As Head of Revenue at Skilltype, I have the unique opportunity to contribute to a company re-envisioning how to take action in diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). Skilltype actively seeks to live out these principles in our daily decisions as we continually build the business . Recently, I had the chance to participate in an ASERL(Association of Southeastern Research Libraries)hosted webinar on DEI, where I was joined by my colleagues Tony Zanders, Founder and CEO of Skilltype, and Tiffany Duck, Customer Success Manager at Skilltype, along with moderator Elaina Norlin, ASERL's Professional Development DEI Coordinator. Here are some highlights from our discussion on what it means to live DEI work in daily decisions when building a company.
Recruiting for diversity
During our discussion, Tony emphasized the importance of always recruiting and intentionally creating a diverse and inclusive work environment, noting that Skilltype has made decisions to support the community we live in and promote diversity. For instance, when deciding on company headquarters, he ensured the location was in a historically Black neighborhood in Baton Rouge. According to Tony, it's crucial to surround yourself with people who bring diverse perspectives and experiences. By taking purposeful action in the location of the headquarters, Tony ensures he can recruit a more varied set of people for our team.
"I'm always recruiting, and I think any leader of an organization has to be always recruiting. You never know when you're going to build a relationship with someone or meet someone. And it's too difficult to start thinking about it as soon as you need that expertise. You have to always be asking yourself what types of people do we want to surround ourselves with in our organization?" - Tony Zanders
DEI in daily work
In our discussion, I examined how Skilltype approaches DEI work differently than in previous workplaces, where efforts were often event-based and disconnected from daily work. I emphasized that the company's strategy should focus more on creating an environment where all employees can thrive and less on simply discussing DEI. Skilltype is intentional about where we choose to locate our offices, where we put our tax dollars, and where we have our employees. This is a strong example of how to put DEI initiatives into the company’s DNA; thus, creating a truly diverse and inclusive workforce.
"Places that I’ve worked before, if they wanted to do anything around DEI, for instance, it was always event-based. …and you knew that the company was trying to do DEI activities, but you didn't think that your work, your individual work that you do on a daily basis, actually contributed to the community. And I think that what we are trying to do at Skilltype by being strategic about where we are located, where we put our tax dollars, where we have our employees, and where we even go to work, we can feel like the work that we're doing is actually contributing to something greater. We’re actually doing DEI work on a daily basis, even with the individual work that we're doing." - Jasmine Pogue
The importance of empowering employees to take ownership of their development and to have a pathway for growth in the company, are two points that both Tony and I highlighted in our discussion. Tony noted that people resign from top organizations because they feel like they need a pathway for growth, and their personal goals must align with the company's goals; whileI shared that Skilltype encourages employees to develop new skills and supports their career aspirations.
"We all have the ability to have self-confidence and do things we haven't done before. But it's hard to make that happen if people are second-guessing themselves. And we have to be very intentional about creating an environment where people aren't second-guessing themselves... Because our ambitions are quite large, and we want everyone to know, you’re capable, you're here because you're supposed to be. We have a job to do. And so let's get to it." - Tony Zanders
Skilltype believes taking action is critical to making real progress in promoting a diverse, equitable, and inclusive workplace. As Tiffany Duck, Customer Success Manager at Skilltype, said during the ASERL webinar, "We're writing all these diversity statements, but then when it comes time to put them into action, we're silent. And so I liked when I came to Skilltype that the culture is about action and what we're doing on a daily basis, rather than about changing the website or writing another statement about whatever is going on [in society]."
At Skilltype, taking action means embedding DEI principles in our daily work rather than just paying lip service to them. This approach involves creating an environment where employees feel empowered to speak up and make their voices heard and are given the tools and support they need to do their best work. Tony noted, "The top reason people resign from top organizations is that they don't feel like they have a pathway for growth in that organization, that their personal goals and aspirations aren't aligning with the company's goals. It speaks to the importance of having leaders of color and management of color that can help us wage concerns of an employee."
Skilltype is committed to creating an environment where all employees can grow and thrive, regardless of their background or identity. As a learning organization, Skilltype expects its employees to take ownership and initiative over their development and to be humble enough to admit that there is always more to learn. By empowering its employees, Skilltype is creating a culture of inclusion and continuous growth where everyone is valued and supported in their professional and personal journeys.
DEI at skilltype
DEI work is not just about hosting events or writing statements; it's about embedding it into the very core of the organization. As leaders, it is our responsibility to create an environment where everyone can feel valued and included and where their personal goals and aspirations align with the company's goals. It is about recognizing and utilizing the skills and competencies of all employees and empowering them to take ownership of their development. We must be intentional about creating an environment where people aren't second-guessing themselves and all voices are heard.
At Skilltype, we take DEI work seriously, and it is reflected in our daily decisions. From intentionally choosing where to build our company to creating a team of humble learners, we continuously recruit and seek out people who share our goals and vision. We believe that creating a space where we can come together and do our best work can make a meaningful impact.
In summary, we hope that by sharing our experiences and insights, we can encourage others to think about how they can embed DEI work into their daily decisions and build more inclusive organizations. Let's work together to create an environment where everyone can thrive and contribute to something greater.