DEI Origins at GCommerce
GCommerce has charted its own path of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI). Equity was always a central building block of the famed company culture (recipient of Best Place to Work in 2019 by Outside Magazine). However, a fateful series of conversations in 2022 started us down a path of deliberate intention and focus. In the process, the company has become more introspective and more articulate about our beliefs. We’ve developed a process that ensures Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion are as much an aspiration as a practice, a process that insists we continue to make progress in pursuit of that goal never achieved.
It started with a conversation. The Founder of GCommerce, Scott van Hartesvelt, had just read the seminal and controversial Harvard Business Review (HBR) study titled “Why Diversity Programs Fail.” In it, the authors make a compelling case that the ways in which corporate America has addressed DEI have not only failed to produce positive results they have actually reinforced negative behaviors. He shared some of the findings with two colleagues, Alex Scharpf and Lindley Cotton, who were both better educated on the subject. The ensuing discussion made it clear that there were both moral and business imperatives to be thoughtful about DEI and that GCommerce was well-positioned to break the mold highlighted in the HBR article. A larger group of employees from across the company was quickly empaneled to jumpstart the initiative.
GCommerce DEI Charter
After lots of deliberation, a formal charter took shape with 4 key components. The charter became the organizing document for both the company itself as well as the company’s “DEI Study Group”, a group of volunteers from across all departments interested in helping GCommerce further the DEI mission through new programming and education.
GCOMMERCE DEI TRUE NORTH
To ensure our compass is always pointed towards equity, we established four guiding principles:
- Leadership from GCommerce is required. We chose to be thoughtful and progressive to achieve our moral and business goals.
- Forced participation and assimilation with DEI initiatives create animosity instead of growth and understanding. Therefore, we aimed to avoid this whenever possible, instead favoring more integrated efforts.
- Recruiting, education, job training, and mentoring are the tops of the spear when it comes to making meaningful progress. As such, they would help organize and instruct our overall DEI initiatives.
- Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion do not create just a moral imperative but also a business one. Companies that embrace diversity and equity perform measurably better in all facets of their business.
Per the Harvard Business Review study, people with varying perspectives on DEI topics often feel alienated by the tenor of discussions, further entrenching their beliefs and robbing others of hearing their perspectives. To combat this, Alex Scharpf authored our “Golden Rules” to maintain civil, effective conversations within the company moving forward.
- All Perspectives Deserve Respect - Inclusivity is not a set of hard-and-fast rules but rather an ongoing discussion. Very few things are “right” and “wrong” in every single context, and everyone deserves a chance to be heard.
- No One Knows Everything - Everyone comes from different backgrounds, with a different level of exposure to various issues. There’s no shame in not knowing something - inclusion is a constant state of learning and we’re all learning together.
- Everyone Makes Mistakes - Inclusion is a continuous process, and it takes time for a person to adapt to changes. No one is perfect, and mistakes are just that - mistakes. Use them as an educational opportunity, but don’t dwell on them.
STUDY GROUP GOALS
The goals of the DEI Study Group, as established at its onset, guide the group to this day:
- Bring awareness and education internally for GCommerce, while providing a safe space for conversation.
- Widen individual knowledge and understanding of DEI.
- Make GCommerce an inclusive company that others will be drawn to.
- Support and encourage other colleagues to be their true selves.
- Assist clients with better representation in marketing.
- Become a model for other companies to eventually emulate.
DEI MISSION STATEMENT
Finally, the charter articulated a formal DEI mission statement.
GCommerce is dedicated to fostering, cultivating, and preserving a culture of diversity, equity, and inclusion as both a moral and business imperative.
Our team members are the company’s most valuable asset. The collective sum of the individual differences, life experiences, knowledge, innovation, self-expression, unique capabilities, and talent that our employees invest in their work represents a significant part of not only our culture but our reputation and the company’s achievement. To that end, we not only embrace diversity, equity, and inclusion, we seek it out to strengthen our company.
We embrace and encourage our employees’ differences in age, color, disability, gender identity or expression, religion, sexual orientation, and other identity characteristics that make our employees unique.
DEI Study Group - Executing GCommerce’s DEI Charter
GCommerce is invested in making our DEI practices present and vibrant in the ongoing operations of the business. The group is open to participation from all corners of the company, with meetings held every other week and frequently attended by executives, managers, and team members from every department. The group’s work primarily focuses on the four areas of Recruiting, Education, Training, and Mentorship but remains largely self-determined while working in the spirit of the company mission and pillars.
Highlights - Two Years In
We are proud of the work the company has accomplished over the last two years. We are equally proud of the system: the process that we’ve established to ensure the work continues in perpetuity. Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion are no longer just things we promote but rather who we are and what we aspire to be.
Highlights from the first two years include:
- Invested over $200,00 in service hours to the development and management of our DEI initiative.
- Researched and delivered eight robust all-company education sessions.
- Provided resources for self-education on DEI topics.
- Created spaces for company-wide discussions to take place.
- Updated and improved recruiting and hiring practices, including consideration for better representation, social and neurodiversity sensitivity in interviews, and recruiting methodology.
- Evaluated daily accessibility at GCommerce, from website navigation and branding to internal meeting policies and ADA options.
- Conducted frequent sentiment surveys of the entire company for directional guidance.
- Reviewed and modified client marketing recommendations to encourage better representation in the marketing we deploy.
- Developed public-facing content related to DEI, to extend our education outside of the company.
GCommerce is not, nor will it ever be a finished product. It’s a company of individuals, each of whom contributes to the GCommerce story in their own way during their time with the company. Our consistency lies in our mission and our vision.
Looking at the immediate future, we are excited to be rolling out a more formal mentorship program, giving team members from across the company exposure to those with whom they may not normally engage. We are thinking hard about how to be more intentional with our recruiting practices because the most succinct way to ensure diversity and representation is by living these core values as a company. We are doubling down on engagement and education for team members, especially those who have recently joined the organization and weren’t there for the genesis of this grand project. We are learning. We are growing. Most importantly, we are listening with humility.