WESP Renewal project reaches halfway point; dives into retention strategies for employees of color and revisits accountability and restructuring

October 17, 2023

September marked the midpoint for the Workplace Equity Strategic Plan (WESP) Renewal process. The two-day work session for the month tackled the third priority topic of Retention, and also allowed the steering committee members to check in on previous sessions and revisit the project timeline. 

The WESP renewal process also began shifting toward plan production this month as staff from the Office of Diversity and Equity (ODE) take the first steps toward drafting the strategic plan and organizing briefings for the Board of County Commissioners.

Through the first two work sessions, the steering committee worked through the two topics that they had identified as of the greatest interest and urgency: Accountability and Restructuring. Recognizing that these two topics are deeply connected, the group requested to revisit and reflect on the outcomes of both topic work sessions at the same time so they could make more refined and holistic recommendations before moving onto the remaining issues. 

As a result, the steering committee used the first work session day to revisit and review recommendations that were suggested during the Accountability and Restructuring sessions. Committee members paired up to discuss and sharpen these recommendations. The ODE team will soon reconcile the amended proposals with their original version, then cross-reference them with recommendations made in future sessions.

On the second work session day, committee members and invited subject matter experts delved into the topic of Retention, particularly in relation to employees of color. A brief of data from the County's Employee Data Dashboards that ODE provided to the committee highlighted the racial disparities in voluntary separations, especially among Black employees and managers. 

The day’s starting discussion led to the central design question: "How can we effectively evaluate our retention programs and initiatives to retain employees of color, with a specific focus on Black employees?" 

Committee members and subject matter experts broke into identity-based caucuses to respect the sensitivity of the data and the participants, and reviewed the data that pertained to each group. The groups reconvened later in the day to present their recommendations to each other. 

ODE staff compiled the recommendations, cross-referenced the notes from the discussion and organized recommendations into five themes:

  • Employee Onboarding and Development 
  • Enhanced Data-driven Practices for Employee Feedback
  • Benefits, Compensation, and Telework Policies
  • Promotion, Pathways, and Mentorship Programs
  • Equitable Staff Support and Development Programs

The complete recommendations can be found in the work session capture.

To close out the second work session, the group reviewed the project timeline and remaining session topics. The Steering Committee expressed concerns about meeting the original December deadline, considering the three remaining topic areas and the amount of work to synthesize, refine and finalize recommendations across all six topic areas. The group also had questions regarding the drafting and review process for the plan. 

In response, Chief Diversity and Equity Officer Joy Fowler requested an extension from Chair Jessica Vega Pederson, asking to move the WESP Renewal Project briefing to the Board from Dec. 21, 2023, to Jan. 25, 2024. The Chair agreed to the new timeline. 

ODE staff is in the process of reworking the WESP Renewal project timeline and plan to reflect the new date and will share it with the steering committee. The timeline will also be updated on the project webpage as soon as it is available. 

The next set of work sessions on Training will take place as originally scheduled on Tuesday, Oct. 24 and Thursday, Oct. 26.