Our Staff Spotlight Series highlights members of the Talent Rewire staff.
Name: Scotland Nash
Place: Seattle, Washington
Current Job: Director of Employer Transformation– Talent Rewire
1. As a form of introduction, please share with us a time when one or more of your identities played a role in your career.
26 years ago, in my first teaching job, I learned about how whiteness affected the way I was perceived as a teacher when one of my students, an immigrant from Ethiopia, shared with me that he didn’t look me in the eye as it was very hard for him due to cultural norms. Afterwards, I invited him to sit with me and share so that we could learn more about each other.
What I have since realized is that I was not aware of my whiteness. I didn’t understand the power and privilege that comes with being white. By not understanding my privilege, I put the responsibility on my Black student to teach me and share with me what he needed. I have since realized that although I thought I was approachable, I now understand that as a white person I need to be intentional in creating spaces of belonging. As someone who has authority and positional power based on my identity, I can cultivate belonging by asking questions, pausing to listen, avoiding making assumptions, and being vulnerable.
2. Can you share an experience where you felt respected and valued? How did that affect your relationship to the job and the employer
As an education consultant I was working tangentially with schools – the principal, the teachers, the students. Not being embedded in the school on a daily basis meant that accountability was really out of my control. I realized that when I was working effectively with clients I didn’t need to be in the building and that the work would continue when I wasn’t present. It was when the principal and the teachers were able to share what they did between sessions that impacted their students that made me feel respected and valued. Basically, I felt most valued when what I had been teaching was actively being learned and used. I find value in impacting the audience for which my work is targeting. For many years it was student (via teachers and principals), now it is frontline and entry level employees (via employers). For me, value is when the learning is being applied.
3. What builds Trust for you as an employee? What needs to be true in a workplace for you to feel comfortable giving input?
As an employee, direct communication and honest feedback builds trust. I also think it is important for people to do what they say they will do. The follow-through on commitments and taking responsibility for next steps is super important for me. I am comfortable giving input when I know that it will either be used or explained why it wasn’t used. Enabling conditions 4 and 5 in our research, listen for understanding, communicate transparently and remain open to feedback AND follow through on commitments and/or share when action is not possible. I believe that thoughtful communication can be difficult and it can be particularly difficult if someone isn’t getting the answer they wanted. It is in these moments that I believe trust can really be solidified.
4. What have you taken away by working at Talent Rewire?
At TR, I have realized that although readiness for equity work looks and sounds different across organizations – size, type, etc, so many people want to do well by one another. This is hard work, but it is important work and there isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer for meeting people’s needs. Therefore, I have learned that creating an opportunity and a space where people are willing to take action is essential to making change. Employers will come to us, then they will leave us. The hope is that the conversations and reflections and learning they have with us are important enough to them to do the work when they aren’t with us. We work hard to create the safe space for people to connect. I know that we can’t dictate the change employers choose, however, we can support employers making change for employees, we can provide a roadmap and the tools to take the next step.
5. What are the biggest misconceptions you think employers have about frontline employees?
I think that it is important that we all remember how full everyone’s lives are. Frontline employees are often juggling many personal and professional dynamics in addition to potentially facing economic uncertainty with hourly work. I think that sometimes there is a perception that frontline employees don’t care or aren’t able if there is a missed meeting or missed shift, employees are more than workers – they are dynamic and interesting humans with lots of responsibilities and at times a lot less stability and predictability than what comes with salaried and higher level roles.
6. What are ways in which employers show you that they value you as a human and as an employee?
Asking me what I need. It is important to center employee voice and not make assumptions. Create benefits and opportunities that employees express that they want and need to be able to be their best self at work. I feel valued when I am invited into the conversation.
7. What’s one thing you would encourage employers to do for their frontline talent?
Create multiple opportunities for employees to be heard. Do not wait for exit interviews to learn what you could have done differently. Be open to conversation. Be vulnerable. Be empathic in your listening. Be curious. Be human.