How did this all begin?
The very first diversity champion I interacted with was Nerissa Monton, and she made a huge difference in my decision to continue working at Deloitte Digital. Nerissa’s efforts made it easier for me to interact with others and feel welcome… which was a stark contrast to my initial discomfort and anxiety from an abrasively non-inclusive onboarding experience.
Over a couple of months she taught me the guidelines of diversity and inclusion before passing on her mantle as the “fun coordinator” of the office to me. Since then, I’ve made it my mission to ensure I can provide the same feeling of inclusion to everyone else who joins our team.
My responsibilities include getting to know new faces in the office, planning fun and inclusive events, and making diversity a tangible experience. Here’s how I go about it:
1. Diversity must be a deliberate, tangible experience.
You can’t expect minorities to believe in diversity because a weekly bulletin on it exists. Diversity can only be believed if you can see and interact with it concretely. That means being both present and available as a diversity champion. Had I not bumped into someone who looked like me (Nerissa) by the coffee machines, my life at work would’ve been drastically different.
Beyond one to one conversations, I've found that themed diversity office events are another natural way of initiating these concrete conversations.
Use events to turn diversity into tangible conversations. Instead of a chili cook-off, why not Asian snack or bingsoo day?
2. Initiate conversations physically away from work places.
Starting up a conversation away from working spaces makes a big difference. People are more comfortable to say hello and are less likely to be busy with important tasks. So if you’re a leader, provide areas for communal interaction (like a big kitchen area); if you’re a diversity champion, camp out in those areas more. I try to start up as many casual conversations or games (Jenga and Bananagrams) as I can with new hires by the coffee machines, and that first interaction can go a long way.
Camping in the kitchen for our inaugural Munchie Monday day!
3. Don’t talk about work. Let people talk about themselves.
This may as well be the golden rule to success. Nerissa would always tell me, “no one wants to talk about work, get people to talk about their lives.” One of the best ways to build inclusion is by letting someone else tell their story. “What was your highlight of last weekend? What do you love doing most outside of work?”- there are plenty of non-sports related conversations a diversity champion can initiate that can enable new hires to feel like they have control over an interaction.
Furthermore, these more open-ended questions can safeguard against assumption making (e.g. as an Asian getting asked "No but like, where are you from?"). I've learned so many amazing things from letting others lead the conversation. Not only does it make people feel more included, it adds diversity of thought to the workplace and makes for fun banter!
4. Make accessible events that are more engaging than a happy hour.
Happy hours were the bane of my existence as an introverted new hire; it’s exhausting trying to talk to existing cliques at an open bar. While there’s definitely a time and place for everything, I’ve learned from my experience that it is significantly easier to convince someone to show up to a coffee tasting event in a communal office space than an after-work happy hour that's a 30 minute uber away. Having creative non-work related events held during working hours can give new hires an easy opportunity to meet new people! (Just make sure to steer away from cliched icebreakers).
French Press Fridays add fun and casual social interaction to the typical morning coffee run. More faces show up out of interest, and accessible conversations naturally occur from voting on favorite flavors/beans instead of cliquey conversations on work life. We also hosted a best coffee mug contest which was a great way for people to express themselves! For example, explaining who the characters are from a LINE friends mug.
5. Get sponsorship from leadership.
Deloitte Digital is blessed to have leaders who truly believe in diversity and inclusion. If leadership doesn’t sponsor or support events that bring joy and inclusion, everything becomes more difficult. Although I may lead in the planning and organization of these events, I get the confidence and financial support to do so from our awesome leaders (who are diversity champions themselves).
Not only do our leaders sponsor our events, they participate too!