Workplace journeys: Paradigm

by Laura Hanrahan

Joelle Emerson, founder and CEO of Paradigm, is passionate about diversity and inclusion. Here she shares practical insight into how to build a diverse, inclusive workforce and her go-to technique for building resistance.

For Joelle, the topic of diversity within organisations today is part of a bigger conversation about the changing face and values of our society. Millennials entering the workforce want to know that companies care about fostering diverse and inclusive communities just as much as they do.

As she told the crowd at Flow 2018, "Whether you look at the changing dynamics of our country, which are going to necessitate caring about diversity, or whether you think about just trying to attract and keep the best people. There was a recent study that found that nearly 50% of millennials actively consider an organisation's diversity and inclusion strategy in choosing their next job."

"So companies can't afford to stop thinking about this. Companies have to build best-in-class cultures that prioritise diversity and inclusion if they want to attract and keep the best people."

"Companies have to build best-in-class cultures that prioritise diversity and inclusion if they want to attract and keep the best people."

- Joelle Emerson, CEO, Paradigm

In other words, diversity is not a box to be ticked or an afterthought.

"Companies are starting to realise that it's non-optional to prioritise diversity and inclusion. It used to be that just industry leaders in various sectors were caring about this, and now we see pretty much every company that cares about culture, that cares about its success in the future, has to care about this."

"Companies are starting to realise that it's non-optional to prioritise diversity and inclusion."

So what are the obstacles that get in the way of building a diverse workforce?

In Joelle's experience, they're perceived obstacles, rather than material ones. "You'd be surprised at how many organisations tell me 'You can measure diversity, but you can't measure inclusion'."

She goes on to explain that a lot of companies try throwing random solutions at the problem of inclusion, which – unsurprisingly – doesn't produce any results. And that's why companies are under the impression that it can't be measured.

Paradigm's solution is to put the measurement first. "You can measure quantitative data such as representation, hiring rates, promotion rates, attrition and retention, and you can absolutely measure inclusion too."

"You can measure quantitative data such as representation, hiring rates, promotion rates, attrition and retention, and you can absolutely measure inclusion too."

Paradigm has been successfully measuring inclusion for years with an internal survey. Powered by Survey Monkey, the survey asks employees scientifically-validated questions from all different angles that address whether a person feels included in the company. Questions include whether a person feels like they have a voice, and whether they feel they have access to resources.

"You can measure quantitative data such as representation, hiring rates, promotion rates, attrition and retention, and you can absolutely measure inclusion too."

Using the survey results, leadership can get an understanding of whether there are people in the organisation who don't feel included, and proactively try to fix the problem. What's more, they can break down the results demographically and see if there are any commonalities between survey respondents who answered in a negative way. This allows them to identify any larger organisational challenges.

"I really encourage organisations to start with data, start by understanding where your barriers exist, and then you can invest resources in a really targeted way to address those barriers."

In addition, Joelle stresses the importance of measuring the impact of everything that organisations do to try to boost diversity and inclusion.

"You should never be doing something for like a year, and have no idea whether it's working... If you have any culture strategies or inclusion strategies going at the moment and you just can't think of how you know whether they're working – what's the data you would look at, or what are the questions you would ask – I would suggest that those might be strategies to start to reconsider. How can you develop that baseline data point so you can start to measure progress over time?"

Speaking of continuous improvement, Joelle introduced the audience at Flow to the concept of the "growth mindset". It's something that she and the rest of the team at Paradigm use to nourish personal and professional growth, and to build resistance.

"Fundamentally [it's] the belief that our intelligence, our skills, our abilities, are malleable, they're not fixed. It's a belief that we as individuals and our organisations are fundamentally capable of learning and growth."

"People who develop a growth mindset set loftier goals, they take smarter risks and they're more resilient when they face setbacks."

"People who develop a growth mindset set loftier goals, they take smarter risks and they're more resilient when they face setbacks. Because fundamentally, people with a growth mindset are perceiving opportunities and challenges as areas of learning. So when you face a setback, you're asking yourself, 'How can I learn from this? What can I do differently?'"

So how can people and teams activate a growth mindset? Joelle recommends starting with some simple questions.

"Ask yourself, 'What is something that I wasn't very good at one year ago that I'm much better at today?' And then you can ask your team, 'What was something as a team or as a company that we weren't very good at one year ago, that we're much better at today?'"

Reflecting on how much progress has been made in 12 months helps people remind themselves of what they're capable of, and raise the bar on what they can achieve for the next 12 months ahead of them.

So, what lies ahead for Joelle?

As the founder and CEO of a rapidly growing business, scaling her team is an organisational challenge in her sights. Armed with tried-and-tested techniques to prioritise diversity and inclusion – and a growth mindset – no doubt Joelle and Paradigm will continue to grow to new heights.

With big thanks to Joelle Emerson, Founder and CEO of Paradigm.

Watch how HOYTS CEO is using Workplace to build an inclusive culture.


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