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Resource Center / Justworks Updates

Black Lives Matter: 90 Days Later

On June 4, 2020, we published a set of Black Lives Matter commitments. Here is how we are doing and what we have learned so far.

Isaac Oates, CEO of Justworks
Isaac Oates
Sep 03, 20208 minutes
A clipboard which says: "Black Lives Matter"

On June 4, 2020, we published a set of Black Lives Matter commitments in response to the murder of George Floyd and subsequent activism within our workforce. This was a traumatic period for many of our employees and for many Americans, unfolding within the context of a global pandemic and economic crisis.

As a white male CEO, I have always believed that diversity within our company (and more broadly) was important and have come to appreciate more recently the pain and struggle that Black Americans face every day of their lives. I’ve spent time over the past 90 days trying to better understand this, and to make lasting changes to Justworks that counteract the structural racism that pervades society.

I am concerned that as George Floyd’s tragic murder recedes into the past, so too will the sudden attention towards racial injustice as well as the steps that we need to take to identify, confront and eradicate it.

It has taken centuries for structural racism to take its present form, and it will take decades to get rid of it. We will have to raise generations of children and grandchildren who can’t wrap their heads around why this racism existed, the same way that we look back at past generations and can’t imagine why people accepted certain behaviors and practices that are unthinkable today.

What we are doing today, though, is making the changes to our foundation that set into motion this change over a longer period. For each of the twelve commitments that we made in June, here is how we are doing and what we have learned so far:

Commitment #1

Training our people to actively combat racism. More than just “bias training,” we need to actively undo racism. Everyone at Justworks will complete the initial phase of this training in the next 30 days, with ongoing reinforcement thereafter.

How it’s going:

  • We rolled out an anti-racism training curriculum, which goes through May 2021.

  • The entire company has already gone through diversity training and bias training, both of which are available on the Justworks platform.

  • We held optional, facilitated “Coming Together” sessions where employees could share more about their experience in a productive way.

  • Other parts of the curriculum include anti-racism workshops for managers as well as Seed & Spark’s Film Forward: Racial Justice program.

What we've learned:
Each employee is in a different place as it relates to their experience. Many are in pain. Some want to engage more, others are not ready. We are doing our best to meet people where they are, while remaining firm in our commitment to anti-racism.

Commitment #2

Matching employee donations 2:1 to Black Lives Matter, Know Your Rights Camp, and Campaign Zero, or another related cause of the employee’s choice.

How it’s going:
Justworks donated $147k in matching funds to over 40 different organizations.

What we've learned:
Employees have a diverse set of causes that they are excited to support.

Commitment #3

Waiving 12 months of Justworks admin fees for newly formed Black-owned businesses so that we can help them get started. Offering a discount to all Black-owned businesses no matter when they were started.

How it’s going:
We launched this program. If you’re interested in participating, please reach out to your account executive or account manager, or get started here.

What we've learned:
We decided to expand the program to bring value to more companies in a way that more closely aligns with our mission and legal nuances.

Commitment #4

Fostering a culture of belonging, acceptance and love. Maintaining an open dialog with our employees and helping them feel safe in sharing their experiences. Our leadership team is making themselves available to all of our employees to listen 1:1. Experimenting with other forms of shared space so that employees feel safe and heard no matter how they prefer to communicate. Staying connected to what everyone on our team is experiencing and acting on that feedback. Our first survey will be in the next 15 days.

How it’s going:
Our inclusion survey uncovered a variety of pain points for employees, and we’ve created action teams that give us a way to engage our employees in finding solutions. We also conducted a number of “forums” that create more direct dialogues between senior leaders and our employees.

What we've learned:
This is an indefinite process. By implementing a deliberate feedback loop tied to action teams, we will be able continue identifying areas where we can improve and take steps to improve them for years to come.

Commitment #5

Creating space for our own employees to get together, grieve, and heal. Space means the venue, time, and priority; other things will have to wait.

How it’s going:
About 40% of our employees have attended a Coming Together session. We’ve continued to solicit ideas for other ways that we can facilitate this.

What we've learned:
This is easier said than done. It is often the case that the more formal something is, the less safe people feel. Much of this healing may need to happen “offline.”

Commitment #6

Making our leadership ranks and company as a whole more diverse and inclusive. Reporting internally, and on a weekly basis, the diversity of our recruiting pipeline. Partnering with other organizations to ensure that we have a diverse pipeline for every role. Taking a close look at all of our hiring practices and training our hiring managers to eliminate bias. Ensuring that Black employees have a solid career path at Justworks.

How it’s going:

  • We’ve posted our positions on more diversity job boards, formalized partnerships with Basta, Flatiron School, and Job Target, and increased the diversity of our executive search pool.

  • We’re working to increase our applicant diversity data tracking.

  • We’re exploring leadership and development programs that help offset some of the structural challenges that BIPOC face.

  • We’re examining our compensation and promotion processes to identify and eliminate bias.

  • We created and launched mandatory training for all interviewers, which includes how to eliminate bias in an interview.

What we've learned:
It will take sustained effort over a period of time to accomplish this, but may in fact have the longest lasting impact on attacking structural racism.

Commitment #7

Encouraging and expecting our employees to take time off to recharge, protest, or for any other reason. Closing Justworks on Friday, June 5, 2020, so that our entire team can do just that.

How it’s going:
We closed our office on June 5 as well as Juneteenth, June 19. We continue to encourage our employees to take time off, but this is a struggle, especially in our current environment.

What we've learned:
Burnout is real, especially in a remote environment where the lines between work and home are blurry or non-existent. I’m concerned about the mental health of the workforce at large as well as ours specifically.

Commitment #8

Refusing to do business with people who harass, intimidate, bully or abuse our people. Encouraging our people to speak up about misconduct and not tolerating retaliation.

How it’s going:
We rolled out an internal policy that enables our customer-facing employees to identify this kind of behavior and escalate it to management.

What we've learned:
This is a new policy, but our hope is that both our customers and employees can expect the highest level of professionalism from each other.

Commitment #9

Expanding the scope and influence of our DEI team, and growing the team. Posting the first job online in the next week.

How it’s going:
We promoted Michael Baptiste, our DEI leader, to Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion — a role that now sits within our leadership team. He is making his first hire within the newly expanded team.

What we've learned:
Having someone focused on DEI in the room can help keep the entire team focused on DEI, and can help shed new light and perspective on a wide variety of topics.

Commitment #10

Compensating our Employee Resource Group (ERG) leads for the additional work that they are putting into our company, effective June 1st.

How it’s going:
We rolled out a new rewards program for our ERG leads.

What we've learned:
It will take some time to see how this works, and most companies don’t compensate ERG leads so there isn’t a body of best practices. However, we look forward to evolving this program over time as we learn more.

Commitment #11

Incorporating this action plan, and other actions that we identify, into our goal-setting and accountability (OKR) frameworks.

How it’s going:
DEI objectives are included in our company-level OKRs. In addition, we have been sending out frequent internal updates on this set of commitments.

What we've learned:
Frequent updates have been especially helpful because we are making so many changes and to reinforce our focus on these commitments.

Commitment #12

Supporting and amplifying our Black-owned business customers.

How it’s going:
After some helpful conversations with Black-owned business customers, we are moving forward with two resources that will be available to our entire community: a MWBE Resources landing page (launching in the coming weeks) and a MWBE customer directory, which we’re building this fall.

What we've learned:
The Black founders we spoke to appreciate the guidance Justworks provides around opportunities such as the MWBE certification.

In addition to these commitments which we initially outlined, we are continuing to turn over stones and learn what else we can do to level the playing field and create a place where all of our employees feel like they belong. In order to build a company for the ages, we must first find ourselves on the right side of history.