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How to speak up to HR about DEI

On this week’s episode of Hit the Ground Running, we talk to our own Chief People Officer about how junior employees can speak up about DEI issues and more.

How to speak up to HR about DEI
[Source illustration: melitas/iStock]
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Last summer, amid the uprising following the murder of George Floyd, our company realized it had some work to do. We appointed a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion committee that my cohost Christina Royster is a member of, and hired Joe Johnson, our new Chief People Officer who we spoke to the most recent episode of Hit the Ground Running. Johnson’s view on the glut of DEI openings in the last year; “I think that a lot of organizations are approaching DEI from an optics perspective. But when you peel back the onion, there’s no measurements, there’s no qualitative or quantitative measurements that will indicate how well you’re doing.”

For his part, and with the prompting and partnership of our DEI committee, Johnson helped instigate a diversity pay equity audit, which got me a raise.

When we asked Johnson about how we, as junior employees, could make a different at our company, he said that employees at every level should feel comfortable speaking up when they sense that something could be improved. While I appreciate his optimism, it can be scary to speak to management when you don’t have a long tenure or as much seniority in the office. That’s why I’m glad that we have a union (Fast Company is part of WGA-East) which lets us bring problems to management and work through them together.

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“Just because you don’t have the title does not mean that you can’t be a leader. And I think that that’s what we have to recognize. Everybody in the organization can be a leader if they want to. Leadership is something that you have to embrace, it’s not just going to happen naturally. It’s got to be intentional. And so I think that for the junior folks in the organization, I think that what they have to do is they have to speak out. It requires a level of courage, that in terms of courage, when you go to that step, it’s uncomfortable. But I tell people that growth is uncomfortable. If you’re not uncomfortable every day, that means you’re not growing,” Johnson says.

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