To facilitate its diversity, equity, and inclusion program, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York opted to train internal staff rather than bring in external trainers.
Jeremy Manjorin is chief learning officer for the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, which works within the Federal Reserve System to foster the safety, soundness, and vitality of the US economic and financial systems.
The nearly 3,000 employees working at the New York Fed are responsible for formulating and executing monetary policy, supervising and regulating depository institutions, providing an elastic currency, assisting the federal government's financing operations, and serving as the banker for the US government.
One of Manjorin’s first initiatives when he joined the New York Fed nearly two years ago was launching a full diversity, equity, and inclusion curriculum. Talent Development Leader spoke to him about how the New York Fed approached an initiative so vital to its culture.
Talent Development Leader: When the New York Fed started to revamp its diversity, equity, and inclusion program, what was your primary thinking and preliminary plan?
Manjorin: DE&I is a critically important topic for our organization, and at the time I joined, the bank’s programming was being delivered across a variety of groups, independently and narrow in focus. One of the first things we wanted to do was centralize our approach. Working hand in hand with our chief DE&I officer, Theresa Torres, we set out to bring a more unified approach to something that was an integral part of our organization’s people strategy.
Centralizing has a lot of benefits. It provides a common lexicon, consistent messaging, and shared experience. All those things are essential to topics that can be difficult to navigate and teach.
Initially, we focused on creating a full learning portal with a self-assessment that allowed people to go in and test their knowledge and see where their behaviors lie. Then it provided a personalized learning journey based off that self-assessment.
More importantly, rather than have a group of vendors facilitate this programming for us, we decided to change direction and run this as an internal facilitation opportunity. We said to the workforce, “If anybody is passionate about this topic and interested in learning to facilitate a DE&I program, raise your hand.”
Talent Development Leader: Why did you decide to go the route of facilitating your own programs?
Manjorin: It’s a sensitive topic, and a topic that means very different things to different people. We didn’t want to have a vendor sit in front of the room and talk about topics that are clearly important without connectivity to our organizational culture or representative of what’s really important to our employee population.
But people who are representative of the bank population delivering this content, having these conversations, and facilitating these programs lends an authenticity that we could not have gotten with a vendor.
You can’t buy that. It’s part of our DNA.
Talent Development Leader: How did you prepare your volunteer facilitators? You had to train them on facilitation skills as well as on the content itself, correct?
Manjorin: We have someone on the learning team who’s our lead facilitator. It’s what they do; it’s their wheelhouse. They built a facilitation training model and a train-the-trainer program specifically for the DE&I programming. In addition to our lead facilitator, our inclusion strategists were instrumental in the development of the overall DE&I curriculum. These newly created roles embed DE&I expertise across all people processes, ensuring that inclusion is built into the foundation of everything we do.
There’s a technical aspect to facilitation, but a lot of it is practice and planning and being prepared. As part of our train-the-trainer, we had facilitators practice with the actual content among peer groups in a safe environment where we could pressure test their facilitation skills and mastery of the content. We needed to make sure that they were fully equipped to defuse anything that might come up.
They had to prove to the lead facilitator that they were competent and capable to deliver this content. It really helped prep them. We wouldn’t send anyone into a facilitation environment where they weren’t fully prepared. A lot of these folks were passionate about the topics already; they were members of our employee resource networks or DE&I programs in the past and were eager to work on this program.
We launched the program with the facilitators who were ready. We kept developing others, too, who needed a little more time to hone their skills and get more comfortable with the role. We were very thoughtful about making sure the strongest facilitators—the people who mastered the content and could navigate intense conversations with a positive intent—were the first facilitators out the gate for the program.
Talent Development Leader: Given the sensitivity of the topic, were you ever worried about someone going off script or how they would manage any confrontations or uncomfortable discussions?
Manjorin: There was that risk, but we prepped for that in the train-the-trainer. We said certain discussions can trigger certain reactions—even though that’s not the intent.
We told the facilitators that we’re not there to be mediators of any grievances; we’re here to facilitate content and discussions. We also provided them with the tools to de-escalate if needed as well as resources to point people to for more directed help on certain issues.
The program offered opportunities for robust discussion, but it also intentionally set a very positive tone within the training—a positive intent mindset. We talk about the lived experience and respect as part of the tenets of the program.
We also gave our facilitators the tools to navigate any difficult conversations. During the train-the-trainer, we had them practice managing challenging discussions with each other, with the lead facilitator, and with pilot groups.
Again, our content was focused on a very positive approach. We’re examining topics like bias and conscious inclusivity, for sure, but in a positive, safe environment.
Talent Development Leader: Do you have plans to do this for any other topics, or was this a one-time effort given the nature of the content?
Manjorin: Yes. The DE&I program has been very popular and positively received—in part, we think, because it’s people’s peers [teaching them]. So far, we have about 18 facilitators, and more than 700 employees have participated in the program.
We’re looking at using different senior leaders as facilitators for different leadership and development topics and programs, bringing in the right folks not just by title but by acumen. So, we don’t want someone to facilitate just because they’re a senior leader. It’s really about their skills—someone who’s demonstrated those skills and is passionate about sharing their experiences and guiding others in the development of those skills.
It’s a model that we plan on continuing.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s and do not necessarily represent those of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York or the Federal Reserve System.
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