An interview with HRx

Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI), is not a destination, it’s a journey. This is why we’ve decided to invest in our EDI efforts at Nucleus and woven initiatives into our strategy and annual goals as an organization.

EDI is not a ‘one and done’ endeavour, it requires continuous improvement which also happens to be one of our core values. Nucleus is committed to fostering an equitable, diverse, and inclusive workplace. Change in an organization is created by driving awareness, engaging in conversations, asking tough questions, implementing strategic development, investing in learning programs, and exercising measurement and analytics by asking our staff members directly the tough questions (and being open to the changes that they want to see). The time is now to determine our desired outcome, the capabilities we possess to make that happen, and the areas in which we need to become more educated on in order to evolve.

Last year we partnered with HRx to assist with the rollout of our EDI program and we’re exciting to be working with a leader in this space. Our CEO, Martin DesRosiers, recently had the opportunity to sit down with Wyle, the founder and CEO of HRx and ask him a few questions. We wanted to engage Wyle in an open and honest conversation.

  • Give us a snapshot of your experience

I started HRx five years ago, but my route to this point began many years before that. As an immigrant from Yemen navigating an education system and workforce as a person of color I saw first hand the need for EDI training.

I came to Canada ten years ago for graduate school and even though I was fortunate to meet wonderful people who supported me, the journey wasn’t always easy. Although I graduated at the top of my class and had a lot of relevant work experience abroad, I found the only times I received job interviews was when I had someone personally endorse me. This is when I became interested in blind hiring–the concept of removing identifying information such as race, gender, religion, and even things like schools and former employers from an application because they could unconsciously bias a hiring manager. There’s a well-known case study from the 1980s that fascinated me, it showed how orchestras were filled with predominantly male musicians, but when they started doing the “blind auditions” it became more of a 50/50 gender split. Due to their unconscious bias that men were better musicians, they were inadvertently narrowing their talent pool by 50%. By making the hiring process more equitable they had a more diverse–and skilled–orchestra. But hiring practices are only the beginning. I was also interested in long term company culture, employee retention, and promotion practices. I knew simply hiring diverse candidates won’t benefit the business or the employees if the infrastructure wasn’t there to support them.

After working for over 10 years in consulting and project management, primarily focused in the areas of process improvement, technology, and strategies for change management, I kept coming back to the concept of EDI and launched HRx.

  • Tell us more about HRx

At our core HRx is a consulting firm that aims to create inclusive work cultures for everyone. We work with leaders to better assess their organization’s unique culture and systematically identify the barriers minorities face and then develop practical and data-based strategies to build stronger more inclusive teams.

  • EDI, what does this mean to you

For me it always comes back to the “E,” equity. I want everyone to have an opportunity to succeed, regardless of what your background is, how much money your parents make, or what school you went to. Whenever I see an imbalance of power, it bothers me. But it also encourages me because it reminds me that we have work to do at HRx.

  • Where can businesses start (How do we get the entire company—including our leadership team—on board with diversity and inclusion initiatives?)

There’s an opportunity for every business to make their organization more inclusive. It’s not about what industry they’re in, the size of their company, or even the demographics of the staff, the right company is one that is willing to commit to doing the work to make change. It’s a long journey, if the leadership is not committed, halfway through they will quit. We have found that companies who resort to a quick online course or a one-size-fits-all seminar don’t see the results they want and end up having to start over. For HRx, we suggest starting by scheduling a consultation. We will walk you through our systematic approach that yields results. After that conversation, if the team is ready to commit, we create tailor-made solutions for your company, whether that be training, consulting, or analytics.

  • Why does EDI matter in today’s workplace

There is a lot of research that shows that diversity leads to better results and that organizations that are gender and racially diverse outperform organizations that lack that diversity. A diverse team allows you to serve your clients better, innovate better, and have a more loyal workforce that believes in you–but this is only half the picture. Sure I can make a case for why it’s good for business, but that’s not as important as the fact that having EDI in the workplace has become a necessity. Your people are demanding equity, they are demanding fair access. If they look at the top and they see, for example, all men or a lack of racial diversity, they will think this is a problem.

  • What would you say is the most difficult part of implementing a D&I program?

The middle part of it! Change is exciting at the beginning, messy in the middle, and rewarding at the end. The middle part is messy–there are a lot of unknowns, there might be resistance, people might be suspicious, and some won’t understand what the issue is.

To help companies navigate the messy middle we do our best to better prepare them and provide ongoing support during the entire process. We tell them there will be issues, it’s not going to be a smooth ride, just be prepared. Many companies aren’t willing to go on the whole journey, but unfortunately there is no quick fix. Again, we come back to commitment, those are the companies that see real results.

  • When thinking about the importance of representing our brand as a diverse and inclusive workforce, we struggle with wanting to represent our employees from underrepresented populations, but we also don’t want to tokenize anyone. How do we approach presenting the work we are doing on EDI in the background to prospective employees without making anyone in our current office culture feel tokenized?

Tokenism is harmful for EDI efforts for two reasons, one is you may end up hiring an unqualified individual because their race or gender fit a specific profile and two you’re setting the person up to fail. This is not good for your organization and it’s not good for them.

  • How do you counteract comments from leadership such as, “we just hire or promote the best person of the job, regardless of race or gender”?

There’s a misconception that diversity hiring is about lowering the bar and standards and I always challenge my clients to raise the bar and standards. I push them to really go and find the qualified, diverse candidates. If you work with a recruitment firm, you have to hold them to higher standards. I want qualified, diverse candidates and I will pick the best person for the job from that diverse pool. Too often we end up with a pool that’s homogeneous and that’s a problem.

  • Can you provide an example of how you would help support a direct report to feel a sense of inclusion, belonging and equity on a daily basis?

An important focus of our work at HRx is supporting leaders to be more inclusive, whether that’s through workshops or coaching. An inclusive leader is someone who demonstrates these four key traits:

  1. Commitment: be a leader that shows people they committed to helping. This means prioritizing conversations with them, and enlisting outside support from a company like HRx.
  2. Humility: be a leader who appreciates that we all see the world differently. Your experience is not universal.
  3. Curiosity: Be a leader who is genuinely interested in listening and exploring different perspectives
  4. Courage: Be a leader willing to face uncomfortable and difficult situations. Some of these conversations are messy, but you want to be open to making mistakes and having tough conversations.
  • What are some common mistakes companies make in regards to diversity and inclusion?

There are two common mistakes I see companies make with regards to EDI training.

  1. They “copy & paste” a plan. They google what someone else has done and just do it. An EDI effort needs to be tailored to each organization because each company has a unique culture and history and demographic. In fact, jumping into ad hoc initiatives without a systematic plan can be more damaging to the overall EDI effort. At HRx every proposal, plan, program is catered specifically to each client. There is a tremendous amount of research that goes into what we do–it’s not “one-size-fits-all.”
  2. Not using data. You would never create a sales or marketing plan without having done extensive research and collective qualitative data, the same is true of implementing an EDI plan. You have to collect data before taking action. At HRx we rely heavily on data we obtain from employee questionnaires, focus groups, and an in-depth audit process and then we employ principles that have a predictable cause and effect relationship.

I wanted to personally thank Wyle for his time answering these questions and working with our teams these past few months. We participated in a handful of sessions last year with Wyle and we’ve had extremely positive feedback from each session. We look forward to our continued partnership with HRx in 2021 and beyond as we refine and enhance our EDI program.

Change doesn’t require time, it requires commitment

– Wyle Baoween | HRx