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RISE Report: Together, Building a Company We Are Proud to Be Part of and Leading the Way.

Bernard Coleman Chief Diversity and Engagement Officer, Gusto 
RISE report infographic

Change: a lot has been written about it over the past few years—from the way we work, where we live, and how we interact with one another. 

More often than not in recent years, change feels like something that’s happened to us—a global pandemic that changes our lives and livelihoods, a controversial ruling that alters our rights, and unrest in our communities and across borders. Yet, as we’ve seen time and time again, change is also a force that happens through us—a catalyst that inspires movements by forcing us to confront and commit to our strongest-held values and beliefs. 

The reality is, change is both a challenge and an opportunity. It can’t be used as an excuse for lack of progress or a reason for accepting the status quo. In the third year of this global pandemic, and the second year of releasing our annual RISE report, Gusto has committed itself to being the change we seek—going further and rising higher to meet the moment and live up to our mission: to build a world where work empowers a better life, both for the 2,400+ Gusties we employ and the 200,000+ businesses we serve. 

Today’s Gusto is a more representative and diverse Gusto—not just across racial and gender lines but across geographies, as our workforce continues to spread out nationwide and even into other countries. And we’re proud of our progress so far. But there’s much more yet for us to do. In order for this change to evolve from incremental to transformative, we have to embrace it for the long-term and accept that this work is never done.  

This RISE report is about change at Gusto—how we’ve harnessed it, where we’ve fallen short, and where we have yet to go. It’s the culmination of a year’s worth of learnings in what’s now a decade-long commitment to representation, inclusion, social impact, and equity. Sharing this report isn’t just an update on our progress. It’s our commitment to transparency and accountability in creating meaningful change and contributing to the conversation among our broader community as we all push forward on our collective RISE journeys. 

"RISE means psychological safety. RISE means growth. RISE means creating safe and fun work environments for Gusties, so they can solve real problems for our customers." - Upeka Bee
A bar chart of Gusto Representation

As we’ve scaled, there has been a concerted effort to focus on ensuring our representation is on par with our growth. We continue to see steady improvement in our representation, particularly with our Black+ up 71%, Latinx+ up 29% and Native American+ up 100% year-over-year (YoY). We also saw the representation of women increase 6% across the board. 

We’ve also found that the plus system offers greater optionality for those folx who previously identified as “Two or more races” and allows for an even more accurate portrait of how our Gusties self-identify. Since the introduction of the race/ethnicity plus system last year, we’ve seen our Black+, Latinx+ and Native American+ percentages increase as a result. 

We know that the combination of hiring, progression, engagement and retention together result in representation. As the pandemic stretched on, we moved from a homebase strategy to a national talent strategy which created access to greater wells of talent. 

"This effort is collective in nature and our progress, opportunities and challenges are incumbent on our shared commitment and continued collaboration. All of us play a part in scaling our culture. Together, we are the architects of this journey." - Bernard C Coleman III

You can’t make progress without leaders who are engaged and onboard. Making meaningful RISE impact is fundamentally linked to the commitment of our leadership. That’s why, when it comes to our RISE work at Gusto, we have a saying, “Leaders go first.” It means our leaders, first and foremost, are accountable to and responsible for understanding what RISE is trying to achieve, so that they can lead their teams with RISE at the forefront.

Beyond leadership it comes down to setting goals that are clear and widely understood so our Gusties know what good looks like, goals that are realistic, specific and based on data. We coupled our goals with education and awareness through our RISE learning journeys. The RISE Learning Journeys offer different pathways meant to give our Gusties an ongoing education on many of the topics relevant to inclusion work.  One of our most popular programs is RISE Bites, an hour-long facilitated group discussion centered on RISE-related topics where we cover a different topic every week. Any and all Gusties are invited to attend and it helps not only create education and awareness, it builds deeper community and connection. 

At Gusto, we are big believers in accountability and that’s put in practice through transparency. Since 2019, on a monthly basis we share our Gusto composition data with all of our Gusties via our company newsletter, the Gustie Gazette. We want staff to know how we are doing month-over-month but more importantly, we want our folx to be proud of the collective effort and feel motivated to work towards greater progress.  

There’s no silver bullet for improving representation – progress comes down to the cumulative actions taken together across the dimensions of hiring, progression, engagement and retention. In our hiring efforts, we increased the size of the Invite recruiting team, created partnerships with organizations like Afrotech, Tapia, dev/color and Color Stack to reach an expanded talent pool. We also have a national talent market strategy that has helped us reach folx outside of our respective homebases in SF, Denver, NY, Scottsdale, and Remote/Canada. We leveraged our Affinity Group networks to create opportunities for connection and community.

When we look at progression, we apply a RISE lens to our performance review process where encourage managers to go through our three-part series called Unbiasing 101 that covers unconscious bias and strategies to understand, unpack, and unbias people and processes at Gusto – this all contributes to helping ensure a fairer performance review process. We also use the RISE lens to examine results to assess whether our processes have been equitable and fair, and we discuss insights with leaders. 

The pandemic changed how we worked but the importance and commitment to community and connection is unchanged. Ensuring that our Gusties are included and engaged at work is paramount. Three times a year we look at how our Gusties are doing across a number of dimensions such as race, gender, tenure, location, etc. to understand our Gusties’ involvement and enthusiasm in how they experience Gusto. We create moments that we call surprise and delights to ensure the connective bonds are strong no matter one’s location or level. It’s about being connected with our staff, understanding the Gustie experience so that we can constantly take feedback and incorporate it into how we work. 

View Gusto’s 2022 RISE Report here.

"RISE has meant the opportunity to be truly seen and feeling as if I belong. In the prior twenty years, I have never been able to show up authentically and true to myself and have my uniqueness celebrated." = Mirissa Pesapane
Bernard Coleman Bernard is the Chief Diversity and Engagement Officer at Gusto where he leads diversity, equity and inclusion, and employee relations as well as people integrity, governance, and compliance efforts.
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