Using Choice Points to Advance Racial Equity and Inclusion: Case Studies

Example 1: Hiring

ABC, a health organization, has had a staff vacancy they’ve been trying to fill for six months, with little success. Despite multiple job postings and outreach via relevant listservs, they haven’t been getting enough quality candidates. On top of that, their candidate pool has been lacking in racial and other types of diversity. The chart below shows how the hiring manager used choice points to resolve this problem.

Step 1: Know your desired outcome

Fill staff vacancy by attracting a racially diverse pool of high-quality candidates.

Step 2: Pause & identify decision-making opportunities (choice points)

Choice points:

  • Which tactics to employ for building the candidate pool
  • What requirements to list for the job description
Step 3: Examine the choices and their potential equity & inclusion impact
Choice Point
Status Quo
Potential E&I Impact

Building the candidate pool

Post to major jobs boards and listservs.

The default option has been yielding poor results—not enough racial or other types of diversity—and attracting a similar “profile” of candidate, since most people join these listservs by word-of-mouth.

Listing requirements for job description

Current job requirements include “U.S. Bachelor’s Degree.”

The default option prohibits people with international degrees, or people without formal college education, from applying. Changing the requirement could expand the pool and allow greater diversity of candidates (such as more recent immigrants and/or more people from poor or working class backgrounds).

Step 4: Brainstorm alternatives to the default approach

For building the candidate pool:

  • Do targeted outreach through coalition partners and community groups.
  • Identify connectors and have 1:1 conversations with them about potential candidates to recruit.

For listing requirements for the job description:

  • Change requirement to “Bachelor’s Degree.”
  • Remove degree requirement altogether.
Step 5: Act and evaluate

After some consideration and consultation with others on the team, the hiring manager decided to remove the degree requirement altogether. They also identified a few connectors from outside of their network before reposting the job announcement. After a few weeks, they had a bigger and more diverse pool. Eventually, they hired someone who was a great fit for the position, but previously had been ineligible to apply because they didn’t have a bachelor’s degree.

Moving forward, the organization decided to systematize one-on-one outreach with potential connectors as part of their recruitment process. They also decided to rethink their degree requirements on all other open job postings.


Example 2: Performance Problems

Corey is the Chief Schools Officer and a white woman. She’s been struggling for the last few months to get timely and effective work products from Jackie, the Senior Director of Curriculum and Assessment. She’s getting increasingly frustrated, and Jackie seems to be unhappy as well. She’s also aware that there are lines of difference and power to consider—Jackie is the only Black and openly queer person on their leadership team. After getting input from others, observing Jackie in action, and reflecting on Jackie’s earlier successes, Corey believes that Jackie can excel in her role. She decides to think through ways she can better support Jackie to be successful. Her goal is to support Jackie to produce good work that she feels confident about and commit to another school year.

Step 1: Know your desired outcome

Support Jackie to produce good work that she feels confident about and commit to another school year.

Step 2: Pause & identify decision-making opportunities (choice points)

In order to identify choice points, Corey did a “bias check” to spot disparities between the support she’d been providing to Jackie compared to her other direct reports.

Step 3: Examine the choices and their potential equity & inclusion impact
Choice Point
Status Quo
Potential E&I Impact

Feedback

Corey tries to share feedback with Jackie during every check-in. However, they don’t have a particularly strong relationship and Corey is very mindful of their lines of difference and doesn’t want to come across as being too harsh on the person with the most marginalized identities on her team. As a result, she’s not as direct with her feedback. When she does give it, it ends up being watered down and piecemeal.

Compared to her (non-Black and straight) colleagues, Jackie’s getting feedback that’s less clear, candid, and timely, so she doesn’t realize her work is not meeting expectations until it’s too late to change course. In addition, because of the piecemeal nature of the feedback, Jackie doesn’t fully understand the pattern that Corey has detected or the concrete improvements that Corey needs to see.

Check-in times

Mondays at noon

Holidays usually fall on Mondays. Corey’s check-ins with other staff happen during the middle of the week, so her check-ins with Jackie are usually the only ones to get canceled (and not rescheduled) during holiday weeks. So, Jackie is getting substantially less of Corey’s time, support, and feedback.

Interactions in the office

Jackie tends to be out of the office more than her colleagues because of the nature of her role.

Jackie and Corey tend to only discuss work matters during their scheduled check-ins.

With Jackie often being out of the office for professional development and external meetings, they haven’t gotten into the habit of interacting informally throughout the course of their week in the same way that Corey does with her other direct reports, with whom she generally interacts with more on a day-to-day basis. On top of having more opportunities to interact, Corey and her other direct reports (mostly white women) also have more in common—they have kids (Jackie doesn’t), they went to similar academic institutions, and they enjoy similar hobbies. Without the kind of relationship where she feels comfortable interrupting Corey’s day to ask a question or check in on the progress of her work, Jackie doesn’t get as much help and guidance as her peers.

Step 4: Brainstorm alternatives to the default approach

For feedback:

  • Do a stepback with Jackie to share feedback (including about the patterns she has noticed), hear her perspective, and get on the same page about what improvements are needed.
  • Commit to doing 2×2 feedback in their check-ins (at least weekly for the next month).

For check-in time:

  • Move check-in to the middle of the week.
  • Make check-ins non-negotiable—if they have to be canceled, then commit to rescheduling.

For interactions in the office:

  • Make a point to check in informally if they’re in the office together, even if it’s just to ask “how’s ___ going?”
  • Find more time to get to know Jackie on a more casual basis without the pressure of providing an update on work.
Step 5: Act and evaluate

Corey had a stepback conversation with Jackie to share feedback, clear the air, and re-set expectations. During the conversation, Jackie shared that she’d been growing resentful because she felt like she hadn’t been getting as much support or time with Corey as her colleagues.

Corey decided to tackle some of the low-hanging fruit and changed their standing time to Wednesday mornings and made it a non-negotiable part of her calendar for two months. She also made sure to do quick, informal check-ins with Jackie on the days that they were both in the office. More importantly, through examining her choice points, Corey realized she needed to invest more in her relationship with Jackie, especially because their different backgrounds, identities, and work styles meant they didn’t immediately relate to each other as well as she did with her other staff.

Over the next two months, they checked in more frequently on projects and Corey was able to provide more timely coaching and feedback. Corey also worked harder to connect with Jackie over non-work interests. With more frequent communication, Jackie felt more comfortable with proactively tapping Corey for support. Jackie eventually became one of her high-performers and committed to staying on staff for the next school year.