To create a world we are proud of, we had to start with ourselves
A Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI) Update from Remote Year
Earlier this year, we published our first post publicly declaring our company’s commitment to creating a more inclusive platform for people to live, work and travel the world together. In that post, we detailed our company’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) journey - the pitfalls, the learning, and the opportunities ahead. We didn’t know at the time what the reaction would be, but it’s been positive and encouraging thus far.
Four months later, we’re even more certain that we cannot achieve our mission -- to create a more peaceful and productive world by fostering genuine human connections across diverse cultures and people -- without working harder to cultivate that world on our own programs. We’ve put a lot of work in over the past 4 months and we’re committed to continue sharing our journey transparently to keep the dialogue going and to inspire others to do the same.
Our first step was to create our own Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Plan based on the following three priorities:
Build a culture of trust, transparency, and accountability between RY, staff, and customers
Cultivate inclusive communities and environments before, during, and after the program
Deliver meaningful improvements on diversity, across recruiting, hiring, retention and promotion
We set these three priorities as our guiding lights because they benefit both our team and our customers. In this post, we will share our progress against each of our priorities, with the caveat that we still have so much more left ahead.
Priority #1: Build a culture of trust, transparency, and accountability between RY, staff, and customers.
Progress: We formed a DEI steering team that consists of 4 out of our 9 leadership team members and drafted the company’s DEI priorities. When we rolled out our company’s 2019 goals, we included DEI as one of the projects staff could select as their personal contribution to the company’s goals. Over 20% of the company selected DEI, with the majority being staff members who directly interact with our customers - Program Leaders, Local Teams, Regional Teams, and the overall Delivery Team management. We were blown away by the energy and excitement to further this goal.
What’s Ahead: While we solicited volunteers for a Nation DEI Council from past and present Remote Year participants, we didn’t fully activate this in Q1. Simply put, there was a lot of work that needed to happen internally, including clarity of ownership, resources and priorities, before we could involve external voices. We hosted our first quarterly Nation DEI Council in April and are looking for ways to involve this group between the quarterly meetings.
Priority #2: Cultivate inclusive communities and environments before, during, and after the program.
Progress: This priority was challenging because there were so many places to start and it was easy to be overwhelmed by the thought that whatever we put out was going to be too little or too much to each person. In the end, we reminded ourselves that every journey starts with the first step and that we couldn’t let “perfect be the enemy of progress”. We focused on the most critical gaps in our customer journey and are now piloting the following with a few programs:
Onboarding - This is the period between when someone has committed to being a Remote Year participant and when the program actually begins. We felt this was the best window to set the tone for a program, so created a community webinar and a mandatory online training (“Cultural Sensitivity & Awareness”) to be completed before the program begins. This online-based training covers the concept of microaggressions and some nuanced offences that can or have happened on a Remote Year program. By bringing awareness to these situations, we hope this will spark dialogue and change towards a more positive, inclusive environment for our participants.
Orientation - During the 1st week of each program, there is a half-day orientation in which we typically cover an overview of the platform (our accommodations, workspaces, and experiences) and general information for the months or year ahead. We have allocated time to discuss the importance of DEI, our policies related to DEI, share helpful resources such as how to report an incident or how to join a Slack-based affinity or support group, and close out with some discussion on what it means to be a global citizen. We believe that all these will set the right tone on what it takes to create a community we’re all proud of.
Months 1 and 2 - Bringing people together from all backgrounds, styles of communication and cultural awareness is always an unpredictable social experiment, but we wanted to create tools that help people recognize the unconscious biases they bring with them onto the programs. We will be piloting an “Unconscious Bias I” and an “Unconscious Bias II” training during the 1st and 2nd month of every program. Participants will be broken up into smaller groups to participate in an online-based training consisting of video content and questions and open discussion with one another during each of those months.
Ad Hoc/Reactionary as the need arises - We recognize that despite everyone’s best efforts, there will be challenging situations that arise during the course of 4 or 12 months of living, working, and traveling together. Our Code of Conduct makes it clear that we don’t tolerate discrimination or harassment, period. However, there were gray areas we never defined before - if someone said something offensive, but the person being offended told us they didn’t want the offender kicked off the program, how should we handle that? We knew education was the missing ingredient and that it wasn’t fair for the offended, who was often from a marginalized group, to be the source of education. Over the past few months, we piloted an “Unconscious Bias” training with our third party partners, Cura HR, to administer in such situations. This mandatory training gave participants that were reported by other participants or staff members a chance to learn from and reflect on words or behaviors that may have created an uncomfortable environment for others. The success of this pilot helped inspire a lot of our curriculum above because it helped us realize that education that happens proactively is always more productive than reactively.
What’s Ahead: Because this is a huge stepchange from our current processes, we’ll be evaluating the success of the pilots, based on completion rates and customer satisfaction to drive improvements on our programs.
Priority #3: Deliver meaningful improvements on diversity, across recruiting, hiring, retention and promotion.
Progress: Since the beginning of 2019, we have hired and/or promoted 23 people across the company. Of these:
87% were Women
48% were People of Color (17% Asian, 17% Latino/Hispanic, 13% Black/African)
48% were Non-American nationalities
We are very proud of our efforts to increase the number of diverse talent coming into our funnel and will continue to do so.
_Bringing people into the funnel is the first step, but we want to make sure we’re equipping our team with the right recruiting and hiring practices to mitigate unconscious biases that may be present throughout the process. We will be looking into providing the right training and resources to our hiring managers to ensure we are bringing in people who are not a culture _fit, but a culture add.
We know that we’re not the only company learning and figuring out DEI out currently. There are numerous large corporations, universities, and organizations that are better funded, better staffed, and further along in this journey than us and have still publicly struggled with this. We have learned through our own journey that although it can be challenging knowing what to do and where to start, listening to understand is always the most important first step.
Thank you to our customers who have provided invaluable feedback along the way, to the team members who recognized the importance of this and have committed countless hours to driving our DEI goals, and to other organizations who have inspired us by sharing their journeys in this space. This journey so far has been hard, rewarding, eye-opening, and a true test and validation of our mission. We look forward to continuing this journey together with your collective help and support.
If you’d like to contribute to the efforts or have feedback, please reach out to us at email@example.com. All messages will be read by our leadership team.