Values are an important part of any company’s culture. But having clearly stated values is only part of the equation. Values are meaningless unless they’re consistently enacted, reflected upon and evolved.
Leading diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) isn’t just my day job, it’s my way of being. And I’m fortunate at Sprout Social to work with a team of senior leaders, individual contributors and C-suite executives who feel the same way about applying our DEI work, in the office and beyond.
Championing DEI is one of our values, but let me tell you how DEI at Sprout is so much more than words.
DEI work is everyone’s work
Enacting Sprout’s commitment to DEI work is everyone’s job. One of the most impressive parts of DEI in our workplace is the level of employee participation in planning, leading and communications. Individual team members and groups of volunteers take the lead on a variety of our DEI efforts; for example, they plan and lead our monthly DEI Guild Meetings, develop volunteer opportunities for our team and create internal events and campaigns to support awareness month activities.
At Sprout, our DEI Leadership is made up of two teams: the DEI Advisory, which is made up of individual contributors and people managers, and the DEI Executive Team, comprised of C-suite executives and directors. This structure ensures we have representation from across the organization in our DEI decision-making.
Together the group acts as a board, planning guild meeting topics for the year, advancing learning opportunities throughout the organization and spreading this information to the broader team via quarterly updates and organization-wide meetings. Having that level of investment in our DEI strategy—from both employees and the C-suite—means I have the unique opportunity to watch executives get excited about our work. The combination of employee and executive buy-in reinforcing DEI work is an important piece of what enables us to make change.
I’m proud knowing that we have team members beyond Sprout’s People Team who are constantly pushing the envelope on creating a more equitable and inclusive space.
Our three areas of focus
In order to make strides in DEI everyday, we have to set goals. At Sprout, we’re working toward three main objectives:
1) Learn: Expand DEI learnings
There is no more powerful tool than education, which is why the heart of our DEI work at Sprout is a monthly guild meeting. Each month, our team comes together to learn about different backgrounds, identities and aspects of cultures. Every session is owned and run by different people across the organization. We encourage all team members to attend and ask that no other meetings are scheduled during this time.
Part of this work is to address issues that are relatively invisible, like unconscious bias, or social stereotypes that individuals form and apply outside their conscious awareness. This year, we’ve hosted DEI Guild Meetings on how to be an ally, understanding the model minority myth, Black History Month and sexual assault awareness.
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Championing Diversity, Equity and Inclusion is a value that is the responsibility of every member of #TeamSprout, not just an individual team. Once a month, we come together to openly discuss and challenge one another during our DEI Guild meetings. Through these meetings and beyond, we strive to build an organization that listens to every voice, develops a safe space for discourse, and is representative of groups from all backgrounds and experiences. 📸 by @pangkerri
We’re also partnered with Paradigm, a diversity consulting firm, to conduct unconscious bias training that equips our employees with a sharper eye for the biases that impact a workforce and the knowledge to make sure they’re not contributing to the problem. Their industry expertise and recommendations have helped shape our strategy and priorities since we started working with them in 2017.
Our efforts aren’t purely educational, but also developmental. Our Emerging Leaders program is a mentorship initiative built through a partnership between our Organizational Development and DEI Teams—another strong example of how DEI is interwoven throughout our business.
The goal of the program is to diversify our internal leadership pipeline. The program is open to all Sprout employees, but we encourage people of color, women, women in tech and LGBTQIA+ individuals seeking to learn more about what leadership means at Sprout to apply. It entails both personal and career development, as well as encouraging self-advocacy and ingraining that in our culture.
We also support voluntary, employee-led business resource groups (BRGs), employee resource groups (ERGs) and affinity groups that provide a space for underrepresented communities, such as Black@Sprout, LGBTQ@Sprout and Veterans@Sprout to name a few. These groups plan events, support various hiring initiatives and engage in constructive dialogue about their shared experiences. Our BRGs act as a resource for both group members and the business, with varying degrees of commitment and responsibilities.
2) Serve: Make an impact in our communities
Our commitment at Sprout is not only to diversity and inclusion, but also to equity: being good stewards of our resources and leveraging our privilege in order to support and serve the communities within which we live and work. We partner with organizations that represent the underrepresented, such as people of color, women, LGBTQIA+ individuals and veterans. From Black Girls Code to Howard Brown Health, we’ve teamed up with organizations to engage with the community around us in meaningful ways. This summer you could find our Seattle engineers teaching at the first Seattle Black Girls Code workshop, or our Chicago team working with Howard Brown Health to build safe sex kits.
We also have some mainstays in our efforts to engage with our community, like Philanthropy Week. It’s a tradition that originated in our Seattle office, and we raise money for more than a dozen nonprofits through a variety of fundraising activities, including a food drive donation day, bake sale, a lunch buy-back, a Sprout swag day and a silent auction. Last year, an amazing group of team members based in both our Seattle and Chicago offices re-envisioned this tradition and expanded participation across all our offices and remote team, raising more than $42,000 for nonprofits that impact our communities.
Introducing more charitable opportunities to our employees means making space for them to serve the community. Our team is empowered to take the time to volunteer and even use team outings as an opportunity to give back to causes they’d like to contribute to.
3) Recruit: Cultivate a diverse pipeline
Our People Team has been working to carefully and thoughtfully refine our hiring practices through the lens of DEI. We’ve made a number of changes, both large and small, to make our hiring practices more equitable and inclusive. We’ve removed salary history from our standard questions and have partnered with organizations like re:work to source candidates and give trainings. We’ve also hosted a number of community groups who are interested in working in tech and are working to develop values-based interview questions to incorporate into our interviewing process.
Nearly every hiring manager has hired an applicant that doesn’t fit every qualification listed in a job description. That’s because these descriptions usually encompass some must-haves and some nice-to-haves. When we look at the stats, we see that men apply to jobs that they’re 60% qualified for, while women and underrepresented people typically apply when they’re 100% qualified. If you would hire someone who doesn’t fill every qualification you’ve listed, then how many women and underrepresented people are you missing?
In an effort to make our hiring process more equitable, we’ve introduced job descriptions that communicate the impact employees will have over one, three, six and 12 months. It allows prospects to have a vision for their growth and forces hiring managers to consider what they need, rather than want.
Just the beginning
It’s exciting that we at Sprout are rewriting the rules together. With recruitment, education and leadership initiatives, we’re attracting people who share our values and want to help create equitable systems that foster belonging. But what we’re doing today is just the beginning.
If you want to get involved with DEI at Sprout, check out our open positions. We’re hiring!