Lead and Learn
Whitney Lindsey, Head of People & Culture
Jan. 31, 2023
For business leaders who want team members to feel fulfilled and engaged in their roles, promoting wellness, and supporting initiatives aimed at improving diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) is paramount. But succeeding at fostering diversity, inclusion, and wellness isn’t as easy as flipping a switch. At BARR Advisory, maintaining our commitment to DEI and wellness among our fully remote team is a constant and ongoing priority.
Inclusion and unparalleled support are two of our firm’s core values, so thoughtfulness and purposeful action surrounding DEI and wellness efforts have been baked into our company culture from the beginning.
In practice, that has taken many forms, including:
- Offering associates personalized wellness benefits
- Working with training and apprenticeship programs designed for career changers
- Training our people managers on how to create and maintain equitable and inclusive remote work environments
Over the years, the resources mentioned above, plus many other internal initiatives, have helped us foster a culture where team members can be their whole, true selves at work; and where unique ideas and perspectives are accepted and celebrated.
This allows us to serve our clients better and bolster our overarching mission to build a world of trust through cybersecurity resilience.
As head of our People & Culture team at BARR, I strive to ensure we live up to our commitments to DEI and wellness throughout all phases of the associate experience. That includes making conscious efforts to ensure DEI and wellness are ingrained in our recruiting and onboarding practices, our company culture and engagement activities, and our policies surrounding compensation and benefits.
Implementing DEI and Wellness Programs
(ISC)2’s 2022 Cybersecurity Workforce Study and subsequent Women in Cybersecurity report revealed that women hold less than a quarter of cybersecurity jobs nationwide, and minority representation in the cybersecurity field remains only slightly above the overall U.S. workforce at just 26%.
But at BARR, we wanted to create an environment that fosters diversity and inclusion across genders, races, generations, ethnicities, socioeconomic backgrounds, and more.
Because BARR Advisory is part of the cybersecurity and technology space, our efforts to foster and improve diversity, equity, and inclusion at BARR comprise three main areas of focus:
1. Creating an equitable environment for all associates by integrating equity and fairness into our daily practices and programs; and by continuously reevaluating and adapting leadership training methods, compensation and performance management practices, and other internal policies to better reflect the values of both our organization and each individual team member.
2. Providing opportunities for members of underrepresented communities to break into the tech industry and grow in their careers by supporting continuing education and apprenticeships. In addition to frequently hiring from career-changer programs like Evolve Security Academy, BARR was the first employer in Kansas City to sign onto Apprenti, a nationwide apprenticeship program that works with members of underrepresented populations to help them gain training, certifications, and job placements in the technology industry. We’ve also partnered with organizations like Kansas City’s Donnelley College to support the next generation of cybersecurity professionals.
3. Fostering an inclusive culture by training all people managers on inclusive language and leadership, including challenging them to examine their innate biases and encouraging them and their team members to bring their whole, true selves to work.
We chose these three areas because we felt they would have the greatest impact on our efforts to curate a diverse team with varying backgrounds and perspectives. We also see an opportunity for these areas to support our consistent work to ensure that current team members feel a sense of belonging–one that doesn’t fade even years after they’ve completed our onboarding process.
A big part of maintaining high levels of engagement, even years into an employee’s experience with the organization, is listening to and acting on team members’ suggestions. In fact, most of our initiatives and programs have come directly from associates' responses to annual surveys.
We don’t measure the success of our DEI initiatives using quantitative metrics and quotas. Instead, we work one-on-one with associates to identify immediate and long-term actions we can take to make all team members feel welcomed and appreciated.
But ensuring that team members feel comfortable sharing their unique ideas and perspectives is only one piece of the puzzle. For associates to truly excel in their roles, it’s crucial for them to prioritize their own health and wellness and to feel supported in doing so.
Working with an exceptionally diverse and distributed team, it quickly became clear that we could not take a one-size-fits-all approach to wellness. For this reason, we partnered with Holisticly at the beginning of this year to provide associates with a wide range of tangible wellness benefits.Through Holisticly, associates are able to customize the benefits they receive to fit their own self-care habits and unique health and wellness needs. Members have access to various resources, including mental and physical health support, virtual fitness classes, personalized guidance on nutrition and personal finance, and continuous learning opportunities.
We also strive to give all team members ample time to rest and recharge by offering unlimited paid time off (PTO) and encouraging associates to take a minimum of 25 days of PTO each calendar year. This is in addition to annual company-wide, week-long breaks, which give associates the unique opportunity to step away from work without any catching up to do when they return.
Offering associates the opportunity to choose what works best for them, both in terms of wellness benefits and when and how they enjoy time off, allows us to provide more personalized benefits that work for team members across generations, cultures, regions, and time zones.
Engaging the Remote Workforce on DEI and Wellness
Our efforts are only effective if team members are aware of and engaged in them. For company-wide DEI and wellness initiatives to be impactful, it’s not enough to simply share them with candidates and new hires during onboarding; DEI and wellness efforts have to resonate with employees and leave a clear and lasting impact on them and their communities.
As a remote-first company, it’s been a priority since our founding to create an inclusive community within our workspace and show we care about the communities and organizations that our associates belong to and support – wherever they are.
Today, that looks like taking a firm stance when our associates are affected by national and global controversies, intentionally providing opportunities for associates to learn about each other’s experiences and the traditions and celebrations they hold dear, and creating ways for associates to make an impact in their own communities through the BARR Belong Foundation.
Among other ongoing initiatives, the BARR Belong Foundation provides opportunities for associates to help create stronger, safer, more secure communities by:
- Hosting an annual ‘Day of Giving in October’, when all BARR associates close their laptops and open their hearts to give back through volunteerism
- Making active contributions to charitable organizations that are making a difference in communities across the globe, including the Red Cross and Feeding America
- Matching up to $500 annually per associate to any 501(c)(3) organization of their choice through our Matching Gift Program
Members of the BARR Advisory team are also afforded two days each year to step away from work and participate in volunteer activities that are important to them.
Providing opportunities for associates to participate in community-driven initiatives like these helps keep them engaged in initiatives meant to prioritize their wellness and foster DEI both within our own workplace, and in the broader communities we serve.
The impact of these efforts has been palpable. Many of our associates place high value in working for an organization where they feel they belong and committing to DEI has allowed us to attract and retain top talent.
What’s more, our heavy focus on wellness has helped us create a team-driven culture where managers prioritize their direct reports’ well-being and where team members know they’re more than just an employee number; their ideas, health, and wellness matter just as much as their results and deliverables.
Because we value diversity of thought, members of our team are able to bring to the table new ideas and perspectives that make way for modern solutions to age-old problems. In a constantly changing field like cybersecurity, where new threats are constantly emerging, embracing different, often unconventional ideas and approaches is critical.
The Future of the Workplace
Looking forward, we plan to continue our efforts to make BARR an inclusive, accessible, and supportive place to work.
Our priorities for the year include:
- Maintaining our ongoing DEI and wellness initiatives
- Nurturing opportunities to serve our communities through BARR Belong Foundation
- Continuing to support the growth and development of internal resource groups
- Employee engagement and participation
- Mental health resources
- Diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging
In addition, we’re constantly gauging the effectiveness of our DEI and wellness programs by soliciting thoughtful, anonymous feedback from team members and using that data to adjust and adapt. In our most recent survey on Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging, we scored high marks in all areas, with associates reporting that they feel the organization is authentic, inclusive, and equitable in its culture, policies, and procedures—all clear signs that we’re moving in the right direction.
But the work isn’t done yet. As our team continues to grow and expand, so will our efforts to make our workplace a safe, welcoming, and inclusive environment for people of all backgrounds. Our People & Culture team strongly believes that there isn’t one single action you can take to ensure the success of your DEI and wellness programs; it has to be an ongoing activity that involves members of all teams at all levels of the company for you to make a real impact.
It’s our hope that consistent efforts from growing firms like ours will inspire other organizations to look inward and uncover new ways to create inclusive work environments where team members from all walks of life can feel welcomed and supported.
ABOUT WHITNEY LINDSEY
Whitney Lindsey is the Head of People & Culture at BARR Advisory, a cybersecurity and compliance solutions provider serving companies with high-value information in cloud environments like AWS, Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud Platform. In her current role, Whitney is responsible for recruiting and onboarding new talent, supporting each phase of the associate life cycle, and enhancing BARR’s values-driven work environment through wellness activities and other engagement initiatives. Whitney has more than a decade of experience in talent recruitment and management and holds a Master of Science in Strategic Human Resources Management & Development from the University of Denver.
ABOUT BARR ADVISORY
BARR Advisory is a cloud-based security and compliance solutions provider specializing in cybersecurity consulting and compliance for companies with high-value information in cloud environments like AWS, Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud Platform. A trusted advisor to some of the fastest-growing cloud-based organizations around the globe, BARR simplifies compliance across multiple regulatory and customer requirements in highly regulated industries, including technology, financial services, healthcare, and government.
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