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How Kion is Committing to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

John Lynch

6 min read

Last updated on November 3rd, 2021 at 7:53am

At Kion, we believe making our world a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive society starts with each organization setting the example. Given our size, we can't expect to immediately influence the world with what we do within our virtual walls, so we seek to partner with organizations committed to fostering this change in our local communities to help expand our impact. From there, we hope our meaningful contributions within our local communities can then have broader-reaching impact across the state, nation, and world. Here are some of the ways we are stepping up to enable change and lead by example.

Culture Add, Not Culture Fit

"Celebrate our differences" is one of our core values at Kion. To build a great company, you need to hire great people but, beyond that, you need to have new and unique perspectives, skills, and backgrounds to create a richer organization. When we began to interview candidates in the early days of the company, we made a conscious decision not to ask: "Will this person fit within our culture?" Instead, we ask: "Will this person add to our culture?" To truly celebrate our differences we need diversity in our team across backgrounds, education, and career paths. People who add to our culture bring in new perspectives and new ways of thinking and doing things, and help push our company to the next level. Some of our best hires have been team members with a career path that was not traditionally what you might expect based on the job description.

We are committed to creating the space and process to remove some of the traditional roadblocks that have been part of a legacy recruiting and hiring-decision process.

Celebrating Beyond the Interview

Beyond the hiring process, we wanted to take additional steps to ensure we continue to celebrate our differences and work towards a diverse and inclusive company. We outlined the near-term activities that we could do to make an impact in furthering our team's diversity and contributions to our community. One of these first activities was to implement an employee-led Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Council. The objective of this council was to help company leadership identify areas to focus energy on - both inside and outside our organization - to embody our value of celebrating our differences.

In its first year, the DEI council helped lead the effort to look at our organization and ask what can be done better. Creating space to talk about DEI was the first step. We hosted Diversity and Inclusion Town Halls to hear what issues and roadblocks employees have faced throughout their careers. These topics are not always easy to discuss, and to help facilitate questions and conversation, we started a #diversitymatters channel on Slack and developed an anonymous feedback box for Council members to screen and discuss at their monthly meetings.

We also focused on how we could learn more about each other and the diverse backgrounds we have within our company. We started regular "culture exchanges" to learn about the backgrounds and unique traditions of different cultures. We learned how to make brigadeiros, a Brazilian dessert, and stuffed figs, often associated with Ramadan.

Applying Best Practices

We recognize that building better DEI practices is larger than ourselves...after all, as a 50+ person company there is only so much reach you can have to change the world. So to go beyond our virtual walls, we have chosen key local community partners to help better connect and multiply our impact. Last year we joined Baltimore Tracks, an organization that brings together tech leaders to foster a more diverse and inclusive tech industry for people of color in Baltimore. Members of Baltimore Tracks have agreed to share qualified candidates who apply to our companies but aren’t hired immediately, prioritizing applicants from underrepresented demographic groups. Partnering with Baltimore Tracks also provides benefits to us because the experience and knowledge of the members can be shared, helping us accelerate our DEI efforts. Instead of reinventing the wheel, Baltimore Tracks aims to help companies like ours build effective programs.

Beyond our geographic local community, we have also identified other groups in the tech community to help support expanding minority representation in engineering. As an example, at our Summer 2021 Cloudunity event, we made a donation on behalf of every attendee to Girls Who Code, which seeks to introduce and attract engineering disciplines to female talent at an earlier age to help expand the number of women in the tech workforce. Also, as part of our recent fundraising round, we partnered with Gaingels who seek to help companies like Kion recruit, support, and grow LGBT talent.

At Kion, hiring great people is the first step but a large part of having a diverse culture is being able to provide employees with fair opportunities for promotion in their careers and fair compensation for the value they bring to the organization. We recognize that not every person has access to the same tools and education to begin a career in the tech industry, and we feel that we can change that by offering a structure that promotes fair opportunity and education to employees. Over the last two years we've implemented a career path system that allows us to create clear definition of the roles and levels within our organization. This has helped give employees a clearer vision to understand how to progress at Kion and has helped us benchmark fair compensation ranges for each role. Our goal is to remove the hard conversations around compensation between employees and managers by establishing clear guidance for how compensation is built.

By creating roles and levels across the company, we've started to provide a framework for the training and education employees need to progress. We have begun building out internal training systems to help employees get up to speed quicker, learn necessary skills for their jobs, and progress further in their career.

The commitment will evolve

There's still work to do as we institutionalize internal practices to hire for culture add and provide the space to embrace diversity. To find people who can add to our culture, we need to be able to recruit from a bigger pool of candidates. At Kion, we're looking at better ways to help bring people into tech who historically may not have had access to our community. We believe that the tech industry could benefit from more diversity.

We are looking to partner with STEM groups that support underrepresented communities to broaden our reach and increase the diversity of candidates looking to have a career at Kion or similar tech companies. We are also going to be investing time and resources into attending more career fairs such as the ones that Technical.ly puts on with a focus in our local area. We are going to continue investing in education opportunities for our employees and build out programs to bring in interns from underrepresented communities to provide more opportunities for exposure to the tech industry.

We can not do this alone, but if we can contribute to adding diversity in the tech industry, we will bring in better ideas and be able to go farther, faster.

About the Author

John Lynch

John is the COO at Kion.

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