Living up to our ideals: working toward a more equitable company

In early June, companies across America joined a movement to call attention to systemic racism and injustices in our country. Like many other socially aware organizations, we released a statement of support and temporarily blacked out our social media platforms to help amplify other voices. But this was more than a one-day display for us. It started what continues to be an ongoing process of reflection and introspection as we turned our attention inward: Was our company diverse? Were we inclusive? Were we living up to the ideals we set for ourselves?

Where we are now

Those ideals are laid out in the official description of who we are where we say: “Spread across 22 states and three countries, our Next Gear team is a study in diversity—of age, of country of origin, of thought, of background, of gender, of color. We wouldn’t have it any other way.” We stand by these words.

We truly believe that our differences are what makes Next Gear a fundamentally strong company. A diversity of backgrounds and life experiences equips us to approach each problem from a broad range of understanding that leads to an array of possible solutions. And that’s what we strive to accomplish every day: come up with new and innovative ways to solve our customers’ problems. We believe that monolithic thinking generally leads to monolithic results—solutions with enormous blind spots that are as likely to create unforeseen problems as they are to solve the original one.

At its heart, Next Gear is a tech company, and it’s a truism of any technology-driven enterprise that stagnation leads to extinction. America is changing: People of color make up just under 40% of the US workforce today, but it’s projected that non-white employees will be the majority of the working class within two decades. Women continue to expand their numbers in the workforce with a projected increase to more than 47% of American workers in just four more years. For every 100 straight white men exiting the workforce, only 66 straight white men are filling their shoes. In short, America is changing—and Next Gear is committed to changing with it.

Where we’re going

As a result of our introspection, we’ve launched several initiatives aimed at making sure Next Gear is the place we want it to be—not only for today’s employees, but for tomorrow’s as well. We took to heart the results of an employee inclusion survey that helped us better understand where we’re succeeding in our efforts and where we’re falling short.

We will be adding anti-racism and anti-bias goals to all management and senior leadership performance plans. While we’d never tolerate overt racism from an employee, we recognize that despite our best intentions, we’re all inescapably a product of our upbringing, our education, our environment, and we’re not immune to societal forces. Racial biases don’t have to shouted from the rooftops to exist, so we strive to make sure that we’re treating all employees and candidates fairly by acknowledging the implicit biases we may have and working to keep them in check.

We are proudly committed to equal employment opportunity regardless of race, color, ancestry, religion, sex, national origin, sexual orientation, age, citizenship, marital status, disability, gender identity and/or expression, or veteran status. But equal opportunity is not an accident or passive condition. We’re in the process of overhauling our recruitment system to cast a wider net for applicants and make sure we’re doing what we can to promote a diverse set of candidates. It’s said that if you fish where you’ve always fished, you’ll catch what you’ve always caught. We cannot expect a diverse workforce if we don’t employ diverse recruitment methods.

We will be analyzing our promotion and pay framework to ensure equal pay for equal work, and sponsoring mentorships, internships, and scholarships to help historically disadvantaged communities. We are partnering with nonprofits like Inroads to further invest in a diverse, inclusive, and equitable future for Next Gear.

There are plenty of business reasons for our efforts, but that’s not why we’re doing them. Instead, we share a deep-seated conviction that this is simply the right thing to do. The very first of our core values is that we at Next Gear give a damn and follow through. We’re all-in on this. This is not a tick-the-box exercise—it’s a cultural reset.

Garret Gray is the president and CEO of Next Gear Solutions

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