September 7, 2022

Maggie Smith, Vice-President of Human Resources at Traliant, recently spoke with Tom Fox on the Compliance Podcast Network on how diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) helps organizations foster a speak-up culture. The interview has been edited for length and clarity. 

Giving All Employees a Voice in the Workplace 

Tom: Is DEI a key component of a robust compliance program? 

Maggie: Absolutely. As a business, you want diversity, equity and inclusion because it allows for better problem solving and decision making, increased innovation and creativity, and ultimately more success. Accepting diverse workers and making them feel included pays dividends by motivating them to perform in the workplace. 

Tom: How do you advocate a company create inclusion? 

Maggie: I think of diversity as, “We’re inviting you to a party.” Inclusion is, “We want you to join us and dance at the party.” Organizations create an inclusive culture by ensuring peoples’ voices are heard throughout the entire employee life cycle. One of the ways we do this at Traliant is by making sure we’re not just hiring for culture fit but bringing in people who are culture adds. 

Tom: What do you mean by “cultural add?”  

Maggie: A culture fit can mirror our biases. We’re comfortable around people who share our demographics, socioeconomic background and identities. People call it the “mini me” syndrome. By having a diverse recruiting process and hiring people that add to or enhance your current culture, you embrace voices within a wide range of social backgrounds. 

Tom: Is there a connection between DEI and a speak-up culture? 

Maggie: You have to work hard at building a psychologically safe workspace where people feel included and comfortable speaking up. Initially, we created an inbox for people to anonymously submit comments. Once employees saw that leadership thoughtfully answered their questions, they started to ask questions and give us great ideas during meetings. 

Anytime an employee brings an idea, concern or complaint to management, it’s important to investigate it promptly and close the feedback loop with employees. You want employees to know you value and appreciate their input by saying, “Thanks for bringing this to our attention. Here’s our answer on that.”  

Tom: You used the term “feedback loop.” Why is it so important to keep people informed on the progress of their ideas or concerns? 

Maggie: If you don’t circle back with people, they just think, “Nobody is listening to me.” I think most managers have the best intentions to look into things, but they may not get back to people because they get busy, or conversely, they might be afraid to tell a person “We can’t do that right now.” But “no” is still an answer. If you say, “We’re going to look at your suggestion again in six months,” it shows you listened. 

Click here to listen to the entire Compliance Podcast Network interview with Maggie Smith. 

Maggie Smith, Vice-President of Human Resources at Traliant, has more than 20 years of experience in HR and is always seeking new and better ways to balance business goals with the needs of employees. 



Carole Walters