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Episode #29: Wen Stenger - CEO & Co-Founder - Omni Inclusive

February 27, 2022 Ursus Staffing & Services Season 2 Episode 29
Hiring University! Powered by Ursus, Inc.
Episode #29: Wen Stenger - CEO & Co-Founder - Omni Inclusive
Show Notes Transcript

Wen Stenger, CEO, and Co-Founder of Omni Inclusive joins the Hiring University podcast to discuss diversity and inclusion in the staffing industry.   Before founding Omni Inclusive, Wen led contingent labor programs at leading enterprises including Best Buy and Thompson Reuters.  
Before founding Omni Inclusive she ran the contingent workforce programs at household enterprise companies like Best Buy and Thompson Reuters, she is a retired U.S Air Force veteran and has been recognized by the staffing industry with the following distinctions:

·      2021 SIA DEI Influencer. 

·      2021 LinkedIn Diversity Champion Talent Award. 

·      2019 & 2020 SIA Contingent Workforce Game Changer leading process and change in external workforce ecosystem. 

"When it comes to the contingent workforce, it takes a village process.  Regardless of who "owns" the data or the technology or the process, everybody has to have a hand in understanding that information and using it to address the challenges at hand."

Wen Stenger

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Wen Stenger

[00:00:00] Jon Beck: What's up everyone. Welcome to this edition of hiring university. John Beck here again, your hosts today, we are very fortunate and welcome when stinger to the program. When is the co-founder of Omni inclusive and is as credible voice of any in our industry to just test the topics around diversity and inclusion.

[00:00:19] When has done a tremendous amount of work, particularly is active in women's mentoring, working with veterans LGBTQ and resource networks. Before she founded on an inclusive, she ran a number of high profile household name, contingent workforce programs, including best buy and Thomson Reuters. She has been named, as the 2021 SIA DEI influencer recognized by LinkedIn as a diversity champion.

[00:00:44] In 2019 in 2020 was also a workforce game-changer by SIA. And on top of all that, she is a six Sigma green belt certified project manager and a retired us air force veteran. Thank you for your service when quite a resume. Thank you for coming onto the. 

[00:01:02] Wen Stenger: What was that person you were talking about? That's not me.

[00:01:06] Jon Beck: Modesty will get you everywhere, I guess. So when, before we jump into questions and the topic of the day is diversity and inclusion, give our listeners a sense of Omni inclusive and, the work that. 

[00:01:20] Wen Stenger: You that. So, uh, I'm inclusive. We are a D diversity and inclusion focused staffing and consulting firm.

[00:01:28] We are, diversity owned. So, LGBTQ woman owned and. Disabled veteran owned. That's a lot of words that have to like, I have to spit all that out. So we pro what that means is we provide, DNI, inclusive recruiting processes for, companies contingent labor programs. We provide. Contingent labor, EOR, employer of record payroll services, Dean D E and I consulting, for, the buyers, the client companies, as well as other staffing providers, and, the ever so famous, direct sourcing curation services.

[00:02:07] Cause I've had my hand in direct sourcing a timer to in the past.

[00:02:11] Jon Beck: So let's dive right into the topic of hand. There's a lot of discussion today, on DNI in our industry. That's a good thing. I want to get it start by asking you just to, to see how you think we're doing and maybe give us some perspective, Against some of the recent events and timelines.

[00:02:28] We had an acceleration of discussion around COVID and George Floyd, all good things, but how are we doing from your vantage point? In our industry and others, when their social movements, a lot of times you see a lot of talk, but less action. I think we've seen some good action, but there's probably work to be done.

[00:02:44] Tell us what you, how you think. 

[00:02:47] Wen Stenger: I I'd say you, you just about sum that up really well, the past two years, I think it's the natural progress of things, but it has been a lot of talk and not enough action. There's no one's hand to smack on that. I don't think that many. Folks that are, that are in this world of looking at diversity and inclusion and the contingent labor space know what action to do. , but you know, the talking is what starts. I mean, you have, you have to start somewhere. And so we talk with, we start with the communication. The interest from businesses to say, we do need to care about the diversity and inclusion of our contingent workforce population, our external workforce population.

[00:03:27] But then the question becomes, how do we do that? The thing that, we, I noticed a lot and I kind of have to remind people of is how do we do diversity and inclusion for contingent workforce? Most of the house. Already provided. So DNI for permanent, for your FTE and DNI for, contract workers is the same.

[00:03:51] It's it's all provided. A sense of inclusion and belonging is to people, contractors and full-time employees are all people. The question that really we need to be asking is who does the work, who does the work? So as a, as a perm company, the buyer does the D and I collect the data collection, the reporting, the inclusion, the measures, the policies that the health care service for their FTEs.

[00:04:18] When it comes to the contingent workforce, it's, it's kind of a, it takes a village process where we need the staffing company as the employer record to take a huge ownership in that. But the data is not for the staffing provider alone, the MSP program, the clients themselves. Whether it's a very, the various technologies we use, everybody's got a hand in understanding that information.

[00:04:45] So we understand what things we need to change in our contingent labor program to improve the inclusion and belonging. 

[00:04:51] Jon Beck: I'm going to jump ahead because you mentioned MSP and VMs providers. I want to ask you about what role or responsibility they have to play. I mean, they have access to the data.

[00:05:02] They have access to the client and the managers that are hiring, they have scale across a number of clients, but the frustration from a staffing supplier is more often than not. They come to me and say, What are you doing? And what's your policy and what's your plan and what are you doing?

[00:05:18] And my answer is, well, it depends, we do things specifically for our own internal employees. We do things on behalf of our clients, but one size doesn't fit all. And one size isn't necessarily even possible at all because they don't may not have the tools or systems or the resources in. To support something that I was doing on another supplier is doing, where does the MSP fit?

[00:05:41] Wen Stenger: You know, the MSP is gonna fit. Like it always fits as that overseer of the program, overseer of the Matrixx and communicator back to the client. And that's kind of where that still needs to belong for a program that has anywhere between, you know, 20 to 50 suppliers, a client. Taken the information from every single supplier alone.

[00:06:05] And they don't really want the information by supplier necessarily. They want the, they want to know where their talent, attraction and placement is coming overall for the program, because it's not just about which suppliers are providing which talent. Which talent is attracted to it. Jobs versus industrial jobs versus professional jobs on the west coast versus the east coast versus the south versus the Midwest.

[00:06:31] Those things all play a factor. , I really think the MSPs have to find a way to anonymously collect the data from each supplier and put it into a digestible reportable format for the client. , not letting you know nothing that shows. Who the co clients are, or I'm sorry, who the candidates are. Frankly that's not necessarily relevant.

[00:07:00] Where are we missing the gap? 

[00:07:02] Jon Beck: I want to expand on digestible format for clients and for suppliers. So I think one of the challenges for everyone is how am I doing right relative to my peer group is the industry as a whole. It feels like there's something missing where there's an overarching governing body or, something that can provide data to give us some guidelines in terms of what we should be doing, how to do it.

[00:07:26] And are you measuring up or not? That those are big challenges. I think a lot of people struggle with. 

[00:07:33] Wen Stenger: They are a big challenges to struggle with. You know, I think the thing is, when it comes to the work is understanding who needs to start and the thing that I've seen over and over again, the past few years, especially now, I'd say maybe two years, we've seen, this interest in.

[00:07:49] Yeah, this interest in diversity and inclusion in the contingent workforce space. But I'd say in 2021, what I saw was suppliers saying, when the clients ask for it, we will put the program together. And what the buyer says is when the suppliers have the program together, We will ask for it and pay for it.

[00:08:09] Somebody's got to start no one. We're never going to get anywhere if we keep waiting on each other. And so that was kind of my drive, to form Omni inclusive and set that industry example of we, the suppliers are the ones that have to start. We have to start with. Tracking the information before the client needs the information.

[00:08:30] What I saw time and time again, last year was clients coming to us at the last minute saying, provide us the data that you've been collecting on DNI. And what I found most suppliers doing is saying, whoa, we haven't been collecting anything yet because you didn't ask us to, we can start now. But to the buyer, it was that's too late.

[00:08:51] We have to start the work before you to have enough information for it to be meaningful. And to your point, exactly. This can't be cookie cutter. We're talking about a systemic. Discrimination workplace harassment. We're talking about inequality in the workplace. There's not a way to cookie cutter this, the resources that one group needs is going to be different than the other one company is going to have struggles to place LGBTQ candidates.

[00:09:24] Whereas another company has struggles to place, Latino candidates like it's and you can't plug in the same things to the. 

[00:09:34] Jon Beck: Communities not to mention company size and where they are in their evolutionary state, geography plays a role in this, the type of position that you're hiring for. I mean, there's, there's a myriad factors that go into this.

[00:09:46] What do you advise to, suppliers? Maybe we do some role-play here. We're a 50 person six-year-old company. We've put, , a policy in place that we mapped with action. And we intentionally said, we want action behind it. Not just words. And so we've done continuing education for our own internal employees.

[00:10:03] But what other things do you suggest, or what other guidance do you have for suppliers? Whether we're 50 people or, 5,000. 

[00:10:11] Wen Stenger: I'm passionate about setting an industry standard from the staffing perspective of all, you know, I would love to see a world where all staffing companies provide diversity and inclusion process in their contingent labor.

[00:10:22] It's just, it's. Commonplace. But what we have to do to that is bridge the gap between the services you provide for your internal staff and the services you provide for your contractors. So there's this world of where we don't feel we have, oh, no one has ownership of the contractor. The, the supplier says, well, they're really at the company site.

[00:10:44] And then the company says, but the, your employee. I have spent equal time on both, on the supplier world and the buyer world. So I'm not super biased, but I believe that the support that the supplier is responsible and they have to provide the services. Most companies are already providing those services for their full-time staff, their staff of recruiters.

[00:11:03] So staff of back office, why can't you extend them? To your W2's and then to your ICS and 10 90 nines where appropriate, you have to look at, how the roles that you're posting, where are you posting them to attract? How are you, what's the word I'm looking for? How are you? Wording the job descriptions to make sure that they are not, excluding, individuals.

[00:11:29] You have to look at your policies, your healthcare, healthcare, and mental health. There are going to be a huge thing that the contract labor force needs to have. And then beyond that, Those business, those networking groups, have a sense of belonging, to work for ABC staffing company, but also know that they have a support in place for, gender diverse individuals.

[00:11:54] It's gonna bring companies a lot further along when it comes to candidate attraction and redeployment. 

[00:12:02] Jon Beck: I think that some of the hesitation or. The delay in some staffing companies taking a leadership position or putting these programs into place one is costs because there is there's cost associated with this.

[00:12:20] And when you're in a fixed market environment, that's additional burden because there is costs. And the other part is the legality of it. , and that has yet to catch up by law today. Especially here in California. We have a mandate about sexual harassment training that doesn't exist today for diversity.

[00:12:36] We put our employees through it, and it was a similar, although probably better experience that we get from the sexual harassment training, to be honest. But is that we're part of the delay resides in those two in terms of dollars and governance. Sorry, I don't want that to sound like a good excuse, but we wrestled with it.

[00:12:55] Wen Stenger: I would say, I do hear from other staffing leaders, that on the supplier side, they think that it has to do with dollars. Now, does it, is there a cost involved , in putting these programs into place? Absolutely. There's a cost involved with putting any program into place. , but I do find most leaders are.

[00:13:15] That's the reason they're stopping the work. , and then spending their money elsewhere. , In reality. Yeah, there's a, there is cost involved in this, but it's more, a lot of work and governance and having the right person in place to do the work, whether it's someone that you bring on from permanent staff, whether you bring on a consultant to help set you up, train the team on how to run it.

[00:13:39] And then there you go. , you'd be, I think companies would be surprised how much of this work is already part of their day. They just don't know to ask. You know, five to 10 steps. 

[00:13:51] Jon Beck: In other words, if you don't have anyone who owns it is not going to get managed and done. Exactly. Okay. Give me some examples of maybe either clients or people in the industry that are doing things that , are working maybe a little more progressive, any examples that you can cite of things that you think are good models for how.

[00:14:10] Wen Stenger: Um, you know, one of the things, I saw a webinar call recently with, Chris Robinson from LinkedIn. And I know for her program that she, from a buyer perspective, they are taking ownership, they're taking a role in the D and I reporting to give them a base, a baseline of, where they are and what their gaps are and what they need to improve.

[00:14:31] And I thought that was fantastic. It's really great to see, a buyer lead by example like that. I see a couple of suppliers that are starting to try to put together, , additional benefits, candidate engagement, a sense of candidate care for their contractors to help improve that redeployment, and sense of belonging, even though they're, they work for you, but they're at a client site or maybe they're remote, all these kinds of things.

[00:14:57] There's some, there's definitely some things I see folks doing, I'm seeing kind of like a little bit of like a try little here. Try little there. We'll do a little, this, that doesn't work scrap it. We'll try something else. I don't know that I've seen like a formula science down just yet.

[00:15:18] Jon Beck: Well, let me, let me flip that question around. What aren't we doing? What should we be talking about? That seems obvious today, whether it's a supplier or client or MSP, what is it on the agenda right now that we should be talking. 

[00:15:31] Wen Stenger: What's not on the agenda right now is the how to, we are still two years in talking about the why.

[00:15:38] And I think we've established the why, but it's the, how to, it's the, how does this work? This, if, you know, reminds me of my direct sourcing days, where we were talking about direct sourcing and we spent time talking about why. But then, finally the question came from the audience to me of like, how, who does, what, who does, what does the recruitment team do?

[00:16:03] What does the payroll team do? What is the MSP to your point? Do, what does the client do? There needs to be a, we ha we, we need, we break down. The roles and responsibilities who does what, we have to come to a consensus of where is this information held? Is it in the BMS? Is it in a third party solution?

[00:16:24] Isn't in a direct source tool? And the problem is I don't know that it can be that cookie cutter because there are some tech companies who are ready to have that information in their tool. And there are some who are not, so we're not all on the same page here. 

[00:16:37] Jon Beck: Does remote work. Diversity and inclusion.

[00:16:41] Wen Stenger: Remote work helps diversity inclusion, definitely because it opens up your market. It opens up the capability of where you can source roles. It opens up, the w need or no longer need to commute to do a job. That was something huge for my time in Thomson Reuters. The biggest location that we have for Thomson Reuters is in the Southern twin cities of Minnesota.

[00:17:09] It is predominantly a white neighborhood and it is a suburban neighborhood. It limited our ability to attract talent, not only talent, but talent. That was diverse because we were competing with like companies that were housed downtown Minneapolis. And we were 30, 40 minutes away down south, which I know in some regions are going big deal, but days like today, where there is a good.

[00:17:36] Foot and a half of snow that makes a big difference whether you can commute to that job or not. And so that has really opened up the area and especially when it comes to veteran talent, people think that seem to think that veteran talent is in every location in the United States. It is.

[00:17:53] Your bigger goal of attracting better and talent is the closer you are honestly, to military bases. If you're in the middle of Wisconsin trying to recruit veteran talent, you'll get a few, but you're not going to get very many. If you're on the west coast, in the San Diego area, I mean, you should, you should be at your elbows and 

[00:18:14] Jon Beck: veteran talent seems so obvious, doesn't it.

[00:18:17] And as a remote company, I wholeheartedly agree with your comments. I think it's going to be fascinating as things start to come back to air quotes, normal, and people are looking for folks to come back to the office and frankly, changing their policy on remote work. I think it's a real con it's a disadvantage for a lot of companies that are going to put those in office mandates back.

[00:18:38] With how fierce the market is. In particular for us, we do, the technology and creative work. I think it's just crazy. I don't know why anyone would ever hamstring themselves, 

[00:18:47] Wen Stenger: That, that demand, I mean, with the exception of the type of job, because I get it from a manufacturing perspective.

[00:18:54] Um, but you know, for an office perspective, those companies that are demanding. A hundred percent back into, I mean, you're just shooting yourself in the foot from a talent perspective. Why in the world do you need everybody? I don't know if there's a better way for the world to have not convinced us all that, that we're capable of doing our work from home for the past two years.

[00:19:14] Yeah. I 

[00:19:15] Jon Beck: couldn't agree more and I'm actually waiting for time to mark on, because I know a lot of our competitors. Request people to come back and people will have the train has left the station. It's going to be challenging. When if, you think about five years from now, how, what do you hope looks different than where it is today?

[00:19:32] How far along should we be five years 

[00:19:34] Wen Stenger: from now?

[00:19:37] Let's talk about what I hope. And then let's talk about what maybe as realistic. , what I hope five years from now is that we'll see strong strides in diversity and inclusion programs within contingent labor. Realistically, what I would see is I'd say the next two, maybe three years, there's going to be companies that roll up that program.

[00:20:00] But due to unconscious bias, don't run it as well as they should. And I say that from a perspective of, if you take a look at diversity and inclusion programs over the past 20, 30 years, , the number one group that has benefited from diversity programs are white. Because before that, as a white female, as you being a white male, the work world was predominantly white male.

[00:20:25] And when there was , a push, whether it's a voluntary push or force push, let's say it's a force push to bring more inclusion into the workplace. That decision again was made by white men and don't get me wrong. I, I raising three boys, so. I'm all about raising awesome white men. The question was we have to bring more people in who are not like us, but who is most like us, but not like us white women.

[00:20:51] And so that's what ended up, creating, the number one benefit of inclusion in the workplace as white women. That took it, that did take decades. And the problem is with, we don't call those types of things out that can continue to perpetuate. In the, the years, relating out to 2020, I saw companies that were pushing for more women leadership and they were, they want more women leadership.

[00:21:20] We want more men, women managers, women C-suite. And I am all for that. But what I didn't hear was we want more women leaders and we will, we are ensuring that there are women of color, LGBTQ women, female of diversity of women or female. And that's what I wasn't quite seeing. I mean, we're still, don't get me wrong.

[00:21:42] We're still at, I think it's 8% of the, C-suite. Executives in the U S are men are sorry, 8%, 8% are women the other 90 something or are men? We've got a ways to go. Putting in recruitment program without training your managers on there on how to understand their and remove their unconscious bias or at least check their unconscious bias is not going to get you very far. And you cannot do diversity inclusion, recruitment without diversity inclusion retention.

[00:22:16] We've been trying to do that for the past. What 20, 30 years now has been this focus on diversity recruitment, but no focus on retention. 

[00:22:26] Jon Beck: I honestly think that part of the great people call great resignation. I prefer great Reed shuffle. A lot of it is because of retention. People are asking themselves what's my company stand for?

[00:22:38] What does my manager stand for? And is this the right environment for me? And now with remote work, because the two go hand in hand there's choice. , I think that's driving it as much as, as anything, although people aren't really talking about that, they're talking about, I can make more money or have a lower cost of living if I moved to different location.

[00:22:53] I wrote a blog on this a couple of weeks ago, too, the answer to this is to become a better manager, on all fronts. 

[00:23:00] Wen Stenger: I mean, exactly to your point of that whole remote work, the question, the thing that I hear is, well, we need to. We need to bring more people back into the office because we're struggling to manage them.

[00:23:11] Is that the worker's problem is that your problem, you have to learn how to adapt. You have to learn how to re how to manage remotely. 

[00:23:19] Jon Beck: No, the technology is available. It takes some doing to train yourself and use it, in a way that's productive and that fits your environment as well, too.

[00:23:28] And last question, before I ask you, one or two personal ones about your background. Where does AI fit into this? And there are so many AI companies in our industry now that are all, proclaiming themselves as the panacea for all things, talent acquisition. Where do you see AI?

[00:23:46] Wen Stenger: I'm so glad you asked me that question. I have an opinion on AI and diversity inclusion. So yeah, I have an opinion about everything, but, when it comes to DNI, A I technology, there is space for it, but here's my concern. I've heard a lot of companies boasting about their AI technology today that reviews the candidates resume.

[00:24:14] Anonymizes their name, their race, their ethnicity, their gender, takes out the bias for the manager. Helps the manager make a hiring decision without their bias, which sounds great. But what did you teach the manager? How have we just let technology do our. Anti-racism work for us instead of doing our own work.

[00:24:40] Now, there are technologies out there that take out that bias and provide the manager feedback to say, these words would attract here. This is the information, you have historically selected, white men for this role. Have you, you know, here are, here are five women of color who are, qualified for the role.

[00:25:00] Those technologies that provide the feedback are excellent. If the manager's going to use the feedback, if they're ignoring the feedback, then what are we doing? So I, while I liked the idea of the AI and what it can do, my concern is that the majority of the population will use it as a crutch instead of a learning 

[00:25:19] Jon Beck: tool.

[00:25:20] Yeah. I have an opinion as well too. I'll share with you that I agree with you. And I don't think any of the AI tools today can even deliver what you just described. Certainly not for the types of skillsets that we look for, which there's just, there's from the hard skill standpoint, much deeper vetting that typically has to happen.

[00:25:41] But if you're one of the 20 AI vendors that calls and emails and texts me every week, here's what I'd love to see. I think that AI can be really beneficial. To anonymously collect and present that data pattern matching against the things that we're looking for. And I'm, frankly, I'm shocked that LinkedIn and dice and CareerBuilder and others haven't gone out and either developed this themselves or made acquisitions.

[00:26:04] And aren't farther along because for us in such a competitive market for a software developer, we know what the skills are. And we'll post on all the job boards and we're on at least a dozen or so diversity job board, right? Rarely is somebody to go, oh, this looks like a new job.

[00:26:20] I'm going to apply. We have to go reach out to them, tap them on the shoulder and say, here's why you should be interested in this position. I need help find me who I'm going to tap on. Right. AI would be incredibly useful for us because it would, again, help me reach out and finger into those places that I can't get otherwise versus posting.

[00:26:38] I need somebody that's creating gravity to me , And I think that that's probably true in most job functions. Uh, quite frankly, I think where AI is failing today in our industry is they're trying to do too much or trying to replace the full life cycle of recruiting, which I just don't think when humans buy from humans, that's possible.

[00:26:55] And to your point, we're doing a disservice to training our managers and eliminating those bias and skillsets. 

[00:27:00] Wen Stenger: When I was going to add, I have a house full of gen Z right now, and what I will tell you is that the incoming workforce generation. Can, they can pick, they catch on pretty quickly when they're talking to a bot and not a human.

[00:27:14] And when they find that they're talking to a bot, they disengage, it's becoming a little too commonplace for them. So there is still a human factor in this. Attraction and recruitment world that we have to have. I'm all for technology love technology. I don't think I go anywhere without my phone, but we've got to use it smartly.

[00:27:34] Jon Beck: Amen. I couldn't great. Couldn't agree more. Well, last question for you. I just invented a way back machine and congratulations. I have a ticket for you. So we're going to put you in the way back machine to when you first started your. What one piece of advice do you share with that young, when based on your experience and all the things that you've garnered and learned to this point, what piece of advice to get yourself back then?

[00:27:59] Wen Stenger: The advice I would give to young women is you are a hell of a lot smarter than you think you are. Growing up in a lower class, blue collar family in town, growing up as female, I was constantly told I could not achieve the things that I have achieved and I believe them for a very long time.

[00:28:17] And every time I have to kind of remind myself that, I overachieved where I wanted to be. Maybe 10, 15 years ago. And then new things keep happening that I never thought I could do. Yeah, I think I would make sure that she knows to keep going. And when those people say you can't do it.

[00:28:37] Walk past them. 

[00:28:39] Jon Beck: I love the answer and it doesn't sound conceited a bit. I think most people, have that self-doubt, and the creeps in. And so I love it. That's a great answer. Well, before we wrap up, tell our listeners the best way to connect with you. And with AMI, if they're interested in your work.

[00:28:55] Wen Stenger: You bet. , you can find us on our website on me, inclusive.com. You can email us@infoataamiinclusive.com and you can also follow me on LinkedIn. I am very active in the LinkedIn space, respond to most messages post out there pretty frequently. 

[00:29:12] Jon Beck: I love it. Thank you so much for coming on to this show. Appreciate the discussion and the perspective. And promise me you'll come back. So we can see how far along we've gotten and hopefully a couple of quarters from now.

[00:29:23] Uh, we, we we'll lay that long for our listeners as always keep the faith, keep grinding, keep safe, and we will see you next time on hiring university. Thank you. And 

[00:29:34] Wen Stenger: thank you.