Update July 2022:
In the first half of 2022 Hearken has continued to think about how to create a diverse, inclusive, and equitable workspace. We want to highlight how we’ve thought about this around PTO, extended leave, and flexible scheduling by sharing some of our current policies:
Hearken recognizes that employees have a variety of reasons they may need or want to take time off of work. We aim to provide ample opportunities for employees to step away from work for cultural and religious holidays, vacation, physical and mental health needs, or to recharge and relax. To that end, our time off and leave policies include:
- 30 days of PTO along with 9 paid holidays and 5 additional Fridays off during the summer months
- 8 weeks of paid parental leave for any full time employee who has a child, or whose spouse or domestic/long-term partner has a child, either by (1) childbirth or (2) through adoption of a minor child or (3) through becoming a full time caregiver of a minor child, (including through surrogacy)
- Fully covered short-term and long-term disability for all employees starting on their first day of work (with short-term disability including 6-13 weeks of coverage, depending on the situation, for childbirth)
- 6 days of PTO for parents who lose access to childcare, including a daycare or school closing or a nanny or caregiver not being able to provide care
- 5 days of PTO for caregiver assistance for employees actively caring for sick or injured family members
- 5-10 days of PTO for bereavement leave, including bereavement for miscarriages
- Fully paid time off for jury duty
- Additional options for unpaid leave as needed
Flexible working hours
In 2020 a small group of Hearken employees made recommendations to the Leadership Team to help support working parents employed at Hearken. Among those recommendations was that we look to expand our flexible hour policy to help working parents juggle kid’s schedules and needs. Over the past two years Hearken has created a broad policy to allow employees to work when they are at their best. This policy reads, in part, as follows:
We believe that the way to be most productive is with a reasonable, balanced work schedule. Working long hours for long periods of time often results in mental exhaustion and lower quality work. Different people have different ways of being productive. However, we also recognize that it can be challenging to try to schedule meetings or get a hold of colleagues if everyone is working vastly different schedules, especially given the amount of cross-team collaboration that happens in our small company.
As salaried employees, you are not expected to track and report hours. However, given the flexibility above, we are asking you to plan the majority (80% or more) of your working time between 7AM – 7PM in your local time zone between Monday-Friday.
This means if you need to make a mid-day appointment to head to the dentist or doctor, or you want to pick your kid up from school at 3pm every day, or you decide to get in a run on a sunny day, that’s fine! For example [if you’re aiming to work 8 hours a day] this means you could work 7:30-12:30PM (5hrs) and then again 3-6PM (3hrs). Meetings before 9am and after 5pm (in local time zones) should be avoided whenever possible, while also recognizing that we work across four US time zones and in Europe.
This policy also allows employees to put in extra hours on one day so they can work a bit less on another day. This has been particularly beneficial for our employees with kids but has benefited everyone at the company.
We review our policies every six months (or more often, if needed) to look for additional ways we can meet the needs of all employees.
Our current, working DEI definition (as of December 2021):
How does Hearken define a diverse, inclusive, and equitable workplace?
Hearken is committed to the ongoing work of creating a diverse, equitable, and inclusive organization. It’s
important to us that everyone, especially our employees, our Board of Directors, and our product and
consulting partners, feel valued and included. To create a diverse organization, we strive to work with
people from a broad range of backgrounds and identities. This includes, (but is not limited to), diversity in
race, ethnicity, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, religion, ability, age, socioeconomic status, first
language, veteran status, physical appearance, and thinking/learning styles.
However, we know that a diverse organization is not necessarily inclusive or equitable. We believe that an
inclusive workplace is one where people have what they need to feel valued and included as they are. We
believe that an equitable workplace acknowledges that differences exist and people require support in
different ways. We know that, due to systemic inequalities, some individuals face significant barriers while
others have unearned advantages. We acknowledge these unequal starting places, and aim to allocate
resources and support in a way that gives everyone equitable opportunities to thrive, participate, and
To that end, we commit to continually designing for inclusivity through our explicit policies and procedures
as well as through our implicit culture. We recognize that this design needs to be flexible and iterative — as
the needs of our people change we will regularly re-evaluate our approach.
Why is a diverse, inclusive, and equitable organization important to us?
We are striving to:
- Actively participate in dismantling systemic inequities through the policies and systems we
create, the products we design, and the people and organizations we work with.
- Identify and move away from culture norms that reinforce dominant identities as ‘normal’,
such as white supremacy, ableism, patriarchy and heteronormativity. We recognize that
these dominant culture norms and values have shaped parts of Hearken’s culture and the
broader systems in society.
- Ensure all our employees have the resources and support necessary to thrive at Hearken as
well as equitable opportunities for advancement.
- Design products, trainings, and resources that follow the principles of Design Justice
- Create ongoing opportunities for all people and organizations to benefit from our work
- Foster a community where people from a broad range of backgrounds and identities feel
welcomed to bring their whole selves to work.
- Interact with each other in good faith: We try to carry ourselves honestly, behave respectfully,
and consider the effects of our actions on others.
Because we believe that:
- Both individuals and organizations have a responsibility to understand the inequities inherent
in many of our societal systems and to work to improve outcomes for those harmed by these
- A just and fair world is one where all people can thrive regardless of their identity,
background, and experiences, and we must take action to help create that world.
- Everyone deserves to feel safe and valued during their work with Hearken.
- A diverse group of employees can come up with more creative and more interesting ideas.
- There’s always more to learn.
Actions Hearken has taken to create a more inclusive and equitable working environment:
Update October 2021:
In mid-July our team gathered for a conversation with Sassy to further discuss the collective work we’d be doing (see our July update for details on our starting point!). Together we made the decision to call our company DEI focused mini-gatherings “working groups”. In August, after further review and reflection on our small team size, our working group leaders suggested we join together as one group focused on who we work with.
To that end, our entire team has been meeting every other week to set the charter for the group, have discussions, raise questions, and set time-bound, specific goals and action steps. We are currently working as a team to confirm our top goals that we plan to achieve by the end of 2021, as well as what’s ahead for 2022. We expect to be able to share an additional update before the end of the year about what those specific goals are, and whether or not we were able to meet them.
Update July 2021:
Over the summer we decided to collectively work as a team to co-create our DEI work to advance our culture. We don’t see this as extra work, but rather this is us organizing how we work. Participating is part of everyone’s work – it’s a collective culture change.
With that, we are working to form 2 company committees based on some of the key topics suggested by Bernardo and Kumea. Once formed, committees will decide what kind of support/participation they would like from leadership and/or the board and have the opportunity to share what that support might look like.
Here’s a brief overview of what these committees will focus on, but further refinement will happen as each committee forms.
Who We Work With Committee(s)
As Hearken grows we will continue to bring on additional full time employees and contractors, as well as expand our work with clients and vendors. To that end, we would like to have an intentional process around hiring, as well as a framework for who we do (and do not) work with. Depending on interest this might be one committee that looks at this topic more broadly, or two separate committees that deep dive into each area.
The top priority here is to identify how Hearken can continue to improve on its current hiring process. This committee will build on and refine the work that the Hiring Process committee and the leadership team began in fall 2020. The focus first will be on full time hiring, but will eventually expand to considering contractors, interns, or other part-time/temporary positions.
This committee will be focused on recommending a framework, set of guidelines, questions, or considerations for Hearken to decide what clients we will/will not work with. In the future, we will also look to create a similar process for vendors we work with.
Putting the I in DEI Committee
This committee will focus on internal inclusion at Hearken. We’ve been working off of this definition: “Inclusion is the action or state of including or of being included within a group or structure. More than simply diversity and numerical representation, inclusion involves authentic and empowered participation and a true sense of belonging (source: Annie E Casey Foundation)”. This might include:
Drafting a new ‘rules of engagement’ document for the Hearken team to abide by
Creating or recommending ways to create safe spaces for hard conversations
Recommending inclusive ways to handle meetings and interactions
Recommending trainings for specific interpersonal skills
Creating opportunities for Hearkeners to formally or informally connect with each other
Brainstorming additional ideas and ways for the Hearken team to create that true sense of belonging for everyone
Two current employees will be helping to lead and facilitate these groups, with support from Kate (Sassy) Sassoon around facilitation technique. Starting in September, every other Friday we’ll be replacing one of our all company meetings with time for these groups to gather so additional meeting time does not need to be found. We’ll post an update in Q4 about our progress here!
Update March 2021:
At the very end of 2020 Hearken partnered with two consultants from Ferdman Consulting, Bernardo Ferdman and Kumea Shorter-Gooden, to continue our work on diversity, equity, and inclusion. In the first quarter of 2021 Bernardo and Kumea have:
- Met with four small groups to discuss the state of DEI at the company (including longer tenured employees, newer employees, BlPOC employees, and our Board)
- Met with several individuals 1:1 to discuss DEI at the company
- Invited all staff to complete a DEI focused survey (94% of Hearkeners completed the survey)
- Brought the entire team together for a 2.5 hour conversation to discuss their findings and collectively review next steps
- Met with members of the leadership team on a regular basis to ensure the work continues to move forward
In the coming months, we will continue to work with Ferdman Consulting to:
- Work closely with the leadership team to determine next steps and recommendations based off the feedback from the entire team
- Determine the top areas of focus and places for improvement in the next 3-9 months as well as longer term
- Take actionable steps to improve processes and policies to create a more equitable workspace
We anticipate having next steps by the end of Q2 2021, and will update this page in summer 2021 to share what we’ll be doing next.
Update September 2020:
Over the past year, Hearken has begun a number of efforts to strengthen our commitment to creating an equitable place to work. Below is a short summary of some of what we’ve done. We recognize we are at the beginning of this journey, and it’s a constant work-in-progress. As part of that work, we’ll be continuing to reflect and learn from insights shared by members of our team (past and present). Here on our website we’ll be sharing a more detailed framework to communicate transparently what we’re doing, what we’re learning, and where we need to continue to invest time and resources to grow.
Actions taken in the past year:
- Salary review and right-sizing across teams: When new leadership was added to the team in Q3 2019, they collaborated with the current CEO to develop and implement a framework to ensure grades of salaries across the company were transparent and consistent across teams.
- New variable compensation, promotion review, and individual development plan processes to create more consistency around employee growth and development.
- Professional development stipends allocated for every employee to ensure distribution of resourcing individual growth.
- Five hours of automatic flex time given to every employee each week so they can more easily take care of needs (appts., childcare, etc.) that may arise during traditional working hours.
- Addition of a Chief of Staff role, manager support group, and a variety of channels for employees to ask questions of leadership, including two anonymous methods.
- Two all company 3-hour discussion group sessions co-facilitated with Malii Watts Witten, a longstanding outside partner for Hearken, to specifically discuss what the state of DEI has been at the company, what our team is willing to give up for equity, and how our team can together take ownership together for creating practices across the company that center diversity and inclusion.
- Expansion of actions to support racial justice work including a monthly recurring donation to the National Association for Black Journalists to support incredible work they are already doing, addition of Juneteenth holiday and, for 2020, the ask that all employees take 8 hours of paid work time to dedicate to deepening their commitment to racial equity and justice.
Current work in progress in Q3/Q4 2020:
- Interviewing third party partners to provide us with external assessment of our practices over the existence of the company, recommendations to move forward, and to act as a thought partner for the months and years ahead.
- A full analysis of our hiring process in consultation with a third party partner to create a process that is as equitable as possible.
- A full analysis of our onboarding process to identify how to better support new hires in their first weeks and months at Hearken.
- Continuing to work towards our key objective of internal employee happiness, one of our 3 strategic pillars our work centers around in 2020. A key performance measure for the leadership team is tied to this objective.
Assessing our external work with consulting clients to approach our partnerships through a Design Justice lens and incorporate principles of human centered design into our external work.