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The Secret Sauce to Successfully Working With a DEI Consultant

Veteran diversity strategist Torin Ellis, author of Rip the Resume, is a hands-on consultant who believes in giving the companies he works with individualized attention—the same attention that recruiters should be giving candidates during their diversity recruitment efforts. In order to do this, however, he does have certain expectations of the companies that he partners with. In this week’s episode of the “Untapped” podcast, where Canvas Chief People Officer Tariq Meyers has conversations about untapped practices in the DEI space, Torin shares the secret sauce to his approach of working with clients—and the client characteristics that are most likely to make the engagement successful.

Executive Connection

Although Torin will certainly speak with an organization’s D&I leader initially, he expects that the company’s executives will be the main ones he works with throughout the consulting process. If the executives will not be involved, he won’t partner with that company.

“I don't work with a person who's managing the D&I project. The initial contact can start there, but I won't take an engagement if I'm not working with executives in the organization,” Torin explained. “The reason why is because I need to make sure that everything we are doing is sanctioned by the executives, it is supported by the executives. I don't need to have, ‘well, we can, maybe get that.’ If I'm going to get a no, then I'm taking that no from the executive.”  

Strategic Exploration

Torin understands that every organization has unique DEI needs and he works with clients to create customized solutions to help them meet those needs. However, he finds that some companies expect him to simply provide a cookie cutter solution that can be applied to any other company—and that does not work.

“Far too often, people are looking for a connect-the-dot type formula and I don't feel D&I works that way,” he said. “One of my larger clients kept saying to me in our initial call—and they are a category leader in the sports apparel business—‘We want best practices,’ while I'm in Baltimore by another leading sports apparel organization. So they wanted some of their best practices and they wanted best practices from other organizations in D&I.”

In this case, Torin says that the request boiled down to the fact that the company leaders didn’t know exactly what was needed to solve their problem, so they thought a generic blueprint was the answer.   

“They said they wanted best practices during our kickoff call like 10 times. And right around that 11th or 12th time, I said, ‘Well, what's the best practice? And before you answer, what's the best practice based on your organization, your size, your location. I kept hitting them with all these points. And they were like, ‘Well, we don't really know.’ I said, ‘And neither do I,’ Torin said. “It would be irresponsible of me to tell you that a best practice in this company is going to work in your organization without me doing strategic exploration and finding out where you are.”

Tactical Execution

Once Torin finds out where a company is, he works to execute a plan of action that is unique to how it can go from its Point A to its Point B. He describes the considerations he takes into account this way: “How do we devise a plan that we can implement that is going to give us some lift, some growth, some progress against what we say is important? How are we going to put some people and some processes and resources in place that will allow us to move down the road of journey towards being better? Not perfect, but being better? How are we going to slow down so we can recalibrate? We can re-evaluate what we've done, what we didn't do, where we won, where we missed, total fail, upset people. How do we get through all of that and get back on the journey and keep moving forward?”

Torin says that when companies have these characteristics when working with him, he is best positioned to use his secret sauce to help them with their goals because he is about the nuts and bolts of DEI recruiting.

“I come to this work as a practitioner and I just want people to understand working with me is very much so foundational,” he said. “It really is around how do we optimize and embed in our processes doing diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging better.”


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