EDI Spotlight Interview with Taylor Design

Kristy Jordan, the director of human resources with Taylor Design. Kristy has been with the firm for 23 years. She started in administration and worked her way up to human resources. In the past 15 years as the director of human resources, her role has been to handle benefits, recruitments, onboarding, employee experiences, professional developments, etc. – anything and everything about the people at Taylor Design. (Fun fact: There were only 1 office and 25 people when she joined Taylor. Now the firm has 5 offices throughout California and 95 + employees. Taylor Design hired 25 + employees remotely in the year 2021.)

1.Tell us about the history of your organization’s involvement with DEI and what formal or informal structures are in place to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion.

Kristy: In 2018, we’ve made a choice to form a formalized committee – JEDI (Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion). We’ve always volunteered but wanted to formalize the process and give it more structure. We wrote down everything we were already doing, making sure there are opportunities for our employees to participate and have a voice.

As Taylor Design gets larger, we can open offices in more diverse communities. We want to impact communities, and we want to hire people from those communities. We want our employees to represent the make-up of these communities. If we were in downtown San Francisco, we would like our staff to be just as diverse as downtown San Francisco. As we grow, we have that opportunity to reach different communities and neighborhoods that we can’t as one office in Orange County. We hired 25 employees in 2021 alone, it’s a lot of people and a diverse group we hired. The different points of view you can add to the project, the better the project will be. One of our taglines is “diversity is in our DNA”.  We live it, and we are owners. We want a more diverse equitable plane field. We want to work with different backgrounds, ideas, and passions.

There are a lot of initiatives that our JEDI committee is working on, and we believe that anybody can make a difference, not just the leaders of the firm. We encourage all employees to speak up and tell us what they want to do to make an impact. As a firm, we will support our employees in any way we can, either it’s hours or financial support.

2. Tell us about some of the most notable or most recent achievements that your organization has made in relation to DEI.

Kristy: Here are some of the achievements that we are proud of in relation to DEI.

  • We are very proud of our stats; the make-up of our staff is the representation of our communities. We have a consultant who reviews our firm’s action plans and compares them with our peers. Making sure we are doing the right things and hiring the right ways. We always do very well, but there is always room for improvement. We should never stop aiming for better numbers. Historically, this used to be a male profession, we are 50/50 male and female. As we grow, we maintain these numbers. Our diversity amongst our staff is growing, we celebrate that as well. We want to make sure everyone has an opportunity here. We also try to open the net up to reach more diverse candidates for the future. One of the ways is posting on more diversity sites such as HireBilingual.com, diversityjobs.com, veteranjobs.com.
  • We’ve changed our paid time off to include 3 free holidays, so employees with diverse cultures can celebrate as they need to.
  • We are part of boys’ and girls’ clubs in garden grove https://www.bgcgg.org/. They are one of the largest ones in Orange County. We have some of those students (some of them are not in high school yet) come tour our office and see what they can do in this field. We show them some 3D fly throughs from past projects, talk about architecture, interior design, and what are some of the technical and creative processes involved in this industry. We want to let them know the different areas that they can work in when they make career choices.
  • We are a part of NOMA – National Organization of Minority Architecture – and have established representatives from Northern California and Southern California to represent us.  https://www.noma.net/
  • We have active volunteers as a part of ACE Mentoring that work with students to introduce Architecture, Construction and Engineering early. https://acementorla.org/

3. What is an upcoming DEI initiative that your company is working on?

Kristy: There are 2 main initiatives that we are working on. 

  • One is to have more representation at historically black colleges. There are some good architectural programs. We want to talk to their professors and find out what they need from us and how we can help support their students.  Whether it’s doing crits or speaking at their classes, we want to support and be a partner with them to ensure the success of their students. We want to do that with other colleges too, to establish more support within the industry. We are working on partnering up with schools and professors to help them with their programs. On top of that, we want to have an employee ambassador at each of the schools as the main contact person. It’s really important for our employees to go into different schools to talk about their experience’s vs HR going to school to talk about the firm. We want the school to hear from the people. The covid19 pandemic forced us to slow down some of the effort since a lot of the career fair and in person events got shut down. We are doing as much as we can virtually, but it doesn’t have the same impact as in person.
  • Another initiative we are working on is a book for students. Two of our employees took the lead and started working on a book to help architecture and design students. They want to help students to understand there are many ways to get into architecture and design, and it doesn’t have to be the traditional 4-5 year college. They interviewed our staff about their career journey – how they got into architectural design and which path did they take to get to where they are today.  Everybody has a different way as they go about getting an education. We want to share that there are different ways to do that. We hope to publish that soon and share these resources with students to get the career they want.

4. Tell us about a challenge that you have encountered while developing and implementing DEI initiatives and how you are overcoming it.

Kristy: One of the biggest challenges is time. Our employees’ time and our time. Another unexpected challenge is Covid19 pandemic. When that happened in March 2020, we had to pivot. We shifted our energy to focus on how to maintain our business in a different environment to survive. The restrictions of not being able to go out to talk to people and see people in person is challenging. To make an impact, it’s best that we can be present to do so. We can do it virtually but not as impactful. 

In the past two years, our projects also went full force, so we want to make sure not to burn our staff out. We have really passionate staff, and they always want to do more. We need to remind each other not to burn out. We need to be mindful and remind each other to practice self-care so we can give our best when we get a chance to do so. If you spread yourself too thin, nothing is getting the best of you. We need to make sure we continue to provide the best to this initiative, and to sustain this effort in the long run. 

5. What resources were used to guide the development or implementation of the DEI initiatives? 

Kristy: We are in the process to get JUST certified from the International Living Future Institute. It’s a 3rd party who will review your firm based on areas such as Diversity & Inclusion, Equity, Employee Health, Employee Benefits, Stewardship, and Purchasing & Supply Chain. 

6. What advice would you share with individuals who are interested in starting DEI initiatives at their firm?

Kristy: Raise your hands and speak up. If you have an idea, talk to someone, they might not say they are looking for ideas, but anything that improves employee engagement and passion improves the bottom line. It’s always nice to come in with ideas rather than pointing out that we are falling short. It’s better to come in with ways to help improve the situation, because we can always improve. You can say something like, ‘I’ve noticed this, here are some ways I can help. I think we can help to make improvements.’ Keep raising your hand, and come up with ideas, and get creative.

Nothing is too small. You don’t have to go and change the world. You can make an impact for the here and now. Change how you are doing something; change how you view something. The key is to start with baby steps but start doing it right now. 

7. What suggestions do you have for young students or emerging professionals on how to persevere through some of the challenges of our industry?

Kristy: Keep persevering! There are a lot of challenges in our field. The students coming out now are so much more aware than 20-30 years ago. This generation wants to make a social impact, they are among the peers who want to make an impact. They won’t be alone because their peers want the same thing. It’s proven as an HR person, we know that compensation is great, but the project we work on and how fulfilled you are in the project, and the impact of doing good with these projects are much more fulfilling, that’s what the younger people are looking for now. Making the impact vs making the dollar.

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