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How to Design Diversity & Inclusion Programs Using a Product Management Process

Paige Pulaski Jones, May 25, 2020

Note: This meet-up occurred on February 25, 2020. Calendly and Joonko are adhering to shelter-in-place measures at the time of this publish date.

“The trouble with Diversity & Inclusion goals is that it’s hard to convince leadership that adding different perspectives and experiences to our business ties to the bottom line.” 

One of the participants at a Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) meetup at Calendly Headquarters was able to sum up the issue with getting budget and resources for hiring goals: the trouble is gaining leadership buy-in. 

Or, as many other participants echoed, leaders say, “We know we want to expand our D&I program, but…what do we do differently?” 

Joonko, a Birmingham startup that’s passionate about making D&I actionable, filled the Calendly all-hands space with recruiting professionals from nation- and worldwide organizations with offices in Atlanta to talk about what challenges they’re facing in their roles and how to solve for them. 

The CEO & founder of Joonko, Ilit Raz, crafted the mission of the company from her experience in the military and technology worlds. She had gotten used to being the only female in the room and found her route to success limited. 

Ilit shared with the group that this roadblock is what made her want to use her passion for product marketing to build an action-based process to create a more equitable workplace for all.

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Why is D&I Important?

One important thing to note is that usually, lack of diversity and inclusion is not from malintent. Your hiring managers have open roles and they want them filled as quickly as possible. 

As one participant put it, “We keep recruiting from the same pools, so they don’t even realize how they’re impacted by affinity bias, and how it trickles throughout the organization.” 

Hiring similar thinkers with similar experiences over and over again may eventually lead to a homogenous workforce where it becomes harder to recognize the absence of other perspectives. 

So when we talk about diversity and inclusion goals, it depends on what stage your organization is in. 

For some, just increasing diverse hires is the place to start. By increasing perspectives and representation, you’ll make more money – as outlined by this McKinsey article about why diversity matters.

If you’ve already got a diverse hiring pool and staff, you may need to do some digging to find the heart of your goals. 

Your employees might be craving belonging and camaraderie. Focus on building community within your culture. 

Others may be concerned with mobility and growth opportunities. Your D&I program might need to focus on exposure and education instead of just getting more diverse hires in the door. 

Maybe you’re only diverse in some ways. Maybe you have a lot of employees from different parts of the world, but maybe they all identify as one gender or orientation. (Read our Calendly employees’ thoughts on what it’s like to be women in technology.) 

It could be that you’re diverse, but not inclusive. Assess your employees in different bands; is diversity consistent across every direction? Does your leadership team reflect the diversity of your organization? Is your diversity reflected in every meeting? 

Wherever your organization is at, the product marketing process will help you identify where your next area of focus should be.

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Product Marketing for Recruiting

Ilit’s workshop is centered around the strategy of building a digital product and how that can be adapted to D&I.

The event “What if D&I was an app?” forces you to think about recruiting through the lens of a Product Manager. The differences are that your product is your D&I program, your audience is internal, and your go-to-market strategy requires the same tremendous amount of research and benchmarking as any other product build. 

All the steps you’d take in creating a new software – define the problem and personas, conduct qualitative and quantitative research, and define metrics to measure success – can be applied to finding a D&I solution.

Problem Definition

  • Brainstorm: What is your D&I program missing? Get representation from different parts of your organization to talk about what they’d specifically like to see.

  • Set the bar: What’s your desired outcome? Jot down some ideas of specific D&I goals you have for your organization. A year from now once you’ve achieved your goals, how is your organization different? Be descriptive. 

  • Align your goals: Who is the person in your organization with the wallet? What are their goals? Align their goals to your D&I goals. 

  • Strategize your approach: What do you know about your manager? What’s their preferred communication style? How will the success of your D&I goals impact them personally?


  • Prepare your questions: Create a list of questions to find the root cause of why your D&I goals have not yet been accomplished. Make sure they’re direct, but not biased. 

  • Survey everyone: Talk to former employees, current employees, prospects, and colleagues in unrelated fields. What’s being repeated to you most? 

  • Research your competitors: How are other organizations in your industry dedicating resources to their D&I programs? This should be your benchmark. 

  • Find a role model: Who does it best? Model your program after theirs.

  • Ask hard questions: Once you have all your data compiled, prod your leadership into recognizing the problem. For example, explain how many people who have left voluntarily within the year and ask why that is. Ask if they’re willing to invest to retain good people. Share the perception that the organization doesn’t care about D&I goals, and ask what they think should be done. Don’t volunteer answers. Wait for their response.

Solution Definition

  • Find short paths: What are you already doing well? Where can you get your quickest wins? For example, if you already sponsor team lunches once a month, add your CEO on a rotating team basis and create a “Lunch with the CEO” program to increase employee visibility. 

  • Think outside the box: Are there roles you can create? Are there new processes you can roll out? Don’t look just within your existing parameters to build your solution. 

  • Write it out: Get together with your team and define your strategy, deliverables, and the resources you’ll need to reach your goals. Assign due dates, dollar signs, and owners. 

  • Define success metrics: How will you know you’ve accomplished your goals? Look first at revenue, then anecdotal measurements. Here’s how to help set your metrics. And here’s a list of how to build your dashboard.

  • Scale up: Set goals that incrementally increase to ensure you have enough time to deploy your strategy. For example, if you want to increase diverse hires by 16% a year from now, make it 2% in Q1, 4% in Q2, and 8% in Q3.

Solution Validation
  • Get buy in: Once you’ve presented your solution to your leader, get them to hold other leaders accountable. Give each leader a diversity metric. It’s up to them to set the tone for this being a non-negotiable priority at the highest level. 

  • Continue to listen: Keep an ear to the ground. Make it easy to receive feedback and suggestions. Your program won’t exist without alteration. Conduct a post-mortem to assess where your opportunities for growth are. 

  • Keep talking: Diversity and inclusion aren’t things we usually talk about. It may be an uncomfortable conversation for a while. But normalizing the conversation will truly help mitigate any outcomes that come from decision-making by a group of similar thinkers with similar experiences.

How Some Professionals Are Solving for D&I

The hiring, recruiting, and HR professionals in Ilit’s workshop shared a number of fresh solutions.

“We’re in Atlanta, which is one of the most diverse cities in the country, and we don’t have a single diverse candidate for a leadership position.” 

One issue raised was around the existence of diversity within a recruiting area. If the hiring organization isn’t willing to hire remote employees or help with relocation, organizations located in places that are less diverse may not be able to meet D&I goals. 

However in diverse locations, there are still roadblocks. One participant shared that when they had organization-wide D&I goals, no one person felt like it was their duty to help reach those goals, so they weren’t accomplished.

The next year, they got their entire leadership team on board with how diverse hiring can impact their departmental goals and were clear about what the expected benefits will be. By assigning individual hiring goals to each branch of the organization, each team then felt accountable for playing their part and could see the impact.

“My management team already knows who they want to hire before they even know the job parameters or have looked at a resume. How do I remove that bias and open them up to viewing new opportunities?” 

One solution presented was to pass along resumes and portfolios without a name, location, photo, or education dates (to remove age bias). By masking the work from any potentially prejudiced identifiable features, there’s a greater possibility that diverse candidates in the pool will be level-set against familiar candidates. 

Taking a step back, one participant’s organization encourages reverse mentor pairs to help remove bias for viewing new opportunities. Someone from the ground level of the organization is matched with someone from the leadership level to discuss how D&I goals are actually being implemented to increase visibility and understanding.

The result is a leadership team that’s held accountable for what goes on at every level of the organization, and prompting from employees to broaden hiring pools. 

“We have a few diverse employees, but it takes a community to feel welcome and safe in the space. Are there ways we can build community now, while we work on finding more diverse hires to join the team?” 

One professional in the room said their organization has Slack channels that congregate around similarities. 

They established one for LatinX employees, people who enjoy cycling, women who have chosen not to have children, etc. to create smaller families, comfortability, and belonging within their organization at large. 

Another participant shared the space they’ve created for their LatinX community is called “Nosotros somos,” or “We are.” This group and all other groups are assigned a leader-as-sponsor to be their voice at the management level. 

But too much safety in affinity can be a challenge too. The other extreme outcome is isolation and cliquing. 

Another recruiting professional said they hang flags on the wall to represent each employee’s country as a reminder of each individual’s impact on the whole organization. 

Another proposed solution is what we do here at Calendly: we create employee “bands” or randomly assigned cross-functional social groups. This helps us create bonds across teams and leadership levels during community-building events. 

Resources to Help 

One participant said, “The world is changing. It’s not waiting on us.” 

There are organizations to help hiring and recruiting professionals reach their diversity and inclusion goals. 

Joonko is a service that works with your current Talent Management System to help augment and manage diverse candidates to support Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) goals. 

Check out Joonko’s website to learn how they can partner with your team. 

“Joonko is so important now because we’ve noticed that this is an emerging revolution and we’re excited to be a part of it. We’re here as a resource and as facilitators for the future of D&I strategy in your organization.” – Ilit Raz, CEO & Founder of Joonko

And we know recruiters have to focus on finding candidates and there’s little time to spend on the tedium of scheduling. 

One participant declared, “Calendly is an actual lifesaver,” so they could spend more time finding candidates to diversify their culture versus sending 10 emails to get one onsite interview scheduled.  

Sign up for your free Calendly account today. 

Categories: Interview Scheduling  

Paige Pulaski Jones biography
Paige Pulaski Jones

Paige is a project management professional working with brand and content. She spends her time at home covered in flour, craft supplies, or cat hair. Always cat hair.

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