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How Inclusive Teams Build Moonshot Products

Round Editorial

Ryan Fuller, Co-Founder and CEO at Round, sat down with Rachel Williams, former Head of Equity, Inclusion, & Diversity at X, to discuss how having diverse teams leads to building better products, how companies can leverage Census data as a signal for how to build for the future, and immediate actions today’s leaders can take to create more equitable work environments. Here are five key takeaways from our much broader conversation with our members:

1. Creating diverse and inclusive workplaces often creates more innovative products

It’s no secret that teams with different perspectives and backgrounds build better products. Take the origin story of the seatbelt. This is one of many examples in which a more diverse team could have literally saved lives. In the audio clip below, Williams recounted how manufacturers initially tested them on dummies that mirrored male anatomy.

There are endless examples like these in today’s product development cycle in which only one perspective is represented and doesn’t adequately address the needs of all customers. So where do leaders begin? Williams says that a leader’s job is to pull together a diverse team of people who are smarter than you and have experienced completely different things than you. She adds, “Are you building a product for some folks or all the folks? If you’re building for all the folks, you absolutely need that representation on your team.”

2. It’s time to (re)investigate equity across our organizations

Many companies start their DEI work by hiring diverse candidates. If you think that your diversity programs meet each employee’s needs, Williams urges you to take a closer look at her own journey at X, the Moonshot Factory at Google.

Organizations are microcosms of society. With just a little investigation, you’ll likely discover tools, programs, and opportunities that aren’t available to large swaths of your employee base. Williams suggests starting with your engagement survey data. When you slice that data by demographic, she says you’ll quickly discover that everyone isn’t having the same experience—which ultimately impacts your ability to retain diverse candidates.

3. Holistic DEI programs require strategic business planning

Last minute or ad hoc hiring is inevitable. But with the resources that DEI leaders have at their disposal, it’s critical to understand what types of talent you need over the next two to five year. Of course, doing this work requires a lot of strategic business planning, especially when it comes to building a diverse and inclusive workplace. Planning should be two-fold. First, DEI leaders should plan with HR and Talent leadership to ensure that each role has the diverse perspectives and backgrounds your company needs. Additionally, she says she’s always recruiting, adding “What I hear when you say that diversity takes too long is that you’re not a planner.”

4. The lines between our work and home lives are blurrier than ever

When Baby Boomers began their careers, it was common practice to leave your political and social beliefs at home. It’s safe to say that Millennials and Gen Z in the workplace disagree with that advice. And with roughly 56 Millennials in the workplace, managers can no longer ignore the blurred line between our home and work lives.

Although the workplace has changed dramatically over the last few decades, it’s still a top priority to keep employees productive. How do you accomplish this in 2021 and beyond? Leaders need to start by speaking up and validating their staff’s concerns. More importantly, she says that leaders should wrestle with their personal beliefs about what’s happening in the world.

5. Organizations can (and should) leverage Census data

Few people get particularly excited to dive into Census data. Rachel’s one of them and believes that it’s a key exercise for any organization that wants to stay in business.

While Census data can be dense, Williams says that it will give you key insights into who will be here in the future, who you’re building products for, and who you’ll need to hire. Based on recent Census data, the Hispanic community is a blatantly obvious population for companies to market to and hire from. “I would say that if you haven’t started building or thinking about pulling in that community, you’re planning to be out of business,” she added. You can dive into the Census data yourself here.

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