The EDI Experiment
Within EDI, we have been conducting our own “experiment”. We appreciate that in order to be successful in implementing solid strategies we have to stay laser-focused on helping our own employees develop their skills, leverage their strengths, accelerate their expertise, and advance their careers. By doing so, we know the result is an improved customer experience for the people we serve. A better-trained EDI employee makes a better consultant to NIH. A highly motivated and engaged employee translates into an innovative strategist that designs programs to satisfy our customers needs. Our investments in employee engagement support our efforts to deliver optimal customer service, achieve better outcomes, and set the example for utilizing effective inclusion strategies.
To support these efforts, we have implemented a variety of equity, diversity, and inclusion strategies aimed at providing all of our staff with a dynamic work experience and a place to thrive. From strategies like our respect and dignity policy, our EDI Pledge, to our Corporate Trainings, our internal “experiment” has paid off. As a result, our staff is more engaged with high retention rates, and we have developed a solid bench-mark to sustain our success. We are also finding innovative solutions to some of the most difficult challenges we face within our work. While we may not get it right every time, we sure try. Just as we learn from so many great examples across NIH, we hope our efforts will inspire you too.
THE EDI PLEDGE
Respect and dignity are cornerstones of any diversity and inclusion strategy. All employees want to be treated with dignity and respect. All employees want a fair shot to be successful, to contribute their talent, and to achieve their career goals. Inclusion requires that each employee is treated with respect, and that in every interaction we preserve the dignity of those around us.
With this in mind, the EDI team came together and started a dialogue about how we want to be treated in the office and how we define respect and dignity. Through the efforts of a working group resulting in larger discussions, we defined what a respect and dignity policy should sound like.
We created a visual representation of this policy––The EDI Pledge––and each employee signed it as a pledge of their commitment. Today, at our East Jefferson and Building 2 locations, these posters are prominently displayed as a reminder of our commitment to respect and dignity.
To support our Pledge, our leadership team has empowered EDI staff to “call a flag” when someone is violating its principles. Employees are encouraged to do so by having a private and respectful conversation to address situations immediately. We are all committed to monitoring our workplace and having professional conversations when the spirit of our pledge has been violated…and it is working. Take the EDI Pledge with us today!
Our door is always open to new talent! We have been thoughtful in considering our talent sourcing strategy by utilizing Schedule A and Pathways Programs hiring authorities and have used social media to advertise our positions. In addition, we have been able to bring in student volunteers and contractors to supplement our workforce, adding another dimension of diversity. The result is a diverse team of extremely capable and dynamic individuals who have a passion for the work that they do. They bring their unique perspectives to the constructive debate and dialogue that happens across EDI to drive fantastic results.
All of our staff is provided corporate training opportunities that introduce new skills and relevant business policies and help to implement new internal processes and/or software systems. The overall objective is to ensure improvement in staff and organizational effectiveness. Corporate training opportunities include activities that directly or indirectly influence the ability of our employees to perform current or future jobs including professional conferences, on-the-job training or on-site workshops and programs.
INDIVIDUAL DEVELOPMENT PLANS
Each staff member is on an individual development plan (IDP) which he or she designs in collaboration with a supervisor. IDPs address both short-term and long-term career goals that will allow each employee to achieve their fullest career potential. The IDP is discussed during the mid-year and end-of-year performance evaluation process. Even managers and supervisors are encouraged to have conversations during their biweekly meetings with their staff.
Every staff member in our office is empowered to take charge of their career growth, and every manager is charged with strengthening the EDI workforce. With this formula, we can ensure we are prepared to replace our leaders in the future.
We encourage interactive learning opportunities well beyond the formal training - hether it is shadowing a great leader or looking for developmental opportunities to lead a work group, committee, or a team. Opportunities are numerous, and as a team we are investing in them.
How do employees develop to achieve their career goals? First, they need to know what is expected of them and what competencies they currently possess. Then, employees can identify competency development opportunities that bridge possible knowledge gaps. In EDI, we are each working towards finalizing our respective competencies through self-reflection and conversations with each other. This is helping us close competency gaps and perform better for our customers every single day.
MAXIMIZING STRENGTHS ON THE TEAM
We are continually seeking opportunities to leverage the strengths on the team by encouraging employees to work on projects outside of their position of record. We have a variety of trans-EDI work groups and committees that are solving problems and brainstorming challenges that office faces. We encourage thoughtful dialogue and respectful debate, allowing each other to put their talents to work without feeling confined to their official role. We are leveraging individual strengths and ideas in a variety of ways that are paying extraordinary dividends.
EMPLOYEE RECOGNITION PROGRAM
Employee recognition helps us improve communication between our employees and our management. We recognize team members for the ways that they uphold the EDI mission, vision, and values. Benefits of employee recognition include: increased staff production, motivation, and retention; increased customer satisfaction; early identification of low performers; and increased retention of high performers.
If we don't remain laser-focused on our employee's concerns, then engagement will quickly deteriorate. The EDI leadership team takes a proactive role in ensuring that we conduct regular pulse checks with the staff to identify opportunities to strengthen communication, staff development, and overall engagement. This could be through individual one-on-one meetings with the team or through a survey instrument. We are committed to office assessment and mobilizing an action plan to address any concerns. We also encourage team members to participate in the action planning process. Ultimately, we are not perfect, but we are intentional in our desire to make EDI the best place to work at NIH.
THE ENGAGEMENT TEAM
We understand that engaged employees are essential to creating great customer experiences and better business results. An engaged employee is willing to invest time and effort, cares about his or her work, and will work to further the organization’s interests. The mission of the EDI Engagement Team is to create an environment that values and supports employee engagement and promotes a healthy organization by developing internal programs and events for EDI staff.
We make every effort within EDI to keep the communication channels open between our leaders and team members. We have instituted a SharePoint site for our team to receive information from leadership in a clear and consistent fashion. The site also serves as a space for staff to engage with each through the discussion feature and our photo gallery. We have also developed a vehicle on SharePoint that allows team members to anonymously submit concerns to the director of the office, which will be examined and addressed in a response back on SharePoint where appropriate.
In addition to our online efforts, we come together as a team for biweekly All Hands Meetings to ensure that we make time to interact with one another. During these meetings, we also take time to dialogue and debate approaches to our work, share initiatives with each other, and hear from our stakeholders. Each Division also holds a Division meeting and each Branch has a Branch Meeting. We have also mobilized our Administrative Management Team to meet monthly to address corporate administrative issues impacting EDI. Also, each year, our team comes together for a staff retreat to do project planning, fiscal planning, and team building. And to keep up with what is happening across EDI, we have a Need to Know Report (NTK) to inform staff of pertinent dates and deadlines.
Managing While Walking Around (MWWA)
A big part of inclusion is having leaders who are engaged and invested in their teams. One of the ways we do this is managing while walking around (MWWA). It sounds simple, but it is critically important to a sense of engagement, belonging, and connectivity to the broader organization. Not only does our management team have an open-door policy, but our team members also have open door policies so that managers and supervisors can pop in and visit with staff. This commitment to open communication allows management to hear about how their staff is doing and offer any support they may need.
EDI appreciates the critical role that our leaders play in fostering a diverse and inclusive workplace for EDI. Therefore, we support our leaders by regularly working on their executive development plans, identifying strengths and developmental opportunities, and providing them with the benefit of coaching to assist them with continuous improvement. Our leaders receive training to help strengthen their roles as leaders, and our newer leaders are provided additional opportunities to stretch and grow.
Each EDI leader is acutely aware of their responsibility to provide all EDI employees with mentoring, coaching, and real-time constructive feedback to help build bench strength for EDI for the future. Our leaders work hard to foster debate and create an atmosphere where mistakes are viewed as opportunities for learning and overall improvement. Our leaders are at the heart of why EDI is a great place to work.
HEALTH & WELLNESS CHALLENGE
In an effort to also invest in the health and wellness of our EDI team, every year we participate in the EDI Health and Wellness Challenge to encourage work/life balance and healthy living. Teams are formed and each team completes a weekly score sheet to encourage health competition. A holistic approach was taken for the team to think about all dimensions of their health and wellness including nutrition, exercise, emotional, and spiritual well-being, rest, and stress management. Extra points are awarded to the teams who rate the highest and support is provided through health topics presented during the lunchtime Health & Wellness Series.
THE GOOD CORPORATE CITIZEN
Within EDI we recognize that there is much we can do to be a good corporate citizen. We encourage our team to participate in trans-NIH committees and to contribute actively in these groups. Our EDI Engagement Team also sponsors volunteer opportunities at the NIH Children's Inn and with other NIH programs that may need a helping hand. We also regularly donate books to the Clinical Center Library for patients and their families. In addition, some of us participate in virtual reading tutoring for local elementary students. We continue to look for other ways to partner with our NIH stakeholders and to find opportunities for EDI employees to give back.