Small Acts of Inclusion
How inclusivity is reshaping the way Prophet works
We have been continuing to work on diversity, equity and inclusion efforts here at Prophet and have have made steady progress since our last update. We know that achieving representation reflecting the communities where we live and work will take time. And we are also learning a lot when it comes to the importance of understanding the complexity of inclusivity.
While some organizational practices need to be changed to be more inclusive, we are learning that it is at the micro, one-on-one level where change and impact are being felt most. When everyone at our firm understands and makes a habit of small acts of inclusion each day, we believe that change can happen at scale.
Propheteers are very proud of our culture, and we should be. But as our inclusivity efforts have strengthened, we sometimes bump up against defensiveness. Even among those who are the most vocal about adding diverse representation, there’s a resistance, or perhaps better put, lack of understanding, to becoming more inclusive in our work.
We are trying to reinforce that bias does exist here and everywhere. There is no organization where bias does not exist. And so creating a truly inclusive culture means looking at the day-to-day interactions that happen throughout the firm. These connections are the foundations of the employee experience. In each moment, they give people a sense of belonging, letting them know they are valuable members of the team.
In other words, inclusivity has to be addressed at every level of interaction – macro, corporate level, team level and individual level. The quality of those interactions and the relationships that develop determine how well and for whom the systems are working.
So far, we’ve found three focus areas that are especially helpful.
Learning New Language
The ability to have DEI-related conversations throughout an organization requires a common language, and the evolving list of terms initially feels unfamiliar. A first step has been starting small group leadership discussions and introducing inclusion concepts through unconscious bias and allyship training. We’re proud that all of our 600-plus employees have completed this work.
That’s only a start, though. It’s important to keep talking to translate ideas into individual and collective action.
Tokenism is one example. Building an inclusive team means gender diversity should be represented. But if a partner asks a woman to work on a pitch just because she’s female, that’s not inclusion. Tokenism is just for show–it’s performative. On the other hand, representative teams are intentionally built because if the goal is cognitive diversity, we know that identity diversity is critical to adding a valuable perspective that wouldn’t otherwise be there. Who we are in the world shows up in how we think and navigate the world differently.
As a practice, leaders should question “Am I building a team that is as representative as possible?” Slowing down to process and talk about decisions that impact the way we work can open up healthy dialogues and lead to better outcomes.
The right language takes these daily conversations from defensive to pragmatic, hopefully making them more productive.
Internal networks–often invisible and informal–are places of exclusion in many workplaces. Remote work has made this even more challenging. Do the people who choose to go into the office, for example, have more access to certain leaders and the chance to develop relationships, while those working remotely may not? Or do certain groups have an easier time interacting and building relationships in a virtual group environment than others?
Making Intentional Connections
We are creating strong employee resource groups, which make space for people to build community and find support. These include Black@Prophet, Pride atProphet, Latino@Prophet and Women In Leadership. And we’re constantly looking for new ways to bring people with shared interests together. We need to do more, though. So we’ve begun opening up opportunities to learn about our leaders and different parts of the company.
How Inclusivity Needs to Change Our Work
We are focused on moving inclusion beyond awareness through group training and individual coaching. We’re seeking more actionable strategies that impact the way we work, including business development and other go-to-market practices. By setting expectations, mitigating structural bias, and role modeling small acts of inclusion, we know that we can create a firm with imperfect people and their biases that nevertheless contribute to maintaining a healthy and inclusive environment.
We know that more inclusive teams lead to more innovative and varied approaches to our work for clients, from broader digital transformation strategies to more accessible user experiences. We are trying hard to make this a consistent way of doing business.
There’s growing urgency to these efforts. Like so many other companies, our work accelerated with the murder of George Floyd in May of 2020. It continues to speed up, fueled not just by the increasing awareness of racial and gender disparities but also by the Great Resignation’s tailwinds. An inclusive culture is key to recruiting and retaining the best people–that’s true for Prophet and every one of the clients we work so hard for.
So we’re not slowing down. We’ve intensified our planning, becoming more intentional. We’re leveraging strategic approaches within campus, lateral and executive hiring efforts to increase the diversity of the candidate pipeline and, ultimately, incoming hires. And we’re systematizing our process, creating a scalable program based on business rules, such as an Inclusion Rule for diversity on interview slates. We’re completing contract-bound pipeline requirements for external search partners.
We’re looking to our data to understand employee experience across all diversity dimensions. And we’re using that lens across the board to help ensure that we support diverse teams to lead clients to the best solutions.
The end goal? A Prophet where one cannot predict a person’s success based on how they look, whom they love or whom they pray to. To get us there we’re working to clarify and communicate each employee’s role in DEI. We’ll know we’ve arrived when DEI is no longer seen as the responsibility of a handful of people but as a new kind of thinking and behavior each of us brings to work every day.
Prophet’s purpose–the reason we exist in the world–is to help our clients find uncommon business growth. Our inclusivity efforts are helping people find uncommon personal growth, using curiosity and innovation as they discover more equitable and inclusive ways of working with one another.