We were seeing lower employee happiness and engagement scores among our employees from underrepresented backgrounds.
We launched an employee-led initiative to form employee resource groups (“Communities”) at Handshake. Our People Team sent out a simple Google form which asked two questions: what affinity groups employees would like to see at Handshake, and what groups employees would be willing to start themselves. The People Team then matched employees who wanted to join a particular group with those who were interested in starting it, with the guidance of being focused on a shared experience, background, or perspective.
Nine Communities were launched as a result. Handshake now has groups for women, black employees, Latinx employees, people of color, Jewish employees, immigrants, parents, LGBTQ+ employees, and a group focused on mental health, as well as our diversity & inclusion group, “Handshake for All”. Some of these groups are “closed” to only those who identify with that experience, and others are “open” to allies and those who want to support the group.
We believe that empowering employees to launch and run the Communities will lead to increased buy-in and a deeper commitment than would have resulted if the People Team or the Leadership Team had determined the ERGs that would exist at Handshake. There is a process in place for employees to launch a new Community when they feel the need, new hires are educated about the Communities during our onboarding process, and we provide updates from the Communities to the rest of the company in the form of presentations at our weekly All-Hands meeting, as well as via an email newsletter.
We have seen an increase in employee engagement among all of our employees, and the recruiting team has partnered with various Communities to determine how we can improve our recruitment strategies for candidates from underrepresented backgrounds.
I am honored to participate in the CEO Action for Inclusion Pledge. As the CEO of a company whose aim is to democratize opportunity for all students, regardless of their background or how much money they have, I recognize the gaps that exist regarding diversity and inclusion, and I am proud to join leaders across the country as we commit to doing more to close these gaps.