The Grassroots DEI Organizer Playbook

Chapter 3: Internal Initiatives

Photo by NESA by Makers on Unsplash


Grassroots initiatives

a) Gather baseline data

b) Conduct a retention/ turnover audit

  • List all the past and present employees you know of, as well as their start and end dates.
  • Make a note of how they got to the firm (referral, cold application), who referred them if they were referred, and their function/team.
  • If they are no longer with the company, note whether their departure was voluntary (they quit) or involuntary (they were terminated/laid off.)
  • If their departure was voluntary (i.e., they quit), make a note of whether it was regretted (the company wishes they had stayed) or not (it wasn’t a great fit anyway.)
  • You may also want to account for turnover related to employees who left a position but did not leave the company, such as in the case of a promotion or team transfer.

c) Support the recruitment & hiring processes informally

  • Review your JDs: (e.g., pass them through Textio) and present Textio’s recommendations to HR/hiring manager if there are systematic concerns
  • Facilitate discussions around hiring practices: Organizing discussion around hiring best practices can help foment hiring reform. It is not uncommon for most team members to never have thought critically about how hiring processes work. Some suggestions of topics to cover: the referral effect & where jobs are posted; implicit bias and how it might affect hiring decisions; resume blinding; hiring rubrics to evaluate candidates; the impact of how the JD is written.
  • Make sure your JDs are well-written to attract a range of candidates and provide clarity on the company’s expectations (see the Resources section for guidance on writing JDs)
  • Post your company openings on job boards that target a diverse set of candidates (see Resources for a few suggestions. You can also reach out to local colleges and bootcamps and find their career services team to let them know about jobs at your company so that you’re on their radar)
  • Make yourself available to guide candidates who might not be familiar with startup recruiting. Too often, JDs are perfectly intelligible to folks inside the organization but aren’t clear to those without access to the day-to-day company context. If you can’t get the JDs to reflect this in writing, consider taking the time to help candidates understand the context and catalyst for the role they’re interested in; the skills already present on the team vs those the hiring manager is looking to build more of, key stakeholders, and other qualitative and important elements of understanding a role as a candidate.
  • Before anyone meets any candidates for a role, draw up a grid of the experiences, skills, and attitudes important for the role. It’s easy to evaluate a candidate based on how they made the interviewer feel (which can often be disguised as “chemistry” or “culture fit”) instead of whether they actually meet the hiring manager’s needs. Design a simple rubric for how those might be evaluated, e.g., how will you gauge whether a candidate for an account executive/sales job “presents well”? Then, ask interviewers to use the grid to compare candidates more objectively. This may help prevent a situation of changing expectations, in which a candidate is deemed very strong on a characteristic that wasn’t named as crucial for the role, or in which another candidate is disqualified based on a perceived gap in skill/experience without evaluating the broader context of how their profile might add to the existing team’s skillset.

Corporate initiatives

a) Recruitment & Hiring

  • Post on job boards that target a diverse set of candidates
  • Ask employees for referrals from broader networks.
  • JD rewrites: success metrics; focus on skills and not on proxies.
  • Making your company values clear and public

b) Compensation

  • Table Stakes
  • — compensation analytics tool using AI to create accurate salary forecasts
  • 81cents — compensation and negotiation support and data
  • Syndio — data science to help leaders deliver equal pay across gender, race and ethnicity
  • Use benefits to shape company culture and scale them with your company.
  • Decide whether, and how, to allow compensation negotiation

c) Retention & Promotion

  • Who is given the chance to take on challenging new assignments?
  • Who is asked to fill in when there is an urgent problem?
  • Who gets recognized and how?
  • Use inclusive and transparent hiring practices
  • Make onboarding ongoing during the employee’s first year
  • Be thoughtful about inclusion when building teams
  • Use sponsorships to promote D&I
  • Share feedback regularly with help from inclusive performance reviews

d) Employee Engagement & Culture

  • Pymetrics — behavioral science and AI to help companies build diverse teams
  • The Mom Project — helps women remain active in the workforce by working with employers who are committed to designing and supporting a better workplace.
  • Are nay-sayers still listened to when decisions are made?
  • Are introverted people given a way to share their opinion that is comfortable for them?
  • Do decision-makers consistently make a point to consider different viewpoints?
  • Are the decisions that are made by the management team taking in more information than the bottom line?
  • Do remote workers, or in these pandemic times, new hires who have never met the team in person, feel included and connected?



Principal @ Rizoma Ventures. ESG & impact advisor, investor, and operator.

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Claire Veuthey

Principal @ Rizoma Ventures. ESG & impact advisor, investor, and operator.