Rebel Podcast: Life and Work on Your Terms

RHR 152: DEI Deconstructed with Lily Zheng

May 17, 2023 Kyle Roed, The HR Guy Season 4 Episode 152
RHR 152: DEI Deconstructed with Lily Zheng
Rebel Podcast: Life and Work on Your Terms
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Rebel Podcast: Life and Work on Your Terms
RHR 152: DEI Deconstructed with Lily Zheng
May 17, 2023 Season 4 Episode 152
Kyle Roed, The HR Guy

Lily Zheng (they/them) is a sought-after diversity, equity, and inclusion speaker, strategist, and organizational consultant who specializes in hands-on systemic change to turn positive DEI intentions into positive DEI outcomes for workplaces and everyone in them. 

With their book, DEI Deconstructed: Your No-Nonsense Guide to Doing the Work and Doing It Right, Lily presents a comprehensive set of solutions that hold organizations and their leaders accountable, laying out the path for anyone with any background to become a more effective DEI practitioner, ally, and leader. For more information on Lily and their work, please visit: https://lilyzheng.co/home/books and

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Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Lily Zheng (they/them) is a sought-after diversity, equity, and inclusion speaker, strategist, and organizational consultant who specializes in hands-on systemic change to turn positive DEI intentions into positive DEI outcomes for workplaces and everyone in them. 

With their book, DEI Deconstructed: Your No-Nonsense Guide to Doing the Work and Doing It Right, Lily presents a comprehensive set of solutions that hold organizations and their leaders accountable, laying out the path for anyone with any background to become a more effective DEI practitioner, ally, and leader. For more information on Lily and their work, please visit: https://lilyzheng.co/home/books and

What If? So What?
We discover what’s possible with digital and make it real in your business

Listen on: Apple Podcasts   Spotify

Buzzsprout - Let's get your podcast launched!
Start for FREE

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase, I may receive a commission at no extra cost to you.

Support the Show.

Rebel HR is a podcast for HR professionals and leaders of people who are ready to make some disruption in the world of work. Please connect to continue the conversation!

https://twitter.com/rebelhrguy
https://www.facebook.com/rebelhrpodcast
http://www.kyleroed.com
https://www.linkedin.com/in/kyle-roed/

Lily Zheng:

You need to be the one saying let me help you understand how this system works so that we can work together to make it better. Does that mean you'll get in a little bit of trouble sometimes? Yeah, yeah, you will, right. But it's good trouble. Like this is what I think HR needs to evolve to be if you want to maintain employee trust, right if you want people to see you as part of the solution, rather than part of the problem.

Kyle Roed:

This is the rebel HR Podcast, the podcast where we talk to HR innovators about all things people leadership. If you're looking for places to find about new ways to think about the world of work, this is the podcast for you. Please subscribe on your favorite podcast listening platform today. And leave us a review revelon HR rebels Welcome back rebel HR listeners extremely excited for the conversation today. With us, we have Lily Zang, a highly sought after dei speaker, strategist and organizational consultant. And they know that flashy one time training sessions or presentations just don't work. It takes hands on systemic change to turn positive dei intentions into positive dei outcomes for workplaces and everyone in them. We're gonna be digging well into that topic today. They have written a book called dei deconstructed your no nonsense guide to doing the work and doing it right. Thank you so much for joining us, Lily.

Lily Zheng:

Thank you so much for having me here today.

Kyle Roed:

Well, I am I am extremely excited for this conversation. We booked this a while ago and since we booked it the the book has really done well. And I think it's a testament to the content in the book and and the approach. So the first question I want to ask you, as I asked many authors is what motivated you to spend the time, energy? And really the pain and suffering of writing a book on dei deconstructed?

Lily Zheng:

Yeah, so a very common question I get, and I'll give a kind of cliche answer to start, which is authors write the book they wish they had, and I am no exception. When I started off in the DEI industry, as a bride, I pretty much knew college grad. Close to gosh, you know, eight, nine years ago at this point, I really wish I had any idea what I was doing, I had no clue, I was ascribing so hard to fake it till you make it. And all I knew about dei was that we were trying to make organizations more diverse, more equitable, more inclusive, and that we had no clue how to do that. There were no clear standardized best practices, there were no clear, consistent knowledge bases, the industry wasn't professionalized. It was just a whole bunch of really well intentioned, passionate people trying their best, but not necessarily succeeding. And in that environment, I found myself wishing that I just had more support, I had more resources, I had more research, more studies, more tactics, and approach this work that was pragmatic, that was grounded in outcomes that was informed by everything we've tried in the past, so that we could do better in the present, so we could make a better future. And I didn't have it. So you know, something I joke with people a lot about is, you know, I've been writing this book for like, 10 years, because what I did as a practitioner in the very beginning, is I just started collecting things. I started collecting articles, studies, research practices, every practitioner I talked to, I kept detailed notes on how they practice their work, what worked, what didn't. And there was actually a spreadsheet, I still have it of every single notes and study and article I captured over the the entirety of my dei career. And there must be something like 500 references in that article. And that was the direct source material for this book. Now this this book ended up with around 200 citations and not 500. Which boy, like let me tell you, it was a lot of effort to trim things down. But I tried to build this book with everything I wish that I have, and everything that I think that dei practitioners today, whether they're starting off, whether they are veterans in the industry, or whether they're not dei practitioners at all, and just organizational leaders trying to make a difference in trying to succeed. I tried to make a resource that anyone can approach sensibly learn from and deploy and practice.

Kyle Roed:

Yeah, I think that's, you know, first of all, thank you for Thank you for doing that work so that we did not have to go through the 500 different citations and all of that research. Although, you know, we were we were talking before I hit record, that it, it is such a complex topic, it's really it is really hard to try to like to actually figure out what are the best practices, you know, what, what are the simple, pragmatic things that I can do? And where do I start? is so often, I think, one of the most challenging questions, especially as somebody in our shoes, as an HR professional, or even a leader of people, that's just trying to get better at this work. It's, it's just so big and complex. So with that in mind, as you were thinking about this book and thinking about the really the resource that you needed, where did you start? Where does this book Start in the, the toolkit for lack of a better word, to deconstruct Dei?

Lily Zheng:

So the book starts with a downer of a chapter. And that's the feedback. I've gotten so many times, which is Lily, I one chapter in and I'm depressed. Because, you know, I, I needed to air out some of the skeletons in our closet of Dei, you know, we've been doing this work as an industry since the 1960s. It is not a young industry, it's, it's 60 years old. And yet, sometimes it feel, especially among, you know, fellow practitioners, that this work is very young, it doesn't feel mature, you know, lots of folks sling around practices that we're not sure work, we have folks deploying every intervention under the sun, anyone's calling themselves the DEI practitioner. We don't know what works, what doesn't. And so these are all the hallmarks of a really young infantile industry, except we've been doing this for 60 years, and it's multibillion dollar industry. And so I wanted to start the book, saying what many, you know, junior employees, people of color women, queer and trans people are already saying, which is, I've seen this dei stuff around for a while. And I don't think it's doing anything. So I wanted to start off the book with that, because that's what so many folks are thinking about. And the reason why this work hasn't worked, as we have countless studies to show is that both the people doing the work and the folks requesting the work with an organization's don't treat it as something ground double in outcomes in something practical and pragmatic. They treat it as a one size fits all a one time thing, a checkbox exercise a trendy thing, they treat it as impression management and crisis management and one time PR, rather than an organizational operational imperative. That's long term. And as a result, that's resulted in what I call the DEI industrial complex, which is this big machine of dei practitioners doing practices that don't work companies, paying those practitioners to get that checkbox of, well, we brought in somebody and everybody being happy, except for the people who these efforts are supposed to benefit, who don't benefit. So that's how the book starts. And it's a tough first chapter. I hear that a lot, right? The the first chapter is there's a little doom and gloom, but it goes up from there. It says, look, let's get ourselves centered on why it is this work hasn't worked. And knowing that, let's fix it. Let's undo all of these things. If we know how the system works, and we can identify how it's broken, we can reverse engineer how to do dei rights. And that's really where the book takes off. Right? It talks about how we do pragmatic dei that's grounded in outcomes. It talks about movement building, it talks about all the lessons from history talks about what structural change means in practice, dei strategy, change making roles, how to leverage trust, Chapter Nine is just an info dump of effective dei practices from the last 20 years. Like it's a really dense book. And it starts on this premise that we haven't been doing the work right up to this point. But this is a fixable problem.

Kyle Roed:

You know, I think I can I can tell that, that you have put the time, energy and passion into this project because it's, you know, your, your focus is very clear, but I think, you know, I think what's what's so powerful in what you just described is the fact that, you know, so often this is, this is Not work focused on outcomes like true key, as I would say, like key performance indicators, right, like what are the KPIs? What are the things that we're actually measuring to know if we're good? And the reality is, in that context, if we've been doing this for 60 years, why aren't we further along? Right, right.

Lily Zheng:

You know, one of my least favorite sentences, my least favorite sentences in this field is D AI is lifelong. It's a journey. Okay, that's great. That's, that's good, right? And I believe in it emotionally. And how do we know when we're doing better? Like, how do we know when we've succeeded? How do we know when we've achieved what we're trying to achieve? And that's a question so few people, ants, right, like, like, even in my second chapter, I talk about definitions. So we talked a little bit before we hit record about definitions, everyone retreads definitions, I'm no exception. I also retread definition. But I use very different ones than the definitions I've seen before. In fact, half of the definitions chapter is me pulling out other people's definitions and going, what does that mean? How do you measure that? How do you operationalize that? What are the KPIs? What does it look like in practice, and not having satisfactory answers? Because, look, these are the questions that that executives and middle managers ask all the time. When you show them the normal dei definitions, you say, diversity is the presence of difference. And they say, Oh, that's nice. I like that. How much is enough? Like, what are we aiming for? How do we know when we're done? How do we know when we've succeeded? Well, diversity is a lifelong journey. That doesn't answer the question. Like, how much is good enough? We have 10% women, that's probably not good, right? Is it? 50%? Are we aiming for representational parity? Is it 50%? At every level of the organization? If we have three, three leadership roles, should one and a half of them be women like how does this work? What are we going for here? And these sorts of very operational questions are things that I don't see answered very well who the guy stays around diversity, equity, inclusion, belonging, it almost doesn't matter what the language we use this because the stakeholders we are trying to reach are asking questions around. How do we know when we've succeeded? How do we know when we've gotten from an inequitable point A which I'm on board with recognizing what we have now as a working to have more equitable, inclusive and diverse point B? How do we know when we're there? And being able to measure and operationalize this work in terms of those outcomes is the absolute foundation of any kind of accountable dei work, otherwise, we're just spinning our gears, doing fluff and checking boxes until the world ends. And we've done that for 60 years, and we don't have much to show for it.

Kyle Roed:

I had I had a profound thought, as you were, as you were having the sharing that view. And it was what if another department used that excuse? Right? Like, like, what if the CEO asked the finance department? What's our profit for this quarter? And Finance said? No, that I was just like, yeah, yeah, that wouldn't fly in any other boardroom. Why don't only why does it fly in the DEI space? I think you're I just think it's so absolutely correct it and it's, it's kind of sad to say it's a little bit profound, compared to where we've been in the past. Right. And I, you know, for me, as a white cisgendered male, you know, that a lot of this stuff is really just new. And there's a lot of ignorance it myself included in in this work, but a lot of us are in positions of power and influence within our organizations, and, and struggle with with understanding what you know, what tools work what KPIs actually, should we measure, what, what should we be thinking about what language should we be using, and I just think it's so powerful to honestly to just kind of open up the dialogue and get people's minds in the right space and give them a pragmatic tool to understand and honestly feel, feel comfortable doing some of this work. And I know that that you touch on that in the book. So I want to want to touch about touch on that a little bit. Because I think a lot of times in in my seat. I'm not necessarily the final decision maker. But a lot of times I'm the influencer Right? Or I'm the person with the big idea and trying to figure out how do we how do we, you know, how do we ripple this out through the organization? So as you were going through writing this book has you've done all of this research over the years So how do you get through to those individuals that that just don't understand the importance don't don't necessarily like just don't have that life lived experience to understand how critical this is? How do you get through to those individuals in a way that that is productive and effective?

Lily Zheng:

It's a great question. And especially for those folks who already occupies them leadership position, I appeal to their sense of responsibility to their sense of duty, right. So I don't believe that every single person in a workplace should be responsible for doing every aspect of the AI work and being the world's biggest advocate, the biggest educator, strategist, organizer, change maker, builder, reformer, everything. I don't believe that that's possible. But I think every single leader has something that they are responsible for. Maybe it's a meeting, it's a department, it's a set of outcomes. It's a set of deliverables. It's a process, it's a practice, whatever. And so I say, you are somebody who cares a lot about doing a good job, as every leader I've talked to is, you're someone who is responsible, you want to make sure that the things under your purview, you do well, and you do effectively. And so even though you may not be super familiar with all the DEI lingo and the jargon, I know for a fact you wouldn't want anyone on your team to feel left out, you wouldn't want your team to have inequities of productivity, engagement, safety, all of that, because that would reflect badly on you. And that would mean you're not doing a good job. And I know you want to do a good job. So let's start by trying to find out how things are on your team, you probably haven't collected people data before, you don't know the state of your team, you might have talked to a few people, you have some impression. But wouldn't it be nice to know beyond a shadow of a doubt that you're doing a really good job or that you have some room to improve? Most leaders I talk to you say yeah, that would be really helpful, honestly, because I worry that I'm not a good enough leader, I'm anxious about it. A lot of leaders feel that. And so you work with them to say, let's try to figure out what's going on. And if everything's good, then you can be extra secure, and knowing that you're doing a good job. And if you have areas to improve, then now we have areas to improve. And from there, you can pull out with good people data, you can pull out differences by race, gender, class, ability, sexuality, traits, like, you know, whether you're a manager or an IC, your tenure, your role, right, these sort of non demographic aspects of our, you know, people's workplace experiences. And you can say to leaders, hey, we found out, you know, on your team, it turns out, the women feel a lower sense of belonging. And we have some interesting qualitative data, saying that it's because they're spoken over in meetings pretty consistently. I think one area for growth here, one opportunity to create better meetings might be to help women speak up more in the sessions, and to have some stronger norms around not interrupting people as much. That's something that you as a manager can absolutely do. And we can keep measuring this over time to see if we get better and better at it. Right, that's an inequity you can fix. This is something you can do this is your role. Now, did they have to read? I don't know how to be an anti racist if they have to read read white fragility? Did they even have to read my book? No. Right? You don't need to consume all the DEI related content to be able to achieve diversity, equity and inclusion in practice. And sometimes I worry that this field is often about what content you consume, to, you know, show your value or to show your worth and less about what outcomes you're able to create. There's a line in the book that says, Look, if you're someone that's able to achieve diversity on your team, and able to achieve equity and people's sense of well being people's pay people's access to opportunity, you're able to create a respectful workplace where everyone feels a sense of belonging. I couldn't give a if you consume no di content you don't know any dei influencer, You Don't Know Jack, because that means you're doing it right. You are you are achieving your goal. And on the flip side, if you read every book that's out there, you follow every influencer, you listened to every podcast, but your team is still inequitable, exclusive and homogenous, then it kind of doesn't matter. Right? You're not there again. You're just not there yet. And, and this is the power of centering outcomes, because it puts this pathway to success. That's, you know, almost boring in how pragmatic it is. Right? Like it's just look you either achieve it or you don't? And if you don't, here's what you do to get better. That's it, period.

Kyle Roed:

It's almost too simple.

Lily Zheng:

Almost. And of course, it's it's harder than that. Right. But right, but you know, that's how you talk about the work to bring people on board. Because it, it's often terrifying for leaders, right? Like the magnitude the work is terrifying. And, you know, to be fair, I just gave one example of one inequity in one process in one meeting, right? There are hundreds of these. And that's where the work gets really challenging. And to that extent, right, like, it is a journey, there's a lot of things to address, there's a lot of things to get better at. But it's a journey of very measurable steps, rather than this sort of abstract, you know, floaty, you know, like, if you just try, you'll get better at something.

Kyle Roed:

Right? Yeah. And that's definitely, that's definitely a risk. I think the checkbox risk is a really big risk. You know, we did that training. Yay. Right. Oh, mission accomplished.

Lily Zheng:

And what did the training do?

Kyle Roed:

Right, exactly. Yeah, I

Lily Zheng:

have a story about that. Actually, early on in my career, I actually went in to a company to deliver a bystander intervention training, one of the trainings that have quite a bit of research to support them showing their efficacy. And so I felt pretty confident. I was like, Okay, this is a good training. This isn't the check the box training, I am teaching this cohort of employees to speak up when they see something wrong. I'm using examples, scenarios, exercises, I'm having them rehearse what they're going to say, you throw practices that are shown to be effective, delivered my training on it was great. I left a year later, I actually get to come back and deliver the same training, though a two a one training to to the similar cohort. And so the first question I ask is, so what happened after last year, did it work? Did you speak up a whole bunch? And they said, you know, well, only we didn't do anything. We didn't do it. And I was devastated. I was devastated. I was like, but it was a good training, right. And they were like, oh, no, is a good training. And I'm like, but it didn't work. It didn't do anything. It didn't change your behavior. So clearly, something failed there. And they said, well, Lilly, the problem here is that our managers still didn't create inclusive environments for us, they didn't give us a sense of psychological safety. So none of us felt safe speaking up to begin with, none of us felt like we could use the skills that we learned in your training. And so the training was nice. But yeah, it didn't really do anything. I wish you had trained the managers. And that still sticks with me to this day, right, that that realization, that the training itself almost didn't matter. It was the tactical way in which the training was deployed to whom in what way to achieve what outcome that I had completely missed. I was focusing too much on whether there was a training or not, and not on what impact is this going to have? And everything I've done from that point, has tried to rectify the mistake that I've made there, right. Like, I don't want to deploy an intervention that doesn't work to that extent ever again.

Kyle Roed:

So can I ask a question on that? Yeah. Who, who decided who the audience for that content would be?

Lily Zheng:

Ah, that was a really good question. So I think one of the leaders I worked with made it a voluntary opt in training. Yeah. Okay. And lots of really passionate folks showed up. But they were very junior. In the org, they were also pretty early on in their careers. They were mostly women, people of color, queer and trans folks. But they didn't really have much power. And if I could have done it differently, I would have approached the client saying, it's useful for everyone to know how to speak up. But that's the second training. The first training is to reach your managers, every manager, including senior leadership, and help them understand how to create a psychologically safe workplace where speaking up is valued. And we have to have the first before we have the second, and I'm not compromising on that if you refuse to do that. I'm not working with you. I should have done that.

Kyle Roed:

So I think that's a really powerful insight. And the reason I asked that question is, you know, I was assuming that there was probably HR made some decision there, right? That's an area where like we as typically overseeing like a Learning and Development Initiative, or those sorts of things, or we're thinking about these problems, like, we should be asking ourselves that question, right, who's the right audience who like who's naturally inclined to agree with this perspective and who's not? Because those are the people that probably need to hear it more even though it might be a little bit more contentious of a training but

Unknown:

I just think that's a really powerful example. And I appreciate you being open and sharing that. And I also, I also appreciate how reflective you are about it, right, that's probably not easy for you to recollect it. But, well, I

Lily Zheng:

got lucky to come back to the same org and work with the same people, most practitioners never get that chance. And so we work with companies, and we just have to cross our fingers and hope that it did something, because we don't usually get to go back and work with the same group of people, right. And most companies themselves don't track long term impact metrics for any dei intervention, whether it's a workshop or an initiative, or program or anything. And so it tends to fall on practitioners who have some control, but not all control over how we engage with organizations to try to capture our own metrics. And so, you know, I definitely don't want people to get the sense that this is just a matter of like practitioner quality, right, like this is as much about the organization taking responsibility for using dei services and initiatives, tactically. And you mentioned HR and learning and development, I think that's actually a big factor in why this didn't work, because they treated a bystander intervention training, like learning and development, when they should have treated it as, like a foundational aspect of organizational trust and reporting. Right. And if it's just a Learning and Development Initiative, I would make it a voluntary opt in thing that's that's how you do learning and develop, right? You have a bunch of classes, a bunch of programs, people can choose what they want, spend some credits on, it gets in time. That's how it works. But you don't do that with bystander intervention. That's, that's how you make sure that when there's misconduct, people can report it. That's how you, you know, saw discrimination and protect against, you know, really bad practices happening in the org, not a learning and development course. Right. And seeing it as that might have even predisposed all of this to not be effective.

Kyle Roed:

Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. I just think it goes right back to that checkbox, you know, activities, oh, we need to do something. So let's just do something. And, you know, but if you're not intentional about the thing you're trying to achieve, we're going back to where we started, if you don't have an outcome in mind, what are you really doing? Right, right. So I have a question on that, because so we've talked about that a little bit, I'd like to, I'd like to get your perspective on, you know, let's say there. Let's say there's an organization that is listening to this. And they're like, yes, we agree, we need to measure something, as you're looking at organizations that are really kind of just starting to truly define outcomes and measure. What are those key outcomes that really, really matter that really move the needle?

Lily Zheng:

Yeah, a great question. And I'm going to answer this in a slightly different direction. I think stakeholders, especially senior leaders really want a short list of specific dei metrics. And I can't get you that, because the thing is, the DEI metrics that you should be measuring are the ones that matter to your stakeholders. And that's something that you need to be working with your stakeholders to find out. I actually recently published an article in the Harvard Business Review, called to make lasting dei progress measure outcomes. And that article talks about a range of different types of dei outcomes that stakeholders care about. Now, most organizations already because in the States, at least, are legally required to once surpass a certain size, measure demographics, they collect demographic information on race and gender, for example, to send back to the EEOC. But oftentimes, that's all they do. They just collect that demographic data and report on it and say we have a thriving dei metrics practice and it's like no, you don't like that's, that's the bare minimum you could do and that's legally required, you had to have what actually collecting the metrics looks like means understanding. For example, employee engagement means understanding employee access to decision making, means understanding how employees are getting feedback or receiving feedback. It means understanding how your progression practices work in terms of promotion. It means understanding onboarding and the employee experience. It means understanding even things like social impact and environmental impact on the world because employees are not your your only stakeholders, customers and local communities are as well. It means setting, you know accountability structures and measuring to what extent people's achievement of dei objectives have been Next, their pay or affects their evaluation. It means looking at essentially every aspect of how your organization's already functioning, and disaggregating people's experiences by demographic data to see where inequities lie. That's what dei metrics looks like, essentially, it all have people data, if you're HR, you know the importance of people data, but you probably haven't disaggregated it by demographics A, you don't know how or B, you're worried, you know, that you'll find something that right I heard discussed the other day fo fo right fear of finding out this, this idea that, you know, there's something going on, but you don't want to collect the data, because you're scared of what it's going to say. And if there's one thing that I'll push HR on, it's fear of mine. Like, I get it, you're worried that you're worried that you'll find something that you're gonna have to act on. But I hate to break it to you. That's dei metrics, right? You got to find out you have to know so you can act.

Kyle Roed:

I love that acronym. It's unfortunately, so true. I mean, there's so much that in our world that it's like, because when you find it out, now, the real work begins, right? The unfun kind of the harder stuff, the you know, the the rooting out of the inequity, if you

Lily Zheng:

ignore it, if you ignore it, then you can just, you know, claim ignorance forever. And there are no problems to solve, if you don't check if there are problems. Right. You know,

Kyle Roed:

I mean, you know, key to happiness is, is, you know, ignorance and low expectations. And, you know, everybody's, everybody's happy here.

Lily Zheng:

And this is why people don't like HR, Kyle.

Kyle Roed:

Fair point, Lily, fair point. I had, yeah. Yeah. That is not by the way, if anybody asks that is not on my strategic plan. But it's, you know, I think, really, really powerful concepts. I really appreciate the approach. And I can just tell that this, this will work, right for organizations that actually just take the time to truly utilize this, this little bit of difference in thinking around dei work can can make a difference and know if they're making a difference, because they actually know what they're measuring, and what the outcomes that we want are right. So I think, powerful concept, and I really appreciate it. I do want to shift gears. I'm fascinated to hear the responses here to the rebel HR flash round. Are you ready? Yep. Yeah, do okay. All right, perfect. Here we go. Question number one. Where does HR need to rebel?

Lily Zheng:

Ooh. So makes me think I was in a conversation a couple months ago at a conference where I was asked a very similar question. And I talked about HR often seeing themselves as as passive stewards of policies and structures and practices. But never as like, Div employee advocates. I don't usually see HR practitioners think of themselves as activists, for example. But I would argue HR needs to rebel precisely by becoming more adept at advocacy. Because who else has as much knowledge and exposure to your actual structures and systems as you write, HR knows so much about how organizations function? And they don't really do much with it? Like, you look at it, and you go like, well, that's not great. I'm going to make a comment about how this thing could be better when your activist employees are, you know, fighting tooth and nail just to figure out how things work so that they can advocate for them being better. And as a result, this apathy leads them to believe that you are gatekeepers, right saying like, well, you're, you're looking at the problem all day, and you're not doing anything. So clearly, you must be there to prevent us from making change. I know lots of HR practitioners that would vehemently disagree with them. But if you disagree, right, that you are gatekeepers preventing progress, then that means you need to be getting off your butt, and, you know, joining movements rather than trying to sandbag them. Right. You need to be the one saying let me help you understand how this system works so that we can work together to make it better. Now, does that mean you'll get in a little bit of trouble sometimes? Yeah. Yeah, well, right, but it's good trouble like this is what I think HR needs to evolve to be if you want to maintain employee trust, right if you want people to see you as part of the solution, rather than part of the problem. Love that good trouble?

Kyle Roed:

I like good trouble. I've been in trouble before. I think most of our listeners are probably nodding their head along with you here, literally that I think I think you've probably got an activist cohort here. But but it's not easy, right? Not at all. Yeah. And I think it's such a powerful concept. But me when I started in the profession, literally in my interview, they, the word gatekeeper was used, right, you know, and you know, HR is such an important gatekeeper. I distinctly remember that, and the more I've been in the career, I'm more like, I shun that word. And I think it's a, it's a, it's an excuse, it's like, it's the difference between being the compliance person and truly being a people focused leader, right, you know, there's different school of thought. So I appreciate that perspective. Question number two, who should we be listening to?

Lily Zheng:

The most marginalized, always, you should be listening to the people who you can't hear easily, you should be listening to the people who don't immediately speak up the folks who are too scared to share things for fear of retaliation, the folks who have the worst, most negative experiences in the organization, the people who you have to work hard to hear from at all, is who you should be listening to. Why? Because these people shed light on how your workplace is functioning in a more expansive, more insightful way than almost anyone else. Because of course, people who are having a good time are just going to believe that everything in the org is working the way it should. And if your job is to go further than just patting yourself on the back, right? If you wanted to pat yourself on the back, just talk to I don't know, your C suite and say, Who here is having a good time? They'll they'll be like, oh, sorry, I'm getting paid so much. And you'll be like, Okay, done. survey completed, we're doing great. And it's, it's again, you know, this idea, this fear of finding out, you have to seek out the scary things, you have to seek out the bad thing. Talk to your junior employees, talk to like, look closely at the exit interviews from people who are leaving, look at your, you know, cohorts of people of color, or women of low income folks, Junior folks, part time workers, temp workers, disabled folks, Muslim folks, Jewish folks, right? Look at these folks from historically marginalized groups, and ask like, how are things really here? Like, what is working what isn't and why? And if you center these groups, if you design for use groups, there's this concept called the curb cut effect, essentially refers to legislation passed that required that like, you know, site, sidewalks and curbs have this sort of dip. Right, where where people can go on, and that was that was passed to be accessible, right as part of the a DA, but who benefits from curb cuts, not just disabled people, right? People with strollers, joggers, delivery, folks? Everyone benefits when we design for the most marginalized, the curb cut effect describes how if we center the people with the most, you know, adverse experiences, we create better organization for everybody. That's who we should be listening to.

Kyle Roed:

I love that what a what a powerful concept for us to be thinking about. And I think I think many people listening to this right now are certainly going to be in full agreement that that is that's a powerful approach, but it's not easy. You know, again, goes

Lily Zheng:

easy. It takes work. If it was easy, we would have done it already.

Kyle Roed:

Yeah, exactly. Exactly. All right. Last question. How can our listeners connect with you and get their hands on the book? Yeah,

Lily Zheng:

well, you can follow me on LinkedIn, I post primarily on that platform at Lilly Zang 308 But you can just look a search up Lily Zane, and you'll probably find me. And you can find the book by gosh, going anywhere books are sold, it's on Amazon, it's on bookshop, indiebound, my publisher Berrett Koehler and find it through my website, Lilly zang.co. But just look it up dei deconstructed your no nonsense guide to doing the book and doing it right. I have to pub on LinkedIn, we have weekly book club discussions that have been all recorded. So if you want a free way to engage with every chapter of the book, and see if it's right for you, and to see if you want to read more, that's the best place to find it. And that's pinned on my LinkedIn page.

Kyle Roed:

Absolutely. And we will have all that in the show notes. Open up your podcast player, click in check it out. The book again is dei deconstructed your no nonsense guide to doing the work and doing it right available where books are sold call out here. It's currently the number one best seller in knowledge capital on Amazon. So pretty cool.

Lily Zheng:

Congratulations. Thank you so much. Appreciate the time. It's

Kyle Roed:

been wonderful. Thank you for the work you're doing.

Lily Zheng:

Thank you so much for having me here. Today

Kyle Roed:

all right, that does it for the rebel HR podcast. Big thank you to our guests. Follow us on Facebook at rebel HR podcast, Twitter at rebel HR guy or see our website at rebel human resources.com. The views and opinions expressed by rebel HR podcast are those the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any of the organizations that we represent. No animals were harmed during the filming of this podcast. Maybe

(Cont.) RHR 152: DEI Deconstructed with Lily Zheng