About 100 Diversity & Inclusion leaders and community professionals joined i4cp’s weekly D&I Action Call on September 1st for insights into employee listening strategies provided by Shuba Gopal of the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard. Broad Institute is a non-profit biomedical research enterprise that is empowering a revolution in biomedicine to accelerate the pace at which the world conquers disease.
Gopal, who was interviewed by i4cp Chief Diversity Officer Board Chair Jacqui Robertson, is a Senior Scientist in People Analytics for the Institute.
Key Ideas Shared Today:
- Broad Institute’s diversity and inclusion journey is rooted in understanding the employee experience. In an organization that is focused on data, understanding employees and what they need in order to be well-supported naturally began with a listening strategy that included an employee engagement survey. Historically, the survey was done annually.
Survey data revealed that Broad Institute employees’ (Broadies) engagement hinged on their sense of belonging in their teams and their connection to others. “It was clear that inclusion is part of our secret sauce,” says Gopal. “So if people felt they belonged and connected with others, we’d already be solving for a lot of the challenges they might encounter.” She says that insight has governed the D&I journey for the past several years.
- Crowdsourcing proves a valuable part of the organizational listening strategy. After the initial traditional engagement survey elicited creative responses, the organization sought a tool to help cut through the volume of comments and identify those of greatest importance.
The organization chose Waggl, an employee-voice platform which enabled asking open-ended questions. Upon completing their own responses, employees can then vote on responses of others. Over time, this upvoting capability enables the top ideas to bubble to the surface.
Gopal says the identification of the top five-to-ten suggestions has been “incredibly helpful in providing direction, showing where we should apply effort and resources, and suggesting how to prioritize issues.” During the pandemic, that ability to crowdsource confirmed that employees’ top need was help with childcare. In turn, the Institute worked with Bright Horizons to set up a childcare center specifically for Broad employees. The result was a reduction in employee stress.
- The pandemic influenced timing of employee surveys. At the outset of the health crisis, says Gopal, it was apparent that the Institute needed to hear from employees far more often than the survey’s annual cadence allowed. She says that surveying now occurs monthly, offering opportunities to question employees not only on engagement, but also on pandemic-related issues, racism, and other external events.
“People have been thrilled to give their feedback,” she notes. “And the feedback they’re giving has been really actionable, as in pointing out the need for childcare.” The monthly sampling also enables the organization to confirm that actions taken based on employee feedback are working.
- Extending listening beyond the organization helps researchers create cutting-edge health solutions. Asked about additional strategies Broad Institute uses to enhance its listening capabilities, Gopal says an area of success has grown out of an increase in the organization’s direct-to-patient research. In past collaborations, the Institute’s researchers worked through hospitals or scientists teamed with clinicians. As a result, Broad researchers were several steps removed from patients whose health conditions needed solutions.
Gopal says the organization has moved to a new approach in which researchers interact directly with patient communities, especially cancer patients. Called Count Me In, the direct patient/research interaction has proven a popular and energizing initiative.
“I would love to see that model expanded at Broad,” says Gopal. “People are excited by it, though it can be a little scary for scientists who aren’t necessarily comfortable talking to diverse patient groups and building the trust needed to drive engagement. But their ability to do that could yield amazing research results that benefits many. Maybe we can learn from that and expand that sort of approach to other areas.”
Also on the Call:
- An instant poll asked call attendees about the frequency with which their organizations surveyed employees during the pandemic. Top responses to the all-that-apply query:
- We survey as needed – 47%
- We conducted a needs survey for work from home – 43%
- We conducted a needs survey for return to work – 34%
- A second poll asked attendees to rate the importance of their organizations’ employee resource groups (ERGs/BRGs) during the pandemic and in response to social unrest. Top responses:
- Good – a valuable support resource and culture champions – 33%
- Organization does not have ERGs/BRGs – 28%
- Moderate – useful for group cohesion, but we should leverage them more – 15%
Access a recording of the full D&I Action Call on i4cp’s Employer Resource Center.