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Black Lives Matter: One Year Later

On the one-year anniversary of announcing our Black Lives Matter commitments, we're looking back at what we achieved — and sharing what's still to come.

Isaac Oates, CEO of Justworks
Isaac Oates
Jun 04, 202111 minutes

On June 4, 2020, we published a set of Black Lives Matter commitments to begin to create lasting change at Justworks that counteracts structural racism. We've been focused on meeting those commitments over the past year. Today, we wanted to look back and provide an update on the progress that we’ve made. There is more work to be done.

We remain committed to becoming an anti-racist organization. This work will not be easy, and it will not be perfect. We aren’t afraid to make mistakes. We’ll always do our best.

At Justworks, we want everyone, from our employees to our customers and partners and beyond, to feel welcomed, valued, appreciated, and respected. We want to continue to be an organization that people are proud to work for. We're excited to set new commitments to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) as a company and to strive to always set the bar higher.

Here are some updates on each of our 12 BLM commitments, along with our plans for what's next.

BLM Commitments Update:


Commitment #1

Training our people to actively combat racism. More than just “bias training,” we need to actively undo racism.

What we didWe delivered an anti-racism curriculum throughout the year, which included:

  • “Coming Together” sessions that facilitated open and honest conversations regarding race in the workplace.

  • A short film series hosted in partnership with Seed&Spark that focused on societal DEI themes and reflection.

  • A cultural immersion learning series with Language & Culture Worldwide, which dove into the history and experiences of the Black, Latinx, and LGTBQ communities. This series will continue through the fall with a focus on the Muslim and Asian-American communities.

What we learned
We learned that delivering this type of intensive training on a continuous basis is challenging in a growing organization where new employees start every month, each at different points in this journey. We need to ensure that there's a shared commitment from all of us to learn, educate ourselves, and lean into being better allies to each other.

What's next
The next step is to develop an approach to educating and training our employees to be culturally competent in all aspects of the workplace so we can understand each other better and continue to combat racism.

Commitment #2

Matching employee donations 2:1 to Black Lives Matter, Know Your Rights Camp, and Campaign Zero, or another related cause of the employee’s choice.

What we did
We ran a donation-matching campaign that amounted to almost $157,000 in combined donations from Justworks and our employees, which we contributed to these organizations and others working to eradicate racism.

What we learned
We learned that combining our resources toward a common goal can help to drive change.

What's next
Justworks plans to continue to support the causes that are important to employees. This year, we'll bring a more holistic approach to encouraging employees' generosity through a donation matching program.

Commitment #3

Waiving 12 months of Justworks admin fees for newly formed Black-owned businesses so that we can help them get started. Offering a discount to all Black-owned businesses no matter when they were started.

What we did
While our original commitment focused exclusively on Black-owned businesses, we expanded the mission to align more closely with our broader DEI vision. Last summer, we launched JustThrive, a discount program for customers that have at least 50% ownership by someone who is a member of a socially disadvantaged1 group or are a 501(c)3 nonprofit focused on eradicating racism. Today, 116 companies are participating in the JustThrive program.

What we learned
We learned that offering a discount is a great way to make Justworks more accessible to small businesses owned by BIPOC entrepreneurs and other members of socially disadvantaged groups. It has proved especially helpful for newly formed businesses.

What's next
We will create a more comprehensive experience for members of the Justworks minority and womxn-owned business (MWBE) community.

Commitment #4

Fostering a culture of belonging, acceptance and love. Maintaining an open dialog with our employees and helping them feel safe in sharing their experiences.

What we did
We conducted internal surveys that helped us gain deeper insight into the employee experience at Justworks and captured employee sentiment in a number of areas. Following the survey last June, we conducted multiple employee focus groups and created three “Inclusion Action Teams” to address key areas of opportunity.

What we learned
We learned that our employees want to be heard, and psychological safety is crucial for people to feel like they can come forward. We’ve been focused on supporting managers on checking in with their teams and providing space for processing and healing from trauma.

What's next
Maintaining an open dialogue will be even more important as Justworks continues to grow. We’ll be creating and implementing an engagement strategy that expands how we collect feedback and take action on it.

Commitment #5

Creating space for our own employees to get together, grieve, and heal. Space means the venue, time, and priority; other things will have to wait.

What we did

  • We worked with several vendors to offer mental health sessions where employees could share, bond, and get resources on managing their mental health. The sessions were focused on managing anxiety, stress, grief, and racial trauma.

  • We provided a one-year paid subscription to Headspace, a meditation app, to encourage employees to adopt mindfulness and stress management practices.

What we learned
We learned that mental health is a high priority for our employees, and we need to be sensitive and caring in this area. We also learned there is no one solution to these concerns.

What's next
We will continue the effort to ensure our employees have space to get together, grieve, and heal. This includes making updated mental health resources accessible internally, as well as providing additional relevant, personal programming for the team.

Commitment #6

Making our leadership ranks and company as a whole more diverse and inclusive.

What we didOur recruiting team has restructured the hiring process to make all interview loops diverse and inclusive to better reflect the talent we want to attract. We also worked with DEI-focused partners to fill our hiring pipelines with more diverse candidates.

What we learned
DEI needs to be at the forefront of our recruiting and talent efforts. Without continuous and deliberate energy, we will only achieve “status quo”, which is not acceptable to us.

What's next
We are hiring roles in recruiting focused on the DEI pipeline to ensure we are connected to communities of diverse talent. We've also committed to partnering with specialized DEI search companies to fill all open Director-level and above positions so we can make sure that our leadership better reflects our current and future employees.

Commitment #7

Encouraging and expecting our employees to take time off to recharge, protest, or for any other reason.

What we did
We introduced “Oxygen Days,” or days off to focus on mental health, and provided employees with a monetary stipend for that day. In addition, we announced that Justworks will observe Juneteenth as a paid annual company holiday.

What we learned
We learned that everyone needs something different during stressful times. While some employees valued our drop-in gatherings, others appreciated the time away to be with loved ones or to participate in events they felt called to support. We also learned that Justworkers work really hard and find it difficult to step away from work.

What's next
We will continue to offer “Oxygen Days” on a quarterly basis and have created a “Guide to PTO” to assist employees with planning for and taking time off. We'll also be working with managers to ensure they continue to encourage their teams to take time off.

Commitment #8

Refusing to do business with people who harass, intimidate, bully or abuse our people. Encouraging our people to speak up about misconduct and not tolerating retaliation.

What we did
In July 2020, we published an internal Customer Anti-Abuse Policy to protect our employees. This policy documents what is and is not acceptable behavior or language from customers, and provides managers with a north star for identifying and handling “abuse”.

What we learned
Justworks deals in a very personal business, and sometimes conversations with customers can become emotionally charged. We are learning a lot with every interaction we review against the policy, and have had tough conversations with customers about why their behavior is unacceptable. Above all, what we have learned is that the human aspect of our work is the most important.

What's next
We will continue to uphold our Anti-Abuse Policy and make updates as needed. To give our team members the skills to de-escalate a conversation before it becomes problematic, we're also launching a Service Excellence training with our partners at Dale Carnegie.

Commitment #9

Expanding the scope and influence of our DEI team, and growing the team.

What we did
We elevated the DEI Director role to sit on our leadership team to ensure that DEI has the focus and attention it needs from the company's senior leaders. We also expanded our DEI team and added a DEI Program Manager to manage and lead the ERG Program initiatives.

What we learned
For DEI to be a true priority for Justworks, the push must come from the top down. Our employees must see senior leadership invested and committed to DEI in order for it to be taken seriously and have a true, meaningful impact on the organization.

What's next
In order to achieve our long-term vision of growth, the DEI team will need to grow, too. While we promote that DEI is part of everyone’s job, it will be important for us to regularly reassess our DEI headcount to ensure we are staffed appropriately to deliver on our goals and commitments.

Commitment #10

Compensating our Employee Resource Group (ERG) leads for the additional work that they are putting into our company, effective June 1, 2020.

What we did
We rolled out a formal rewards and recognition effort that compensates ERG leads for their work within the ERG program, which directly impacts our overall workplace culture and employee engagement.

What we learned
We learned that this is not a common practice at other organizations, and Justworks is one of the first companies to have a formal process to pay ERG Leads. Although our approach has been well-received, it’s still a complex process.

What's next
We will continue to pay our ERG leads because of the important role that ERGs play for our employee experience. We'll also continue to evaluate the ERG program and compensation on an annual basis, and make adjustments as needed to improve the process.

Commitment #11

Incorporating this action plan, and other actions that we identify, into our goal-setting and accountability (OKR) frameworks.

What we did
We knew that we couldn't move the needle if we viewed our BLM commitments as separate from our business goals. So, we embedded them into our ongoing OKR process so that they would receive the same level of attention as other core business initiatives.

What we learned
By making frequent updates and ensuring all Justworkers have visibility into our DEI priorities and progress, we learned that when we keep a light shining on an opportunity, progress gets made.

What's next
By continuing to invest in DEI — both as a function on the team but also as a set of initiatives that are woven into the fabric of Justworks — we will stay on track toward better living up to our purpose of helping people realize their full potential.

Commitment #12

Supporting and amplifying our Black-owned business customers.

What we did
We created an MWBE customer directory to expand the reach and visibility of our amazing customers and help our community diversify their vendor network. There are currently 58 businesses listed on the directory, and we are continuing to add more.

What we learned
One of the most impactful ways we can support our customers is by providing opportunities for visibility and reach across our community.

What's next
We plan to align this commitment more with the JustThrive program and create more of an experience around what it means to be part of the Justworks MWBE community. We will keep finding new ways to promote our customers and support their growth.

1As defined in Section 8(a) of the U.S. Small Business Act (see p. 125).

This material has been prepared for informational purposes only, and is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for, legal or tax advice. If you have any legal or tax questions regarding this content or related issues, then you should consult with your professional legal or tax advisor.