Workplace Diversity is more than Numbers - Unlocking the potential


Mary Kristynik: I'm so honored to be facilitating the session this afternoon at the first worldwide staffing summit with such an impressive panel of staffing and MSP professionals and colleagues. I'll go ahead and get us started with some brief introductions. My name is Mary Kristynik. I am the senior vice president of enterprise accounts at, Akraya.

Akraya is a global staffing and managed service companies headquartered in, Santa Clara, California. Sonu.

Would you like to do a brief introduction?

We can't hear you

Maybe Steve.

Sonu Ratra: Okay. I was hitting a bit of echo, so we'll, hopefully that's gone. Great to be here, I am Sonu Ratra. Co-founder of Akraya. It's an award winning technology staffing company. This is our 20th year in this


Mary Kristynik: Yeah, we've got quite a bit of echo. Steve, do you want to go ahead?

Steve Dern: Yeah, I'll give it a pause in case there's more echo good afternoon, everyone. My name is Steve Dern, as you know, I'm the minority on this call being the 52 year old white guy from Cincinnati, talking about diversity and inclusion.

It's actually a topic I'm very passionate about dating back to my early days when I was hired into corporate human resource. This was in realizing that it takes a lot of different mindsets and perspectives to drive success. So very pleased to be on the panel. My current role is as executive vice president of talent solutions for Evaluent which is a solutions provider.

We provide MSP payrolling and IC compliance and direct sourcing, as well as consulting services.

Mary Kristynik: Mary.

Mary Martin: Hi everyone. I hope that you can all hear me and it does not echo. So I'm going to go ahead and mute my line just as soon as I'm done, but very honored to be here. Thank you, Mary, Emiley, Steve and Sonu. I really appreciate spending the time with you and everyone who's watching. My name is Mary Martin. I'm the global vice president of strategic solutions for pinnacle group.

The majority of my career has been in the staffing space. I actually started about 15 years ago as a receptionist at tech systems. So I've worked my way throughout all different areas in the industry. In my focus right now is really on consulting solutions within the MSP space, strategic solutions.

Statement of work or services, procurement management. And I'm super excited about this topic. This is definitely been something that pinnacle has spent a lot of time and energy focused on within our own supplier diversity ecosystem, lifting up our suppliers that are supporting us on the MSP accounts, but now transitioning more to workplace diversity and how we can really ensure that candidates that are coming through are treated in a equal and healthy manner and so we're really excited to get this started

Mary Kristynik: Thanks Mary last but not least Emily.

Emily Costello: Yeah. Thank you. And I'd like to echo, I'm thrilled to be here and it's so nice to see and join familiar faces on the panel. It gives me the feeling of. Somewhat being in a conference and networking for real having familiar faces in front of me.

So thank you. But Emily Costello senior vice president of channel relationships at Robert half. I've been with Robert half, almost 24 years. I've had a dynamic career, but has spent the last decade plus a focus on our MSP and VMs and other third-party partnership. I'm also a mom of a three boys from very diverse backgrounds.

So not only does this topic speak to me professionally, but diversity and inclusion is also a topic that speaks to me personally as well. So thank you for having me.

Mary Kristynik: Thanks. Emily, why don't we go ahead and get started? Diversity is about the unconscious bias, right? It's accepting difference.

Realizing your point of view is not the only point of view and knowing we all come and really different shapes and sizes, we're more comfortable with safe, like, or with safe like-minded people, which. That's human instinct. It's about not having a fixed mindset about who can and can't perform on the job.

It's making a systemic change in the way people hire it's about going into the process with a clean slate, no judgments, no misperceptions about this candidate may not work out. How do we as staffing professionals? Hiring talent every day, make the conscious decisions to unlock the potential. So new. How, how would you advocate for diversity, equity and inclusion with hiring managers who really don't understand it's importantance?

Sonu Ratra: Very good question. Mary, you know, I'm reminded of this Pixar animated video that many of you may have seen, and it's about this pink ball of yarn that it's a first day at work and she, you know, walks in either from the elevator and she sees people. Okay. Are they different from her? There's no female there.

And then she tries to fit in and why she's trying to fit in, you know, she loses her own identity and what the company and the other members of the team loose in return is that creativity or the innovation she may bring. So, you know, when I looked at the video. To me, it amplifies something much deeper.

Right. And that you can embrace and you can establish diversity. You can hire the right person, but unless you have intuition, you're not gonna, you're not gonna make any headway. So I think the first step is for people to really get, stop and think about this and that essentially, that unconscious bias.

Right. And then, so, and there's multiple things we could do, you know, show them data have them look at the teams is a diverse or not. How do the, how you do end up hiding your own kind? Are you really looking at a diverse slate of candidates? And then, and then from there, you know, a systemic, unconscious bias training, that sort of myth.

Yeah, but you know, that you bust the myth that they may have and the preconceived notions. And of course, and then it is really creating the right culture creating the right company policies, which is, you know, the right ERG and, you know, a good place for working mothers. Everybody mentioned that, right.

You know, as a mom there's a balance you try to create. So really creating that that environment. And then of course, a lot of outreach from, you know, hiring from the recruiting. Teams that are working with them. So there's, there's a minor of things that, you know, we could do, but it really starts with you know, not just diversity, but also inclusion.

Mary Kristynik: Great. Steve, how would you advocate?

Oh, you're on mute.

Steve Dern: Yes. Yeah. Okay, sorry about that. I, I think that when you're trying to get, buy off from the hiring community, a lot of that. Just as it is with many other topics, it really starts from the top down from executive leadership. So as an MSP provider or payrolling or staffing, supplier, whatever role we're applying making sure that that executive leadership is bought off on the importance of diversity and inclusion and that it not only is part of the initiatives for the company, but it becomes part of the culture of the company.

As much, as much as you can try to drive that mindset. I think it needs to be something that ultimately there's a common theme around it at corporate events, communications, marketing strategies, project initiatives that are going on because if that's not there, my 20 years in this business has told me it's difficult to get that buy off from the larger population that is under that beyond that, I think.

We're driven by numbers many times and numbers tell a very if there's statistical evidence case studies from credible sources that talk about the successes of diverse candidates and how they make an impact on the workforce, you know, continuing to reinforce those concepts that helps it become just ingrained.

And it becomes an everyday thought process for those managers.

Mary Kristynik: Yeah. Agreed. Emily, do you want to weigh in?

Emily Costello: Yeah, sure. Mary I think, personally, we're lucky at Robert half that our company values are rooted in what our founders stood for and valued Bob half. For those of you don't know, Robert half was, um, our founder and he spoke out against discriminatory practices in our industry, in the sixties.

So it's kind of rooted in our DNA. So I'm really lucky in that point that, you know, jumped right into an organization that had it at its foundation, but when advocating for diversity outside of my organization, I think it's important to know that it's not just the right thing to do for business, but it's also Healthy for business.

I think Deloitte put out a study a few years ago that said inclusion and diversity. Cultures are two times more likely to hit their financial targets. Three times more likely to be high performing six times more likely to be innovative and agile. So there's a lot of business cases in data, around, uh, diversity inclusion that I think we can educate.

Our clients on and our customers to help them understand, you know, the, the positives beyond just doing the right thing. And Steve, I think spoke to at the tone, definitely starts at the top. I think just simply starting the conversation you know, we all have access to individuals with an organizations.

Have influence within their organization and really just engaging on the topic of diversity, equity and inclusion. And as you get them engaged and they want to learn more, then, you know, do what we do best in our industry, which is connect them with other companies that are maybe further along in the path and their initiatives and, you know, get the, get the ball rolling.

Mary Kristynik: Yep. How do you kind of along that same level with clients' hiring manager community, how do you kind of educate about removing the unconscious they're unconscious bias?

Sonu Ratra: Um, so I maybe I'll give you an example you know, of women back to a program that creates systemic pathways to facilitate the entry of women in back into the workforce. And there's a lot of biases that exist around just that high because resumes get rejected because they have gaps on their resume and they may not be upscale.

They may not have the, you know, the best of the top Java skill that they're looking for. And I think the first step. You know, of course it's to help them agree that, okay, well, we're committed to hiring this talent pool because it is an under utilized talent pool, but then how do you educate them? And it is, um, walking them through step by step as to what are the myths, right?

That you, what are the preconceived notions and mean, we've noticed that every hiring manager has deliverables that have to be met, that projects that are, you know, under underway and you've got all these results that you need to stay focused on. So. Being able to help them realize that whatever they're going, this diverse pool of talent can actually help them get there.

And then of course, nothing succeeds like success. And the part of that education is, you know, of course the hiring manager. Do take the plunge. They have to, you know, the returner talent pool or the people they hired. They do have to perform with some amount of coaching and some amount of mentoring.

But I think when they see that happen, it helps them change the mindset. And again, I think Steve said and Emily said it is about changing those mindsets.

Mary Martin: I wanted to just really quickly jump in Mary and Sonu. I think that makes a lot of sense. Steve, you kind of started the conversation of having the top-down approach, and I know that staffing industry analysts released an article and a report in November of last year that talked about diversity in the workplace and the three areas are the barriers.

To that the first barrier was executive buy-in. The other aspects had to do with not having enough data and maybe co-employment concerns, but getting that executive buy-in is super challenging. So for staffing vendors, the, you know, The attention and the partnership that you have with your MSP or directly with your client or directly with your talent acquisition managers, make sure that you are educating them similar to similarly to house on you.

You know, reference that. We are the experts. We understand what's happening in our industry. And at times if there a category buyer or individuals on the procurement side that have multitude of categories, it might not be top of mind. But if it's part of their values report, or if it's part of some community initially, They understand that it's important, but it might not be something that they have to deal with day-to-day.

So I would just recommend making sure that those conversations are being had often. And that it's a part of the scorecard review and it's a part of those quarterly business reviews and the one-on-one conversations. Because sometimes that executive buy-in is lost. Yep.

Mary Kristynik: Agreed, Emmy, Emily, anything else?

Emily Costello: I was going to say that I think one step that we've seen companies take is to remove, you know, just tactical removing Candidate, addresses, education, things that come up like that in the resumes when searching on their I AI platforms and the other, I think tip to controlling unconscious biases is just being familiar with what the common biases are, right. Things that show up in the workplace like affinity bias or confirmation bias and understanding really what those are and, how they affect your decision making process can really help tremendously towards your journey to, you know, being aware of personal biases and removing those.

Mary Kristynik: Yeah, absolutely. Mary, in your experience, what are the challenges faced by members of historically under-representative underrepresented groups in the workplace?

Mary Martin: Well, one of the things that we're really focused on at pinnacle is giving back to the community in which we live. So my father from a personal perspective was a Milwaukee public school teacher for 47 years.

I sit on the board of a nonprofit that helps underserved youth, and we really give back in a meaningful way, tied to career coaching and employability skills, because being able to, you know, get that job, get that position. When there might not be active opportunities outside your door is super important.

So, you know, really taking an active look at other companies that have those same values, other partners or staffing firms that have those values as well. And just creating a little mini ecosystem, I think is super important. I did read a, an article the other day. One of the social platforms out there did settle a lawsuit because for instance, on a job requirement, they requested that the person you know, complete university within around 2007 or 2008, well, that's a gender bias and you have to be careful with that.

But then also looking at that globally, we talked about you know, obviously in the U S we have different rules and guidelines, different laws in California and things like that. But in other countries like Mexico, for instance, they may put on their job description that they're looking for a specific gender.

And although those things may not be known you know, to, to that category manager that oversees that, you know, he's probably run into it, just giving more insight and visibility into that, I think is super important. When you're looking at global diversity, as opposed to just in the U S.

Mary Kristynik: Excellent points. Sonu what do you think are some of the challanges?.

Sonu you are on mute..

Sonu Ratra: For these stories, the underrepresented in the marginalized communities, you know, we don't many times under the rotors are really looking at the resume. They don't see those jobs that they performed because those opportunities have never come up for them. So I think that's, you know, Marisa that, that hasn't come up for them.

They haven't been given those opportunities. So therefore it's. Providing that platform for the historically underrepresented communities to have that first opportunity so they can act, then you can actually see them appeal it on their resumes. And then also I think creating job postings that encourage a wider audience to apply.

And as you know, Uh, ma uh, women will apply for a job if it's only a hundred percent match, but men will apply for a job if it's 60% match. And I think that's also not applicable to the marginalized communities as well. And that those are things that we really need to change urgently.

Mary Kristynik: Yeah. Great.

Emily, what are maybe some of the strategies that you've used or Robert half has used to address some of these challenges and maybe how successful were some of those strategies?

Emily Costello: Yep. I think that I think what we've done is we've put tangible action around our recruiting processes. We've you know, made sure that we've included, different types of organizations and at, Robert half has specifically, we have. Many organizations that support black communities national association of black accountants, United Negro college fund minority corporate counsel association, several more.

We've also expanded our partnership with ascend and we have a non, you know, nonprofit in the pan Pan-Asian organization for business professionals. And we've gotten involved in boys and girls club. For success and junior achievement and, you know, the list goes on and on, but I think it's really putting action behind, um, our recruiting and really getting involved in this organization so that we can, you know, create opportunities for people of all backgrounds to connect, where maybe with others where they maybe wouldn't have just naturally before. So it's, you know, I think that's as a staffing organization, I think we really have an obligation to really, you know, reach out at a grassroots effort and get involved in our local communities and as well as, you know, global communities as well.

Mary Kristynik: Yeah, steve, what are we? We haven't forgotten you, Steve, by the way.

What are the hurdles to a holistic DNI approach with the contingent workforce and, and like, what does that, what is the right strategies?

Steve Dern: Well, I think that, you know, from a hurdle perspective, one of the biggest things that's out there and it's sort of a double-edged sword in our industry.

But if you think about legal risk you know, companies are fearful to seek out certain workers that, you know, may help diversify the workforce. Some many companies ask about demographics of the workforce, but how much did they do with the information? Because I think there's still a lot of concern around you know, wanting to get diversity credit for working with diversity agencies, but they're not really doing anything around tracking those demographics because of legal risk for discrimination and things like that.

So, you know, I don't want to. Make this a political conversation by any means relative to the U S side of things. But, uh, you know, I think overall we've got to find a way to elevate the conversation in a way that it goes beyond, well, am I getting tier one diversity credits for working with a diversity certified firm?

I'm not saying there's anything wrong in working with those firms. Well, we've got, you know, issues where there's a war for talent, for quality talent. There's a lot of resources that are available. It is a more transient workforce. So the opportunity to get good talent and attract them in can be there. And I think if we can.

You know, and it's above my pay grade in a way. But if we can work with the legal elements, the political elements involved to where it's safer to gather that information and safer to take proactive steps on engaging a more diverse workforce. I think companies are going to be better off you know, Right at the top, Mary, you know, it makes sense.

It makes business sense to have diversity in our business teams that we're working with. And, you know, I'll, I'll, I'll just share a quick pop culture reference on this. So NBC has a show called Superstore and, you know, virtually if you've watched it before, wave your hand. Not that I can see it. Well weeks ago, they did an episode that actually talked about diversity in the workforce and the person who was kind of leading the effort in the store was the Africa African-American guy who was disabled, who serves in the customer service desk role and makes all the PA announcements, etc.

And they're doing an internal for meeting and one of the managers. Says, well, I've always been colored what color someone is or what their background is. And the guy responded, he said, but that's the thing. And I've been guilty of it too, growing up, but that's just the thing. It's almost politically that we don't want to recognize.

There are cultural differences. There are challenges that a woman faces versus a man that native American faces versus maybe African-American versus international workers versus LGBTQ. All of those experiences can provide a different perspective when we're working. In a team-based organization. And if you embrace those differences, if you recognize and learn from them, that can create further opportunity, further synergy in terms of how people will work together and maybe even new revenue opportunities for you to grow your business.

And we've got to find a way to get to that point.

Mary Martin: With that too, I wanted to say that, oh, I've seen a lot of different staffing vendors create mentorship opportunities within their four walls. And I think that that lends itself to what you were saying. Maybe pairing up with someone that you might not have been in a position to pair up with. I think of, you know, the people in my life that I'm around very often and I'm the only girl there's so many boys around me.

So my experience is going to be different from someone else's Emily. You mentioned that you got a bunch of boys at home, too. And so there are different ways that we can leverage that mentorship and create opportunities in house to ensure that that's a healthy working environment. That everyone has a voice and their voices heard and respected.

And I think that that can be done in a really simple way, just by creating community and creating a sense of community and openness and staffing companies can do that. You know, tomorrow it's not something challenging to set up.

Mary Kristynik: Yeah. So kind of lending to Steve, what you were saying earlier about the data, right?

Like where does the staffing like we, as their staffing partners and MSP professionals kind of come into the picture to ensure it's more than just numbers. Mary. Do you have some thoughts on that?

Mary Martin: I actually do. I mean, I know that a lot of the VMs technologies have come out with really amazing feature sets that allow for that collection.

Steve alluded to the the co-employment risk and how that's changed over the years, and that shouldn't necessarily be a barrier. So if you're partnered with a technology that allows that to be captured and then sliced though your MSP partners. Have to provide that information back to you.

They're providing it back to their stakeholders. And then internally at the staffing level, I know Emily mentioned at RHI, they do you know, tracking in that way, but the VMS providers have really stepped up. They've created feature sets that allow for that, and it shouldn't just be, you know, blended approach of candidate numbers.

It should be a ratio tied to. How, how many of those cans actually ended up filling the jobs at what time were they submitted? Are they on, you know, benches and ready to go? Or does it take maybe 9 or 10 days to identify them? Does that make their supplier less worthy of getting that placement? No, we shouldn't, you know, criticize them for taking longer.

Maybe they're doing that deliberately. So having those again, open discussions based off of data and now having our VMS partners available in providing features and functionality is really exciting. I know we, we recently saw some new functionality from beeline and some others, and I was really excited to be able to maybe bring that into customers in a more frequent way.

Steve Dern: And Mary, if I can piggyback on your thought there, it's not just about getting that statistic in front of program sponsors. It's, it's got to go out more and more within the organization within the entire ecosystem. And then, you know, it's one thing to have the information, but then people will have to act on it.

Whether it is initiatives, whether it's projects, even Complaint made. We, you know, if, if you're an organization and you want to try to drive activity, what better way is there than to have that maybe as a component of the complaint structures and things yeah.

Sonu Ratra: And see scorecards to it. Right. I mean, MSP scorecards should, at some point include, what are the numbers looking like?

Because I think stopping companies like ours should be your responsibility to provide that on a quarterly basis. And, you know, monitor it some level.

Mary Kristynik: Totally agree. So, so how do we, as their MSP staffing provider offer a solution? What's our responsibility.

Sonu Ratra: Yeah. Steve, go ahead.

Steve Dern: So my, my thought is, first of all, as an MSP, we need to make sure we're walking the walk that we're talking. It's gotta be part of our culture. We've gotta be able to demonstrate that to the clients that we are calling on, we need to be engaging suppliers and workers of all types establishing goals with clients right up front, part of the discovery process.

If I ever get an RFP. That doesn't speak to diversity and inclusion and what those goals are going to be. That's one of the first questions I put back to them to see what their stance is on that. I think that, you know, with Avaya we've, we've always prided ourselves on being a company that executes well for our clients, but it's also a matter of educating them.

Thought leadership has to be a cornerstone for what we're doing. That's not gonna stop. But again, I encourage. All of us in the ecosystem to challenge our clients you know, don't be afraid to push back on them. But at the same time, educate that they recognize where those benefits are going to reap for them.

Mary Kristynik: Yeah, absolutely. So anything else that you'd like to offer before we wrap up? A little less than two minutes left.

Sonu Ratra: Yeah, I know. I was I, Steve is spot on, on what he said, but I also think that, you know, today where we are historically, I think diversity equity and inclusion is not simply responsibility.

That ahead of diversity is responsible for HR. I think it's a responsibility for every single one of us. Right? Whether you're staffing MSP, or, you know, I always go to companies that we work with and look at what is you know, has a CEO taken out a pledge for diversity. And for many years we've been talking about aligning ourselves with the you know, goals of the company.

And I think it's time to align your. With diversity goals and really make those changes and then really create I guess, a pipeline, right? So the more the numbers of candidates you submit, it's a simple formula in my mind, diverse candidates to submit the more they get interviewed, the more they're going to get hired.

And that's how you start to see impact.

Mary Kristynik: Absolutely. Absolutely. Just to any closing thoughts? I, I do have a great question that popped in amongst a lot of great comments.

Emily Costello: I know I was just going to offer one thing too. I think having a diverse population is great, but companies have to retain and engage that population and yeah.

One thing is, you know, making DNI updates, part of their onboarding process and then giving the contingent workers access to the DNI resources too, are really important. So I just, you know, I think it's one thing to look at the data, watch the data. No, the diverse populations, they are about what, you know, what are you going to do with that population is what really matters.

And then I would also say that, you know, I think just, you know, at this moment listening to one another, you know, openly and with empathy to create better understanding and then to use that knowledge right. To chart our path forward is really important. So, and I think this session is, you know, really good stuff in the right direction.

Mary Kristynik: Absolutely guys. Thank you. Thank you so much for all the valuable insights.

If you want to take a quick question, Brian and I'm sorry, Brian, if I'm mispronouncing your last name, Brian fuels. Great discussion. What are the panelists views of corporate employers expecting their staff? Staffing suppliers of contingent works workers as a primary source for diverse talent that could become employees later compared with the strategy of hiring diverse talent directly as employees.

Does anybody have any thoughts on that?

Mary Martin: They're really good questions. And I think that it kind of lends itself to the total talent ecosystem that was talked about earlier that contingent labor and gig workers and entryway to that W2, to that talent to that organization. And that brand awareness is really importance.

so how the MSP, how the consultative side sort of matches with the talent acquisition strategy is really, really important. So we've seen it in both ways. One of our main customers they're using it. It's sort of as a try before you buy model where you can bring in contingent labor, and then hopefully bring them on as a W2 employee.

Employee at a later date. And if that is a strategy of a company, then having this in place upfront is really, really important. So again, it's understanding the business you know, arrangement and how that company or that client uses talent and what their strategy is for the future. And it kind of goes to what Sonu said earlier around and, and Emily around retaining talent and making sure.

If they come in, that they don't leave. And so I think that that is a huge piece of this is you can do all of this upfront work, but what are you doing to ensure that they're happy, they're motivated. They're able to organically grow. They're given mentorship opportunities. They feel valued, all those good things.

So we are seeing it on the MSP side where they're trying to leverage, that for their internal workforce as well.

Mary Kristynik: Excellent. Any other comments?

Steve Dern: Yeah. I think the scenarios where you've got a. Shall we say, try before you buy a model for that. You know, my experience it's, it's mainly been focused on certain roles in an organization.

A lot of times it's commercial staffing or call center administrative types of things where there's a try before you buy strategy, if you will, that has been done with that. If the person makes it through that regular training class which maybe the last six months, nine months, whatever then the organization, the client organization is going to want to convert them over. Long-term provide them the long-term career path on that. I think that what would be interesting statistically And I don't know how much it has been tracked, certainly over the years is what is the hit rate on those conversions? How does that tie to demographics and etc?

Mary Kristynik: Great. One question I'm Steve, and this might be content your way. It's kind of more of a Montay question, but from tad law more. And what about the legal challenges of asking the question? Race, gender, et cetera. It's a great question.

Steve Dern: Yeah. I mean, that's kind of what I was talking about earlier in that you know, I think there's been progress made in terms of us being able to ask, ask for demographic information on a volunteer basis only.

I think that, you know, you're still going to have a gap there and turn the past, but for what you can gather, let's get that reportable. Let's get it shared with our client communities and even our supply base. But, uh, you know, We've, there's still the risks out there in many clients' minds around the discrimination element overall.

And, um, you know, hopefully as time goes on, as we've got different workforce environments, we're able to balance that out because there's still tactical challenges that exist. If you think about you know, transportation to a work. Sometimes that's an issue for a lot of workers where the work has to be performed that can discriminate out of a certain demographic as well so.

Mary Kristynik: Perfect. Well, I think we are right at time. So first and foremost, thank you. So new Emily and Mary and Steve for your inspiring thoughts on diversity and how to get. We can offer a solution and a big thank you for everyone that joined and attendee and all the great questions. So thank you for that and, and be sure to join Tim, Jeff and Dave for the last pannel of this of the day. It has never been easier to expand your staffing recruitment business globally. Enjoy the rest of the worldwide staffing summit. Have a great day. Thank you so much for joining.

Emily Costello: Thank you, Mary.

Mary Martin: Thank you

Steve Dern: Thank you.

Thank you.

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Mary Kristynik

Sonu Ratra

Mary Martin

Emily Costello

Steve Dern




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