To Our Ellenos Family:
Since my initial discussion with the team on June 4th regarding the tragic death of George Floyd and the harsh realities of racism, I have experienced an incredible outpouring of self-reflection and genuine concern from the Ellenos Family. The engagement has been enormously thoughtful; ranging from deep rooted fear, to an intense desire for understanding. Above all, there has been an overwhelming commitment to proactively embrace Black Lives Matter and the anti-racist movement. The humility and vulnerability that you have shared is immensely powerful, for it reflects our values as human beings and as an organization. What is so inspiring is the realization that as a collective, our organization is determined to be a change agent in the fight against social injustice. This is further supported by a staunch belief in diversity and inclusion, which I believe is inherent in our organization’s DNA.
The issue of racism is an ugly one. There is no beauty in its treacherous history and we must be willing to face the emotion and discomfort that comes with righting centuries of horrendous social injustice. So it should be, for I submit to you that most healing involves discomfort and pain. However, if we acknowledge the anticipated discomfort and pain up front, I believe we will be better prepared to tackle the myriad of difficult conversations and actions ahead. The stark realities that we will need to face and overcome, such as acknowledging white privilege, will be gut wrenching and fraught with emotion. It is to be expected, given they are deeply rooted in our collective psyche and will require hard work to eliminate. So be it. It does not excuse us from the long overdue and necessary task ahead.
I fervently believe that business has a critical role and great potential to affect true social change. After all, it is man-created institutions that have not only created but propagated systemic racism and social injustice, and it is now the responsibility of man-created institutions to dismantle them. Business, and particularly small businesses like ours, have the motivation, the innovative spirit, and the stomach for change that few other institutions do. It is therefore incumbent upon business to lead the charge. At Ellenos, we have the power to be a true change agent and to implement decisive action in our drive toward social equality. To correct the wrongs of the past and to set a course towards true equality requires action, but action without understanding is a fool’s mission. As Charles Kettering once wrote, “Knowing is not understanding. There is a great difference between knowing and understanding: you can know a lot about something and not really understand it.” No words speak more clearly to me when it comes to defining our path forward. Our journey as agents of change starts with gathering knowledge and insight through education and training. We must seek first to understand from within before we seek to affect change in our communities. Then and only then can we chart a course for meaningful, sustainable action that will change the course of human history.
Over the past two weeks, I have been seeking a deeper understanding of the ramifications of systemic racism and the importance of diversity and inclusion. I have spoken to many Ellenos team members at all levels across the organization, as well as thought leaders outside of the organization. I have often spoken of the diversity which presently exists within Ellenos and my long-held belief that our diversity is part of both our organization’s beauty and its strength. As enthusiastic as I am about the make-up of our organization, I am equally committed to ensuring that we not only continue to live by our values, but I am compelled to institute a definitive framework that elevates and codifies our pursuit of diversity and inclusion.
In many ways, this work has already begun, as we committed last week to the immediate need to create an environment that is focused on the care of each team member’s holistic health and wellness, and providing a safe and encouraging space to be able to continue to discuss and exchange information with each other on topics, even ones that are hard to digest. We will also continue to provide anti-racist resources so that we can continue to have discussion, discourse, and opportunities to learn and grow.
In the coming days, weeks, and months I will be working alongside our leaders to institute additional programs, practices, and substantive activities built on five key pillars:
- Recruit, Develop & Retain a Diverse Workforce: We are examining our current recruiting practices and policies to ensure that we are actively engaging and seeking out BIPOC team members moving forward, along with ensuring development for those already on our team.
- Foster Intentional Social Connections: We will work to develop paid volunteer opportunities for team members and create employee resource groups to better engage with each other and the communities we live in.
- Build Inclusive Leaders: We commit to ensuring that there is representation of diversity at all levels of the organization while working to develop a Leadership Training Program for non-executives and creating behavior standards that will hold leaders accountable for results.
- Provide Access to Education & Training: We are implementing new training and educational tools across all areas of the company, and all supervisors will be required to regularly and actively participate in their team members’ professional development plan.
- Define Metrics of Success: We will implement key milestones and timelines to ensure we are progressing and taking action in a meaningful and timely way.
Some of these commitments will take time to build out, as we are working toward long-term, systemic change. However, we also know that we must act now, and we have already begun to examine our current workplace conduct and hiring policies through the lens of anti-racism. This, along with the framework outlined above, will provide the foundation needed to further strengthen the world-class culture we are collectively creating.
Please remember that in order for these efforts to be successful, our commitment must be embraced by every member of the Ellenos family. This cannot be “just another HR program.” I am committed to this endeavor for the long haul, and I am supremely confident that every member of the Ellenos family is ready and willing to stand alongside me in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement.
Finally, to our Black team members, business partners, community members, and fans, I would like to simply but sincerely say: We see you, we hear you, we stand with you.
As always, thanks to everyone at Ellenos for all that you do. You inspire me in so many ways.