Building a Diverse Team and Building for the Future

by Jan 20, 2020CMMA Blog0 comments

Melonie Parker

Melonie Parker, Chief Diversity Officer & Director of Employee Engagement, Google

Ice Breaker: “Stand and Be Noticed”

I will read you a series of statements. If they apply to you, please stand. Observe who’s with you and who is not. There’s no judgment!

  • If you travelled more than 100 miles today.
  • If this is your first time attending a conference.
  • If you have been in your current role for less than five years.
  • If you have been to Disney World in the past five years. If you are married.
  • If you have children, including the furry kind. If you are a cat person.
  • If you one of your favorite foods is pizza. If your favorite type of music is country. If you identify as a woman.
  • If you identify as a racially or ethnically diverse person. If you identify as a Christian.

What were some of the things you noticed during this exercise?


  • There are a less country music fans than I
  • There’s a lack of diversity
  • We have a lot of cat

Was there anything that stood out as glaring for you? Responses:

  • Surprised to see a lot of non-Christians.
  • Your questions near the end upped the tension in the
  • The atmosphere in the room shifted when we started talking about
  • For the question about identifying as a Christian, people were slower to stand up until others did and they felt

Typically, people call out the last three questions as uncomfortable.

I wanted to start the conference this way to encourage us to get comfortable about topics that we may be uncomfortable talking about. People are uncomfortable having difficult conversations. We don’t want to offend anyone, so we say nothing. Let’s extend grace to one another during this conference. MRI: Most Respectful Interpretation.

Another acronym I like: 

W.I.S.D.O.M: What I Shall do on Monday

What are the skills that you are going to be able to develop here at the conference that you can take back with you?

Media managers are continually challenged to stay abreast of trends and changes in technology at the same time that you are paying attention to your team and building a strong culture. All our employees have the same personal needs that we do.

Two aspects of Diversity

  • Representation
  • Inclusion

Representation and a culture of inclusion go hand in hand. Hard to make progress in one without the other. Goal is every employee feels respected and included as part of the team.

Who you hire largely determines your ability to succeed. I work in the heart of technology start-ups; a high percentage of them who fail do so because of people issues.

What should you be looking at when hiring a new employee?

  1. Take your

The world would have you believe that all the most talented people are already hired, but that is categorically wrong. When you look for nontraditional people and take a chance on them, the talent wars go away.

We at Google think diversity is a good thing to do. It’s critically important in order to have diversity in options and talents. It’s important not just for your team but for your organization as a whole.

What do we need to add into the group that we don’t have? What is the value the new employee needs to add?

Not so much focus on culture as it is; what does it need to be?

  1. The Search

Short and long-term options for the role. Short-term and long-term expectations for the person.

Build a profile with competencies, and desired future competencies. Write a job description:

  • Gender neutral
  • Words are important!
  • Cast a wide net

Many of us use recruiters to find candidates for us. Make sure the recruiters are focusing on the competencies needed for that job.

  1. The new hire

Once we make the hiring decision, need to make sure that person feels included as part of the team.

What community of support are you putting around the new hire?

A second component: fostering an inclusive workplace

  • Doesn’t mean just hiring more women or women of
  • Need a sense of
  • Your team may be quite homogenous, and you will have to work hard to create an inclusive

Fostering an Inclusive Workplace

  • Have your employees’ backs and make sure they know
  • It’s a gift that the employee chose your organization; they could work many other places.
  • Need to re-recruit your employees every
  • Build trust
    • Without trust they are just individuals who work for you
    • At Google, we did a two-year study on Highest performing teams had psychological security. It was okay to make a mistake.
    • When I moved from Sandia to high tech, it was a big Taking risks are part of the tech culture. There are lots of mistakes in the tech world,
    • Do a “no fail” No blame. Allows for creativity, strategic thinking, sticking your neck out without fear of getting it cut off.
  • Broaden and Build Mode
    • Trust, curiosity and confidence help broaden the mind and build a stronger, more resilient
    • What situations have been in where you felt unsafe? What did that feel like?
    • Now think about environments where you felt safe and protected? What did that feel like?
    • When I interviewed at Sandia, that was the first time I had been to New I took a wrong turn out of the airport and got into a bad neighborhood.

At the interview, a group took me out to lunch. The team was scared by a leader who managed by fear. I decided this team needs me; they need someone who understands what they’ve been through.

  • I had to immediately put into a place a new leadership In order for the team to trust those new leaders, they needed to know they were vulnerable.

Google is often in the news. We are unpopular in a bi-partisan way. We are in a complex environment; can’t rely on old patterns. We have to be really good at understanding what’s in front of us and responding appropriately. What patterns are emerging, and how do we solve for them. Opposing views can both be true!

Humor increases solution thinking and creativity. When the workplace feels challenging but not threatening.

In addition to hiring the best people, we also have to take care of the talent entrusted to us. We need systemic approaches that hold up over time.

Development, Progression

  • If we don’t focus on these, our employees will either leave or
  • Do you understand the talent gaps in your team? Do you know what motivates each individual? Do they know how what they are working on contributes to the entire organization? Do you regularly give them feedback, mentoring, encouragement?
  • A critical part of building diverse teams is giving Companies with diverse teams perform better, but constructive feedback is essential.
  • Implicit bias can creep into Inherent bias and prejudices we are not even aware of. How do we prevent this from happening?
    • Who do you give the most helpful feedback to? Those who are the most like you? Research shows the diverse employees often don’t get the feedback they
    • Protective Failure to give feedback for fear of being sexist or racist. Feedback gets watered down. They don’t know what to do differently.
    • White men get more specific feedback on what it takes to get to the next
    • Only 14% of women are satisfied with the feedback they get on the
    • It can be really uncomfortable to give feedback to those different from
    • The real reason is you don’t have an authentic relationship with that You have not had the courage to jump in and develop that relationship.
    • I have a team of retention case People who get referred to us have one foot out the door. We’ve been able to retain over 70% of them. Universally, they do not understand what’s expected of them and how they are doing against those expectations. Have not received specific, actionable feedback.
    • We incorporate what we’ve learned into our leadership


  • Attrition correlates with People don’t leave companies; they leave managers.
  • Are we aware of the privilege we have and are we lending that privilege to
  • Be aware of who’s in and who’s out and how we can make that person can be It won’t be forgotten! You will have made a major impact on that person.
  • Mentoring and providing sponsors
    • Regularly talk about talent and skills of our employees to others in the organization to encourage mentoring