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4 Ways Gusto Takes a Holistic Approach to D&I

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For Gusto—a company that provides an all-in-one people platform designed to help small businesses with a variety of HR functions—diversity and inclusion are not just related to hiring. Instead, the organization treats D&I in a holistic way—from the time it attracts a candidate to the time they’re onboarded to even after they have left the organization. 

“At Gusto, we focus on the whole life cycle and we explicitly focus on hiring, progression, retention, and engagement. Our D&I program is called RISE—which stands for Representation, Inclusion, Social impact, and Equity—so internally, we're talking about it, we’re doing the work, but I want people to understand it's an entire journey, it's just not one step,” Bernard Coleman, Gusto’s Head of Employee Engagement, said in the latest episode of “Untapped,” our weekly DEI podcast. “I’ve been trying to get people to think about it more holistically as opposed to work from the D to the I to the E—how you order the letters is up to you, but it's all of that.

In order to make D&I a holistic experience, the company has taken the following steps

1. Putting out the right signals

Bernard says that before even engaging potential candidates directly, Gusto has made a point of giving people cultural signals and indicators to let them know the company is dedicated to diversity and inclusion. Whether it’s information on the organization’s website or reviews on Glassdoor, Bernard says a company’s D&I strategy should ring loud and clear to people before they speak to a recruiter.

“You should give people a signal as to what the experience could look like,” Bernard explained. “You’re basically letting people know you care, and that’s the first step.” 

2. Creating ERGs

Gusto has eight employee resource groups representing the needs of different constituencies that make up the company. Not only does this help bring different demographics together in the organization, but it also is another signal that Gusto puts out to attract untapped workers.

“People might want to say, ‘All right, I know I'm going to be on X or Y team, what's it like to be a Black person at Gusto, or a veteran at Gusto, or a woman at Gusto?’ and so this is a great way for our affinity groups to talk with candidates, it's a great way for candidates to talk to us—that way you get what it really looks like, and it's more of an honest conversation versus us trying to sell you,” Bernard said. “We're not trying to sell you on Gusto, we want you to come to Gusto because you want to come to Gusto.”

3. Engaging in relational onboarding

Instead of onboarding a new employee for a few days and then throwing them into their jobs, Gusto does what they call relational onboarding, which lasts for a longer period of time and is designed to truly integrate hires into the company’s community.

“We're trying to spread it out so that it's less transactional, more like you're building the relationship along the way,” Bernard said. “And I think particularly in COVID, it’s super important because what does community feel like? It's a different feeling now. It's hard to describe what community is—it varies by organization—but I bet a lot of organizations, unless they were 100 percent remote before COVID, are readjusting or reimagining what community feels like.” 

4. Providing learning opportunities

To raise awareness about issues related to diversity, equity, and inclusion, Gusto has intensive learning sessions where they read and discuss certain books—like White Fragility, So You Want to Talk About Race, and The Memo—to expose everyone in the organization to ideas they may not have thought about before. And when Gusto says everyone in the organization should be educated on these issues, they mean it: The company’s management also participates in the learning experiences to help them lead by example and demonstrate to their employees how much they do care about these issues.

And Bernard says this approach is making a difference.

“People are saying, ‘Oh, I understand that this is an inclusive place to work. I want to work here 12 months or longer. I want to tell friends about coming to Gusto.’ So I think that's impactful, that education and awareness ultimately is this practice to help us talk about things that we just never got to talk about,” he said. “And it's been hugely impactful in terms of the learning.” 

This impact is giving Bernard hope about what can be accomplished in the future. Since he’s seeing employees eager to have conversations they have never had at work before—or in some cases, have never had at all—makes him think that progress is really being made in the DEI space, and by continuing the work, environments will continue to improve. 

“I used to think you can't change hearts and minds, but one at a time works,” Bernard said. “It gives me hope in terms of actually making progress in this permanently, versus throwing my hands up and saying it's hopeless. It's just that steady work.”  

To hear more about the steady work that Bernard has been doing throughout his career, as well as more learning lessons from inside of Gusto, check out the latest episode of “Untapped,” where our Chief People Officer Tariq Meyers has frank DE&I discussions with recruitment professionals.

About Gusto and Bernard Coleman 


Gusto serves more than 100,000 businesses nationwide. Each year they process tens of billions of dollars of payroll and provide employee benefits—like health insurance and 401(k) accounts—while helping companies create incredible work places. Gusto’s core values include going the extra mile and doing the right thing—values it brings into its hiring and DE&I practices. Gusto’s mission is to create a world where work empowers a better life. They want to transform work into a community where people feel connected, valued, and energized.

Bernard Coleman 

Bernard is the Head of Employee Engagement at Gusto where he leads the Employee Engagement team which encompasses our diversity, equity and inclusion, employee relations, and people integrity/governance/compliance functions. Prior to Gusto, Bernard led diversity efforts at Uber and before that, directed Hillary for America’s HR and D&I efforts, and was the first-ever Chief Diversity and HR Officer in U.S. history for any presidential campaign. His insights have appeared in The New York Times, TIME, TechCrunch, and USA Today. Bernard holds an M.B.A. from Trinity University, a B.A. in psychology from Hampton University, a Strategic Diversity & Inclusion Management certification from Georgetown University and is a graduate of the University of Virginia's Sorensen Institute for Political Leadership.

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