How to Improve Diversity and Inclusion with Your Recruitment Approach, with Dr. Kimberly Harden

Gabriela Molina

Dr. Kimberly Harden is the Founder and CEO of Harden Consulting Group and an award-winning DEIB strategist, award-winning educator and author, and creator of The Allyship Challenge. She’s taught Communication Studies at the Seattle Central College, the Highline College, and the Regis University College for Professional Studies. Being an advocate for diversity in educational institutions, she founded and directed JAGWILL, a company to help people improve their communication skills.

Dr. Kimberly Harden

Read the transcript

Luis:

Welcome, ladies and gentlemen to the DistantJob Podcast, your podcast about leading and building awesome remote teams. I am your host, as usual, Luis. And today, my guest is Dr. Kimberly Harden. Dr. Kimberly is the Founder and CEO of Harden Consulting Group and an award-winning DEIB strategist, award-winning educator and author and creator of The Allyship Challenge. She’s taught Communication Studies at the Seattle Central College, the Highline College, and the Regis University College for Professional Studies. Being an advocate for diversity in educational institutions, she founded and directed JAGWILL, a company to help people improve their communication skills.

Luis:

And it’s the second time she’s in the podcast. The last time was in November 2019. And of course we all know that nothing of significant import happened in between. Right, Kimberly? Well, not a lot to discuss, so welcome to the show, again.

Dr. Kimberly Harden:

Thank you. So good to see you again.

Luis:

Yeah. Did I miss anything in the bio? You have a mouthful of a bio, so I hope I didn’t miss anything.

Dr. Kimberly Harden:

No, you covered it all. A lot of things you mentioned I totally forgot about, so that’s great.

Luis:

Awesome, so it’s been an interesting couple of years. There’s that old Chinese curse that “May you live in interesting times.” And I definitely feel that that’s been the case. It’s been interesting times, but the last time we were on. We talked a lot about managing remote interns and basically, that’s right, dealing with remote internships and all of that. The world took a big shift toward remote since then. Also, all the conversation about race and equity and diversity came into the picture, into a much more broader picture all around the world.

Luis:

And I’m wondering, I guess, the first thing that I’d like to ask you is how do you feel all these factors combined over the past two years?

Dr. Kimberly Harden:

Honestly, the last two years have been rough on many people for many different reasons. When COVID hit, school shut down and so, I was still teaching at that time at the university and so, you have to learn how to pivot. And so, the interesting thing about that was I had been advocating for the university to create some online courses for many years, and they kept saying they couldn’t do it for financial reasons and all of those kind of things. Well, what happens? COVID hits, we automatically went online.

Dr. Kimberly Harden:

They spent a significant amount of money, I believe it was like $300,000, ensuring that all faculty members knew how to teach online. And so, I just laughed at that because on the one hand, you’re saying there’s no money, but as soon as disaster hit, there’s money. And so, I’m a firm believer in disaster resiliency. And so, I think that should have been something that was put into place before disaster happened. And the university has reopened, but a lot of students dropped out of school because they didn’t want to go back to campus. They didn’t feel safe with the pandemic still lingering. So, they should have put mechanisms in place before things happened.

Dr. Kimberly Harden:

So, that was one thing that learning how to pivot and teach online and then also, managing students’ mental health. Because a lot of students, people kept saying, “Oh, well, it’s hard for students to be away from their friends.” And in my conversations with students, it wasn’t so much about the social isolation, it was more of going back home. And they didn’t want to because maybe their home life was so traumatic. And so, I had students emailing me saying, “My parents are alcoholics or drug addicts, or we have different political views and I have to be the care provider for my siblings,” and all of those things.

Dr. Kimberly Harden:

And so, it becomes a really complex when you’ve been away from home for three or four years, you’re still young in your early 20s, and then you’re forced into this care provider role that you are not used to and resentful of doing. So, how do you navigate that? And then how do you also show grace and mercy to your students when they fall behind on assignments because there are some colleagues who are like, “Oh, students aren’t doing their homework.” And I’m like, “They have so much more to deal with than turning a paper in on time.”

Luis:

Exactly. It’s the middle of a pandemic, for Christ’s sake.

Dr. Kimberly Harden:

Exactly, so show some grace and mercy. And then on top of that, I encourage colleagues, “You need to revise your curriculum because having assignments due every single week isn’t necessary.” Sometimes you realize it’s just busy work and not productive work, so I think lot from that standpoint as an educator, COVID provided a lot of great opportunities.

Luis:

Yes. I was just going to ask because I’m very interested tangentially. I mean, my whole shtick is the remote thing and specifically remote businesses. But I’m very interested in leadership and in education specifically because I do think that a big problem in most businesses is that people stop employees and even business leaders at times stop learning after they leave their course or their MBA or whatever. While to me, education should be a constant thing, but I definitely feel, again, this is problematic for the remote guy, but I feel that I always have a lot of trouble with online courses. I feel that online education has its own set of challenges, so I’d like to ask what you felt about that. And as an expert in education, what do you try to do differently to help surmount those challenges?

Dr. Kimberly Harden:

Actually, I didn’t do anything differently. I taught my online courses the way I teach my in-person classes. And for me, that really helps because we had the setting where most students turned on their cameras, so we interact. I was able to look at them and see what’s going on and how I interacted with them. And on the days that they didn’t want to turn on their cameras, if 50% or more of students didn’t feel like turning on their cameras, I would say, “Okay, we’re all turning off for cameras and we’re just going to have a conversation in the dark.” And so, that really worked.

Dr. Kimberly Harden:

Plus I think it really strengthened the interpersonal communication because I know my students so well that I could still sense when something was going sideways. And so, I always defer to my personal interactions and if something was askew, I would just type in the chat one-on-one, be like, “Hey, is everything okay? Do you need to take a break?” Or whatever. But then also being mindful and using common sense to know that just because you’re online, you still need to build in those breaks just like you would if you were in-person.

Dr. Kimberly Harden:

And so, I would give a lecture, have a conversation, then I’d say, “Okay, well, go get your breakfast. We’re going to take a 15-minute break. Go get your breakfast, come back.” We would sit there and eat breakfast and still have a conversation and engage in learning. So, for me, it was an easy transition. For a lot of people and I’m sure it’s easier with certain classes. I’m sure it’s very challenging trying to teach a Physics class online or a Mathematics course online.

Luis:

I don’t know. I wouldn’t let those people off the hook so easily. You can make Physics and Maths, you can engage with your students as well, right?

Dr. Kimberly Harden:

Yeah. I didn’t say it was not doable. I just said it’s a little bit more challenging.

Luis:

Yeah, yeah. Exactly.

Dr. Kimberly Harden:

And then I think also professors who didn’t want to have those conversations or those relationships with students, it was probably more challenging for them. But I’ve always had that with my students, so it was easy-breezy for me.

Luis:

What about new students? From what I understood, you had a relationship with most of your students pre-COVID, right? But how have you built this relationships with people that you’ve only ever known through the internet?

Dr. Kimberly Harden:

That was a little easier simply because most of the new students were referred by other students. And so, they had a feeling of what I was all about. And so, the first day of class, I would say, “Oh, I don’t recognize your name. Are you new? And tell me a little bit about yourself.” And I would do that for all the students, whether I knew them or not. We would have the introductions just so they get to know each other, but I’d like to play and tease my students and I can take it as well as I can dish it out. And so, it was just fun.

Dr. Kimberly Harden:

And so, one of the icebreakers would be, what one item in your house best represents your essence? And so, they would have to go scramble around their room or their residence hall and figure out what item represents me and then explain why it represents them. And it made them think and it showed us a little bit about their personality. And so, when they asked me that same question, I said, “Well, there’s two items in my house that represents me. One is a silicon spatula and the other is a Snickers bar, because I’m a little bit nutty.” And so, once I broke the ice with them that way they’re like, “Okay, Dr. Harden is relatable.”

Dr. Kimberly Harden:

And then also, again, just sending emails, sending little chats in the chat box to say, “Hey, how are you? How are things? What’s going on? How can I support you? All those things make a difference. And my work as an educator also translate into my work as a leader because I do the same thing with my team. We’re not in-person anymore. We’re not in the same space anymore. And so, I will send an email.

Dr. Kimberly Harden:

Usually, I’ll send texts, to be honest with you and be like, “Hey, just checking in. How are you?” This is not a work-related text. I’m just checking in to see how you’re doing.” And then, once a month or every six weeks or whatever, we’ll all come together as a team just to have a check-in on different projects, but mostly just to have that one-on-one face-to-face interaction just to say, “Hey, how are things? How can we support you in this moment?” And it does not have to be work-related.

Luis:

Yeah, that’s actually a thing that people forget way too often. And I guess some people are just naturally better at it, like you. You probably don’t need to remind yourself to do that. You’re just naturally interested and engaged with people. But I do think that if you’re not that person, it behooves you to set a couple of reminders to, “Hey, poke these people in your team every so often. Just chat. Obviously, don’t make it awkward. Just make it conversational and take some interest in those people.”

Luis:

And there are some optimizationers that say, “Oh, but I’m too busy with the business. That’s not optimal,” et cetera, et cetera. I like to refer those people to an old book, very, very, very old, an American self-development classic, How To Make Friends & Influence People. Not the best title, but to me it still holds up to me. It still holds up and I learned a lot from it. And it does show that no matter how efficient you get at an operation, you need some amount of personal, legitimate, honest connection with the people you’re working with for things to go smoothly.

Dr. Kimberly Harden:

Absolutely. I’m a firm believer that we’re all interconnected, and so, I don’t need to know all of your business. If you choose not to tell me, you could just say, “I’m going through some things.” And I will always say, “I’m here to support you if you would like my help, if you’d like my support, whether it’s emotional or something else.” But also, people always say separate work and personal life, and that’s just not realistic.

Luis:

No, it isn’t.

Dr. Kimberly Harden:

And so, people need to realize that, we always talk about supporting the whole person, the authentic person, and it comes with a good, bad, ugly, messy, pretty, all of that. And so, we have to be mindful. And I’m sure you hear this all the time, people talk about being empathetic leader. I don’t agree with that. I believe you need to be a compassionate leader. Because empathy is just saying, “I can relate to you, but I may not be able to relate to you.” Compassion is, “How can I help you through this?”

Luis:

That’s an interesting distinction. I mean, I definitely agree with that. I do think that we could all use more compassion. Compassion is nice. But I also try to push people to work a bit in their empathy. There’s no good reason why we can’t put ourselves in the shoes of other people. Maybe we can never feel 100%, obviously. It’s hard to do a body shifting experience, but the shoe shifting experience should be within the reach of most people. So, I think that both things are important, but I do appreciate the emphasis on compassion, especially after the two years that we just went through. We could all use a little bit more compassion. Right?

Dr. Kimberly Harden:

Absolutely.

Luis:

Yeah. So, something that I’ve been wanting to pick your brain about was about the effect of remote work and diversity and inclusion. I’ve had some experience of that though. I’ve always worked for an international company, so I didn’t experience so much directly. But for example, I have a friend that was building a marketing company in Canada, and he was anti-remote work. He was like, “No, I want people to get together,” and this and that.

Luis:

And then after COVID hit, I check in with him after six months or so and it was like, “Oh, I’m working with some people from Nigeria. They’re great. I love them. It’s really great talent.” And I’ve seen this. I’ve seen this specifically in my area of marketing. I’ve seen a boom in marketing specialists from Nigeria. And I have to believe that it wasn’t just a coincidence that COVID sparked. Also, well, since my wife is Brazilian, I’ve been more in touch with Brazil and I also see a lot of movement there. A lot of people from Brazil entering the Northern Hemisphere workforce and doing quite well at that.

Luis:

So, I have these data points, but I’ve also heard that there are even within the same country, even within let’s say the US, there are a lot of people benefiting from remote work in terms of being more listened to, not having to worry so much about code switching, et cetera. But those are not really things that are in my field of expertise that I’m experienced with. So, I wanted to ask you about that and maybe as a follow up to that, if there’s any worry at all that things are degenerating now that people are pushing to shift from full remote to an hybrid situation, and people should need to go back to the office at least some amount of time. I know that’s a lot to dump on your plate. I can repeat it if needed, anything, but I’d like your thoughts on that.

Dr. Kimberly Harden:

I would say that being in the DEI space and in COVID and work remotely is probably more exhausting than it was in-person. And this is just based on conversations that I’ve had with colleagues or fellow consultants that they feel like the DEI initiatives have stalled somewhat, because leaders feel like, “Oh, well, we’re not in the office, so we don’t have to worry about it as much.” And so, they’ve put it on the back burner or they are expecting the one or two people of color in the organization to lead the entire initiative for the entire organization.

Dr. Kimberly Harden:

And they’re using the pandemic and lack of staff or lack of funding and all of those excuses to not hire people. And so, basically people are expected to do three jobs in the workplace. They’re expected to do their title job. They’re expected to do the DEI piece, which is usually a volunteer piece that they’re not paid for. And then, they’re also expected to maintain or develop friendships remotely. And so, this is actually a conversation that I had this morning with a friend of mine who was like, “I’m just tired because people keep sending me virtual happy hour request as though I don’t have a life outside of work.”

Dr. Kimberly Harden:

And so, there’s that extra piece of having just to perform, so to speak and it’s exhausting. And I’m having conversations with a lot of people in the DEI field, who said that they’re actually having their concern about their mental health because they feel like it’s a lot more challenging than it was in-person. And it’s also more challenging because a lot of people have resigned, so that means they have more work on their plate than they have before in terms of DEI and also their regular job. So, it’s challenging.

Dr. Kimberly Harden:

And people are experiencing racial battle fatigue and I think that’s a misnomer because it’s not just about races. Anyone from a historically marginalized community, who’s expected to “perform,” and it’s exhausting. It manifests mentally and psychologically and physiologically. And so, I’m receiving a lot of emails from people saying, “I resigned because I’m having mental health issues. I’m having physical health issues,” more so in COVID then they were having in-person.

Luis:

Yeah, that’s definitely not what I was expecting, so let me wrap my head up. First of all, the first piece of that I find impressive, I mean, again, I have limited knowledge because my background is not in the North American corporate, the North American entrepreneurial world, But it just sounds incredibly counterintuitive to me that people basically say, “Oh, you’re our employee person of color, so I guess you’re in charge of the DEI. Good luck.” That just sounds… it doesn’t make any sense to me, but I don’t know how people got there. And it just sounds outright even disrespectful, but-

Dr. Kimberly Harden:

It is, and it happens a lot.

Luis:

I don’t understand the logic. I don’t understand the logic behind it. To be fair, what is the logic? Is it because the person is a person of color, they automatically qualify to handle DEI?

Dr. Kimberly Harden:

A lot of or organizational leaders believe that, yes. And then I also think that part of the problem is that in certain organizations, there are so few people of color that they’re automatically tasked with it. So, for example, in most workplaces, I have been the only person of color or the only woman of color. Even at the university, I was the first black female faculty member in my department, and the university was founded in 1891.

Dr. Kimberly Harden:

And so, we’re given these invisible task that, this invisible workload that we have to take on just because we’re there and we’re a person of color or a woman or whatever marginalized community group. And so, that’s real. A lot of people, a lot of leaders will just defer to that person of color and say, “Okay, we’re going to pick you in charge of this.” And it’s unfortunate and it’s exhausting. And oftentimes, it doesn’t make sense.

Dr. Kimberly Harden:

And so, a part of my job is to have conversations with these leaders about, “Why are you doing that? And how can we make this better not only for the person tasked with this initiative, but how can we make it beneficial for the entire company and the community?” So, when people say, “Oh, yeah, we want to hire diversity.” Well, we’re all diverse, so what does that mean and why does it mean that to your organization? And then, how is it going to benefit the targeted community? And so, I have those conversations before I even accept a contract.

Luis:

Yeah. Okay. I think it’s a good time to bring in the distinction that you made in your book. By the way, I will have the link in the Show Notes, of course. We’ve talked about it on the previous podcast. I’m talking about The Allyship Challenge. And the subtitle is How to Move Beyond Performative Allyship and Become a Genuine Accomplice. And I do feel that what we’re talking about is that. If I just pick someone, the person of color and say, “Okay, you handle the I,” I feel that that is the definition of performative ally, is it not?

Dr. Kimberly Harden:

Absolutely.

Luis:

What is that conversation like? How can people in leadership positions in these companies that are now increasingly remote, how can they step beyond that and become genuine accomplices?

Dr. Kimberly Harden:

First of all, they need to have some honest conversations with themselves, individually and also, with their team. Again, when leaders say, “We want to hire for DEI, or we want to bring in a consultant,” I question them about why, “Why now?” And they can’t say, “Oh, it’s about time.” It’s been about time, at least for the past 25 to 30 years, so why now? And specifically, shifted once George Floyd was murdered and the protests occurred. And so, that was really the impetus for a lot of these DEI initiatives.

Dr. Kimberly Harden:

But it’s not enough just to say, we’re going to hire a bunch of BIPOC or marginalized people. It has to be a mutual relationship. And then also, what is the equity piece of that? People talk about inclusion. I’m sure you’ve heard about inclusion, inclusion, inclusion, inclusion, inclusion. Inclusion is great. Inclusion just means you’re in the room. I’m a firm believer of belonging.

Dr. Kimberly Harden:

And so, when I explain this to people, it’s like this, I can include you and invite you to my house. That’s inclusion, yes. However, if you come to my house and I’m mean spirited, mad looking. I don’t offer you any refreshments, I don’t feed you. Everything in my home is something that you can’t eat due to dietary restrictions or allergies or whatever, and you’re starving to death, that means you don’t belong there. However, if you come to my house and I’m like, “Hey, so good to see you. I made your favorite meals. We’re going to watch the game.” And all of those things that I know you enjoy, then you will have a sense of belonging. And that’s really important.

Dr. Kimberly Harden:

And so, part of the great resignation is that people realize that they don’t belong in certain spaces. The flip side of that of how it’s impacting organizations is that those same people that have resigned are now starting their own businesses, their entrepreneurial journey in direct competition with the company that they work for. And they have the client’s name and they’re able to reach out to them and say, “Hey, yeah, I’m no longer with that company. I started my own and they’re taking some of the business away from the company.” And so, I explained to leaders, it’s really important to develop a culture of belonging and make sure that everyone feels heard, seen, and valued.

Luis:

Yeah, so that’s actually an interesting point. And also, I have a decent amount of my audience is entrepreneurs or would be entrepreneurs who want to build their remote business. And obviously, we know that traditionally some segments of the population have had some trouble starting a business. It looks like in the remote reality, now that the business can exist almost fully online, it’s a bit more accessible.

Luis:

So, how have you seen that? How is that going on? Because I think that’s actually a beautiful way to improve diversity is if a bunch of BIPOC people say, “Enough is enough, we’re going to build our own stuff to rival the old stuff.” That actually feels very beautiful to me.

Dr. Kimberly Harden:

I absolutely agree with you. It’s been a blessing for many people. Even with me when COVID hit, because I have my business and COVID caused us to pivot, which was a beautiful thing. And so, we were able to take on more clients in more geographical areas. We even have clients in Australia now. And so, it’s just been a beautiful… it’s not good trying to navigate the Time Zones, of course.

Luis:

Yes, I know. Tell me about it. Whenever I have to interview someone from Australia, ew.

Dr. Kimberly Harden:

Exactly. And so, navigating, that’s been a little bit challenging. But to have a broader reach has been great. I think the thing for entrepreneurs need to realize is that it’s one thing to have a business. It’s easy to get a business license and say that you’re a business owner. But to truly be an entrepreneur and a CEO and really learn the ins and outs of business, a lot of people aren’t doing that. But you mentioned continuing education and I think a lot of people have used this time to really earn certificates from different programs and really engage in self-study. And so, that’s been a beautiful thing.

Luis:

Yeah, for sure. So, you talked about people aren’t hiring right enough for diversity. I wonder why. Again, I’m biased because I’m in the recruitment industry, so I hear about all the people hiring, but I do admit that… so for example, I know companies that were basically almost entirely North American, or almost entirely British, almost entirely French, that in the years since COVID, have internationalized a lot, like friend’s company from Canada. But many other such examples that they now have employees from Brazil, from Nigeria, from Portugal, from Spain, from Greece. So, it looks like that at least some companies are willing to hire internationally. I wonder why they don’t seem to be as willing to keep hiring, I guess, locally, but for diversity?

Dr. Kimberly Harden:

I think some companies are intentionally trying to do that, but given their city demographics, they don’t have enough people of color in that particular space. For example, I believe Washington state only has a 7% African American population, so when you say you want to increase your African American demographic, well, you’re not going to get them in Washington State. You’re going to have to go recruit outside of the state.

Dr. Kimberly Harden:

And some companies aren’t willing to invest that money in developing strategic partnerships. And that’s one of the things that my company and I do when we talk to leaders. When they say, “We want to hire more demographically,” we say, “You’re not going to find it here. We’re going to have to develop a partnership over here.” So, maybe working with career services, offices at HBCUs and creating fellowships and internships and all of those opportunities to help build that pipeline. But some companies just, honestly, they just want to give lip service to say that they’re doing something, but they’re not.

Dr. Kimberly Harden:

I spoke to someone just a couple of days ago and she had reached out to me three years ago and said, “We want to hire you and bring you in.” And then that got stalled and then they brought in an interim president and the interim president was making all of these promises, “Oh, yes, we’re going to do this, we’re going to do that, so on and so forth.” And so, when she reached out to me, she’s like, “It’s gotten worse.” Because as interim president, all they did was hire their friends, gave their friends these contracts, gave them a lot of money, and it became nepotism, not real work. And so, they’re now bringing in a new president and it begun that cycle.

Luis:

Yeah. So, let’s try to hone in a bit that, and because you also offer partnerships on that, I want to learn how to do that better. How to hire for diversity better because there’s this weird situation that I… I mean, specifically in my case, I’m responsible for hiring for marketing roles, so I tend to put out there a lot of job descriptions from marketing roles. And again, I see that since the work is mostly remote, I tend to see a lot more BIPOC.

Luis:

Again, I get a lot of Black people from North Africa. I get a lot of people of color from Brazil, but all the Americans seem to be very white, to put it bluntly. So, why is it? I mean, I have to assume that there are a lot of qualified marketing folks of color in the US. I have to assume that. Why are my ads, my job post reaching the people in North Africa, in Brazil, and not necessarily them?

Dr. Kimberly Harden:

Oh, there’s a lot of reasons for that. It could be how a job description is written. That’s one of the things that we look at is we ask companies, “Is this a need or is this a want?” And there’s research that says, oftentimes only people, if they don’t feel like they hit everything on the job description, they’re not going to apply. And so again, you need to look at your absolute needs versus your want, so that’s one thing.

Dr. Kimberly Harden:

Two, you need to look at where you’re posting because you have to look at the demographic of who’s on LinkedIn, who’s on Instagram, who’s on Facebook, and other social media platforms. And then also, take advantage of organizations. So, organizations that are specifically for a group. So, for example, the African American Law Association, or something to that effect, target those types of groups. Sure, there’s African American marketing associations.

Dr. Kimberly Harden:

So, you take advantage of those opportunities. Take advantage of the national organizations when they have their conferences and just say, “Hey, I know you’re going to do a virtual conference, but we would like an opportunity to do speed networking. And those who are interested can have a one-on-one chat with me.” And that’s becoming really, really popular as well.

Luis:

I love that approach.

Dr. Kimberly Harden:

Yeah, so it’s just about your mechanisms and going where the people are. I always tell people part of DEI in hiring is community engagement. You need to engage with the community that you’re trying to hire. So, if you’re trying to hire North Americans, you need to engage with North Americans, They need to know that you’re a business. They need to know that you’re not just a business that’s hiring, but that you’re a business that’s actually interested in supportive and value what they have to offer.

Luis:

Yeah, for sure. So, that’s a good call. And I would just like to add, this is a personal frustration. You’re not going to have an answer for that. It’s just me venting a little bit. But it’s really gone downhill on Facebook, just because Facebook. So, their policies for hiring specifically, well-intentioned to avoid discrimination, they don’t let you target anyone significantly. Though what that means if you’re targeting everyone, you’re not really targeting anyone. So, that’s the situation where I feel that is this drive.

Luis:

I don’t know if you agree with me. Maybe it’s a controversial position, but sometimes, I feel that this drive to make everything equal is actually backfiring and making it harder to reach the proper people.

Dr. Kimberly Harden:

Exactly. That’s equality, not equity. And so, I have a love-hate relationship with social media, period. I think LinkedIn is becoming more like Facebook as well. And so, everything is very clickish and you have to rely on your networks and ask them to rely on their networks to spread the word. And that’s always helpful, six degrees of separation, but I think building those relationships is key.

Dr. Kimberly Harden:

And I actually read something this morning, which was so, so true, and that was… let me find it because it was so good that I was like, “Ooh, let me just write this down.”

Luis:

Yeah, that’s a great habit, by the way. I tried to do that. I don’t always succeed.

Dr. Kimberly Harden:

I can’t find it. But basically it said, “We communicate so much that we’re not communicating.” And I was like, “Oh, my gosh, that is absolute truth that we communicate so much that we actually are no longer communicating.” People are oversharing, I believe.

Luis:

Agree, agree.

Dr. Kimberly Harden:

And it’s crazy for me to log onto LinkedIn and see people overshare. I’m like, “Okay, you realize this is LinkedIn and not Facebook or Instagram, right?” And so for me, I don’t think LinkedIn is necessarily a professional networking site anymore.

Luis:

Yeah, I can definitely feel that, though I still think that it’s the best that we have for now.

Dr. Kimberly Harden:

Yes.

Luis:

But yeah, I can definitely feel that pain. People are getting to… I don’t know why, but I felt… I mean, again, I’m having a kid soon, so I definitely sympathize in wanting to share the joy of having a kid with the world. But I don’t need to go to be scrolling my LinkedIn feed and see the pictures of you giving birth. That’s happened to me. That has happened to me in my LinkedIn. And I’m like, “I’m happy for you. This is not the place.”

Dr. Kimberly Harden:

Yeah. There’s the book by Simon Sinek that says, “Start With Why.” And so, I always question, “What was your why of doing this?” So, for me, that’s that piece, start with your why. But I think that people need to rely on their networks and ask their networks to reach out because people know a lot of people that we don’t know of. And so, have conversations with people on planes.

Dr. Kimberly Harden:

One of my greatest connection was with someone that I met in 2019 on an airplane. Found out he actually owned a marketing company in Seattle and we lost contact because… well, we didn’t lose contact, we just weren’t in contact during COVID. But we reconnected because he was speaking at a virtual conference that I attended and I was so excited. I sent a little message and we had an opportunity to catch up. And I just told him what I was up to and he was like, “That’s great.” He was like, “Let me connect you with this person, this person, and this person.”

Dr. Kimberly Harden:

So, your connections have connections that you don’t even know about. And so, I believe in building those relationships and asking your network, “I’m looking for this particular role,” or “I would like this type of advisor,” or whatever. And ask them for good solid recommendations.

Luis:

Yeah, I mean there’s that old saying that I don’t know how mathematically accurate it is or not. But if it isn’t, it’s close enough that you’re connecting to any other person in the world by at max two notes. So, you pick someone, you pick, I don’t know, Elon Musk. And there’s probably only two people in LinkedIn, between you and him, something like that. So, anyway, just to use someone that’s been in the news a lot lately.

Dr. Kimberly Harden:

Oh, yes. Oh, yes.

Luis:

But yeah, okay. So, I wanted to ask you a bit about code switching because this is something that I was made aware of recently. And I don’t even know if I can properly define it to the audience, so maybe I’ll let you do it if you’re up to it. But I’ve started hearing this recently, and it was not a problem that I knew existed, but then apparently, going to remote world work solved it to some extent. And now, I’m hearing a lot about it because the companies are wanting to get people back to office and people are worried they’re going to go back to doing it again. So, can you give me the dumb down CliffsNotes version, please, so I know what this is all about?

Dr. Kimberly Harden:

Code switching is basically adjusting who you are. Whether that’s physical or vernacular to be palatable to the majority group in your organization. So, you may change the way you speak, you may change the way you look. A lot of things have happened with the natural hair care movement and so, that’s part of code switching.

Dr. Kimberly Harden:

Also, I think part, of course, being code switching as being dishonest, being disingenuous. And so, since we’ve been at home and we are our full authentic selves, there’s some reluctance to go back to code switching and pretending to be something that we’re not. So, it’s part of racial battle fatigue of having to perform for someone else.

Luis:

Got it, got it. Yeah, so it would make sense that going remote would… and do you think it’s a serious concern that people are having, that going back to the office will bring that need for that back?

Dr. Kimberly Harden:

Absolutely. One thing that I’m hearing from colleagues and students alike is that, okay, we’re going to have to go back and have conversations with people that we don’t necessarily want to have conversations with. So, one of the beautiful things about being remote and being on Zoom is that we don’t have to engage. We just have to sit there and listen in and make notes and do our job. Whereas in the workplace, we actually have to engage, so you have to go back to code switching.

Dr. Kimberly Harden:

Whereas on Zoom you don’t have to talk. You just listen to your manager give orders or instructions. But going back in the office, you actually have to engage and engage in water cooler chat and all of those things. So, how do you navigate that, especially if you’ve been on the silent end for the past two years. And then you have to go back to work and actually pretend that you care about certain things.

Luis:

So, how does this relate? I’m thinking about it as we’re speaking about it. How does this relate? And maybe the solution could go through the idea of company culture. I mean, in a different way. Let me try to figure out an example here. So, I hire people from all over the world and I can see that there is work culture. Not to be controversial. Let’s just talk about work culture and not culture, in general.

Luis:

Work culture from South America and work culture from Eastern Europe and work culture from India, it’s a complicated juggling act to keep these people working in harmony, again, not because one is worse than the other. They both have their strong points and their weaknesses, and there is a certain act in keeping them together. And the way I think about it is that it’s as if they’re apps and then the company culture is an OS< an operative system.

Luis:

So, if you just have the apps and you don’t have the unifying operations system, it’s a mess. It’s total disaster because the Eastern European people are going to be mad at the South Americans, The South Americans are not going to understand the Indian because there’s just a way expectation in work terms and work ethics and expectations of communications. And ways of communications that these countries have built in isolation for hundreds of years. And obviously, it’s parallel evolutions.

Luis:

And then what I find is that what needed to happen in DistantJob, at least, was that we needed to build a strong, unique, that DistantJob identity that would not erase these identities, but include them. So, I’m wondering if this also relates to code switching and having a strong enough company culture that would embrace people and bring them all on board. And you say, “Okay, I’m this and I’m that. I belong to this group and to that group. But I am in this company and people in this company act like this. This is how we work. This is what we do.”

Luis:

Does this make sense or am I very far away from a potential solution?

Dr. Kimberly Harden:

Well, with code switching, you’re actually asking the person to change who they are. In your example, you’re just asking them to adapt to the operations, so you can work in unison. So, there’s a difference between actually expecting the person to change who they are to fit into your culture versus adapt their processes or their way of working to have a cohesive team.

Luis:

So, it’s a bit more dress code. I mean, clearly my dress code is not fantastic on DistantJob. We’re on audio. We are on video, but the listeners only get the audio, so they don’t see. But I am what I would consider barely presentable for summer. You look much nicer, of course, as I would expect. But yeah, so it’s a bit like that.

Luis:

It’s a bit like if I would show up in a suit, I would die from heatstroke, but apart from that, I wouldn’t be comfortable. That’s not just my style. And I would just be doing that to fool you into thinking that I’m someone, some more of a distinguished character.

Dr. Kimberly Harden:

Yeah. Absolutely. That’s exactly what code switching is.

Luis:

Okay. I got it. All right, so how do we educate people? How do we educate leadership? What can we as leaders do to minimize that need as people move into the… because again, if it’s not company culture, then what can we do to avoid people from filling that need?

Dr. Kimberly Harden:

Well, again, it’s really about asking yourself what is the need versus the want. Do I need them to look at certain way at work? Well, not necessarily only if you’re customer service and you have to wear a uniform like you work at McDonald’s or something, then yes, that’s appropriate for the culture. But oftentimes, we don’t have to look a certain way in a certain job.

Dr. Kimberly Harden:

That’s why I didn’t understand that whole hair. “No, your hair has to look a certain way. You can’t have any tattoos. You can’t have any piercings.” All of those things, which has changed significantly over the past few years in North America because it doesn’t impact how a person does their job. And so, when organizational leaders say we want people to bring their full authentic self, I ask them, “Do you really mean that?”

Dr. Kimberly Harden:

And so, then I give them scenarios, “How would you react if this happened?” And based on their answer, I’m like, “You’re not ready for people to bring their full authentic selves to work in.” So, you have to have those conversations with yourself, what’s the need versus the want. And what is going to impact how a person does their job? If it’s not going to impact the outcome, then that’s something you all don’t need to believe and worry about.

Luis:

All right. Well, time is flying by. It’s been almost an hour. It’s always so nice to talk to you. And I guess that’s one thing that I want to close on. I just want you to offer some praise and obviously, let you tell the people, tell the listeners how can they get in touch and how can they find out from you? Because you are one of the nicest voices I find in this space.

Luis:

Again, I am a bit away from North American culture. But in this side of the Atlantic. We tend to perceive the North American culture as a bit of hyperbole. But I usually find that people that do the work that you do, there’s this reputation of them being angry and shaming people and just being disagreeable people. And you are so compassionate and so kind in your discourse. That’s why I keep pushing people in your side, to your side. So, I really want to thank you for the work that you’ve doing and I hope that you’ll keep on doing it for long.

Luis:

I guess, if I’m going to leave you with one question, how would you like this discussion, the discussions that we’ve had to evolve over the mediums that we have today, like LinkedIn, online media, et cetera?

Dr. Kimberly Harden:

Oh, first of all, thank you for the compliments. I really appreciate that. I think for me, we have talked before and I’m a firm believer in self-reflection. And you have to be honest with yourself. I think people are afraid of holding up that mirror. I talked about this in my book. That whole notion of a good person. And I think people need to have those conversations with themselves of what does it mean to be a good person? And why do I consider myself to be a good person? And if I’m good, then who is bad? Because there’s always opposite, light and dark.

Dr. Kimberly Harden:

And so, have those conversations with themselves and truly reflect and think about, “How can I?” It’s not about being a good person. I think it’s about being a better person. And so, I think people need to really reflect on that. How can I grow and how can I not only grow individually, but how can my growth impact others? And, so that’s why I talk about moving from performative ally to being an advocate, which means how can I support someone else?

Dr. Kimberly Harden:

And then being an accomplice means, “What am I willing to give up in order to give someone else their wings and help them to fly and thrive?” And so, people really need to have those open and honest conversations with themselves and their leaders and their loved ones. And not be afraid to hold up the mirror because without holding up the mirror, you won’t see the blemishes and be able to correct the blemishes and be better.

Luis:

Yeah. I really like that concept and better is really a great way of looking at it. Good and bad, like you say, it’s very light and dark. And to be fair, we are a very comparative society. And you can always be better than what you were yesterday. If you compare yourself, if I compare myself to Kimberly or if Kimberly compares herself to Luis, that’s a complicated math to do, but I can certainly, it’s an easy math to do. What do I need to be better than Luis was yesterday? That’s a much better equation to do, I think.

Dr. Kimberly Harden:

Absolutely. And comparison is the thief of joy and it just causes so much mental anguish, so why put yourself through that? Just be the better version of yourself tomorrow. And I reflect every night. It’s like, “Okay, I failed in this area or I could have done better in this area. How am I going to be better tomorrow?”

Luis:

Yeah, exactly. And I find that it’s already great to have that internal conversation. If I ever lay down at night and I think, “Oh, I was perfect today. I didn’t do anything wrong, I was absolutely fantastic.” Then the next question that should pop in my mind is, ‘Yeah, you’re fooling yourself,” or “You’re not thinking hard enough.” Right?

Dr. Kimberly Harden:

That’s exactly what I was going to say. I was going to say, the next question should be, “Why am I lying?” Right?

Luis:

Exactly. “Why am I lying? Why am I lying to myself?” You can have this conversation without being self-shaming and miserable and feeling unworthy. It goes back to that realization that you shouldn’t be thinking yourselves in terms of good and bad. Like you said, that’s a really great way of saying it. You should be thinking of yourself as better. Like, “I did a good job today. How can I do a better one tomorrow?” That’s a very powerful lens through which contemplate your life.

Dr. Kimberly Harden:

Absolutely.

Luis:

All right. So, I guess that to close, where can people continue the conversation, Kimberly? Where can people find you, find more about your work, your company, your books? We’ll put it all in the Show Notes, but just for the listeners, please give them the list.

Dr. Kimberly Harden:

Absolutely. Thank you for that opportunity. So, they can go onto hardenconsultinggroup.com. They can schedule a complimentary 30-minute session to see if they’re interested in working with us, to see if we’re a good match. It’s a two-way interview, so to speak, where I learn about the project that is needed and they learn about what we can offer. They can buy the book online.

Dr. Kimberly Harden:

We also have discussion cards at theallyshipchallenge.com. So, you can buy a signed copy of the book and the discussion cards, or if you just want the book, you can get it from Amazon or Barnes & Noble. We will soon be releasing in September, a journal, a self-reflective journal. And we’re also releasing The Allyship Challenge course in September as well, so it’s a self-paced course that is six modules. And they will learn what it means to be a performative ally, what it means to be an advocate, what it means to be an accomplice. And then there will learn the 12 steps on how to move through each framework, so we’re really excited about the book and the journal that’s coming out in September.

Dr. Kimberly Harden:

We’re also hosting our first ever DEI conference in April, so we’re really excited about that. It’s going to be a two-day conference in Bellevue, Washington at the Maiden Bower Center. So, we’re lining up a lot of speakers. There’s going to be a total of four plenary sessions, two keynote presentations, and 12 to 15 breakout sessions where people can build their own curriculum for the day, the two days. So, we’re really, really excited about that as well. So, for more information, go to hardenconsulting group.com.

Luis:

All right. Again, we’ll have all that on the Show Notes. Kimberly, it was lovely to have you here. Thank you so much for being a part of the show. It was hard getting our schedules in sync to make it happen, but it was totally worth it. Thank you so much.

Dr. Kimberly Harden:

My pleasure. Thank you. And hopefully, you’ll get your air conditioned fixed soon.

Luis:

Hopefully. I need that. I need that badly. Thank you so much and thank you listeners for listening to in our episode of the Distant Job Podcast, your podcast about building awesome remote teams. See you next week.

Luis:

And so, we close another episode of the Distant Job Podcast. And if you enjoyed the episode, please, you can help us out by sharing it on social media. That would be great. It’s how we reach more listeners and the more listeners we have, the more awesome guests I can get in touch and convince to participate in these conversations that are a joy to have for me, and I hope they’re a joy for you to listen to as well. You can also help a lot leaving reviews on iTunes or your podcast syndication service of choice. Reviews are surprisingly helpful in helping the podcast get to more listeners.

Luis:

Now, another thing that you might want to do is go to distantjob.com/blog/podcast. Click on your favorite episode, any episode really, and subscribe. By subscribing, you will get a notification whenever a new episode is up and whenever we get the transcripts of the episode up, so you can actually peruse the conversations in text form.

Luis:

And of course, if you need to find a great employee for your team, a great remote employee, you should take the whole world into consideration and not just look to hire locally, not just look to hire in your country. Look around the whole world because that’s the talent pool that contains the best talent. And to help you with that, again, distantjob.com is the perfect place to start. You will tell us who you need and we will make sure that you get the best possible candidate, 40% faster than the industry standard.

Luis:

And with that, I bid you adieu. See you next week on the next episode of the DistantJob podcast.

While diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts have improved over time, there´s still a long way to go. Especially in helping leaders understand how to recruit for diversity better and more consciously.

During this episode, Dr. Kimberly Harden shares valuable insights about why learning how to hire for diversity matters. Additionally, she discusses important distinctions between inclusion vs. belonging and empathy vs. compassion.

Highlights:

  • How to connect with your remote team and make them feel valued 
  • Why being a compassionate leader is better than being an empathetic leader (and what are the differences) 
  • Insights about racial battle fatigue 
  • Problems with DEI organizations in North America 
  • Inclusion vs. belonging: And why leaders need to learn how to differentiate them 
  • How to hire for diversity better 
  • The importance of engaging with the communities you want to hire from

Don’t forget to SUBSCRIBE so you won’t miss all of the other interesting episodes that we have coming up every Monday!

Are you our next superstar remote developer?

You live, breathe and eat code, and have fun figuring out how to solve problems. And you love living in South America or Eastern Europe. But you don’t feel as fulfilled as your friends in North America.

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