On June 12, County Chief Operating Officer Marissa Madrigal shared the following message with employees regarding the progress of the County's workforce equity efforts :
Last Friday afternoon, I sat in the back of a conference room as employees shared personal stories about what it has been like to participate in the Workforce Equity Strategic Plan.
Employees described the intellectual and emotional challenges of coming up with shared definitions of loaded words like “racism.” They discussed the challenges of crafting policies that actually work for people. Employees of color expressed both healthy skepticism in the process, and hope for healing and progress.
But perhaps the most moving reflection I took away from that meeting was the unexpected sense of belonging some employees said they experienced as a result of their involvement in the County’s workforce equity efforts.
They spoke about feeling as if they could bring their whole, authentic, real selves to the work we are all doing to make our workplace better. Their simple act of sharing in that moment was healing for me and I suspect many others.
Listening to them, I could feel the change crackling in the air—change that has only been possible because of deliberate investments of time and money.
On May 30, as part of the County’s budget for fiscal year 2020, the Multnomah County Board approved $2 million towards the furthering of our workforce equity efforts. This significant investment—specifically in the areas of protected class complaints, leadership development and accountability, and civil rights—underscores just how committed we are to addressing the calls for real change throughout our organization.
These investment decisions were not made in a vacuum, but instead have been largely guided by the County’s Workforce Equity Strategic Plan. A plan that was born of necessity and created in vigorous collaboration with Employee Resource Groups, the Office Diversity and Equity, County executives, and industry experts in workplace equity.
And while the explanation of these investments below may come across as technical or dry, please know that they are but a part of the approach we’re taking to address the disparities felt by many among us.
Please know that we have the very brightest minds from across our organization working on this effort. Employees who have themselves been on the receiving end of discrimination and injustice and who have a vested interest in making Multnomah County a workplace that walks our talk. A workplace that truly embodies safety, trust, and belonging.
Investigations of Protected Class Complaints Unit creation
In response to the actions laid out in the Workforce Equity Strategic Plan and priorities identified by employees, $1,336,564 has been allocated to create a non-departmental unit to investigate protected class complaints in our workplace.
This new unit will be responsible for investigating allegations of discrimination in the workplace County employees believe they have been subject to because of their race, ethnicity, national origin, disability, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation or their membership to another protected class.
The new unit will be made up of six employees, including:
One working manager who will also be responsible for conducting investigations.
Three additional investigators whose charge will be to look into protected class complaints.
Two administrators to handle scheduling and documentation needs of the entire unit.
By classifying the investigations unit as non-departmental, the goal is to make employees feel safe in sharing their concerns without fear of complaint suppression or retaliation within their department.
The Investigations of Protected Class Complaints Unit will report to the Chief Operating Officer. And should allegations of discrimination of protected classes be substantiated by the unit, discipline will be determined collaboratively and consistently by the Chief Operating Officer, Labor Relations, County experts and departmental management.
There will also be money set aside to handle external investigations. These funds will be used to hire an investigator outside of the County to look into complex situations that may involve people in leadership as witnesses of, or participants in an incident.
Complaints Unit as it relates to the Workforce Equity Strategic Plan and the priorities of County employees
The creation of an investigations unit directly addresses actions outlined in the “Structural Changes That Support Shifting Practice and Culture” portion of Focus Area 5 of the Workforce Equity Strategic Plan (page 19).
A non-departmental investigations unit was also the top-ranked workforce equity implementation strategy identified by County employees.
Human Resources and Talent Development investments
Additionally, Central Human Resources will launch a Leadership Development and Accountability program and other measures of change outlined in the Workforce Equity Strategic Plan and called for by employees.
Leadership Development and Accountability program design, facilitation and evaluation
With an investment of $302,000 in one-time-only funds approved by the Board, one new HR manager position will be created to support the design and implementation of the program, and a Research Evaluation position will be created to measure its success.
Mandatory educational conference for County’s 800 managers
A crucial component of the Leadership Development and Accountability program is a first-of-its-kind management conference that all 800 County managers will be required to attend. This conference will act as a level-set for all County managers, outlining what is expected of them, and providing tools and resources to help them support standards mandated by the Board-adopted Workforce Equity Strategic Plan. $130,000 has been set aside in the County’s budget to make the conference a reality.
Amplification of County’s updated Core Competencies
An additional $95,000 will be invested in the roll-out of the County’s updated Competency Model. Created in partnership with Talent Development and County Employee Resource Groups, the new model provides language around the behaviors expected of all County employees at all levels. Employees and managers use these competencies to identify and guide goals and professional development during the Performance Review process.
Though the Competency Model update is complete, Human Resources heard from employees the need to invest in the development of tools and language that will help employees more meaningfully align the 10 core competencies to their work and the organization's values.
In-house mediation services
An investment of $168,471 has also been earmarked to fund a Senior Human Resource Analyst position. The person selected for this role will be tasked with providing mediation services to employees contending with negative experiences in the workplace, as per the Local 88 contact. They will also be responsible for providing consultation and culturally-specific training.
Development of a Leadership, Expectation, and Accountability Plan
And while it is not a fiscal investment, it’s worth mentioning that Talent Development is partnering with the Workforce Equity Committee -- an oversight body made up of employees from all levels of our organization -- to create a charter called the Leadership, Expectation, and Accountability Plan (LEAP).
This charter will not only be used to define what accountability really means in the context of workforce equity, but it will also illustrate how that accountability shows up in the workforce.
Human Resources and Talent Development investments as they relate to the Workforce Equity Strategic Plan and the priorities of County employees
These investments directly address the “Structural Changes That Support Shifting Practice and Culture” portion of Focus Area 5 of the Workforce Equity Strategic Plan (page 18).
More specifically, the reorganization of Talent Development and Talent Acquisitions to:
“...build a new organizational model that emphasizes the critical leadership skills needed to create an environment of safety, trust, and belonging. This action would strategically align countywide recruitment, on-boarding and leadership development efforts with an explicit goal of strengthening managers’ ability and accountability in creating workplace culture that reduces disparities.”
It should also be noted that in the Countywide survey on workforce equity implementation strategies the “Design a Leadership Development and Accountability Model” was the number two strategy prioritized by employees.
Civil Rights Unit Creation
Another crucial investment approved in the 2020 budget is the creation of the Civil Rights Unit within the Office of Diversity and Equity. The new unit will consist of the three positions listed below.
Civil Rights Administrator
The Civil Rights Administrator will help distribute the new responsibilities of the Office of Diversity and Equity as outlined in the Workforce Equity Strategic Plan. These new responsibilities include:
The review of hiring, promotion and involuntary terminations for exempt employees.
An equity review that looks at the demographic data of all of County job applicants compared to those who continue through the hiring process and ultimately make it to the final applicant pool.
Conducting exit interviews of exempt employees who choose to leave the County workforce by personal choice.
Working to ensure that the Office of Diversity and Equity will be part of and/or have representation on interview panels.
Disability, Equity and Accommodations Specialist
The Disability, Equity and Accommodations Specialist will be responsible for:
Thoroughly investigating the County’s accommodations process.
Increasing communication and collaboration with employees with disabilities before, during, and after making decisions having to do with facilities, information technology and other program and policy structures.
Helping to increase awareness and decrease stigma to ensure that accessibility is ingrained in the County’s organizational culture.
Building the County’s organizational strength in places like Human Resources for frontline supervisors to make sure that they know what their obligations are and are aware of the best ways to support their employees.
For the two new positions of Civil Rights Administrator and Disability, Equity and Accommodations Specialist the Board of Commissioners approved an investment of $357,356 in the County budget for fiscal year 2020.
Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Specialist
The Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Specialist is not a new investment. In fact, it predates the County’s Office of Diversity and Equity. But under this reorganization, the position will be housed in the Civil Rights unit and work in tandem with the Civil Rights Administrator and the Disability, Equity and Accommodations Specialist.
The Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Specialist will continue on in their compliance and reporting duties around Equal Employment Opportunity and Affirmative Action at the County.
Civil Rights Unit as it relates to the Workforce Equity Strategic Plan
The investment in the Civil Rights Unit directly addresses “Updating the role, responsibility and authority of the Office of Diversity and Equity” portion of Focus Area 5 of the Workforce Equity Strategic Plan (page 19).