive, and more than 200 customers have attended our VIBE Central workshops.
We’re rallying Workmates to get involved, and new training and educational opportunities are part of that effort. Launching early this year for all Workmates, our new VIBE learning series will include live and on-demand training and resources to help us all gain a deeper understanding of what VIBE is and how to put it into action.
In the months to come, we’ll have much more to announce about the progress and tangible results from our core B&D team and the Accelerator team we formed last year.
VIBE is a learning mindset: gathering and examining data, gleaning insights, and sharing experiences, enabling us to learn from each other.
As I look to the year ahead, it’s critically important that we don't take our collective foot off the gas. We’ll continue to work hard on the commitments we made in 2020, and we’ll expand critical focus areas.
For example, to build on our commitment to people with disabilities, we’re partnering with Disability:IN/Inclusion Work to better understand how to make our workplace more inclusive for this population. Another example is the work of our People with Disabilities employee belonging council, which recently helped obtain a license for the Dyslexie font to assist Workmates with dyslexia. We’re also striving for global gender parity and the advancement of women in leadership roles, as we work even harder to ensure everyone has equitable opportunities to advance.
We also know that diversity and representation are critical, but they’re not our end goal. Belonging is the key. Employees who feel they belong have an increased sense of security, identity, and acceptance as part of their company, and they’re more engaged. To that end, we’ll continue to address issues related to the global pandemic, such as how remote work is affecting our culture and Workmates’ sense of belonging. We’ll examine our global landscape and share more diverse global perspectives, making certain our efforts are felt by Workmates, customers, and partners worldwide.
It goes without saying that 2020 was really tough. Our Workmates have been balancing the stress of work demands, family demands, mental health, and COVID-19, and also managing the different ways they’ve been affected, including seeing relatives and friends lose jobs and face economic insecurity. And, just like my Workmates, I’ve experienced challenges this past year, too. I’ve had to work hard to stay grounded in my identities, including being African American and carrying the weight of what my Black community has experienced, and also my responsibilities as the chief diversity officer of Workday. The year 2020 tested us in ways we never would’ve anticipated, and yet what’s remarkable, and what stands out to me most, is how much we’ve lifted each other up.
As we entered 2020 a year ago, none of us could have foreseen the challenges and changes coming, but in many ways, they've opened our eyes—and perhaps made us see things in a different light. While I'm mindful of the work we have ahead of us to drive lasting change, I’m hopeful for what the future holds. I have hope in the good of us all and hope in our commitment to making long-lasting sustainable change.
As we forge ahead into 2021, I truly believe this is not just a moment. It’s the movement. And in the words of Hamilton, “I am not throwing away my shot.” I hope you’ll be alongside me as we continue this journey together.