Erica Colonero, co-Founder & Partner and Robin Pedrelli, co-Founder & Partner ,  VisionSpring Erica Colonero, co-Founder & Partner and Robin Pedrelli, co-Founder & Partner
Barely six months into 2020, and the world has witnessed unprecedented challenges and major upheavals ranging from a global pandemic to protest, in the wake of police brutality disproportionately leveled against people of color in the United States. Once again, we are reminded of the great disparity in the distribution of wealth and power we face as a nation as incidents that are too significant to ignore painfully bring these unpleasant truths to the forefront. “At VisionSpring, we believe that we are on the precipice of something big. With great challenges come great opportunities. We take this opportunity to move beyond talk, dialogue, and conversation and aim to institute real, meaningful change," begins Robin Pedrelli, Co-founder & Partner, VisionSpring.

Founded in 2006, VisionSpring is a WBENC-certified diversity and inclusion consulting firm offering fully integrated strategy development, employee resource group (ERG) strategic consulting, training, eLearning and continuous learning solutions to leverage diversity and inclusion to drive innovation and improved business outcomes. In this interview with Manage HR magazine, Erica Colonero and Robin Pedrelli, the co-Founders and Partners at VisionSpring, shed light on the challenges that companies face in the diversity, inclusion and equity space, and how VisionSpring has positioned itself to solve them.

How would you describe the current landscape? What are the biggest challenges and opportunities in the diversity, inclusion, and equity space?

Our greatest challenge and opportunity are the same; addressing systemic racism and disparity in this country—which is huge to tackle all at once. We need to pick a lane. Put one stake in the ground and commit to the long journey. We work with employers, organizations from all industries and sizes that literally control the distribution of opportunity, wealth, and economic power in this country. If we can make just a small dent in the distribution of wealth, we can have a huge impact on all other areas. I truly believe that HR professionals are currently positioned to be the drivers of change that will quite literally transform the way power and privilege is distributed across a multitude of systems in this country.

That makes sense, but it sounds like a huge investment. How do we get these companies onboard? What is the actual business case for tackling something of this magnitude?

It’s hard to be even remotely aware of what’s happened in the past few months and not understand there is a business case for this work.

When organizations commit to creating diverse, equitable, and inclusive workplaces, employees feel respected, valued, engaged, and purpose-oriented. When all employees feel like they belong and believe they are treated fairly and are given equal opportunities to contribute, grow and succeed, they are more accountable and are driven to take positive actions that benefit the team and the business. In diverse, positive, and inclusive workplaces, innovation can happen, and new creative ways of doing things are advanced. Employees are free to think differently and bring unique perspectives to their work, are more intrapreneurial, seek to uncover their own solutions, and ultimately make smarter decisions.

Do you have any specific advice for organizations looking to start or maybe reignite their diversity, equity, and inclusion journey?

Don’t approach this work from a one-off initiative perspective. The problem is systemic, the solution has to be so as well. Our philosophy at VisionSpring is to take a systemic, integrated top-down/bottom-up approach. Building an inclusive culture is a complex change management process that requires a clear and compelling business case, the commitment and active engagement of key stakeholders, an assessment of hiring and performance management systems, and effective large-scale training focused on awareness building, competency development, and behavior change. Companies need to set clear goals and expectations that are tied to metrics and accountability measures.

They must assess and update hiring, talent management, and performance management systems to ensure equity and fairness in the process and improve outcomes. A top-down approach is required to gain commitment and improve skill and competency at a leadership level, and a bottom-up approach should focus on the development and success of marginalized employee groups and building awareness across the organization.

Tell us about VisionSpring and how you can support organizations with this journey.

Our services include DE&I Strategy Development, where we help clients identify their DE&I related challenges and opportunities and develop their 3-5year road maps.
Through DE&I Training & Facilitation, we deliver customized training for our clients on topics such as Inclusive Leadership, Diversity Awareness, Unconscious Bias, and Respect in the Workplace. We also have off-the-shelf training that our clients can license and deliver to their organizations. Last year, we launched our Diversity and Inclusion eLearning portfolio. This is a great option for organizations looking to deploy training to the organization in a fast, cost-effective manner. Our eLearning courses focus on building awareness and skills in an interactive and engaging way while using scenarios and engaging exercises that provide practical application.

With Diversity Council & ERG Strategic Consulting, we help our clients think through how their Diversity Councils and ERGs should be structured, how they support the overall D&I strategy, what their role is and help them set goals and objectives.

VisionSpring has also created a member-based learning community called the Inclusion Learning Loop. It provides company-wide access to an extensive library of D&I resources. Each month we create tools, training, conversation starters, etc. on a variety of D&I topics. To date, the resource houses close to 1,000 tools members can use to support their D&I strategies. It also offers our members ongoing D&I consulting services and a vibrant, collaborative community committed to sharing thought leadership and the interest of achieving common goals.

Could you share a customer success story with us?

We worked with a Fortune 500 Global Energy Company to develop their diversity, equity, and inclusion strategy and create their 3-year strategic roadmap. This project was executed in three phases.

Phase 1- Assessment and Gap Evaluation of Current State

We reviewed existing demographic data and cultural audits results, conducted employee focus groups with a global representation of talent and held one-on-one meetings with senior leadership and key stakeholders. We then used that analysis as well as external benchmarking data to create a findings and recommendations report that highlighted key strengths, identified opportunities for improvement, and outlined strategic priorities and recommendations for moving forward.

Phase 2– Creation of 3-year Roadmap

Based on the approved findings and recommendations report, VisionSpring created the 3-year DE&I roadmap that detailed well defined, measurable actions.

The roadmap detailed a 3-pillar strategy designed to:
• Recruit and develop a high-performance workforce that capitalizes on diverse backgrounds, thoughts, and skills.

• Promote an inclusive environment that values differences and offers all employees equal opportunity to contribute and succeed.

• Embrace diverse perspectives and ensure the company can better understand and meet the needs of its customers and communities.

Phase 3– Implement & Educate

As the third and final stage, we worked with the client to implement their pipeline development and talent acquisition strategy and design and deliver skill and dialogue sessions to enhance D&I competency. We worked with them to expand employee development and career mobility paths to close career opportunity gaps and ensure that all employees can grow and succeed.

What’s next for VisionSpring?

We have created a content powerhouse through our Inclusion Learning Loop and eLearning portfolio and will continue to provide our clients with the tools and resources they need to support their D&I strategies. We are creating communities of practice that bring together the shared thought leadership of our internal consultants, clients, and partners in a collaborative effort to advance this work and influence real systemic change.

We will continue to expand on our training and content offerings and commit to providing tools and resources that address the now and next challenges and opportunities facing our clients. We also continue and evolve the way we reach and serve our clients through our eLearning portfolio and our virtual classroom experiences.