Hiring for Diversity With OKRs

Hustle's bet that its DEI and hiring practices are a competitive advantage.

LaToia Jones, Hustle

When peer-to-peer messaging platform Hustle first started recruiting LaToia Jones, she wasn’t interested. She was happy in her current job, and she had reservations about the tech industry, which “wasn’t known for its diversity.” Hustle kept reaching out. A year later, when Jones agreed to visit the Hustle offices in San Francisco, she was both surprised and impressed. “It was diverse in a way that I never really seen in a corporate environment,” she observed, “opinions were open… there were teams led by women and teams led by people of color.” She said yes.

Specializing in civic engagement, Hustle delivered more than 475 million text messages in 2020, supporting over 1,500 campaigns and committees, sparking conversations with more than 31% of Americans. In the recent election cycle, Hustle supported numerous Senate and Congressional candidates with results including Jay Inslee’s reelection for Governor of Washington, Mondaire Jones becoming the first openly gay African American Congressman for New York, and Mark Kelly’s election to the U.S. Senate in Arizona.

Having worked on political campaigns, Jones knew the importance of speaking directly to the community they sought to serve. She was drawn to Hustle’s work culture because, “they were also very focused on making sure that the people who were helping you communicate look like the community you’re communicating to.”

Three years later, Jones is happy that she made the job switch “because it helped me find a voice in an avenue that I didn’t think was open to someone like me. So I appreciate that Hustle actually reaches out to people.”

Diverse voices are good business — internally and externally

Jones, who is SVP of Government Affairs & Political Partners at Hustle, is proud that she’s also been able to bring more women of color and LGBTQIA into the talent pool. Jones explains that Hustle’s drive for building a more diverse workforce goes beyond race, gender, and age, to include a diversity of thought and mindset. “Oftentimes, people hire people who say what they want to hear,” she points out, “We hire people [at Hustle] who challenge us. So that we have different voices in the room.”

Hustle’s focus on diverse candidates isn’t just about finding the best talent; it’s also vital for business. Roddy Lindsay, Co-Founder and Chief Evangelist, wrote: “We do not look like other Silicon Valley companies, many of whom pay lip service to diversity; for us, diversity is a key strategic advantage for our business.”

When bringing on new employees, Hustle looks at the industries it serves and works backward. For example, their clients in labor, higher education, and nonprofits tend to employ BIPOC and women, so Jones emphasizes that “it helps the company make a better tool by hiring people that reflect the companies we serve.”

Accomplishing diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI), requires goal setting. That’s why, at the beginning of 2018, leadership set out to define and measure what employee diversity meant for Hustle. It started with a #diversity conversation on Slack to get the dialogue moving throughout the company. After the staff weighed in, executives crafted DEI Objectives and Key Results (OKRs): one each for diversity, equity, and inclusion, and another to evaluate the initiative objectively. Here’s the Diversity OKR that Jones helped to create and implement:

Introduce more formal measurement while increasing transparency. Move the needle on underrepresented groups in leadership.
Identify 3 professional organizations focused on advancing Black and Latinx Leaders to establish key partnerships.
As part of Zenefits launch, run EEOC survey to have diversity data by level & team. Publish Diversity Data across key leadership teams.
Increase our Diverse slate approach for our leadership searches of Chief Revenue Officer and other Directors and above hires by 2x diverse pipeline with a focus on Black & Latinx representation.

Going well beyond (and beneath) the words themselves, this OKR helped to focus Hustle’s ongoing commitment to diversity through outreach, transparency, and candidate sourcing. By setting a clear Objective and measurable Key Results, the start-up was able to track its achievements, ultimately exceeding each goal.

diversity at Hustle driven by OKR

Inspired by their Objectives and Key Results (OKRs), Hustle began forming and nurturing working alliances with BIPOC organizations of all sizes, partnering to tackle diversity issues on a national scale. For example, Hustle hosted the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) as they rolled out CBC Tech2020, an initiative designed to increase African-American inclusion at all levels of the tech industry. Hustle also partnered with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, the NAACP, the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists, and smaller Black and Latinx organizations, sometimes giving out the Hustle product to help partners with their registration efforts.

The Key Results work together well for Hustle, creating a more extensive network to spread the word about talent acquisition. According to Jones, “We told these partners, which include historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs), ‘We’re hiring for these positions. Do you know anybody in your communities who would like to come on board?’” Jones doesn’t like the “Rooney Rule,” which merely requires a single diverse candidate to be interviewed. Hustle continues to stretch by putting job notices in non-traditional spaces, like working with a veteran placement organization for their recruitment strategy.

To track their progress, Hustle conducted the US Equal Employment Opportunity (EEOC) survey, asking employees how they identify. As turnover happens, Hustle updates those numbers and publishes data internally to promote transparency company wide. Jones notes, “We want to make sure that we have all of their identities and do not assume people are one way or another.”

Co-Founder Lindsay wrote: “There is a lot riding on Hustle’s success — more than just the outcome of a single company, Hustle is out to prove that one can build a highly successful business that is truly diverse, civically engaged, mission-driven and powered by impact. And we believe that in the future, successful companies will look less like the companies that are considered iconic today, and look more like Hustle.”

Having the plan isn’t enough. You have to work the plan.

Jones is quick to point out that following through on DEI goals isn’t always easy. “OKRs are the plan that helps Hustle commit to the work,” says Jones, “but they aren’t meant to just sit on a shelf; they have to be acted upon.” Fortunately, because Hustle wrote and shared DEI OKRs, teams have something concrete to hold Hustle leadership accountable. This enables everyone to start a hard conversation when needed.

“Even though you have diversity OKRs, you can still have implicit bias and not realize it. You have to check in every quarter. And if we’re not doing it well, then we ask where did the ball drop?” Jones encourages, “When we fall short, the team has the voice and freedom to call out the leadership.”

Jones likes that the OKR methodology creates a structure that moves the organization forward — management has acknowledged mistakes and worked to solve them, learning from the experience. At one point, Hustle’s commitment to the work meant bringing in diversity consultants to help them address challenges.

The work continues, even with OKRs on temporary pause

One constant with startup companies is change. Over the past year, Hustle has dealt with a Reduction in Force (RIF), the pandemic, and an acquisition. On August 18, 2020, Hustle was acquired by Social Capital’s Chamath Palihapitiya, an early Hustle investor who is drawn to innovative and mission-driven companies. With so much in flux, Hustle put a temporary pause on writing new OKRs. Their original DEI OKRs have laid the foundation for a company of diverse voices and partnerships.

As Hustle begins to think about their next OKRs, the company still strives for DEI goals at every stage of the game. As the journey continues, so does Hustle’s vision, says Jones, “We need to make sure that we are creating a company that people want to stay and grow with.”

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