From Solar Panels to Inclusion Panels, Aurora’s Commitment to DEI Shines Through – Built In

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In 1963, Martin Luther King Jr. climbed the marble steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C., captivating 250,000 that first day with his vision for America. Sixty years later, Aurora Solar’s people operations generalist, Edward Chaney, stood before his company, co-leading a discussion on the enduring impact of King’s speech on our world today.

Though on different stages, their objectives were similarly resounding: to inspire and advocate for a more equitable and inclusive future.

“It was one of the most impactful things I’ve done here, and it left a lasting impression on those who participated, and many continue to express their appreciation to this day,” Chaney said. 

As the country becomes more diverse, so too should the workplace. In response, diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives are growing for companies of all sizes. 

But simply hiring a diverse workforce is not enough. Employees must have equitable access to salary and benefits, resources, and advancement opportunities, as well as a voice within their organizations. The benefits are clear — from improved employee engagement and retention to increased financial success. Per a 2023 survey for Incfile, nearly 55 percent of growing businesses are rightfully making diversity a key tenant of their operations for this reason.

Just look at Aurora Solar. They have constructed well-balanced teams that authentically engage and challenge the status quo. It’s not merely a mission; to its employees, it’s the very essence of the company’s foundation.

“It’s not only central to achieving our mission but imperative to the social and economic well-being of current and future generations.”

Aurora team members at a company event.
Aurora Solar

AURORA ADHERES TO DEI BY:

  • Annually releasing internal DEI reports and strategic plans, sharing workforce representation data and inclusion scores.
  • Conducting quarterly DEI training workshops to enhance collective understanding and practice of inclusion in daily interactions.
  • Maintaining 8 ERGs and a DEI Engineering Guild, promoting inclusive spaces through events, training and storytelling.
  • Implementing inclusive hiring practices to support the commitment to building diverse and inclusive talent pipelines and teams.
  • Establishing compensation structures and conducting reviews based on pay parity and standardized pay practices to minimize subjectivity and potential bias.

Building a more inclusive future begins with a strong People team and individuals committed to mentoring others in the journey toward equity. At Aurora, Chaney persistently leads initiatives such as MLK Day events and enhances existing DEI programs.

Mastering Mentorship

One of the best ways to cultivate a culture of inclusion companywide is through mentorship.

Last year, Aurora initiated a six-month mentorship program within the People team to assist with ongoing learning and development.

“Being able to receive guidance and support from more experienced colleagues has expanded my knowledge and improved my performance in my role,” Chaney said. “I’ve truly leveled up because of this program — it’s been beneficial to talk to someone who has been through similar situations and can offer helpful advice on how to handle and approach them.”

With the addition of director of DEIB and talent development, Sheilesha Willis, Aurora will continue to push the envelope in DEI. Willis agreed that the mentorship program has been a game changer, especially for their remote-first team.

“Mentorship is a great way to build deeper connections,” she said. “By making a point to connect across functional areas every month, we build durable relationships that are more meaningful.

“This enables skill sharing that wouldn’t happen automatically, on top of learning from other members within a department,” she continued.

However, Willis will be the first to admit one can’t de-bug bias alone. She partners with many other team members — including those outside of the People team — to gain insight and address this daily

Encouraging ERGs

ERGs are an essential rung on the ladder to equity, and Aurora offers several for various groups. Staff Software Engineer Kyle Maxwell, who serves as co-captain of the company’s Engineering DEI Guild, works to elevate other engineers and enable his team in new ways, while actively participating himself. After receiving repeated feedback from the engineering team, the guild implemented a mentorship program designed to celebrate and build on intersectional identities across the team. Near the end of 2023, they opened the program to all of engineering, matching individuals as mentors, mentees or both.

Always Improving

No framework, no matter how inclusive, is perfect. The world is continually evolving, which means DEI principles should as well.

Aurora provides multiple channels for employees to share feedback and ideas, including an annual engagement survey and inclusion roundtable discussions hosted by the DEIB and Talent Development team. Beyond these formal channels, Willis stated that the company encourages employees to reach out to the DEIB and Talent and Development team to share their feedback. 

Aurora team members at a company event.
Aurora Solar

Even now, Aurora employees take pride in its diverse team and perspectives. Chaney, Willis and Maxwell all agree that the company and its leaders work diligently to infuse humanity and empathy into their work.

“We do our best to make Aurora an inclusive, welcoming, and safe place for all — from new hires to long-standing employees,” Chaney said, and it seems to be just the beginning. 

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