An update on Smartsheet's DEI journey: Building the foundation for a more inclusive workplace

by Alice Thompson

Editor's note: In this article, you'll learn about our diversity, equity, and inclusion priorities and strategies, as well as gain key updates about our company purpose and plans from the perspective of Alice Thompson, who helped us build Smartsheet's foundational DEI programs.

I joined Smartsheet as the Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) in September 2020 and spent time seeking to understand where we’ve been, where we are, and where we want to go as it relates to all aspects of the company with a focus on DEI.

Why am I focused on all aspects of the company? I believe it’s critical to ensure the DEI strategy is embedded in the way we operate the entirety of our business, and inclusive of our people and culture strategies, because building diverse and inclusive teams drives strong businesses and ultimately enables us to better support our customers.

I want to share my observations of the company culture at Smartsheet transparently in the interest of all who care: our current customers, current employees, as well as those evaluating both our product for future use and those evaluating Smartsheet as a place to grow their career.

We recently launched our new company purpose. I think it speaks volumes about who we are as an organization that our purpose is to “empower anyone to drive meaningful change,” and we support that by celebrating the fact that “we work in progress.” The world, our company, and every person is always growing and evolving, and this includes our DEI journey. I see our purpose come to life at Smartsheet — in our people and our work.

While Smartsheet’s DEI journey started before my time with the company, today I’m excited to share more about our future plans, starting with our vision for diversity, equity, and inclusion.

Employee voices were the foundation for our vision, gathered through focus groups, surveys, one-on-one conversations, and perspectives from our entire senior leadership team. This vision will ensure that we are working together and helps us prioritize and ensure every supporting strategy, tactic, and action leads to this vision.

Smartsheet DEI Vision: We strive to create a culture of belonging that is rooted in respect and opportunity for all people. We believe that by celebrating diversity of voices and experiences, and fostering equity for our team, customers, and communities, we enable people to do and be their best.

To support this vision, we are launching a comprehensive strategy, including enhancements to existing work, programs to build community, training to facilitate awareness and education, measuring our progress, and creating pathways to adapt as we continue to learn and grow.

In FY22, we’re focused on the five areas below, which are supported by multiple strategies and tactics to ensure broad, organizational success.

1. Creating accountability

We are building DEI representation goals into each department’s plans for the year and supporting mechanisms to drive accountability and action. I’m proud to say our leaders supported this effort and championed sharing transparently with all our employees. What gets measured gets done, and in FY22 we’re measuring the diversity of our teams while we evaluate the best metrics to measure inclusion at Smartsheet.

2. Engaging champions throughout the business

DEI and corporate social responsibility (CSR) should not sit with one person, or one team. It needs to be owned and activated throughout the company. To support this, we are establishing multiple ways for people to engage, including:

  • Formalizing employee resource groups to support communities within the organization and their experiences. These groups are employee-led with support from the business.

    Each group has their own purpose, goals, and community guidelines that fall broadly within our DEI strategy. Currently, we have several established groups and additional groups that are formalizing, including:
    • Blacks at Smartsheet
    • Rainbow Collab
    • Parents and Caregivers at Smartsheet
    • Veterans at Smartsheet
    • Women and Gender Minorities
  • Introducing a global steering committee to help align DEI strategies with business goals and activate the strategies within their respective teams, geographic locations, and peers. This group will be a group of DEI advocates across functions, levels, geographies, and demographics to work with me and our CEO to help prioritize and support our DEI efforts.

    At the core of DEI is the belief that a diversity of voices brings forth the best solution. This is true in DEI work as well. Like all of us, I bring my own perspective and experiences to the table, and I always seek additional input to ensure our strategies are representative of the different communities in our company.
  • Supporting departmental DEI working groups, where it makes sense to support DEI working groups within a department or team to activate the DEI strategies to meet the unique needs of each team.

3. Raising awareness

To help ensure we all have a common language, foundation, and understanding of the “why” when it comes to diversity, equity, and inclusion, we’re supporting a multi-channel approach. This creates spaces to support the different ways people learn and take in information. These channels include:

  • Voluntary, optional Courageous Conversation meeting series
  • Company-wide DEI foundation workshops
  • Heritage month celebrations
  • Weekly posts about different topics on DEI in our internal company pages

4. Evolving our processes and ways of working

To support the accountability efforts, we are evolving our processes to ensure we are supporting our goals around DEI. This includes:

  • Hiring manager and interviewer training, to ensure we are equipping our team members to show up in the best way possible for our candidates.
  • Exception processes, to ensure that any exceptions to our goals are consistent and fair.
  • Internal mobility, to ensure we are providing equitable opportunities to employees who want to grow.

5. Change management and communications

We’re discussing large cultural transformations with many moving pieces across functions and teams. To help ensure we’re bringing people with us in our journey, I’m emphasizing how we share information and bring about changes in our DEI evolution and ensuring we’re capturing feedback along the way.

Communication here is not one way and represents multi-directional feedback and real-time updates where needed. We’ll be sharing quarterly updates like this on our website, and our goal is to publish an annual report at the end of each fiscal year.

Stay tuned for future updates, which will include more detail on supporting areas of work.

DEI only moves forward with commitment from leadership and from employees throughout the business. Thank you to the Smartsheet team for driving this change through our work, our values, and our partnership with one another.

Interested in joining our team? Visit our careers page.