When you think about inclusion in the workplace, what comes to mind? Is inclusion a core value at your organization? Does it permeate the various facets of your operations, including hiring and recruiting, problem-solving, team building, and decision-making, all of which shape how you serve your colleagues and external customers?
Inclusion doesn’t just unite people from diverse backgrounds with ethnic and individual differences and various lived experiences. Inclusion gives them a voice and ensures that their words, views and ideas carry weight as collective decisions are made about how to serve a diverse public. It also shines a light on overlooked spots within your organization when it comes to providing an experience designed with the customer in mind.
In this section, we share examples of how agencies are embracing inclusion. We explore how their efforts have strengthened their workforces and led to improved experiences for their customers, better products and services, and an open mind to new possibilities.
How the Pentagon’s Digital SWAT Team Does It
How you treat the people who need your help is a decision that starts long before they walk through your doors, visit your website, call for help, send an email or reach out via social media.
It starts with an intentional decision about the team you assemble to meet the customers where they are and to collaboratively address their needs with empathy.
“It needs to be a legitimate executive priority,” said Brett Goldstein, Director of the Defense Digital Service (DDS), endearingly known as the “SWAT team of nerds.” DDS designers, engineers, product managers and bureaucracy hackers have been working side-by-side with military personnel to design and implement innovative solutions in the Defense Department (DoD) since DDS’s 2015 launch.
Inclusiveness isn’t a numbers game or a check-the-box exercise for Goldstein and his team. It can’t be when lives are at stake and your customer base has needs that span cities, states, countries and continents.
That’s why DDS’s focus is clear and concise: engage in meaningful projects and develop a diverse and healthy team. These are building blocks for meaningful CX, but what do they actually look like in practice?
It starts with making people the priority, internal honesty and corresponding actions. “My longest, consistent weekly meeting is a [human resources] meeting,” Goldstein said. “We meet every week, and we go through everything.”
Out of those conversations came a realization that whom DDS interviewed and how they interviewed them needed to change if they wanted to assemble a diverse team to tackle tough problems for DoD customers.
“It was really focusing on humanizing the process,” said Christan Johnson (CJ), Digital Service ExpertTalent Acquisitions at DDS. “Every step of the way, we’re engaging with the candidate, whether it’s text, whether it’s an email, whether it’s just keeping up with the small things that they tell you about themselves, and just really making sure that we’re focused on the person, and not the process.”
DDS also shifted the focus to conducting blind interviews to reduce the chance that biases would overshadow a candidate’s experience. For example, initial interviews are conducted by phone and the hiring team is encouraged not to look at a person’s LinkedIn profile unless it’s on their resume. Feedback about the candidate isn’t discussed until the weekly HR meeting — and that’s by design.
“The team often says I have a really good poker face in regard to candidates because I don’t give my opinion until after their interview,” Johnson said. She doesn’t want her opinions about a candidate to sway anyone else’s.
Johnson works closely with her colleague Kristi Crear, DDS Digital Service Expert-Talent Management and People Ops, who ensures that diverse candidates feel included and a part of the team.
“We can recruit all day, but if we don’t have that inclusiveness within the organization, diversity is still not going to work overall,” Crear said. “That being said,…once you find the people, you have to be able to integrate them into that workforce, and work with them so that they are able to be themselves and put all their diverse ideas out there. With that inclusive workforce as well, you’re going to get folks who are more creative. You’re going to get better ideas. You’re going to get ideas that people generally don’t think of all the time, so it’s going to help your mission and your bottom line overall as well.”
Fostering an inclusive work environment — whether virtual or in person — creates space for idea sharing and collaboration. DDS’s communication tool of choice is Slack, and there’s a designated group, known as channels, for new employees. It’s aptly called “New to the DDS Hood.” There, new employees can ask questions, better understand things that seem foreign to them, and connect with other team members.
“This allows them to be open and honest about things that they…probably wouldn’t share during weekly standups, or even when they’re sitting with their cohorts,” Johnson said. They’re also partnered with a buddy.
Inclusion thrives and permeates how DDS designs digital services for military families, detects and evaluates threats posed by small-Unmanned Aerial Systems, and approaches all projects. This effort doesn’t start and end with the director or HR team. It’s a cultural mindset that employees buy into. Inclusion is their CX superpower.
Want to learn more?
- In many ways, DDS is a microcosm of what governments at the federal, state and local levels are trying to do in pockets. We break down how diversity and inclusion have shaped specific DDS projects.
- Government’s bureaucratic hiring process is often at odds with the desire to develop a diverse and inclusive team. Find DDS tips for hacking the bureaucracy here.