An inside look at 84.51°’s “Inclusive Leader Journey” that’s driving a more inclusive workplace.
By Terron Wilson
As a company that has always encouraged its associates to bring their authentic selves to work, 84.51°, a retail data science, insights and media company, was in a prime spot to embark on a diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEIB) journey. However, when it began building its DEIB road map in 2016, leaders didn’t know what it would take to create a culture of inclusion and belonging where all associates felt they could thrive.
For associates to fully embrace an inclusive culture, the organization needed a road map influenced by insights from their associates. That’s where the “Insightful Inclusion Council” came in and began to shape what the map would look like. The council was comprised of associates from across the business, including 84.51°’s president, several executive leaders, and a diverse mix of associates at all grade levels and functions. This group was a very integral part of building a strategic framework and helping to prioritize what should be included in the DEIB roadmap. Based on feedback from one-on-one associate interviews, the team was able to narrow down what the company’s focus areas should be.
In 2018, 84.51° rolled out their three-year DEIB road map company wide, and since then, there’s been a tremendous change in its culture. Much of the success is due to commitment from senior leadership to not only support the mission, but to also back up their commitment by demonstrating inclusive behaviors
The company’s “Inclusive Leader Journey” is an eight-week transformative experiential program built on research regarding intrinsic inclusion from Janet Reid, PhD. and Vincent Brown. It was rolled out as a pilot in the fall of 2021 and the initial program included the company’s president along with his executive leadership team and two other groups of executives. The journey was then offered to all managers in the first two quarters of 2022 with plans to offer the program to all associates. 84.51° believes all associates are leaders – regardless of title – and they all should consistently demonstrate inclusive leader behaviors and foster psychologically safe environments where everyone can thrive and show up authentically.
By breaking down bias barriers, employees will feel like they belong, can show up authentically, and thrive in the contributions they make to the business and community.
One of the focus areas of the “Inclusive Leader Journey” was around biases. To affect real change in a diverse culture of inclusion and belonging, they are many biases that must be disrupted. Leaders that consistently showed up in a way that makes them more naturally inclusive often demonstrate these four bias-disrupting behaviors.
- Curiosity: proactively seeking to understand different point of views and experiences.
- Trust: feeling safe to share ideas, identity, and experiences without judgment.
- Empathy: connecting with someone by having an open mind and actively listening to see the world more objectively.
- Significant relationships: committed to learning and respecting others for who they are.
Participants spent four of the eight weeks on these bias disruptors. The journey was a “learn, do, and inspire model,” allowing participants to learn about various DEIB concepts such as unconscious bias, psychological safety, and trust, along with taking a deep dive into the bias disruptors. For the “do” aspect, there was the opportunity to apply what was learned through different hands-on activities. Participants were then encouraged to inspire others by sharing their experiences and by modeling the behavior of an inclusive leader.
84.51°’s DEIB journey doesn’t end here. In fact, the company has released an extended road map through 2025 to continually go deeper in how to show up as inclusive leaders and in communities through advocacy. By breaking down bias barriers, employees will feel like they belong, can show up authentically, and thrive in the contributions they make to the business and community.
Terron Wilson is diversity, equity and inclusion manager and the DEIB road map architect for 84.51°.