Written by Parth Bhatti
Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) are important aspects of building any organization. More and more businesses are recognizing that placing value in the principles of DEI can help grow a community within a company and strengthen the bonds between peers and teams. At GAINS, we wanted to create a group of passionate individuals that could take on the initiative of forming an employee resource group that focuses on improving fairness, fostering a sense of belonging, and giving a voice to those at our company.
In the Summer of 2021, the DEI Committee came together for the first time. Being virtual for over a year at that point, it started as another opportunity to bring together colleagues in a less formal setting. We drew in employees from different divisions of the organization and engaged in simple, fun activities to help us become more comfortable and begin to open up to each other. But just as importantly, we learned about the people whom we are working with and became to appreciate everyone’s backgrounds and experiences. However, it was also a time when it was logistical challenge to get people together and commit to building a DEI resource group from the ground up.
Along our journey, we attracted people who wanted to step up to the plate and get involved. This organic approach to assembling eager and willing people has helped us overcome the difficulties of building a team from scratch. We came to understand that in order to improve Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, it would require patience but would also require creating a strategy for success and understanding that incremental goals would slowly help us enhance the GAINS culture.
The DEI group aimed to strike a balance between leading activities designed to engage employees across the company and establishing formal baselines and goals to give us direction. We had team members excited to share personal and cultural traditions through all-company emails. To honor and recognize Black History Month, we hosted a book club in which we read the Pulitzer Prize-winning book, Beloved by Toni Morrison. The book offers a harrowing look at slavery and its lasting impact. The intensely shocking and moving narrative was written in a variety of voices and lengthy fragmentary monologues. Morrison’s beautiful language and intense imagery, however, were rightly celebrated in this classic work. (Copies of the book were sponsored by GAINS leadership!)
We knew these types of activities would be limited in generating an impact in the overall DEI footprint at GAINS. We felt we needed to do more. While learning about the cultures and experiences of others is important for personal growth, we realized that we needed to get more introspective about who we are and where we wanted to go as a group. Together, the DEI group developed a brief mission statement to encapsulate our values and guide our conduct moving forward:
At GAINSystems, we aim to ‘Move Forward Faster’, but we also aspire to Move Forward Together. GAINS recognizes that every person has unique perspectives and experiences capable of bringing value to our community and beyond. We are dedicated to continuously exploring ways to maintain and increase diversity, equity, and inclusion within GAINS.
The Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion group also recieved support from the HR team, who agreed to allow the DEI group to review and limit bias in our job descriptions and handbook policies. We began with looking at the choice of wording in job postings to ensure we were not dissuading a particular demographic from applying to positions. Our long-term goal is to continue to review other sections of our handbook and look for other opportunities for improvement, for example, to formalize a dress code policy free of gender or religious bias. Secondly, an initiative was taken by the company to align performance review dates across the company to institute pay equity. Employees are now reviewed at the same time and can be evaluated for compensation changes in a fairer and more balanced environment. Additionally, manager toolkits were constructed to provide new and seasoned managers with resources to help them interview and onboard potential candidates as well as, to facilitate performance reviews for current employees.
However, to nail down our long-term vision we had to be sure our efforts were deliberate and directed at areas of need. To gather this information, we composed a DEI Perspective Survey. The objective was to obtain insight into how employees feel about their work experience today. Responses to these questions will help guide our committee’s efforts in providing the best and most relevant initiatives for improving employees’ trust and comfort working at GAINS. With the final survey responses being gathered now, we are excited to review the responses and to identify trends, highlights, and pain points. The results will be reviewed with the DEI group, and our Executive Leadership Team and then shared with the rest of the company before Human Resources and the DEI group facilitating an open forum-type event to allow folks to speak freely given their interest.
Although the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion group are still in our nascent stages, the DEI Committee is making concerted efforts to realize a tangible and visible impact at GAINSystems. We appreciate the individuals who make up our organization and want to make sure that we are all valued and treated respectfully for the benefit of those at GAINS today and those that will one day join our company.
Parth Bhatti is a Consultant at GAINSystems and a graduate of Northwestern University.