Change Your Mindset To Improve DEI in the Workplace with Alexa Harris

In this episode of Relationships at Work, host Russel Lolacher chats with strategic HR manager and DEI corporate advocate Alexa Harris on being more intentional in our workplaces with diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging and what that looks like.

A few reasons she is awesome — she’s the manager of HR Strategic Initiatives for Graham Holdings, and has been a long-standing champion for diversity/equality/inclusion demonstrated in her work at Northeastern University, Alnylam Pharmaceuticals and as a board member for Women in the Enterprise of Science and Technology.
She’s also a driver for Meals on Wheels and a volunteer for Be My Eyes which connects blind/low-vision people with sighted ones for visual assistance.

Connect with Alexa on Linkedin

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KEY TAKEAWAYS

  • Defining the difference between D, E, I and B
  • What is most misunderstood in implementing DEI in an organization
  • DEI’s role in The Great Resignation
  • Benefits of a DEI organization
  • “Random Acts of Diversity” and why it probably isn’t moving the needle of DEI
  • Where to start your DEI workplace journey (spoiler — data)
  • How to change mindsets to embrace DEI

“So I’ve seen [DEI efforts] go wrong when the accountability is flimsy and people are like ‘Yes, this is our goal!’ and then they let people get away with not hitting that goal when they wouldn’t in other areas of the business. It’s part of it. If you’re not performing, a change needs to be made.”

Alexa Harris

FULL TRANSCRIPT OF INTERVIEW

Russel Lolacher
It’s Relationships At Work. And on the show today, Alexa Harris, and here’s why she is awesome. She is the manager HR Strategic Initiatives for Graham holdings. She’s a long, long standing champion for diversity, equity, and inclusion, which is demonstrated in a lot of her work over the years, including at Northeastern University, and as a board member for women in the enterprise of science and technology. And I’d be remiss if I don’t mention a couple other things she’s done amazingly, which is a driver for Meals on Wheels and is a volunteer for Be My Eyes, which connects blind low vision people with sighted ones for visual assistance. Welcome to the show. Alexa,

Alexa Harris
Thanks so much Russel. Thanks so much for having me on today.

Russel Lolacher
Diversity, equity inclusion… big topic. Big topic that feels like it covers so much and is also really specific at the same time. And anyway, we’re gonna get into all of those defining things and understanding how an organization can get their brain wrapped around how they can be better at all of this. But before we do, it’s the Alexa show, and I need to know a little bit more about you. So let’s start with what’s your best or worst employee experience?

Alexa Harris
That is a great question. I feel like I need to go through my my mental Rolodex of all the experiences I’ve I’ve had, in…

Russel Lolacher
For those listening at home that are millennials a Rolodex that you went back to flip through as a piece of paper to find an address or phone number and back to you, Alexa.

Alexa Harris
Thank you for that. Because I think a lot of people might not know what a Rolodex is. So if I think about this, I’m thinking, something that I felt like was about to be the worst experience in my career, which turned out to be actually when I look back on it, one of one of the best. So back when I was working at Alnylam, I had this boss who was just really a champion for me, right? And she, you know, would always have these development conversations with me, and she’s like, where are you going in your career? What do you want to do? I want to make those career growth experiences for you. And I kind of knew kind of didn’t know. So I would throw things out there. Oh, I think I want to try this. I think I want to try this. You know, if you look back at my resume, you’ll see I change jobs every year at one company for like four years. And that’s because I was trying to figure out, where’s my sweet spot? What, what do I want to do? What type of impact do I want to make? And, you know, one time around, I think 2017 She, she was like, I’m gonna put you in charge of our new diversity, equity and inclusion program. I’m gonna I want you to sit on that. And I was like, Okay, great. I really I went back and I was like, oh, gosh, Mom, I hope you know, I’ve been hearing some people say they get typecasted when they start doing DEI and you do DEI and that’s just where you you know, it’s a trajectory you have to stay on. And I’m not sure if I want to be a chief diversity officer, I’m not sure if that’s really where I want to go. So I was feeling like, oh, my gosh, like, She’s making me do this. And I don’t, I don’t really know what to expect. And it was still quite new, you know, we didn’t have a program that that company, so I didn’t know what to expect. But it turned out to be a huge learning experience for me after I got through all of the kind of, you know, because DEI is hard. It’s hard. You’re trying to get buy in from people, you know, especially leadership, they’re like, oh, kinda you, you do that over there. You know, like, yeah, diversity is important, you figure it out, you know, and that’s really not how it works. And so I just was not excited to have that struggle. But it really just taught me so much about myself, how to be a leader, how to influence how to brand. And even if I’m not a chief diversity, equity and inclusion officer one day, those skills that I learned in doing that was just so valuable. So something I felt like, oh, this might be really stressful and horrible, and I’m gonna get typecasted and not be able to do other projects I want to do turned out to be just a gateway to where I am now. And so, that is probably, you know, one of the key things that I can remember,

Russel Lolacher
It’s nice that your worst experience was out of fear turning into your best experience out of opportunity. Nice. Absolutely. So it is all about D-E-I diversity, equity, I keep saying equality, not not I repeat, not the same thing and inclusion. So as someone who has been such a champion and a leader in this in various organizations, can you break down what we’re even talking about?

Alexa Harris
So, diversity, equity and inclusion… You know, there’s a lot have definitions out there right now a lot of them are very similar, just wordsmith a little based on who you’re talking to what your organization subscribes to, but really, at the core, right, diversity is about recognizing differences based on a lot of things. It’s not just race and ethnicity. It’s not just gender, sexuality or anything like that. It’s also about life experiences, right? Where you grew up. I, you know, mentioned to you when we were just chatting, I grew up in Europe, you know, I moved from Turkey to Germany, I was an Air Force kid. So that really influences my mindset on a lot of things. Whereas my fiance grew up in Newark, and went to boarding school in Connecticut. And that really influences how he thinks. So that is really what diversity is about. We talked about the E, right, which is equity, not equality. So equality really just assumes everyone is starting from the same point. If you look up online, if you just Google equity versus equality, you’ll see a lot of really good images that show you know, folks starting from different, you know, if you’re running track, you’re starting from a different line, or are you starting from the same line, are you standing on the same box to see over a fence and so, you know, there’s some really good visuals, but really, equality assumes we’re starting from the same place, and equity recognizes that we’re not all starting from the same place. So that’s why it is more impactful than just assuming everyone is the same and treating them the same. They recently changed the golden rule to like the platinum rule, which is, the golden rule is something like treat everyone how you want to be treated. And the platinum rule is treat other people how they want to be treated. You know, I like to think of that as well when we’re talking about equity versus equality. And then inclusion is just really you being invited to you know, collaborate and being empowered to participate, especially at work. It’s really important, going back to, you know, other aspects of diversity that are not just race and ethnicity, say you have, you know, there’s a big topic we’re talking about introvert versus extrovert. And, you know, mostly people who are extroverted, become leaders become CEOs, because they’re very talkative, they know how to, you know, jump into a conversation. But introverts, you know, tend to have really great ideas, they also might need help pulling that out of them. So inclusion would kind of look like, Hey, we’re in a meeting, we’re brainstorming, rethink, tanking, let’s actually all take a minute, have five minutes, let’s brainstorm you know, on our piece of paper, and then let’s have a discussion. And that’s how you then include other people that maybe don’t brainstorm out loud as quickly, but doesn’t mean that they don’t have a good idea. And then, you know, this B, because we’ve added another letter as well, which is belonging. So diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging, that takes inclusion a step further, and just says, you want your employees to feel like they belong at your organization, that they when they walk into the building, or they log into their Zoom account, I belong here, I know my opinions are valued. I know that, you know, it’s recognized that I am a valuable part of this team. And I belong here, I’m included, I know that the organization cares about me as an individual and helping me succeed and being, you know, the most effective that I can be. So that’s kind of where the landscape is right now. D-E-I-B.

Russel Lolacher
Now, as someone who’s had to champion this in organizations, what tends to be misunderstood the most about these?

Alexa Harris
Yes, that it’s one person’s job, that the Diversity Equity and Inclusion Coordinator or the Diversity and Equity Inclusion Chief Officer, should take DEI for the entire company, and go kind of work in their corner. And yeah, tell everybody what they should do, but that they should just, you know, you’re responsible for it. So if our investors are coming to us, and they’re saying, I want to see doing more on diversity, equity and inclusion, oh, that’s, you know, so and so, job. And that’s just really not true. Because diversity, equity inclusion can’t be done in a silo, it has to be really built through all of the areas of a business to actually be effective. You can’t just have one person over here, doing these, what we’re calling it now random acts of diversity. You actually need to build it into your business processes.

Russel Lolacher
Do you worry that it’s becoming too buzzword-y I mean, truthfully, DEI is suddenly something that is a lot more part of the conversation than it’s been well, even a decade ago, but even making it an acronym of DEIB simplifies it so much and it’s This becomes a, something you put on a calendar or something, you put on a poster somewhere and go, look, it’s there. So it must be one of our values. Does that worry you at all?

Alexa Harris
You know, I, I had that feeling as well, especially when a lot of organizations all of a sudden had nothing. And then all of a sudden, they’ve got a diversity program, and it’s up on their website. And you know, they’ve gone and taking pictures of their diverse employee population and all that stuff. And so I did worry. However, I do think that the change that we need to make if people need an acronym, if they need buzzwords to get them to change their everyday actions to remember because a lot of this stuff is unconscious, I really don’t mind it. Right? I think that we haven’t lost steam yet. And I was worried, you know, after George Floyd, there was this really big swing up. And I was like, oh, gosh, when is this, this attention, and this energy and this motivation around this topic going to fizzle out. And it’s still going strong, because it’s really, really important. And what I really liked to see is that investors have started to say, Hey, this is really important. I want to hear in your annual meetings and your investor calls, I want to hear about what you’re doing with diversity and inclusion, because I want to make sure that I’m investing in companies that have longevity. And dei is really a part of that longevity of a business, being able to continue to innovate, continue to operate effectively, continue to, you know, grow as an organization, this is really kind of that foundation of it.

Russel Lolacher
Do you feel it is because of the profile and the attention that some horrific stories have gotten in the news that has really been more of a catalyst? Are we on this track already Pre COVID, I guess?

Alexa Harris
I think we were on this track already. I do think that it elevated, it escalated it a bit. Because, you know, a lot of people were becoming aware of things that they weren’t aware of before. I don’t know how they weren’t aware, you know, because I feel like we’ve always been sharing stories. There’s lots of books out there a lot of really popular celebrities that talk about their journey and things. So you kind of had to actively be avoiding it. However, I think that, you know, events that happen that were widescale, did definitely help escalate it. But I do believe we’re already on this track, mainly because of the new generation in the workforce. You know, now we’ve got, I think it’s something like four generations in the workforce, like we still got boomers, we’ve got genetics, we’ve got millennials, and then we’ve got Gen Z coming up, and they’re starting to come into the workforce as well. And we know that, you know, millennials and Gen Zers are really not standing for things that maybe were tolerated in the past. And so I think that there was going to be a swing, either way, those events just kind of helped fasttrack it.

Russel Lolacher
Has DEI do think been a part of… as organizations are trying to embrace it or not embracing it, do you think that’s a factor in the great resignation as being such a factor of people are leaving jobs? For a lot of reasons, do you think isn’t one of them?

Alexa Harris
I definitely think so I think that people have, you know, some folks have reached their breaking point. They’re like, I’m not dealing with this, because I can see other organizations that will give me what I need. So why would I stay somewhere that doesn’t have put an importance on it or doesn’t, you know, give me the the work life flex that I need to continue to be effective, and be successful in this role, when I can just go somewhere else, or what I see a lot of people doing just starting their own thing, starting their own business, you know, I’ve seen just a boom of people starting I have friends that have just started little boutique advertising, because they’re like, oh, gosh, advertising, you know, the industry as a whole just really needs to kind of catch up. And they’re like, but you know what, I’m gonna start my own little thing. And I’m gonna do some really, you know, impactful social media marketing for three or four clients. And that works for me, because there are other options. I do think that people aren’t standing for it, and they’re moving on when it’s no longer working for them.

Russel Lolacher
I’m really curious how you would recommend organizations get better at this where to start, but I first want to touch on why they should, because this is time, its effort. Its focus. It is an entire cultural shift for a lot of organizations to get better at this because I know there’s larger organizations that might have pockets that understand this because they’re There’s no such thing as a one culture organization, there’s a million subcultures within that organization. So besides retention, where do you think being better diversity, equity and inclusion can benefit organization.

Alexa Harris
I’ve mentioned a little bit before you know, the the longevity of a business and how I believe that diversity, equity inclusion, and belonging is really a foundation of that, because there’s been so much research done lately that shows that groupthink is one of the things that is really tearing down organizations, their ability to keep up with the innovation required to continue to be a major player, just within the business space, you know, across all industries. And so by having a diverse organization that you know, places an emphasis on equity, inclusion and belonging, you’ve got a workforce that is creative, they’re bringing up their creative ideas. They’re constantly talking about new innovations, they’re operating on a growth mindset, hey, if something’s not working, let’s not continue to do the same thing. Let’s try a different approach. And the research shows that, you know, when you have a diverse workforce, that, you know, they’re included, they’re, you know, they feel like they belong, they’re better at making decisions, they are more effective in their job, their overall performance is improved. And all of that leads to better customer outcomes, right, better business outcomes as a whole. That’s why it is important for businesses to really take this stuff seriously, because it’s important for the future of their business.

Russel Lolacher
Where have you seen it personally benefit employees?

Alexa Harris
So I have seen diversity, equity, and inclusion really make an impact in an organization, I would say, my last company, when we first started taking it seriously, and it moved beyond just random acts of diversity, which I’ll pause and say, when I say random acts of diversity, I mean, the things like it’s Black History Month, so let’s have a Black History Month Happy Hour, which is great. And organization should absolutely continue to do those things. Because it enables, you know, sharing of cultures, it is a learning opportunity for folks. And it’s just, you know, it makes you you feel good to get together with your your employees and have a happy hour and have a topic to talk about. So those things should continue to be done. However, they don’t move the needle, the same way that update processes make like, for example, you’re going to hire, and you’ve realized that you’re hiring consistently hiring the same type of person for a roll, and then that whole team looks the same, right? So what do you need to do, you need to build in a checkpoint for hiring managers to say, hey, we need to make sure that we’re that we have a diverse candidate pool, and we have a diverse interview pool. And then you see to it to start to shift the type of people are hired for that role. And in my opinion, you become a more powerful team than at a different organization that is stayed with that, you know, homogeneous same, where the same type of person in this role, same type of scientists or same type of marketing executive, because your creativity goes way further, you have different experiences to draw on, to influences the type of decisions you make, you are able to be more effective, because you just have a different approach to different things, you don’t just have to continue to do something that’s been done a certain way for 40 years. So I’ve seen it really work when you shift from those random acts of diversity to a more intentional business rigorous approach to dei and at my last company, we it’s it’s a quick change. We did a whole you know data, we did a whole data project, we found some data. We’re like, Okay, this is where our representation is lacking. I’ll tell you within six months of us changing those processes, our organization looks completely different. And just the overall feeling personally, for me, the belonging feeling that I felt when I came to work, just shot up.

Russel Lolacher
So where do we start in an organization that A) may not know how diverse, equitable and inclusive and belonging they’re focusing on? Or maybe they’re completely no idea where the baseline is. So where do you start?

Alexa Harris
So it starts with data. Right? You can always collect data on your current workforce. Now, this type of data is hard to collect, because it is, you know, you have to ask for it, and people can give it to you, or they don’t have to give it to you. So I think a lot of organizations are struggling with that. You know, I’ve been talking to some of my colleagues about what do we do to increase the trust in some employees that feel like, I don’t really want to give them that data? I don’t know what they’re going to do with it. And so you know, there’s some work to be done there, just in general. But the other thing that organizations could do that typically is a little bit easier, maybe than collecting, you know, census or demographic data, is collecting data through engagement surveys, just actual DEI focused engagement surveys, building DEI questions into your normal engagement survey, that’s a really good way to collect scent like sentiment, about how people are feeling. And then I’ve also seen a lot of organizations doing focus groups. So that’s just another way to collect data from your employees sit down and have a focus group. I personally like when their leadership lead, and not HR lead. I like it when you know, your CEO is like, this is really important to me, I want to host a couple rounds of focus groups, and have some questions, right, but really make it an informal opportunity for employees to show up and talk about the things that matter to them, and talk about the things that are impacting the way they work and their performance and their productivity. I would say, you know, starting with those three things, I think the engagement surveying the focus groups may be easier than collecting, you know, demographic data right off the bat. But that’s where I would say folks should start to grab that baseline.

Russel Lolacher
Previously talking to you had mentioned that it’s not just one committees job, and it’s not one person’s job. So you’ve collected all this data, you’ve collected quantitative, qualitative data, what do you do with it? It’s not a person or committees responsibility, what do you do with that data?

Alexa Harris
So the analysis and the keeping of the data that should be one person’s job, because it’s oftentimes sensitive. So that, you know often sits with HR, it’s with DEI. But once you have the data, you say, Okay, these are where our gaps are, this is where we’re doing really well, we want to lean into that. This is where we could be doing better some areas of opportunity, you then look at what is something we could do across the organization that will help us move the needle on this. So for example, I want sat on an initiative where the goal was to increase representation of our underrepresented talent, right. So in this organization station, we found underrepresented talent included black, African, American, and Asian as well. So we’ve got that our goal is to increase this by we set something was like 20%. Like, we want to increase representation by 20%. across the organization, not just in one department. So all of the department heads, got a goal in their leadership goals, right? This is what we’re on the hook for, as an organization. These are the tactics that we’re going to give you to help you meet that goal. We’re going to train you on behavioral based interview skills, right? So you become less bias in your interviewing in your approach to interviewing, we’re going to give you a checklist for now, I don’t think that we should be relying on checklists forever, I kind of have a love hate relationship with these checklists, and these bias, checklists and things like that. But for now, it’s kind of what’s needed to keep people on track. And we have checklists and SOPs for other areas of the business. So I just try to think of it like that when I think about these bias checklists. And so we’re gonna give you that we’re gonna give you all the tools that you need, and you’re on the hook, it’s in your goals, it’s going to, you know, affect your bonus percentage, like any other part of your job, right, because this is, this is part of it. This is a goal that we set as a company, those types of things help kind of divvy up the responsibility across everyone in the organization.

Russel Lolacher
Where have you seen this all go wrong, Alexa, like it’s all well intentioned? It’s all we want to make everything better and everybody needs to belong, but people are people organized nations are filled with them. So what are we missing? What is a common misstep?

Alexa Harris
One thing I’ve seen personally and and not necessarily in any of the organizations that I’ve personally worked in, but hearing from my peers that work at other companies, when we set these goals, and we don’t take them seriously. And we allow someone just because they’re really good at operations, like their VP of operation, just because they’re really good at that. We allow them to say, No, I don’t really, I don’t really think that this is important. And well made, like try to spend a lot of time changing their heart, changing their mind. And at the end of the day, a lot of these folks are, you know, they’re seasoned in their careers right there, you’re, you’re not really going to change their core mind. But the way you approach it is, this is a business imperative, you have to do it. And if you personally have other opinions, we can work on that we can do some programming around listening sessions to try and help, you know, maybe change your mind, change your heart. But at the end of the day, we’re holding you accountable to this. So I’ve seen it go wrong when the accountability is flimsy, and people are like, Yes, this is our goal. And then they let people get away with not hitting that goal, when they wouldn’t in other areas of the business. It’s part of if you’re not performing, a change needs to be made.

Russel Lolacher
It breaks my heart a little bit that it feels like we have to convince leadership, that the only way they’re going to embrace dei properly is if we mandate it, and it’s attached to the money that they make. So that rather than why is there not more of a mind shift around this on its own without threats and bank accounts that we need to talk about. Where is the best way to approach this from a mindset standpoint, because we talked about checklists, and we’ve talked about let’s put it on a on a on a poster, but there’s got to be a way to make people think differently.

Alexa Harris
Absolutely. And I want to say the folks that need checklists that need mandates and need this is in your goal. Those are folks that tend to have a poor mindset outside of work, you know, so it’s really while we’re at work, it’s not our responsibility to try to educate these people past, you know, what is required for their role. But I have done a lot of mindset things. And I’ve done a lot of things where people have had an aha moment. And they’re like, Oh, well, I never considered that. This is this is I, I’m engaged. Now I’m motivated, I want to do something. And I got to the point sometimes where people are like, beating down your door, they’re like, I want to be engaged on this stuff. What can I do? I’m not in DEI, I’m not an HR, but I need to do something. You know, something I’ve done in the past that was really impactful is that we we ran this session called Understanding race and ethnicity in the workplace. And it really was a listening session in the way that the consultant designed this session. I was like, Oh, my gosh, what is this going to be like when we get in this room? Right? It was a little bit scary, even for me who I feel like I’m someone that’s comfortable talking about diversity and inclusion on a regular basis. But basically, what they had us do was, there was two parts of the session. So the first session was talk about your experience, if you identify as a white person, what is your day to day experience working while white. And it was like that, and they wanted to they wanted people to come off of mute. This was on Zoom, because this was during COVID. And talk about it. And then the next session was talk about if you identify as a person of color, black, Asian, Hispanic, Native American, what is your experience of, of working while being a person of color or working while black? And it was just completely polar opposites and day to day experience. And that session was so powerful, so nerve wracking, but I do know from the feedback that we had, that that was a session that changed people’s mindsets. That was a session that it was like that person’s on my team. I never knew that they felt like that. You know, it’s not necessarily an individual, the consultant preface it there like it’s this is not your fault. Don’t feel like take this on and say oh my gosh, I can’t believe this person feels this way. This is my fault. That’s not the point. The point is for you To recognize that they have a different experience, and then get on board with some of the things that we need to do to maybe shift that, and to mitigate some of those negative experiences and maybe elevate some of the positive ones.

Russel Lolacher
Okay, so people at work feel a freedom belonging, or at least they’re trying to create an environment where people can bring their whole selves to work, doesn’t that also invite a bit of conflict? Because people don’t always have beliefs that align with each other. And I mean, they don’t just not align with each other, they can be downright combative. What do you do?

Alexa Harris
Yeah, that’s, that’s an interesting one. And it’s happened multiple times in organizations I’ve been in where we have had that that conflict, you know, just based on background, religious beliefs, personal beliefs. And that’s where you almost have to, it’s a little bit about, you know, keeping those personal beliefs that are inadvertently discriminating against someone else. Out of the workplace. That’s where sometimes it is helpful to dial back to, what is our business goal? And how can this sort of conflict get in the way of that? So, you know, one time there was like, a conflict on emojis, you know, should we add pride flag emojis? Oh, the person who is adds the emojis who’s like, our tech person doesn’t believe in that and doesn’t want to add them. This is part of what we’re doing, we’ve got an event coming up, this is part of our communications plan, the communications plan is have people to respond to this Slack message with an emoji, you know, this is a an ally ship thing. So it has to be it’s not about you individually, do not participate. Don’t use that emoji. However, it does need to be available, because it’s part of a communications plan for an internal marketing program that we’re running. Sometimes you have to revert to that.

Russel Lolacher
So some people’s views are not inclusive, it feels like there’s a lot of you have to understand your environment, and that everybody deserves to be there, and empathy. But we all have to kind of get to the same place together. I just, I can feel it being very uncomfortable and difficult. But again, this shouldn’t…This isn’t easy.

Alexa Harris
Absolutely not.

Russel Lolacher
Okay. You’ve got your individual or committee in charge of data. You’ve got an organization and a leadership that believes in DEI. Great!, It’s in a report. It’s in a newsletter. We’re doing this six months later. Oh, yeah. Okay, a lot of people have left. We don’t have the resources to support dei anymore. How does consistency able to be enabled in an organization that has ups and downs, but this is not a checkbox?

Alexa Harris
Right? I mean, that’s why it’s so important for a lot of diversity practices just need to be built into the way of the way we do work, the way we do business, the way we operate, so that it isn’t something that can be easily deprioritize, because it’s already built in to that that foundation. So for example, supplier diversity is a really hot topic right now. Right? You know, a lot of folks are looking at their suppliers and realizing, Oh, we’re, all of our suppliers are more or less the same. That’s why a supplier diversity overhaul program to make sure that you’re working with a good number of women owned business, you’re working with a good number of minority owned businesses, and you’re working with a good amount of white owned businesses or, you know, male owned businesses. But doing that overhaul at the beginning, then you really shouldn’t have to continue to do so much, you know, grunt work, it should just be built in, you’re like, Okay, now we’ve got a good balance of suppliers. Obviously, there’s ups and downs, you may need to find new suppliers and things like that. But there’s typically a person that does work and their whole job is supplier management. But a lot of the work happens at the beginning to really kind of change the system. And then it’s just more of like maintenance. And it’s, you know, keeping that in mind and like, Okay, we know that this is a core way of how we do business, we need to make sure that someone has at least eyes on it. And if they need to put up the red flag, say, Hey, we’re kind of slipping. We need some support here. We would hope maybe it wouldn’t happen all at one time. And you can kind of, oh, let’s all put our energy here to make sure that that we’re good in this area, and then maybe transition over to another area that maybe needs some attention and support. So I think it’s really about building building DEI into the foundation just the way that we work the way we do business.

Russel Lolacher
I’m gonna get personal Alexa, why is this such a personal thing for you? I mean, you’ve got DEI champion in your LinkedIn buzzline, you are, you were thrown into this in a previous organization going tap to do it. But it is something and it’s a torch you’ve carried, as you’re working through other organizations and in your volunteer work. Why is it so personal for you?

Alexa Harris
I just, I want to see a change, I desperately want to see a change in the world, I think that a lot of things that we’ve been doing historically just are no longer working. They’re not, you know, equitable. And it’s really hard to continue to, you know, be successful if the systems are working against you or not. And I think, you know, for me, personally, I don’t want to ever feel like that. And, you know, it’s just, it’s just not right. And so I really want to dedicate myself to helping change that, right, I want to be a change agent I want to continue helping us on. And I would personally describe myself as a lifelong learner, right? So I just want everyone to continue to learn and grow and, and have that growth mindset. I do not believe that we should continue doing something that is not working.

Russel Lolacher
I’m going to wrap it up with one final question, which is, if there was one thing, one action people could do right now to improve their relationships at work, what would it be?

Alexa Harris
I think, one action, and this is based on some recent experiences that I’ve had, and just the fact that there’s so much uncertainty in the world, and people are feeling maybe a little less secure than they felt a year ago. I just really want everyone to be listening to understand. And it’s one thing I’ve noticed a bit of a shift in lately, you know, it’s like, people are not listening with the intent to understand what you’re trying to say, or your perspective or where you’re coming from. We’re all kind of like listening, and just waiting for you to stop talking. So like I can say what I want to say. And unfortunately, that just creates a lot of noise. And it makes it really hard to be effective as a team. And so I would say I would encourage everyone to maybe pause. That’s always the best thing to do and just listen to understand your colleague.

Russel Lolacher
That right there is Alexa Harris. She is the manager of HR Strategic Initiatives for Graham Holdings, and a forever champion of DEI, previously and forever and ever and ever. Thank you so much, Alexa, for being here.

Alexa Harris
Thank you, Russel. Thanks so much.

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Russel Lolacher

Russel Lolacher

Digital Communication Director, speaker, advocate for healthier workplace cultures and kind candour. Host of the Relationships at Work podcast.