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Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Initiatives that All Stem From an Explorer’s Mindset

An Exclusive Interview with Netta Jenkins, Vice President of Global Inclusion for Mosaic Group / Ask Applications, one of the world’s largest software distributors, and author of “Self-Advocacy and Confidence for a Fearless Career.” Ms. Jenkins shares how her early childhood explorations in search of fossils with neighbors ignited her career of caring for the voices of those around her.

With employees spanning the globe from Belarus to America, Ms. Jenkins believes cross-cultural communication is vital to the company’s success. And fostering a culture of inclusion is at the very core of that communication.

Diversity Equity Inclusion (DEI) programs are top of mind for many organizations. Jenkins acknowledges how employees may not see the importance of such programs, or may not even be aware of what Diversity Equity Inclusion (DEI) actually is. She is determined to personally engage with as many employees as possible to educate them on the relationship between DEI and a thriving business at Ask Application. Her open door policy allows her to leverage the empathy needed to connect with employees in order to better understand their experiences and values. 

As companies spend over sixteen billion dollars a year on turnover costs, Jenkins clearly sees the relationship between leadership and retention. Her leadership is defined by belonging and inclusion, and is made up of the following non-negotiable traits:

·  Compassion

·  Active listening

·  Empathy

At Ludolo, we believe inclusion is paramount for any company’s success. Without it, innovation will only go so far. Our interactive workshops of habit-forming games quickly create an environment of inclusivity, where people develop the psychological safety needed for a truly diverse and equitable culture.

In this interview, you’ll discover how:

·  To create initiatives that focus on equity

·  To implement tools that develop trust

·  To value the importance of relationship building

Press play below, or read through the transcript below.

Roger Manix: Hello everyone. I’m Roger Manix, Co-founder at Ludolo. We’re a play based learning company that sparks innovation, strengthens culture and fosters human connection. We’re doing a series of interviews with organizational leaders to help better understand and shape the future of learning and development initiatives. Today, we have the pleasure of speaking with Netta Jenkins. Hello Netta.

Netta Jenkins: Hi, how are you?

Roger Manix: Oh, I’m okay. You are the Vice President of Global Inclusion for Mosaic Group and Ask Applications. Netta is the author of Self-Advocacy and Confidence for a Fearless Career, a book that covers hot button workplace issues encountered by women and empowers leaders to develop a strong voice so they can move to new heights in their careers through self-advocacy and sisterhood. Forbes has said, “Netta Jenkins has a strong understanding of what empowering people in the workplace can do for the growth of the company.” And OnlyGood.TV created a show called, Netta D.I., where Netta offers solutions to clients and individuals that are facing challenges at their company. My, you must have a lot of spare time on your hands.

Netta Jenkins: I wish, I wish.

Roger Manix: You’re doing so much. Well, we’re really happy to have you and super grateful to have this call, so thanks for joining us today.

Netta Jenkins: Absolutely. Thank you for having me on.

Roger Manix: You got it. I’m going to jump right in. You tell me, what did you play as a little kid? Was there a go-to or a favorite game that you recall?

Netta Jenkins: This is such a good question. I was a very interesting kid. I was one that would look for dinosaur fossils. I just knew I was going to find a dinosaur fossil in my neighborhood. But I led others with me to search as well. I remember having about 10 of the kids in my neighborhood, we would all play together and I’m like, “Hey, let’s go and look for dinosaur fossils.” And that was one of the most intriguing things for me. I’ve always been very interested in learning about things that people really couldn’t get their hands on. And I’m like, okay, I can make that change, right? Or I can figure this out. That was really intriguing for me.

…Then also, of course playing, with my Barbies and making food out of plants and grass and dirt was really interesting and fun to me too. I always say I was a very interesting child, but I always cared about people. I always cared about, you know, the other kids. I was always looking to, to make sure they were okay, making sure that my friends were getting on the bus. If there were a few people that were missing, I’m like, “Okay, where’s this person? Let’s wait for this person.” And my mom laughs till this day. She’s like, “You were just always very inquisitive and you’re always thinking about other people.”

Roger Manix: Absolutely lovely. And I have a feeling, you know, that mom had something to do with that as well.

Netta Jenkins: Absolutely, she did.

Roger Manix: It’s great how you’re like the explorer going around town.

Netta Jenkins: Yeah.

Roger Manix: Do you play today? Like what does play look like in your life today?

Netta Jenkins: It’s interesting. I was reading an article the other day about what play looks like to other people and I saw people talking about ping pong and just different activities within the workplace. Then I said to myself, Oh my goodness, if that’s what people think play is for them, that they need to leave their jobs. I started just thinking about how I defined play. And for me, play is about creating these initiatives that focus on equity that really give people the space, and the opportunity, and access to explore. Here we go back to exploring, to explore the world of technology and gain access to things that they never really had access to and watching this all come to life. And that is really play for me in the job and the work that I do.

Netta Jenkins: Watching these initiatives come to life and watching people grow. Here, I’ve put together a coding class and we launched that pilot this year and it was very successful. We had about 15 to 20 people. Out of those folks, there were about five that we could see ourselves hiring or bringing on as interns.

Roger Manix: Wow.

Netta Jenkins: Yeah. And just to see those people evolve, learn very quickly that didn’t really have access to technology, but were just really interested in now here’s this company giving them a chance to do so, was very impactful for me. Then seeing, you know, the engineers, the employees in our organization as instructors and leading the path and really being engulfed and immersed in creating an opportunity for others was play for me. It was very exciting.

Roger Manix: In the first question to this question, it reeks in the best way possible of creating this beautiful inclusivity across the learning process.

Netta Jenkins: Absolutely.

Roger Manix: Tell me, I get every organization is different, right? So what is your role as the Vice President of Global Inclusion for Mosaic Group and Ask Applications. And then, tell me a little bit more about the team or teams.

Netta Jenkins: Right. Mosaic Group is our mobile business and under Mosaic Group we have Daily Burn, we have Apalon, we have Tel Tech, they’re all mobile businesses. We have another business called [inaudible 00:06:31] Translate. And then Ask Applications is more of our browser business and going back to Mosaic Group, a couple of those businesses are based in Eastern Europe. We have one office based in Minsk and other based in Austria. As VP of Global Inclusion, being able to really focus on cross cultural communication is extremely key to ensure that our American employees are collaborating and working seamlessly with our Belorussian employees. Because of course each group kind of has different working habits and there can always a little bit of tension in terms of sort of communicating effectively. And we all know that through communicating and collaborating effectively, it can increase performance productivity resulting in more innovation and even revenue, so that’s really key.

That’s a key focus of my job. But then the other component is really just ensuring that every single person within the organization has not only a seat at the table, but a voice at the table. And that’s really powerful. We don’t want people underneath the table or behind the table, we want people that have a seat and they have a voice. And I think a lot of the times in organizations, there may be someone that has a seat but doesn’t have a voice, right? Afraid to say something, afraid to speak up, afraid to be their authentic selves. And we really embrace belonging. We embrace equity, we embrace inclusion, and diversity and merging, all those things together and creating a thriving workforce where people are performing very well. That’s sort of in a nutshell … There’s a lot that I do, but if I had to give a short version of it, that would be the short version.

Then also, of course, creating, different initiatives. Like I said, we focused heavily on equity. And so we do have different academies, we’ve branded as academies where we offer different classes for external folks. We have, of course, the partnership component. Then we have many of those internal trainings and they’re probably going to switch to more of the virtual trainings so that we have our offices in other countries and employees out in other countries as well being a part of it because it’s really key for them to understand, “Hey, what are Americans going through? What are some of the challenges?” And for us to understand some of the challenges there as well, so that we can better create these initiatives that that will be impactful for our employees. Then in terms of the teams that I’ve worked with, when I think of teams, I think of literally every single person within my organization.

In order to drive diversity, equity, inclusion, belonging you need every single person on board. You literally do. And sometimes it’s tiring. We all know change doesn’t happen overnight. It’s very … Sometimes you get those people that don’t care for it, they’re not as passionate as you are and that can take a toll over you. When I go through those days, I’m like, “Okay, let me just sleep it off. And I’ll come back to the table and I’ll try again.” Right? It’s a new day.

But the key is to ensure that every single person is on board. I don’t just look to the team, you know, the immediate team that I work with, I look to every single employee. I want to understand their experience. I want to understand what they bring to the table. I want to understand what they value. I want to understand if they even care about DEI and if they don’t, that’s okay. Right? It’s important for me to understand so that way I can tailor my talk to why they should care. Right? Because everyone kind of has that, that button in them that makes them tick and say, “Oh my goodness this is something that I should be passionate about. You know, this is not just a nice thing to do.”

Roger Manix: What I love hearing you … many things. I’m here writing notes. The first thing is you’re actually modeling inclusivity. You’re modeling that by going up to every person and really meeting them where they are and actually helping to elevate them actually by understanding where they are. What we found at Ludolo … It’s funny, we’ve worked with teens who are spread out all around the world as well too. And how do you kind of foster this cross functional across the disparities? And we have yet to find, Netta, someone who answers this question, “No.” Like everyone we met, we say, “Did you play as a kid?” We had never met someone who said, “No, I’ve never played. I’ve never played.” What we found is play is a universal language that bonds and brings us all together. It’s a language we all speak as well too. That we find is a great way to foster collaboration.

When you’re talking about making sure that everyone has a seat and a voice at the table, you’re really talking about trust. You’re really talking about belonging, a higher level of inclusion there. How does Mosaic build trust and inclusion within their organization especially for new hires?

Netta Jenkins: Right, yeah. It definitely starts at the top. What we do is we also make sure that we implement everything into our onboarding. When a new employee comes on board, they’re getting an overview of what diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging is. They get an overview of the many initiatives that we have. They get an overview of, “Hey, there’s an open door policy, even though I’m not in the room, right? So anyone can walk up to me.” It’s really about, “Hey, I want to connect with you and I’d like to learn a little bit more about you.”

So, I definitely try to take the time with each person, sit down with them and understand what their background is, their experience, and what makes them tick, what empowers them about diversity, equity and inclusion. I think by doing that, going back to your question, that really [inaudible 00:13:47] building that trust level. It’s that door of, “Oh my goodness, I can trust her and it’s okay if I say I don’t know much about diversity, equity, inclusion. Or I can say I didn’t really care before, but I want to learn and I want to care. Where do I start?”

Roger Manix: I think a lot of times as DNI practitioners, we don’t leave that room open. Especially for someone that’s just really passionate, you feel everyone should be on board with this. But I think you said something that was so key, you really have to meet people at where they are and that’s how you can really empower them.

Yeah, well that’s just a deeper level of listening that we have to exemplify and model in ourselves. We can’t ask the people to do the very things that we’re not doing and listening is very important. How do you define compassion? And what is the role of compassion in leadership?

Netta Jenkins: Right. That is such a great question. Compassion, for me, would be really, again, going back to taking the time to listen, to be an active listener, right? It’s not always about saying something, but it’s about listening to people and understanding where they’re coming from and kind of almost trying to put yourself in their shoes. Again, I go back to, I’ve had a couple people that said to me, “Diversity, equity and inclusion, Netta, is not something that’s top of mind for me. Why is this important? Why should this be important to me?” And I think, again, going back to that, for anyone that’s really passionate about it, you’re just like, “What? Don’t you understand? Don’t you see what’s going on in our world? Can’t you see what’s going on in technology and the lack of representation, all of this?”

But it’s about stepping back, being compassionate and saying, “This person just doesn’t know.” Right? And this is an opportunity for me to educate that person. They want to know, because now they’re sharing this information with me. I think it’s about being an active listener, being open enough to kind of step in their shoes and being empathetic, that’s a part of being, compassionate. I think leadership … in order for you to be a leader in any company, you have to have that trait because in the world that we’re in right now, people are going to leave. Companies spend about $16 billion on turnover costs per year.

Roger Manix: Yup.

Netta Jenkins: And it’s really due to the level of belonging, but the lack of compassion, the lack of empathy. Studies show it and research shows us it as well.

Roger Manix: Yeah and we get that right. When we get the sense of belonging and culture and all inclusion, when we get that right in an organization, the real magic can start to align there. That’s where our focus really needs to be. That’s when product profitability starts to rise.

Netta Jenkins: Absolutely.

Roger Manix: I want to be mindful, we have about five minutes here. I know you are currently on your book tour. Congratulations, well done [crosstalk 00:17:17]

Netta Jenkins: Thank you.

Roger Manix: I know what that feels like. Good for you. Tell me, can you … This is a hard question. Tell me, is it possible to pinpoint it down to kind of maybe one moment or highlight a moment that really prompted you to write Self-Advocacy and Confidence for a Fearless Career? Was there a moment, or a moment that you can describe? Yeah.

Netta Jenkins: Yeah, absolutely. There was … I get multiple people that reach out to me online to share their experiences with me and ask for advice. This one particular person … I was working for a different company was. It was a female and she was talking to me about just for her lack of confidence in terms of moving up within her company, but wanting to do so. Knowing that and understanding that, “Okay, there are learning and development opportunities, but I still feel like there are roadblocks.” When she had said that and multiple women have said that to me were just like, “Okay, I need to write a book that really focuses on women advocating for themselves and really being fearless about it and having competence.” And my mother said one thing to me when I was younger, she said, “Listen, in life, if you can advocate for yourself and you can be confident, you will have a fearless career.”

That’s really where that title came from. That’s always stuck with me. And so, in my walk and my path and my career path, I’ve always advocated for myself. Whether it came down to compensation or bonus or whatever it was, I was always advocating for myself. Even if I felt like I had enough, I’m like, “Nope, I can have more. Right? Because I’m worth more.” And then when you advocate for yourself, you have to have confidence or else the person’s not going to take you seriously. When you can do those two things combined, you’re well off in your career and people see it.

Roger Manix: How lucky we are to have you in the world. That sounds amazing.

Netta Jenkins: Thank you.

Roger Manix: Going back to our initial question, and this is our last question before we wrap here. When you shared about playing the anthropological explorer, looking for dino bones in the neighborhood as a kid, what skills did that game play develop in you which had been useful throughout your career?

Netta Jenkins: Hmm, that’s a good one. I think really paying attention to the details. Right? Even though I didn’t find any fossils, I paid attention to everything. I remember there being an imprint on a rock and I’m like, “Oh my gosh, I got it.” I told my little friend James, I’m like, “I got it.” And he’s like, “You’ve got it Netta.” But I just knew in my mind that I had a fossil, that’s all I knew. I know now I didn’t. But I was very observant and I think even now that’s what I do. With my work, I’m constantly observing people. I want of understand, okay, “How are people feeling today?” Even with if they don’t say anything to me, I’m able to pull out how they are feeling, and I’ve done that many times. I’ve talked to many employees, you know, and I can tell if they’re having that off day and I’m able to kind of say, “Okay. Well let’s step away from this project. Or we don’t have to finish this meeting. Why don’t you just focus on you today?”

Roger Manix: Such a loving gesture that you can give that to people. And what we don’t realize, or what many other may people may not realize, is how that actually allows the work to even flourish on a deeper level when you give the opportunity for people to kind of take a moment and care for themselves. Also, when you were speaking about, making sure everyone was on the bus and being a caretaker as a kid and being a caretaker with leading the 10 people through the neighborhood of what we can learn, and what we can get our hands on. You haven’t stopped you clearly, you’re still doing that right now, especially with a book and your career that’s chosen you. I want to say thank you on behalf of probably everyone who’s come in touch with you because I can hear your passion speaking and just listening to you. I appreciate you sharing your time and sharing your play history with me. It’s been a delight to speak with you today, Netta. And I’m so grateful that we’ve had this opportunity to connect with play as our common theme.

Netta Jenkins: Okay.

Roger Manix: Thank you so much.

Netta Jenkins: You’re welcome.

Roger Manix: Well, we here at Ludolo believe that collaborative play is nature’s greatest teacher to train the mind and body of what it means to be humans in our digital age. And with that, I’ll say goodbye for myself. Netta, you can give a quick goodbye.

Netta Jenkins: Yes. Bye. And thank you so much for having me on.

Roger Manix:  My pleasure. And stay tuned everyone. Thanks all.