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How We’re Furthering Our DEI Efforts through a Skills Matrix

Co-authored by 2020 Client Services Interns, Julia Mitsch and Camryn Simon

An equitable and inclusive work environment is critical. To achieve this, diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) methods can be integrated across all areas of an organization. Here’s how we’re furthering our DEI efforts through a skills matrix.

In addition to growing our internal DEI working group here at Forum One, we have updated our skills and interests matrix to include DEI.  Our updated matrix encompasses all of Forum One’s Strategy, Client Services, Design, and Technology employees. Our hope is that the skills matrix will increase equity and ensure that everyone’s voices are taken into consideration. 

Tackling unconscious bias

Since we formed our internal DEI working group in the fall of 2018, Forum One has been engaged in an ongoing process of continuous learning, embracing change, and finding growth and insight from different perspectives. The working group has explored how we can remove unconscious bias in how we assign teams to project work. The team determined that Forum One needed to focus on: 

  • Transparency: Are team members given a say in what projects they are assigned to? 
  • Objectivity: Do managers recommend team members for a project based on their relationship with that person or affinity for them?
  • Opportunity: Is there equitable access to opportunities for growth? 

Building an inclusive skills matrix

Our goal was to create living documentation of staff interests, professional development goals, and specific skill sets. We took a collaborative approach and conducted over 30 interviews with staff from different teams. Based on the inventory of skills and interests that we collected across all company teams, we developed surveys for employees on each of our primary teams. 

We asked questions to uncover issues they are passionate about, the types of mission-driven organizations they would like to work with, skills they have outside of their professional lives, and any professional development goals they have. We condensed the survey results data into a resource accessible to everyone at Forum One. Using a singular resource where all employees from our project delivery teams are included increases equitability because everyone’s voices can be considered equally.

Setting up for positive growth

Our skills matrix goes beyond traditional skills matrices, which takes inventory of an individuals’ skills, highlights areas where teams can grow, initiates conversations about professional development, maps skillset growth, and structures effective project teams. Our updated matrix also incorporates interests, preferences, and professional development goals in order to provide a holistic understanding of a person’s strengths and growth trajectory. This duality of DEI-related data and traditional data means that our matrix can be utilized in various ways. With the additions of data on people’s interests, preferences, and professional development goals, our matrix can be used in more ways: 

  • Increase investment and ownership of specific topics: Forum One works with an extensive number of mission-driven organizations that work in a variety of areas. If staff have the opportunity to work with organizations, missions, or project types that they are personally passionate about, there is a good chance that they will be more invested and proud of their contributions. Partners in turn can feel confident they are working with the right team that is equally passionate about their goals. 
  • Build a richer set of professional skills: Collecting data about skills and interests outside of one’s role provides the company with insights around its ability to grow its expertise and service offerings.  
  • Extend their time at Forum One: When staff feel more fulfilled at work, doing work they enjoy, they are more likely to stay
  • Find areas of growth and contribute to a wealth of organizational skills: An inclusive skills matrix helps team leaders set specific targets for individual and team growth and facilitate conversations with staff during quarterly or annual performance reviews.
  • Receive and provide meaningful mentorship: Based on the skills people would like to develop, and topic areas they’d like to be involved in, the matrix incorporates the willingness to both receive and provide mentorship within the company. Mentorship adds value to an organization by creating a supportive and collaborative approach to learning new skills, providing leadership opportunities, and strengthening professional relationships. 

In our ongoing quest to prioritize DEI  by incorporating initiatives with a long-term agenda. Our updated skills matrix allowed us to be more intentional about how we staff projects, provide opportunities to learn, and — ultimately — empower our staff to create a meaningful and lasting impact for our clients. 

As rising seniors, at their respective universities #GoOrange #GoUW, Julia Mitsch and Camryn Simon hope to enter the workforce with an organization that prioritizes an inclusive, equitable environment. Diversity within teams increases productivity and creativity by taking different perspectives and ideas into consideration. During their internship with Forum One, they were able to dive in and support our DEI initiatives so that people’s voices are heard, and that positive change can be made.

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