Welcome to part two of our 2021 Voices series. In our first blog post last month, we heard directly from our CEO, CK, and several of our peers about why diversity is so important to us, as a company and also as members of a very diverse society. If there was one clear takeaway it was this: when NetMotion becomes a better and more diverse reflection of the community around us, we will be a better, stronger company as a whole.
Throughout the Voices series this year, we hope to discuss a broad range of issues surrounding diversity, equity and inclusion, while creating an open forum for people to learn with us as we go.
So, with that in mind, we sat down with our HR team – Christina, Kelly and Nicole – for an in-depth discussion about diversity, and its power to transform NetMotion from the inside out.
The big picture
From HR’s vantage point, diversity isn’t just a term. It’s something that needs to become part of NetMotion’s DNA. In many respects, diversity shouldn’t be pigeonholed as merely a goal or a checkbox. It’s a guiding principle that should impact our hiring processes, influence the way we train employees, and make us rethink the structure and capabilities of our teams.
As Christina Balam, VP of HR at NetMotion points out, diversity itself is an enormously broad topic that goes well beyond HR. “Diversity isn’t just about women and minorities, it’s also about diversity of experience that lends itself to diversity of thoughts and ideas. That’s what makes any organization accelerate. Putting it another way, if an organization is made up of very similar people with similar life experiences, it doesn’t matter how talented they are, they’re probably going to come up with the same ideas over and over again causing the organization to suffer from groupthink.”
For Nicole Tong, our HR generalist, diversity is also about embracing people’s differences. For diversity to work, everybody needs to take ownership, no matter what form that takes.
“Celebrating diversity requires being open-minded and eager to stay informed. It’s about empathy and having the freedom to express a variety of ideas. It’s also about opening up our talent pool. Ultimately, everything we do to become more diverse will help us cater to an even wider customer base.”Nicole Tong, HR Generalist, NetMotion
So far so good, but we’re not ready to pat ourselves on the back just yet. Far from it. We’re the first to admit that we still have a long way to go when it comes to diversity. We even talk about that fact openly on our careers page, where we state:
“Diversity in the workplace is something we take very seriously, and in some departments and locations have managed to strike a great balance. Like many software companies, however, we’re aware that we have an awful lot of work to do to get to where we would like to be.”Christina Balam, VP of HR, NetMotion
Setting goals and milestones for diversity isn’t as easy as it sounds. The HR team points out that having diversity goals in terms of percentages and metrics that show how many people are hired year-over-year from a particular underrepresented group is not enough.. That approach has its advantages, but embracing diversity needs to mean more. It not only involves hiring more women, minorities, people with disabilities and members of BIPOC communities, but it requires the company to create and foster an environment where every employee feels like they can bring their whole self to work. Diversity even extends beyond the office walls to include partners and customers.
From a hiring perspective, what’s interesting is that candidates have started to engage with HR far more regularly on the topic of diversity. They are eager to learn more about NetMotion’s culture, what we stand for and what we are doing to encourage diversity. They want to be sure that we’re not just paying lip service to diversity or jumping on the bandwagon because of a trend.
In response, Christina points out several steps that HR is taking to ensure that diversity remains a priority. From a recruiting standpoint, the HR team is working with multiple external recruiting sources who help to identify diverse candidates. Similarly, R&D and other internal teams work with HR to lower the barrier for entry and look specifically for ‘athletes’ – people who may lack traditional experience but show aptitude – instead of just filtering out candidates who don’t have a bachelor’s degree in the field.
For the sales team, this can be seen in the internship program with the University of Washington (UW) that has already led to very positive mentoring opportunities and even full-time employment. Likewise, the R&D team in Victoria, B.C. has partnered with the University of Victoria (UVic) to attract some very talented co-op students who have brought in new skills and fresh perspectives to problem solving.
“At the end of the day,” says Kelly O’Connell, our senior HR business partner, “the important thing is to get as many employees and stakeholders involved as possible. The HR team alone cannot drive a successful diversity program.”
Kelly also points out that the hiring process has changed significantly over the past few years. The biggest change has been a concerted effort to evaluate candidates holistically, based on multiple factors such as skills and experience, but also by considering what they would bring to NetMotion as a cultural ‘add,’ and their growth potential.
“We shouldn’t approach diversity as a checkbox, where we hire a woman for a position simply because she’s a woman. I think we’ve developed a more natural process where each candidate is measured much more fairly, based on their merits.”Kelly O’Connell, Senior HR Business Partner, NetMotion
“We see this in action with the sales team all the time,” adds Christina. “When they are looking to fill a role, they often interview for someone who is humble, hungry and smart – in IQ and EQ. They don’t necessarily have to have that certification in hand, but we need to know if they have the potential to learn that skill with us. It’s made a huge difference.”
2021 and beyond
According to Christina, Kelly and Nicole, the events of 2020 had a huge impact on the company’s attitude to diversity. A large part of that was caused by the civil unrest around events like George Floyd and BLM protests, which made us take a hard look at ourselves and where we want to be as a company.
Yes, we have a long way to go. But every journey begins with a single step, and we hope that as many people as possible come along for the ride.
Separate from their thoughts above, the HR team also wants to take a moment to recognize Black History Month. If the events of last summer have taught us anything, it’s that we may all be starting from different places on this journey. As a team, we started putting a greater emphasis on listening and learning. Below are some resources we found helpful in our own journey:
- TedTalk – an interview with the founders of Black Lives Matter
- TedTalk – the danger of silence
- So You Want to Talk About Race, a book by Ijeoma Oluo
- Intentionalist – find local and small businesses to support