Ashley Perryman, SHRM-SCP
Vice President, Global Human Resources - Head of People Spiceworks Ziff Davis

Ashley Perryman is the current Vice President of Global Human Resources at Spiceworks Ziff Davis. Her background has been in SaaS, MarTech, BioTech and EdTech organizations. Ashley mentors Human Resources Professionals through the local Austin SHRM chapter, coaches women in the Women initiative for Entrepreneurship & Leadership Development at University of Texas at Austin, and serves on the Texas Diversity Council.

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On today’s episode of the RecruitingDaily Podcast, William Tincup speaks to Ashley from Spiceworks Ziff Davis about equity audits.

Some Conversation Highlights:

So real quick question about, can you get to diversity if you don’t have your fundamentals down?

So the fundamentals, as you’re calling them, I would say that’s really an organization trying to understand exactly who it is. So when you think about like organizational identity, you think about who we are, what we stand for, what we all agree to, how we’re aligned. We are determining that our company’s identity, through equity audits, is this and here’s what we’re going to reward, encourage, align to, support. And here’s also what we’re not going to tolerate, what we’re not going to encourage, what we’re not going to promote because wherever you draw lines to say that this who we are, you’re also inherently drawing lines to say this is who we’re not. You as an organization are moving to set that foundation of your identity and then you can determine what levers to pull within particular area.

So you just mentioned like a company may say, “We’re going to focus on women in leadership” or “We’re going to focus on having more people of color and X and Y function.” Those things are good steps in the right direction when you’re talking about representation, when you’re talking about the elevation of different people with different lived experiences to different part of the business, but to your point, that’s where equity audits come in because you’re looking at who we are. You’re gaining self-awareness as an organization about who we are today, like the things that we’ve done well, the things that we haven’t done well, the things that we literally didn’t even know we weren’t doing well or doing well at, the things that we were totally ignoring and neglecting. And in order to get a roadmap of where you want to go to make those decisions about more women in leadership or whatever the decisions are, you first have to know who you are today and then determine in priority order, which is a dynamic decision making matrix, but in priority order, where are you going?

And equity audits are a way to try to help to level set that, a way to understand the first basis of where you’re at today before you can make a plan.

Codesignal Diverse Companys Outperform

Tune in for the full conversation.

Listening time: 28 minutes

 

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Music: This is Recruiting Daily’s Recruiting Live Podcast, where we look at the strategies behind the world’s best talent acquisition teams. We talk recruiting, sourcing, and talent acquisition. Each week we take one overcomplicated topic and break it down so that your three year old can understand it. Make sense? Are you ready to take your game to the next level? You’re at the right spot. You’re now entering the mind of a hustler. Here’s your host, William Tincup

Willian Tincup: Ladies and gentlemen, this is William Tincup and you are listening to the RecruitingDaily Podcast. Today we have Ashley on from Spiceworks Ziff Davis and we’ll be talking about equity audits. This is going to be fantastic. I can’t wait to get into it with Ashley. Ashley, would you do us a favor and introduce yourself and Spiceworks Ziff Davis.

Ashley: Sure thing. Thanks so much for having me on really appreciate it-

Willian Tincup: Sure.

Ashley: So yeah, my name’s Ashley Perryman and I work with Spiceworks Ziff Davis as a part of the HR team. We are a global company that is in the omnichannel global demand gen and marketing space. We are a the digital focused company and I get the pleasure of working amongst our human resources team. We’re spread out across the U.S. UK, France, Spain, Philippines, India, Australia and growing in different locations. My career has long been in human resources but has just taken on a slightly different flavor depending on the type of organization that I’m working in, the size, the global footprint and so on. Moved around a lot throughout the U.S. and have tried to be an advocate for people-first organizations and people-first policies, programs and practice inside of businesses like this.

Willian Tincup: I love it. Let’s start with the basics. Why is diversity so important in the workplace?

Ashley: Yeah, well, I think it’s a loaded question.

Willian Tincup: It is, of course it is. Let’s start with something simple, like-

Ashley: So simple.

Willian Tincup: What’s the air speed velocity of… Yeah, no. We’re all at a point, I think societally, we get it. There’s so many studies, it’s beyond common sense. However, that’s words, we’re still not actions, right? So we’re still not quite right there, we’re a hundred years late to the party. Okay, fair. Stated and covered. However, if someone is still on the fence for some reason… Let’s go there.

Ashley: Yep. So to your point about all of the studies that have been conducted and published and documented and shared about diversity, the benefits of diversity, we definitely subscribe to all of those findings that Diversity, Equity and Inclusion work helps an organization to be propelled forward. It helps with innovation, it helps with growth, it helps with growth mindsets of its people, it helps with the resilience and sustenance of businesses when they are hit by a global pandemic or something that is [crosstalk 00:03:01] unforeseen.

Willian Tincup: Other things.

Ashley: Yes, like things that happen in the business world, but in the world in general. This Diversity work helps to fortify the business because it provides different perspectives and people with different lived experiences, different blind spots, different knowledge base to help the business to cover all of its bases. And so the diversity work that many organizations are embracing or talking about more and more and are doing well, but it’s ever a journey for everyone. It provides the protection and the strength to the businesses through its people where people can thrive, people can do their best work. Businesses can be more successful, more innovative, more growth focused. And so diversity, not just in color or gender or a gender expression or a lifestyle orientation, but also diversity of experience and thought and backgrounds and all of those things fold into making sure that the business itself is embracing all of the uniqueness of all of its people.

Willian Tincup: That’s fantastic. So real quick question about, can you get to diversity if you don’t have your fundamentals lay down? I’ve and again, I know this is loaded, I get it. However, I’ve had a lot of discussions just recently about, we need to focus on women in leadership, we need to focus on veterans hiring or we need to focus on so and so and it’s like, okay, that yes and? But if we don’t have our fundamentals, like we don’t have our foundations right, then how do we get to that other place?

Ashley: Yeah. So the fundamentals, as you’re calling them, I would say that’s really an organization trying to understand exactly who it is. So when you think about like organizational identity, you think about who we are, what we stand for, what we all agree to, how we’re aligned. We are determining that our company’s identity is this and here’s what we’re going to reward, encourage, align to, support. And here’s also what we’re not going to tolerate, what we’re not going to encourage, what we’re not going to promote because wherever you draw lines to say that this who we are, you’re also inherently drawing lines to say this is who we’re not. You as an organization are moving to set that foundation of your identity and then you can determine what levers to pull within particular area.

So you just mentioned like a company may say, “We’re going to focus on women in leadership” or “We’re going to focus on having more people of color and X and Y function.” Those things are good steps in the right direction when you’re talking about representation, when you’re talking about the elevation of different people with different lived experiences to different part of the business, but to your point, that’s where equity audits come in because you’re looking at who we are. You’re gaining self-awareness as an organization about who we are today, like the things that we’ve done well, the things that we haven’t done well, the things that we literally didn’t even know we weren’t doing well or doing well at, the things that we were totally ignoring and neglecting. And in order to get a roadmap of where you want to go to make those decisions about more women in leadership or whatever the decisions are, you first have to know who you are today and then determine in priority order, which is a dynamic decision making matrix, but in priority order, where are you going?

And equity audits are a way to try to help to level set that, a way to understand the first basis of where you’re at today before you can make a plan. So you’re really taking an internal audit, you’re taking stock of yourself. You’re looking at your hiring practices, you’re looking at your paid practices, you’re looking at your promotion rates, you’re looking at your policies, you’re looking at your current leadership cabinet or bench, et cetera. You’re really examining, quantifying, defining and calling out where you are today in order to determine the path that you need to take forward.

Willian Tincup: And also you were getting there, but it’s all because you hit internal mobility control and promotions and things like that, but also who you lay off.

Ashley: Yes.

Willian Tincup: Right? So we learned in 2020, disproportionately women were affected with layoffs at the end of the year. And women of color were even more disproportionately affected by that. So if you had clear insight into, again with an audit, if you had to clear insight into your data, that probably wouldn’t have happened.

Ashley: Yes-

Willian Tincup: My hope really.

Ashley: If you were really… Yeah, right, we do hope. And if everyone is well meaning, right? If everyone is well intentioned, which is good to an extent, but not good enough for making sure that you’re measuring outcomes and impact, you want to be able to call all those things out and define those again, who you are, who you’re not, what you’re about to do, what you’re not about to do because it doesn’t align with your values. And so you would be able to uncover potential blind spots or biases if you were regularly revisiting your data on your practices, your promotions, your layoffs, the people that are leaving your organization, the people that don’t make it through your candidate funnel, you want to look at it from every single angle. And so think about these things like workstreams in terms of hiring and internal promotions, policies and practices and exits and thinking about each one of those four worksheets as quadrants when you’re looking at that equity audit.

Willian Tincup: Who owns equity audits, A? How frequently should they be done, B?

Ashley: Great questions and honestly, I think it’s going to depend on the organizational maturity on who owns the equity audits. Now, in terms of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion work, I’m a firm believer that the leadership team owns Diversity, Equity, Inclusion work. And then there are people that will own specific executional workstreams on each one of these things, but the leadership as a whole and not HR, leadership, all of leadership owns Diversity, Equity, Inclusion work. As far as equity audits, I believe that’s one of those workstreams that I believe HR needs to take a handle on in terms of providing the data, distilling the data down. But it’s nothing without the insight inputs of managers from across the business that know, Hey, this person put in their resignation, they didn’t put in their exit interview survey, the exact why, but they told me in a one-on-one.

And so HR doesn’t have all of the data that it needs to have in order to do this well. We may have the exit interview surveys, we may conduct the exit interviews, we may watch the candidate pipeline, we may manage the TA function, the talent acquisition function that’s working through the candidate pipeline, but the hiring managers or the line managers are in the room for those interviews. The managers are in the room for those actual verbal resignations or those employee to employee concerns that may have unfolded in a team meeting or et cetera. That’s where the inputs and the insights have to come from from across the business. And so HR can funnel the data altogether and you can pull it together into a report and can distill it down but the business across all of the functions has to provide all the insights. So it really is a joint effort with, if you think about like a racy matrix with a party being responsible, another party being accountable, another party having to be consulted and another party having to inform this process.

Willian Tincup: So I did a, it was a diversity sourcing event last summer and I talked to probably a hundred DNI leaders. And it was interesting because I learned a lot A, but one of the things that I learned is that they’ve pushed diversity to everyone. Diversity is everyone’s responsibility. So there was a period and probably with some firms it is, you’d have a diversity recruiter, you’d grant the DNI staff, et cetera. And it was Janice’s responsibility, our Billy’s responsibility, et cetera. And what I learned through those calls is like, yeah, that those days, it’s everyone. If you’re a receptionist, if you’re a software engineer, yeah, your job. It’s a part of everyone’s responsibility. And I asked this question of them when I was talking to them, I’m like, “Well, if it’s everybody’s responsibility, my fear is then it’s nobody’s responsibility.”

Ashley: Yeah, then no one’s accountable. Right.

Willian Tincup: That no one’s accountable. Have you seen some of the same stuff?

Ashley: It is a tension, right? In some places, I think it’s a healthy tension because you do want everyone to carry the mantle and everyone to be bought in and everyone to take things forward. And to the point of, yes, it’s receptionist job, it’s recruiter’s, screeners job, it’s hiring manager’s job. It’s supporting interviewer’s job to get people through the funnel that think, look, behave differently than we do. And so all of those people have a part to play in it and ensuring that we have a diverse funnel. If we’re just going to talk about TA, showing that we have a diverse funnel in our candidate pool. But ultimately the person who is making the hiring decision needs to own the fact that their pool needs to be diverse and their hiring practices, so the way that we interview, the way that we evaluate candidates, the way that we offer and negotiate to candidates, that entire process, the actual owner of that is the person who needs to make the hire.

That’s the person who needs to be able to hold a recruiter accountable or a recruiting coordinator accountable or the HR handoff, the HRBP that they may be handing off to, accountable. That’s who is responsible for making sure that everyone knows that this is a priority. And they’re going to either fund the tools, fund the activity, behavior, the time, the resources to be able to ensure that talent acquisition process has a diverse candidate pipeline from start to finish and diverse hiring practices have been employed in their hiring practices. It’s up to the person who’s actually owning it, in my opinion, who’s actually owning that hire to make sure that all the other stakeholders who are playing a part in supporting that hiring effort are working towards the same goal.

Willian Tincup: Love that, A. I put a little asterisk next to that. In your mind, what differentiates a good DEI program from a great one?

Ashley: Hmm good. A good DEI program.

Willian Tincup: Good, we’re not going to go bad. We’re going to leave bad and poor and crappy. We going to leave all those off. We’re just need good to great. We’re going to go those two.

Ashley: Yeah, so, I think a good one is people that are driving the program that are well intended, that are well meaning, that people are bought in, that it is that it, whatever this diversity word is, it is important that we want to have a diverse workforce, a diverse candidate pool. I think the great is when every person in the org. and particular people who are welcoming people on the org. in the TA function can speak to the whys of why D&I is important to this business and that the DEI programming is actually meaningful in the context of the company. For example, if you have a DI program that works really well for this 500 person, New England based, only U.S. focused organization and manufacturing, that exact same program won’t work in a thousand plus person, global organization in the technology space.

There are different populations of people that are working within these businesses. It’s a different size, different global and regional nuance so context matters. And again, it’s going to the first point about making sure that everyone understood why the DEI work that we’re doing is meaningful, why it’s important to this business. It’s important in this context that all of the managers, all the teams, all the employees understand the impact of that programming and how it brings different perspectives or different assumptions or approaches to the business and how it benefits the business and how it benefits us as a community of people that work together. And then everyone has established the same level of importance to the DEI work and that differ enhances the contributions that everybody’s able to make to that programming. And then what the business sees as the benefits of all of that. And so I think the difference is who’s bought in and to what level and that context has taken into consideration.

Willian Tincup: Nice segue into culture. So through the last two years, we’ve obviously had to redefine culture because most of our culture was centered around an office or a box. And also with a lot of the societal things that have gone on from Love is Love, Me Too, Black Lives Matter, et cetera, people are just, especially candidates, and employees are more conscientious about culture and how we define it these days versus how we used to. And especially as it relates to Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. So what’s your working definition of culture right now? How do you think of culture? And just let’s unpack that for a second.

Ashley: Yeah. I think for me, culture is all the unspoken ways of working, ways of collaborating, ways of being that an organization has. So there’s the rules, the book of policies, the handbook, the things that people know because they’re written in set in stone and everybody acknowledges them with a signature on DocuSign or et cetera. And then there’s the things that are globally across that particular organization, applicable, understood, a norm, encouraged, promoted, suggested with to new hires, et cetera. That to me is the organizational culture. What is culturally recognized as just the normal practice? So whether or not people have on their webcams if it’s not spelled out in an agenda to say webcam on or no webcams needed, et cetera, but just what’s understood across the business. Or if it’s okay for people to say in a group meeting, “Hey, I made a mistake and I’m doing this to fix it.”

Or if that’s supposed to be something that’s done in email or in writing or not at all, or et cetera. So those types of practices, that type of behavior is work culture. And to your point, it’s different than the what was whether it was brightly colored walls and great snacks and a Zen room for people to unwind, those same places have now turned into perhaps a webcam happy hour, a virtual happy hour or of no meeting Wednesday because that’s what we used to do when we were in the office or something. It’s morphed, it’s evolved but it’s in response to the context of the business that it’s in. So again, it’s not something that HR drives, it’s not something that I think is even easily documented in a lot of ways. It’s something that is the undertone, the undercurrent, those practices and behaviors that are just so normalized in a group of people. And so it’s people-first, it’s a culture where people of the employee group are determining what it’s like to work here.

Willian Tincup: It’s always best. It used to fascinate me years ago when boards would go offsite and create the values you know what I mean? Like, you’re the values of the firm, you’re the most disconnected from actually what gets done in a day-to-day basis. But anyhow, we’ll put that aside.

Ashley: Yes, no, it’s a really good point because I feel like there’s a lot of that from on high, top down, we have decided this particular thing. It’s so interesting.

Willian Tincup: So with equity audits, the outcome that folks should expect… So look, what is it? I’m thinking of course my head races toward like an annual report and how we actually show ourselves and show the firm where we’re at and maybe even make that transparent to candidates and where we’re at, whatever. But what do you feel is the outcome of an equity audit? And in the second part of that is what are the actions, what should we think about and what should the audience think about is like, okay, here’s what you should think about is what comes from the equity audit.

Ashley: And to the point of who gets to see it? That question is a really vulnerable question, right? Because to the point of we’re on this journey and we as in collectively a bunch of businesses are on this journey of even evolving our cultures or evolving our practices or just looking ourselves in the mirror before we even make a change, just looking ourselves in the mirror and saying, “We do this well, we don’t do this well, we didn’t even know we should be doing this, but we all agree, we should be doing this and here’s our current stats, a rundown org. health. Here’s what it looks like to work inside, to apply to work inside, to be interviewed to work inside or to exit this business. This is what this looks like.”

We strive to do that on a regular basis. And this is new for us at Spiceworks Ziff Davis as well. And finding the rhythm of how often to do this, I think, is evolving. Is it quarterly? Is it annually? It is evolving. I know within Ziff Davis, Inc. so within our parent company, they publish a diversity report every single year that is publicly available.

Willian Tincup: Oh, wow.

Ashley: And so it is published, it is shared. People share it all across LinkedIn, it’s shared on in all our internal employee channels and whatnot, but it is a public document. And it contains insights from employees from all across the Ziff Davis Inc. ecosystem, which includes Spiceworks Ziff Davis. And it includes numbers of leadership and numbers and management and breakdown of various demographics and so on by numbers and by percentage across the entire ecosystem. It is again, a vulnerable moment for a business to be able to put information out there that maybe they’re not the most proud of, but it’s also a time where we can say, we’re good at this we’re we do well at this, we exceed at this in comparison to our industry peers or something. But even that is not good enough for us. Here’s our plan going forward.

And our diversity reports with Ziff Davis Inc. include that as well like with our commitments, our next steps and what we’re going to do about things that we may uncover as a result of those diversity report activities where we aggregate all the data together and we’re no different. At Spiceworks Ziff Davis we try to create action plans against what we discover with our equity audits, with our engagement plans, with our TA workstreams, we create action plans and then assign ownerships and then track things week over week, biweekly or monthly, depending on the type of thing. And we revisit them and try to figure out how we can attain whatever that goal is. And sometimes the goal changes because we’ve changed. And so we’re dynamic. We’re not a tree, as my grandmother would say. We’re not a tree, we don’t have to be planted. We can change our mind and determine to do something different.

Willian Tincup: Well, I think that’s one of the- [crosstalk 00:25:30]

Ashley: That’s what we do.

Willian Tincup: One of the difficulties and one of the opportunities for folks is like you used the word journey earlier and also you summarize the concept of agility. I don’t think folks really recognize that you never get there, that it’s a relentless pursuit that never stops and which is a good thing and I think that’s disconcerning to some folks that like to cross a finish line.

Ashley: Yeah.

Willian Tincup: Right? So- [crosstalk 00:26:04]

Ashley: Yeah, it’s hard. It’s a hard reality to when, especially people love to-do lists or something like I’m a-

Willian Tincup: Right.

Ashley: I’m that person- [crosstalk 00:26:12].

Willian Tincup: Yeah, me too.

Ashley: I love to cross things off. I’m the quote, achiever from Gallup Strengthfinder, right? So I like to cross it off, say I did it. I’m done, moving on to the next, and this is not that, right? [crosstalk 00:26:22]

Willian Tincup: No, this is never done. If you’re doing it correctly, you never get to the finish line. Ashley, this has been absolutely fantastic. Thank you so much for carving out time for the audience.

Ashley: Yeah. I’m so glad to be here. Thanks for having me on.

Willian Tincup: Absolutely. And thanks for everyone listening to the RecruitingDaily Podcast until next time.

Music: You’ve been listening the Recruiting Live Podcast by Recruiting Daily. Check out the latest industry podcasts, webinars, articles, and news at recruitingdaily.com.

The RecruitingDaily Podcast

Authors
William Tincup

William is the President & Editor-at-Large of RecruitingDaily. At the intersection of HR and technology, he’s a writer, speaker, advisor, consultant, investor, storyteller & teacher. He's been writing about HR and Recruiting related issues for longer than he cares to disclose. William serves on the Board of Advisors / Board of Directors for 20+ HR technology startups. William is a graduate of the University of Alabama at Birmingham with a BA in Art History. He also earned an MA in American Indian Studies from the University of Arizona and an MBA from Case Western Reserve University.


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