Can a tech and marketing company get so good at diversity, equity, and inclusion that their employees regularly promote them on social media?
In fact, digital performance marketing agency KlientBoost – which works with clients in the SaaS, eCommerce, and lead generation spaces on paid advertising, SEO, email marketing, and conversion rate optimization – has done just that.
DEI wasn’t always something KlientBoost actively worked at. Yet over the last year, they’ve increased diversity across the board, from new hires through to leadership. They’ve been intentional about creating an inclusive work environment, and in doing so, they’ve enabled minority and female employees to thrive throughout recent difficulties including COVID-19 and racially motivated attacks on their communities.
We sat down with Kim Fitkin, President, and Jen Chambers, Director of Happiness, to learn more about KlientBoost’s DEI initiatives.
Building Spaces for Support and Conversation
Although KlientBoost didn’t start out with a detailed DEI plan, the company has a long history of creating spaces for women to speak up and support each other. In doing so, the company has naturally developed a more inclusive workplace and policies.
“I think it actually started pretty organically,” Chambers says, before pointing to the Slack Ladies’ Channel as a starting point.
“We have a Slack channel that has been devoted to the ladies of KlientBoost for years now. It used to be really small, I think there were eight of us up until February of last year. We would get together monthly and go out to lunch or something of that sort just to get together because we were in a male-dominant company at that time. And then it just grew from there.”
Today, their DEI programs are far more developed than just a Slack program. Yet Slack channels are still an important part of supporting women and minority team members, as they create a sense of community and belonging, provide support, and allow space for the discussion of issues that are important to the channel members.
Attracting Diverse Workers by Demonstrating Values on Social Media
The Slack Ladies’ Channel started off small, but it had a big effect, especially when it came to recruitment. Chambers explains, “We started posting a lot about [the channel] on LinkedIn and Instagram. That pulled in more applicants than we had had in the past.”
The difference was striking. “I’ve been doing the recruiting for almost four years, and I can tell you that we used to just not have any women apply [for positions],” she notes.
But today, KlientBoost is “seeing a way bigger diversity turnout than we ever had before.”
This isn’t just correlation: current employees tell Chambers and Fitkin that the social media posts convinced them that KlientBoost really cared about staff members and would be a good place to work. “A lot of our posts have been directed to how we’re inclusive,” Fitkin says, “And so I feel that’s really how we’ve reached a lot of people.”
Having noticed this trend, KlientBoost is now more intentional about broadcasting its company culture online. Chambers explains that everyone – especially leadership – is encouraged to post weekly about “different things that we’re working on within the company” as part of a “LinkedIn Thought Leadership program.” DEI and women in the workplace regularly come up in these posts and help demonstrate the company’s values to potential new hires.
It’s not all leadership-led, however. Many of KlientBoost’s employees have turned into the company’s biggest advocates, with no encouragement needed. Chambers says that when team members are happy with the company’s social impact initiatives, they want to share that information. “They tell all their families and friends, ‘Look at what my company did for our community.’”
Seeking and Responding to Feedback
Slack channels for women and minorities have helped KlientBoost a more welcoming workplace. However, it’s the open communication channel between leadership and staff that has helped the company spot areas to support team members and the wider community.
Chambers stresses that “Johnathan [Dane, CEO] is so transparent and open to feedback, and this really has given the whole company a voice.”
She says this has led to KlientBoost donating to AAPI charities in the face of rising hate crimes. “AAPI staff members have a group on Slack where they can talk to each other and then they feel comfortable enough to come to either Johnathan or myself to discuss the things that are going on in their community.”
This has had a real impact on the team. What began as supporting a minority group experiencing racialized attacks has also shown team members that they matter to the company; that their experiences, in and out of the office, are important – and so are their opinions.
Chambers says, “Being able to have that open feedback and dialogue with the CEO made everyone feel super supported and thankful that he was willing to step in.”
Building an open communication channel takes work, however, and KlientBoost didn’t want to wait for staff members to approach leadership. So, they also started doing monthly surveys. Fitkin says, “We do these to see how people are feeling. They give us a lot of feedback on the workplace.”
Becoming Action-Oriented with a DEI Committee
To build on the success of their Slack channels and surveys, KlientBoost recently set up a DEI Committee. Already, this has helped the company move from making women and minorities feel welcomed to proactively implementing initiatives that support employees.
Each month, the committee asks what they can do on a specific theme. “This month is Pride month,” Chambers says. “So, we took some information and put it in our company newsletter, just to draw attention to it and give some information on the history of it.”
“Then one [of the Committee] suggested we choose one tactical change that we can make in the company, whether it be big or small. For this month, they were talking about adding our pronouns to our LinkedIn to show that we are an inclusive company to the LGBTQ community.”
She adds, “Just something small like that could welcome more people and make them want to be part of the company.”
It’s not just about attracting talented workers and improving the office culture, however. The company is keen to have an impact on the wider world. Fitkin explains that the committee will vote on “monthly programs, supporting charities, and volunteer work.”
And Chambers says that although the committee normally meets monthly, this will change if there is “a crisis or something that happens within our communities. That’s when we will have five business days where we all get together and think about what we could do to help.”
Allowing DEI Initiatives to be Led by Those Who Need Them
Fitkin tells us, “One of the important things for us with building the DEI committee was that there wasn’t going to be anybody from leadership in it.”
KlientBoost wanted their DEI strategies to be led by the staff members most affected by them. They also wanted to give those staff members an opportunity to take on leadership roles. So although Chambers attends the committee meetings, her job is simply to act as a go-between and advisor. The initiatives are put forward and voted on by the rest of the committee.
“I’ve done a lot of research on how we can create more leaders,” Fitkin explains, “and one of the things to do is to just create [those spaces]… We saw the committee as an opportunity for someone who may not have leadership experience right now to step in… and get that through this committee.”
Giving people leadership opportunities empowers them. It helps them enact change, it builds their confidence, and it creates pathways for them to seek out more leadership roles. As such, Fitkin strongly believed the committee should be led by people whose backgrounds might make it harder for them to access similar opportunities.
“Putting someone into that role, where they might think, ‘Oh, I’m not really qualified for it,’ but you say, ‘Yes, you’re going to do it, and I’m going to support you’… that is how you build confidence. And so that’s something I’m very thoughtful of as I’m working with a lot of women [at KlientBoost],” she says.
The DEI Committee is still new, but it has already given a voice to employees, created leadership opportunities, and resulted in tangible changes at KlientBoost, from normalizing sharing pronouns to planning DEI training.
In just one year, the company has gone from a small Slack Ladies’ Channel to having multiple Slack channels, a DEI Committee, monthly surveys, and donating to support the community. It’s a true testament to the impact a few small actions – such as creating spaces for women and minorities, sharing company values on social media, listening to employees, and asking them what they needed – can have over time and on a larger scale.