August 22, 2023

Over two days in late July, members of the Workforce Equity Strategic Plan (WESP) Renewal Steering Committee and subject matter experts convened to discuss and design strategies to increase organizational accountability.

The second work session included a collaborative brainstorming exercise to craft action statements that were later sorted into five themes, then converted into recommended actions.
During the Renewal Project kickoff retreat in June, the steering committee identified seven critical structural barriers that stood in the way of achieving a future vision for equity in the Multnomah County workplace: Accountability, Restructuring, Retention, Training, Compensation, Practice and Data. As the top priority, the group devoted its first set of work sessions to Accountability.

On the first day of the work session, the participants reviewed the main themes and challenges associated with the concept of accountability. Participants explored current practices, identified barriers, and engaged in an exercise known as the "Box of Humanity." This reflective activity encouraged members to anonymously share their work-related mistakes, the resulting consequences and lessons, and the supportive measures that could have remedied the impact. This exercise served as a reminder that errors are inherent to human nature and set the tone of empathy and shared understanding before launching into the main conversation.

The group turned their attention to examining how characteristics of white supremacy culture subtly infiltrate traditional accountability practices. Elements like perfectionism, defensiveness, power hoarding and a false sense of urgency were discussed in the context of managerial accountability, conflict resolution, engagement, communication and equity mandates.

The second work session commenced with a collaborative brainstorming exercise to craft action statements, connected to measurable outcomes, that can shape the path toward the desired future state of organizational accountability. These statements were sorted into five themes, then converted into “recommended actions,” each tied to a preliminary proposal of specific responsible parties and metrics for measuring success.

These recommended actions will serve as guidelines to aid the executive and steering committees in drafting final recommendations for the updated equity plan.

Recommended Actions for Manager Accountability and Support

  • Developing comprehensive manager onboarding that includes technical, cultural and supervisory aspects.
  • Identifying and addressing managers' training and support needs. 
  • Expanding new manager orientation and cohort learnings. 
  • Implementing mandated equity training to improve outcomes and client satisfaction.
  • Designing targeted training plans for managers and staff with performance issues.
  • Introduce 360-degree review requirements for managers and leaders to foster comprehensive performance evaluation. 

Recommended Actions for Conflict Resolution Processes

  • Countywide strategic focus on effective conflict resolution and restorative practices. 
  • Standardizing conflict resolution procedures across departments to ensure consistency and fairness. 
  • Exploring inclusive and restorative approaches to conflict resolution, prioritizing healing and mutual understanding. 
  • Investing in a dedicated restorative practice coordinator within departments, emphasizing the importance of a holistic and collaborative approach to resolving conflicts. 

Recommended Actions for Engagement and Representation

  • Empowering Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) to voice grievances and improve working conditions.
  • Ensuring direct representation from staff at all levels to shape policies.
  • Enhancing clarity in accountability mechanisms between ERGs and leadership.

Recommended Actions for Communication and Awareness

  • Emphasizing transparency by creating mechanisms that provide visibility into equity accountability, progress, and disciplinary actions. 
  • Analyzing employment trends data, particularly for employees of color at the executive level, to ensure fairness and equity in career progression. 

Recommended Actions for Equity Mandates and Measurements

  • Comprehensively integrating equity considerations into all organizational facets, encompassing job descriptions and educational classes. 
  • Prioritizing the visibility and accessibility of equity principles across the organization to foster an inclusive and fair environment. 
  • Creating standardized practices and responsibilities for equity teams to ensure consistent and effective implementation of equity initiatives. 

The next set of two-day convenings is scheduled for Aug. 22 and Aug. 24 to work on the “Restructuring” topic. The order and dates of all topic work sessions can be found on the “WESP Renewal Project Progress and Resources” page. Remember to bookmark that page to find post-work session summaries and note “captures” as the steering committee collaborates with staff members to develop key recommendations of the WESP Renewal.