Welcome Aboardwith Ashley Bowe and Karen Catlin
Welcome back! We’re kicking off the new year with an episode full of practical advice about onboarding new employees. Ashley Bowe from Basecamp’s customer support team talks about how they welcome and train new colleagues, and leadership coach Karen Catlin of Better Allies shares advice and examples of what companies can do to build more inclusive cultures.
- Basecamp's Support team - 00:47
- The Better Allies Approach to Hiring by Karen Catlin - 1:03
- "Hire When It Hurts," our episode about hiring - 2:51
- Entry in Basecamp's handbook about summer hours - 6:44
- "I've never had a goal" (Signal v. Noise) - 7:36
- Shaun talks about not eating lunch for a week in "Workaholics Aren't Heroes" - 9:03
- Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson write about the joy of missing out in this Quartz essay - 14:39
- Karen Catlin on Twitter | her website | Better Allies on Twitter | Better Allies website - 19:28
- The Uber leather jacket debacle was chronicled by Susan J. Fowler in her now-famous essay about working at Uber - 22:43
The Full Transcript:
[00:00:00] Anyone You Meet Normcore Remix by Clip Art plays.
Wailin: [00:00:03] Rework is brought to you by Basecamp. Basecamp combines everything you need to manage projects and people in one organized place. Learn more and sign up at Basecamp.com.
[00:00:17] Broken By Design by Clip Art plays.
Shaun: [00:00:18] Happy New Year and welcome to rework a podcast about the better way to work and run your business. I’m Shaun Hildner.
Wailin: [00:00:22] And I’m Wailin Wong. In the spirit of a new year, a fresh start, and welcoming our listeners back to the show after our holiday hiatus, we wanted to do an episode about how companies onboard new employees.
Shaun: [00:00:35] At Basecamp, it’s our support team that does the most hiring, so they’ve also done the most thoughtful work around onboarding. In this episode you’ll hear from Ashley Bowe on the Basecamp Support team, which we call Team OMG. Wailin talked to her last year while Ashley was helping to train our two newest support folks,
Wailin: [00:00:52] And then you’ll hear from Karen Catlin, a tech industry veteran and the founder of Better Allies, which is about creating more inclusive workplaces. She has a new book coming out this month called The Better Allies Approach to Hiring, which has a section about onboarding. But first, here’s my conversation with Ashley.
Ashley: [00:01:16] My name is Ashley Bowe and I’m on the Support team. I’ve been on the team for two and a half years.
Wailin: [00:01:21] Okay. That was going to be my next question, was I couldn’t remember when you had joined because it seems like you’ve been here for a long time. And also I didn’t realize your last name was pronounced Bowe [transcription note: Bow-ee, like David Bowie]
Ashley: [00:01:29] Yeah. Yeah.
Wailin: [00:01:31] That’s one of the funny things about working in a remote company is you just look at people’s names all day and sometimes you can go, in our case, two and a half years without me having ever heard your name pronounced right.
Ashley: [00:01:43] Right. Because for what reason? Who was saying that? Yeah. So it is Bowe. I think we may find a way this year to put down any other mispronunciations that we just aren’t necessarily feeling emotional about, but would just like to put the accurate information out there.
Wailin: [00:01:59] So you’ve been here two and a half years. Can you tell me about your own onboarding experience? We’ll use that as a baseline.
Ashley: [00:02:06] Elizabeth is someone else on our Support team who’s been here about three and a half years, I believe. And she put together these modules, we were able to follow different themes for different days. Maybe day one is more about the company and its history. And then maybe day two is more about our team, specifically, and our team’s history. And then we’ll go through different product lines. So it has some type of organization to it that hopefully just flows into figuring out your whole job here.
Wailin: [00:02:32] Yeah. So is it pretty standard operating procedure now to have three trainers for every, let’s say, two new support folks? Is that usually the ratio?
Ashley: [00:02:40] I think so. I think so. Yeah, because we found that then we can manage our own, like, the daily workload because I think that’s probably the most challenging part is trying to figure out… If we hire when it hurts, it’s already hurting. So feeling under staffed, feeling that pressure and then also trying to do your usual of getting people the right information in a timely manner, in a human way. So all of that can be a little challenging.
Wailin: [00:03:03] Because if you’re a trainer then that’s time spent out of the queue—
Ashley: [00:03:07] It is, yeah.
Wailin: [00:03:07] —which leaves the rest of your colleagues doing a little bit more in the email queue, right?
Ashley: [00:03:13] Definitely. And so we kind of adjust our expectations. We definitely talk before, during, and after, and try to remind each other to hydrate and get up, stretch. Don’t forget that you have legs. If you are starting to feel like, man, this conversation with this person is not going the way that I anticipated, we give each other the space to say this customer may benefit from the voice of somebody else. We did that a few times this week and it’s been live examples for the new hires of exactly how great things can work out.
[00:03:42] Like we’ve gotten all those cases that we’ve brought up this week resolved really nicely.
Wailin: [00:03:46] What is the value of in-person training?
Ashley: [00:03:49] Oh man, it is so valuable. I think one of the biggest issues with remote working has to be figuring out tone of the other person. Is that how they write all the time and does that match exactly how they sound? So if I meet them is it a true match or does somebody write differently than they speak, which is super normal. So, likely, yes.
[00:04:11] So figuring out how somebody operates, we can reduce a lot of the anxiety of like, shoot, are they mad at me? To, no, we’ve talked about this in person where we could feel each other’s energy and really hear that it’s going to be okay if you have questions, don’t feel ashamed about questions. And the more that we can establish that trust and communication safety—I think we call it psychological safety in person we find that it just feels so much better for everyone in the long run.
Wailin: [00:04:40] Do you know how the team settled on two weeks as a pretty good timeframe for training?
Ashley: [00:04:46] Yeah, I think there used to be three weeks. So I remember a few of us were training in Chicago. I think Tony came from Australia and James came from Berlin for a huge three-week training. We narrowed it down to two. I think after we realized that three weeks is a long time. Three weeks is a long time to be living out of a hotel. I know eating out is really an incredible privilege, but sometimes you’re like, okay I think we just need to, I just need a little break here. I need to fast or I need a home cooked meal or something like that.
[00:05:17] So week three for us has turned into going back home, figuring out that home setup. Because now you’ve kind of figured out like what it is to work remotely, a little bit. You’ve met the team. So there’s a certain level of comfort that we gained from two week in-person training. And then that third week is like, okay, how do I apply this to my household? How do I leave every day? How do I start every day? So it’s getting into that routine. And so we cover all of that in training and the materials are forever in Basecamp. So that’s not like, you know, training is done, you are set free, you are set loose. It’s not very sink or swim, anymore. It used to be a little bit difficult.
Wailin: [00:05:54] And with the modules, are these written documents that are stored in Basecamp and how do you go through those documents during the week?
Ashley: [00:06:02] Yeah, so they are set up into I think five major groups is what we have this time. One, just basic computer setup, making sure that everything that we need from a security standpoint is set. Everything that you need to answer a customer’s question is all set up. Then we go into company fundamentals. So things about like, Basecamp, our history, what it is to work remotely and we’ve written so much on it and we have so many podcasts on it that there’s a lot of material for somebody to cover.
[00:06:32] Most of the people who come to us already are like, yes, I’ve read all the books and I cannot believe I work here. So it’s usually review, and talking about how it specifically applies. So this is why summer hours exist. It’s not just a random benefit. It’s something that stems from a school of thought or at least a philosophy.
[00:06:53] So we cover a company fundamentals, our team fundamentals, so things about how we’re structured, how we came to be, why we set up like this and where we’re really coming from. So they get an idea of this is not just like a quality support team. This is… we also have a history and it’s important that you understand where we’re coming from and how we’re evolving and where you can help shape where we can go.
[00:07:16] Then the three other sections are all of our products, so Basecamp 3, Basecamp 2, Classic, supporting them is a lot. And then we go into specifics about the different channels that we use. So what it’s like to work day to day. And then lastly we go over post-training thoughts. Set up any goals if that’s your jam. As you know, it’s not everybody’s jam. Jason makes it real clear.
[00:07:37] So we leave space to discuss like what next steps look like for you specifically.
Wailin: [00:07:43] I’ve been peeping in a little bit this week in Chicago. And so it seems like the setup is that a trainer sits next to the new person and it just seems like a lot of quiet chatting with the computer open in front of them. Is that basically how you walk them through the modules or is it some of it like kind of quiet, like they read it on their own and they pipe up if they have questions, that kind of thing?
Ashley: [00:08:02] Yeah. So then we have a welcome project that’s individual to each person and so they each will follow through this massive checklist of what to do day to day. So that’s kind of where our schedule lives. They follow that mostly kind of quietly and like with all of us around. And then we just open up discussions. So it’s just really discussion heavy. So talking about like administrative things, how do we schedule on our teams since our team has so many different restrictions based on the time zones and we make sure to stick to certain hours that we can help all the customers that we need to help.
[00:08:34] So how do we respect that and respect our boundaries and then it becomes more of like a psychological and philosophical conversation. So we allow for those to just kind of go on their own and then we have things that they definitely need to check off and read or be sure that they understand.
Wailin: [00:08:48] I really like that there’s room for discussion around even some of the small logistical things because I think in a lot of jobs, especially for younger employees, let’s say, that can be such a minefield.
[00:09:00] I think it might’ve been Shaun who admitted on this here podcast a while back that at one of his first jobs, he didn’t eat lunch for a week because it’s like he was never told, you know, this is kind of the deal around lunch and when you can take it and like I guess if no one invites you out on those first couple of days, then you’re like, I’m terrified. I can’t leave my desk.
Ashley: [00:09:22] Right. I might as well work. And now you’re like, well, it’s been a month. I don’t want to ask.
Wailin: [00:09:26] Exactly. Like, where’s the bathroom? If no one shows you the bathroom. And we don’t really have that here because we’re remote, but there’s certainly remote or company-specific equivalents of where’s the bathroom and maybe how do I schedule work or let someone know I have a doctor’s appointment or a vacation coming up. All of that is stuff that is hard to ask sometimes.
Ashley: [00:09:47] Especially with… our team is really… empathy is so huge for us in general. But with that comes some of the difficulties of like, Oh man, well if I take time off then somebody else is going to have to take the burden of this. And that can be so strong to the point where we had to set up rules because otherwise people were just, you know, kind of hurting for too long or, or hurting at all really when it could have been avoidable.
Wailin: [00:10:11] How soon after someone starts training in support do they get to answer their first question and what is the lead up to that momentous occasion?
Ashley: [00:10:22] It varied for me, varied for the people after me. And then this time they answered at day two. They were just, we surprisingly had things just set up. We were like, let’s just see what’s in the queue. So I went in and they selected one or we gave them six or something each just to see, like pick from this group and each one then inspired so many questions that we were like, okay, the capacity really from the week one is like one or two cases. And not even like a day, but just within the time that we have, after covering everything that we wanted to cover, training first, you know, discussions first, everything that’s better done in person first and things like cases we will get to.
[00:11:06] But the cases they really marry everything together. So it changes how your tone might be. And like the question, if it’s a feature request, how we deal with that. So many words can be said about that. And then, even ones that we are considered simpler, like login issues. So many questions come from just one little login issue.
[00:11:26] So we give people a lot of space and a lot of grace to take their time with it. Everyone’s a little bit different. So, from my training I really like to know as much as I can before I type. And Shanae who was also training with me, she prefers to just get in, get her work reviewed, and then continue on. And our styles haven’t really changed. I’m extremely information-heavy. It’s nice to see the difference in learning styles for everyone that has joined the team since.
Wailin: [00:11:55] And then, once the new support folks go back home and are set up, is there a period of time when every response they send is reviewed by a team member before it goes out the door and then that lessens until they’re totally on their own?
Ashley: [00:12:11] Definitely. Yeah. So they will write a reply in the notes. We also might just assign cases and not even say like you need to have 30 done by today. We’re more focused on, do you know where to even find the answer to this question? Is anything like that confusing? So stepping back even away from the number of cases that you could do in a day to do you have everything that you need in every sense? Because that is what’s going to help you find ways to contribute to the Basecamp vision and the team’s vision.
Wailin: [00:12:43] What do you do about introducing new folks to the rest of the company?
Ashley: [00:12:47] So we have a Basecamp buddy, someone who is not on your team, who will be open to answering questions, not only about the company, but about their role, about how non-support teams work with our support team. Really, anything that feels slightly outside of Team OMG.
Wailin: [00:13:05] What do you need from the rest of the company in order to welcome new employees?
Ashley: [00:13:13] It depends a little bit on each person. So we have some folks who are more extroverted and so they’re okay to just go make those connections on their own. They’re not super afraid to approach somebody. You know, one of the questions that we ask early on is what can we do to set up an environment of learning for you? That also tells us a little bit of how do you want folks to speak to you about questions? Do you want us to come to you with information, with questions, with thoughts, are you comfortable coming to us? And so when folks write that they aren’t super comfortable coming to us, then then we’ll make an extra effort and we’ll maybe even communicate that to the Basecamp buddy and say, maybe you should reach out a little bit more than either you intended or is natural for you and we’ll see if that works out.
[00:13:57] But really we just ask. We just ask, do you like this? No. Okay. We’ll find another way. Figuring out what your boundaries are and what you’re comfortable with is definitely a part of onboarding and training for everybody.
Wailin: [00:14:09] Absolutely. You must give a lot of guidance and I’m kind of exploration space to new employees around things like how much you want to participate in chat rooms. And we have a lot of social ones too.
Ashley: [00:14:21] We do.
Wailin: [00:14:21] And so I imagine that’s a pretty important part of the onboarding process so that new hires don’t feel obligated to kind of participate in everything if that’s not their jam.
Ashley: [00:14:33] Definitely. I made sure to include the FOMO question mark, JOMO. The joy of missing out for me comes from knowing my own, I want to say work limits. Because I really mean when I’m answering questions and cases for customers cause to me that’s the part that I need to be the best at, at least in the job and everything else I can figure out. So if I can sort out what my boundaries are for that and that’s kind of what we encourage. Like do you ever think you need to do this aspect of your job? That needs to be figured out first. And then once you know, okay, maybe if I’m taking too long on this case, I can put focus mode on and I can take a step away from the very fun social parts. Or I want to chime in on this particular feature question that we are all discussing. We need to figure out first where are you comfortable? Are your levels okay there?
[00:15:25] And then we’ll start to talk about what limits are okay to set, which ones might be like, well then we don’t really know you at that point. So maybe we, if that becomes an issue, then it’s less about the person and more about, do we have the right amount of people working? Are you feeling overwhelmed? Like we can find the true root of the issue instead of putting it on someone about their habits. That’s likely not it, because everyone has really wonderful intentions here.
[00:15:53] And I think when you start off that way, then it becomes easier to question the system that we built around us than it is to question the person’s validity or anything like that.
Wailin: [00:16:04] Absolutely. One last thing, can you talk about the glossary that you came up with because that’s new, right? That’s new for your team training?
Ashley: [00:16:09] Yeah, it is. It is. That is a fun one. I really like it. It started yesterday actually with someone. I think I said wibble to Jabari, to someone who came back into the room and that is the live embodiment of what we do in our team Campfire where we say WB or will type out wibble or wibs and it means welcome back.
[00:16:31] And it was a shortened term from before I started. So I don’t even know the history of it, but I know it exists and I remember asking, and the Team OMG Campfire is specifically open. There are people that just pop up out of nowhere and I love that.
Wailin: [00:16:47] I do that from time.
Ashley: [00:16:47] Yes. Yes. I love that people are just kind of like, Hey, every now and again or you ask a broad question and suddenly, you know, George comes in, you’re like, what? I didn’t know you were here. Hey, wibble. So we decided to just kind of put them all in one spot. Since we have EOS, we have Everyone On Support and I don’t want anyone to feel alienated by the strange language that we’re using. So we wanted to make sure that people didn’t feel excluded by that. And it’s not just our team, it’s really just this space that somehow has created this amount of glossary terms.
Wailin: [00:17:21] Yeah, it was great because I read it and some terms, I recognize just from having looked around in your Campfire, but other things I was like, Oh, that’s fun. I didn’t know that was something that happened, you know. So yeah.
Ashley: [00:17:32] Definitely. I like putting tribal knowledge into a space that everyone can access because it just makes it… there’s so much. There’s so many nuances and so many quirks and when those aren’t recorded, then I feel like they are either lost… no, I just feel like they’re lost. Just lost.
Wailin: [00:17:50] Right. And again, like you said before, you want to be inclusive and not have someone show up like in a chat room and be like, I don’t understand these inside jokes and these words they’re using.
Ashley: [00:18:00] Right. It’s the opposite of what we wanted, so.
Wailin: [00:18:02] Exactly.
Ashley: [00:18:02] Wanted to make that very clear to people.
[00:18:04] Anyone You Meet Normcore Remix by Clip Art plays.
Shaun: [00:18:07] After the break, we’ll zoom out and look at ways all companies can be more inclusive in their onboarding process, especially when it comes to new hires from underrepresented backgrounds. But first, let me tell you about Basecamp. Wailin. I’m sure you remember a good friend of ours ran for Mayor of Chicago last year. Well guess what? He used Basecamp to manage his campaign.
Neal: [00:18:28] I’m Neal Sáles-Griffin and I ran for Mayor of Chicago in 2019. I, from the jump, launched my campaign with Basecamp fully integrated. So all of my team, all our volunteers, everybody, we got involved touched Basecamp at some point. So, unlike a lot of the other candidates that had office space and more resources because we had such limited resources, we were able to use this technology to scale out our volunteer base and our core team members in a way that we would have never been able to if we had to do something else.
[00:19:00] Yeah, I mean Basecamp is just like, it was a core element to us operating a remote campaign.
Shaun: [00:19:06] Basecamp combines all the tools teams need to get work done in a single streamlined package. With Basecamp, everyone knows what to do, where things stand and where to find the things they need. What can Basecamp help you accomplish this year? Learn more at basecamp.com.
Karen: [00:19:24] I’m Karen Catlin. I am an advocate for inclusive workplaces and what that really means is that I do a lot of leadership coaching for women as well as people from other underrepresented groups and I also am an author and a public speaker.
Wailin: [00:19:41] Karen spent 25 years in the tech industry as a software engineer and later as a vice president of engineering at Adobe. She became a mentor and advocate for women at her company, a role that led to her starting a leadership coaching business.
Karen: [00:19:53] I have to tell you, like, I soon realized that even if I were the most amazing leadership coach on the planet and I was so helping my clients grow and thrive in their careers, they were all facing challenges. Because regardless of what company they were working at, the closer that you got to leadership roles and the CEO, just the maler and paler their organizations were. And so I started exploring, well, I can help women all I can, but really I want to help the men who are in power and men working in tech realize they had a role to play also to create more inclusive workplaces and create places where my clients frankly could thrive and do their best.
[00:20:37] While my initial focus was supporting women, I soon started realizing that, oh my gosh, women are just part of the focus that I should have on creating more inclusive workplaces. It’s not just about women having a seat at the table, but as I started to explore and understand this better, certainly people of color, people of different sexual orientations, different abilities, different ages. I mean there’s so many ways that this manifests itself that people are not getting ahead and basically not having the meritocracy experience that I think many people who are in positions of power and privilege in our industries think we have.
Wailin: [00:21:12] With these realizations, Karen broadened her work from leadership coaching to allyship and inclusive workplaces.
Karen: [00:21:19] What does anyone do these days if they want to change the world? Step one you create a Twitter handle. So that’s what I did. I created an anonymous Twitter handle about five years ago called @BetterAllies and my goal with this Twitter handle was just like, I’m going to break it down. I’m going to tweet simple everyday actions anyone could take to create a more inclusive workplace.
[00:21:43] Do people just not even notice when the women are interrupted in a meeting and can’t get their point across? Or do people not even realize that there’s a pay inequity and you know what’s going on with that? And you know what we could do about it? So my tweets were simple. Like, I will notice when interruptions happen in the meetings I attend and redirect the conversation back to the person who was interrupted. Or, you know, at our next all-hands meeting, I’m going to ask what we are doing around pay equity.
[00:22:13] So simple things that really anyone working in a, in a company, again, small or large could do. And then I have to admit, I got, at some point I got a little snarkier with my comments. Because there was just stuff happening. I just couldn’t believe it. You know, a few years ago, much press, I’ll call it press media, was focused on what was going on at Uber and how Uber was not very inclusive in a number of levels. But just one of those examples was the fact that they weren’t buying the team jackets in women’s sizes.
Wailin: [00:22:42] Oh God, the leather jackets. I will remember that story forever.
Karen: [00:22:46] Forever. I know. And it was all because of the price. The women’s jackets, because there weren’t enough women to get the bulk discounts, the women’s leather jackets were going to be too expensive. So they only got the men’s sizes. And so, you know, I see that and I tweet something like, when we buy team swag, I make sure we offer men’s and women’s sizes, for example. Yeah, I’ll say something like that and then, unlike Uber.
[00:23:13] And then I’ll just like pile on Uber for a second. It came out that Travis Kalanick was using the nursing mother’s room in the office for his personal phone calls when he was still CEO. So that’s like another one of those things I’ll never forget.
[00:23:27] And so when I read that in the news, I go over to Twitter and I would tweet, I don’t use the nursing mother’s room for my personal phone calls. And then I would like be the snarky part, unlike @TravisKalanick or whatever his handle was or is.
[00:23:42] So, you know, I would build these cautionary tales basically and turn them into everyday actions people can take to raise awareness. Not let these situations kind of go unnoticed or fade kind of into the Twitterverse, never to be seen again. But I wanted to make sure that these things were kept alive and circulating and people had more awareness of some of the things they could be doing.
Wailin: [00:24:04] Baked into the idea of being a good ally has to be the recognition, this first step that you want to be a better ally, right?
Karen: [00:24:14] Yes, sure.
Wailin: [00:24:14] So it’s kind of about building awareness from almost like first principles, I guess you could call it.
Karen: [00:24:18] And there are so many people that I interact with… So many people being so many men, who say, of course I care about diversity and inclusion but, and this is the next thing they always say, but what am I supposed to do? I’m just a software engineer. I’m just a PM. I am just an intern. You know, there’s some excuse people make like what am I supposed to do?
[00:24:42] And that’s what I’m trying to combat. Is making sure that people are aware of there are things that they could be doing. Like, you know, the next hour at work there’s probably something they could do.
Wailin: [00:24:51] And so I had wanted to talk about onboarding, which you mentioned was going to be an entire chapter in the upcoming book that you’re publishing. And I wanted to start maybe with kind of a bigger philosophical question, which is how have you seen onboarding fit in or not fit into the bigger conversation? Like do you feel that the conversation around ally-ship has touched on onboarding or is it kind of like a neglected area of ally-ship?
Karen: [00:25:18] Probably neglected. I’m not seeing a lot of conversation, but that said, there are some great things I’ve been able to curate for my next book. Curate in terms of the things people are doing with onboarding.
[00:25:31] Here’s one example I heard about a company that had a goal to have a very diverse intern class come for the summer. And what they did with this very diverse intern class during the orientation meeting, like their first day on the job, they had all the interns together, and they told them that here is the interview process all of you followed. All of you had to pass this rigorous interview process and we are so excited that all of you passed it and that you took our offers to join our company.
[00:26:04] And here’s why I love this. Because that intern class was full of people of color, men, women, probably non-binary as well because it was such a diverse class. Some of them might’ve been looking around thinking, oh my gosh, I don’t look like the majority in this company. I must’ve only got here because they want to hire more people who look like me.
[00:26:25] And by, in the orientation, saying everyone had to pass the same bar, the same very high bar. The person I was talking to, a woman who led this orientation, she said, you know, I could see the people of color in the room and the women, they visibly relaxed when I said those words. So they realized and helped these interns realize that they aren’t the diversity hire, they aren’t tokenized, they are just part of this very rigorous process to bring them on board.
[00:26:56] And that helps with the onboarding because that helps them all feel like I shouldn’t feel that imposter syndrome. I shouldn’t feel that other people are more qualified to be here. I’m just as qualified as everyone else and I’m gonna, you know, show up and do my best work. So I love that approach.
[00:27:10] Now, another example which is kind of building on that is there is a software company that had a very specific goal to increase gender representation at their company and bring in more women. And what they made sure is that every hiring manager sat down and welcomed their new employee, regardless of what gender. They welcomed their new employee and told them again, here’s the process we followed and we’re so excited you’re here.
[00:27:42] And for the women, they made sure that every woman knew about what the goal was and how the same rigorous process was applied to the interview process. So that again, the women didn’t think, oh, the bar was lowered for me or the women didn’t just hear about this goal, around the proverbial water cooler and start wondering. Like, was I part of that program? Am I only here because they had a goal? No, it was part of an overall hiring push. And, again, the bar was set at the same level.
[00:28:11] So I love that those two stories about onboarding best practices to get ahead of what so many people do here. If they’re working in an environment where they aren’t part of the majority, the norm, they might overhear someone saying, well she’s just here because she’s a diversity hire. Or something maybe even more explicit to them. Like, you’re only here because you know, we had a goal to diversify the workforce. You want to get ahead of that.
Wailin: [00:28:36] Right. I love that because even if it’s not the kind of workplace where you would hear that kind of gossip or that kind of malicious talk around the water cooler. I think the research has shown and the experience of people speaking about this has shown that this is kind of what you’re internalizing anyway when you come from that kind of background and you join a company where most of the people don’t look like you. So I really like that it takes making it explicit to say, you belong here.
Karen: [00:29:07] Right. Exactly.
Wailin: [00:29:08] Made it. And I could see a lot of companies being like, well, we don’t need to say it because we hired them. So obviously they know that they deserve the job, but that’s shown not to be the case, right?
Karen: [00:29:20] Exactly. Exactly. Yes. Everyone wants to set their employees up for success, but I don’t think that they are all thinking about the additional challenges that people from underrepresented groups might face during their own onboarding process. It behooves everyone, I think, working in any industry who is hiring people to explore and evaluate their onboarding process. Take a close look at it and just say, what could we be doing to better support people from underrepresented groups?
[00:29:48] And frankly, ask some of those new employees that maybe you just onboarded in the last year of, hey, what’s one or two things I could have done or we could have done as a company to set you up for success?
[00:29:59] I’m going to share another area that might be important to explore as part of this evaluation of your onboarding process. Many companies, and this is definitely true here in Silicon Valley, in the tech industry that I am kind of around. I live out here in Silicon Valley.
[00:30:16] So many tech companies have a mentoring program. So new hires get a mentor. A mentor on the team who will show them the ropes and ongoing, you know, I’ll review your first code check-ins or whatever that might look like for whatever work that they are doing. And that mentoring approach is amazing. It’s great, it’s solid, it’s strong, it’s a best practice.
[00:30:40] Yet, there’s important research to be aware of in that because of #MeToo, and since #MeToo, so many men are stepping away from mentoring people, excuse me, mentoring women. More men than before the #MeToo movement started. Men are saying, I don’t feel comfortable having meetings alone with a woman or mentoring a woman alone because there could down the road be some rumors started or accusations that come up that this was more than just a business relationship. And so I’m not even gonna go there. I’m gonna step back from those conversations.
[00:31:14] And if a man, for example, is assigned to be a mentor for a new hire who’s a woman, he might do the bare minimum of like getting her up to speed, whatever that might take. But is he going to go to the next level? Is he going to pull back from those kinds of relationship building activities, which frankly are so important for someone feeling like they belong in an organization.
[00:31:38] It’s just a question to ask, is that happening? Are the men that you want to mentor new employees pulling back from those relationships and only doing kind of the surface-level mentoring? Or are they really getting into that next level of relationship building?
[00:31:50] If I were leading one of these onboarding programs, how would I address that? Well, I would probably just raise awareness. Here’s the data and here’s how it could impact a new employee’s experience joining our company and let’s have discussion of how we can make sure that’s not going to happen here.
Wailin: [00:32:06] Do you have any tips around how new folks should be introduced to the rest of the company? Whether it’s some kind of icebreaker thing or a welcoming memo or if there’s a regular all hands meeting the way that they’re introduced. Because I’ve heard all different things and some people might not feel really great being put on the spot, but you obviously want to be welcomed in some way. Do you have some tips around easing people into a workplace and introducing themselves, especially in larger settings?
Karen: [00:32:39] I was just noticing on Twitter someone was mentioning, it’s something about we’re welcoming our new employee, blah blah blah and their pronouns are, and they mentioned the pronouns. And someone on the team replied, oh wait a second, I thought I was coming to this company and I wouldn’t have to deal with politics. And the Twitterverse kind of exploded at that and said, wait a second. Being inclusive has nothing to do with politics. Asking or mentioning someone’s pronouns has nothing to do with politics. This is just being respectful of how they want to be called. It’s like asking someone what their name is. It’s just that type of thing. It’s like an everyday interaction.
[00:33:22] So I do appreciate asking about pronouns or mentioning people’s pronouns and just normalizing that culture that even for people who might look like the pronoun that they identify with, that it’s good to just normalize. Like, here are my pronouns.
[00:33:36] Another thing I’ve seen, and I was invited to speak at a company’s all hands meeting recently and it’s a company of about 200, 250 people, start up. And before I spoke they had their normal all hands agenda, which included welcoming the new employees from the last month. And what they did for their environment is they had every new employee, introduce themselves, say a couple of words about themselves and then share a book that’s like a favorite book of theirs. And I believe they were all nonfiction, like business-related books. So I think that must’ve been the theme. But what they do is they must give each new employee a budget to buy your favorite business book or professional development book and come and share it at the all hands and just share it. This is my favorite book because of these reasons. And then the book gets placed in the company library. I thought that was very inclusive, although as I’m thinking about it, there are going to be some people who might not feel at all comfortable doing that. And speaking, there are options for being inclusive and then maybe for the people who that’s just not inclusive or not comfortable for is maybe there’s a second option that people could choose.
Wailin: [00:34:48] I mean, it seems like a lot of this comes back to options. Like we’re saying, if you’re going to have a social activity, don’t make it all about alcohol, be mindful of people’s preferences around that kind of consumption. Being mindful of the way that people’s personalities are and whether they want to share something big in a group, or they don’t. That all makes sense because if you’re looking at creating a more inclusive workplace, it means like really seeing people for who they are, right? And understanding how they work the best and function the best.
Karen: [00:35:18] Right, and one size doesn’t fit all. I think that’s an important message here. The other thing I want to emphasize here too is that if you are onboarding people from underrepresented groups into a culture that is not already inclusive, these people aren’t going to stay around very long. So I would say that step one, and this gets back to how we started this whole podcast, step one is not your hiring process at all. It is actually looking at your culture that you have today and making sure it’s inclusive so that when you start bringing in more people from underrepresented groups, the process and the culture that they are joining is already inclusive.
[00:35:57] Broken By Design by Clip Art plays.
Shaun: [00:36:03] Rework is produced by Wailin Wong and me, Shaun Hildner. Music for the show is by Clip Art.
Wailin: [00:36:09] You can find Karen Catlin on Twitter at @KECatlin. Her last name is spelled C-A-T-L-I-N. Her organization, Better Allies, is at @BetterAllies, that’s A-L-L-I-E-S. Her website is BetterAllies.com. Karen’s forthcoming book, The Better Allies Approach to Hiring is available for preorder and we’ll link to that in the show notes for this episode, which you can find at rework.fm.
Shaun: [00:36:32] We are on Twitter at @reworkpodcast. If you have suggestions for guests or episode topics, please tweet us or email us at email@example.com. We’re planning for the year ahead and would love your input.
Wailin: [00:36:43] Rework is brought to you by Basecamp. Basecamp is the all-in-one app for organizing your work and communicating company-wide. Check it out at basecamp.com.
Shaun: [00:37:05] Sometimes I pop into the Team OMG Campfire and have no idea what they’re talking about. So can you maybe read some of the glossary terms for me?
Wailin: [00:37:12] Yes. Brock B-R-O-C-K is taking a break.
Shaun: [00:37:19] I take a brock.
Wailin: [00:37:20] Brock. Consoling is working in the console.
Shaun: [00:37:25] Okay.
Wailin: [00:37:27] Oh, here’s a good one. Discos is an abbreviation for the discount mailbox. So when customers write in requesting, I think it’s either like an educational or a nonprofit discount, it gets funneled into a special mailbox and they call them discos.
Shaun: [00:37:43] Oh, I like that. Like I had to deal with 30 discos today.
Wailin: [00:37:45] Exactly. Or sometimes they’ll be like, okay, I’m going to hop into discos. And so that was a coined by Shanae.
Shaun: [00:37:51] Of course.
Wailin: [00:37:52] Jabari has a special nickname.
Shaun: [00:37:55] Which is?
Wailin: [00:37:55] Gentleman and a genius, very apropos, can confirm he’s both of those things. This one I really like. He’s fine, variations include, they’re fine, she’s fine, whatever, and it means he’s not fine. There’s a screenshot here in the glossary of this exchange between Ashley and James where James popped in and just said hello with a lot of Os. And then someone else, responded saying, “Hi James, sorry you had travel woes.” Because I guess he was back after some ordeal and Ashley just posted saying, “He’s fine.”
Shaun: [00:38:34] That’s fantastic.
Wailin: [00:38:36] Uh, what else? Oh, this one I really like. It’s just sandwiches. And that means it’s not a big deal, it’s not the end of the world. And that comes from Chase, who is a longtime member of our customer support team and used to manage a deli.
Shaun: [00:38:51] Right, right.
Wailin: [00:38:52] We actually interviewed him about this in a really early episode, and yeah, so it’s just sandwiches.
Shaun: [00:38:57] It’s just sandwiches.