How purpose drives this HR leader to prioritize inclusion

As the new chief people officer at FOLX Health, an LGBTQIA+ healthcare service provider in Boston, Donisha Diagne brings plenty of varied experiences to her role. As a business psychologist and people and culture professional for the past 15 years, she has served a variety of HR roles at commerical and miltary helicopter manufacturer Sikorsky and ratings board Moody’s. With her recent move to FOLX Health, Diagne describes her mission now as understanding the intersections among business, technology, organizational behavior and the workforce. And specifically for FOLX, that work is underscored by the mission-driven nature of the organization.

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“In my career, I’ve seen firsthand the levels of health inequity the LGBTQIA+ community faces and the dire need for affirming healthcare that respects the needs of each individual,” she says. HRE recently spoke with Diagne about how this environment is impacting her goals for 2022, how FOLX creates a safe work environment and what role technology will play in its future people strategy.

HRE: What is your mandate as chief people officer of FOLX Health?

Donisha Diagne, chief people officer for FOLX Health

Diagne: As the new chief people officer, I am focused on managing the people-related strategy and processes necessary to driving the candidate and employee experience at FOLX. We are a truly unique organization, and I am committed to maintaining and advancing our uniqueness. This will require a heightened focus on our culture, DEI, workforce development and the engagement of our staff members.

HRE: What do you hope to accomplish by this time next year?

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Diagne: I am really excited to see all that our People & Culture team accomplish by this time next year. Currently, I am focused on hiring and realigning the People & Culture team at FOLX. This will enable us to implement a scalable people-first strategy that supports the organization’s growth trajectory. This will include expanding our newly launched onboarding program, identification of our go-forward culture strategy, our corporate talent philosophy with a focus on our development programs all designed to advance the employee experience and the support of our growing business.

HRE: How can HR leaders best create a safe and inclusive work environment?

Diagne: HR leaders can begin to create a safe and inclusive work environment by ensuring all staff members feel that they matter continuously. This requires a shared responsibility, for leaders and staff members alike, to ensure everyone feels like they are being seen, heard, included and belong. To accomplish this, I will focus on education, communication, collaboration, co-invention and assessment.

Related: 5 ways to create a safe workplace culture for LGBTQ employees

As the HR leader, my team and I will focus on the design, implementation and evaluation of FOLX policies, practices and initiatives to ensure they support a safe and inclusive work environment. As a partnered step, I will work with leaders to educate and align on the attributes of a safe and inclusive environment. Next, I will engage staff members and leaders collectively to identify and create the attributes that constitute a safe and inclusive work environment in alignment with our FOLX values and our future goals.

I will work to create opportunities for continued feedback through one-on-one discussions, focus groups, surveys, regional employee hubs and leadership connections. This will mean becoming comfortable with the more difficult conversations to increase alignment regarding performance and/or development needs. I will partner with FOLX leaders to ensure we are prepared and ready to engage in the more challenging conversations while treating everyone fair, firm and consistent.

Creating a safe and inclusive work environment at FOLX includes ensuring our staff members have a strong understanding of the business. To accomplish this, in January we will launch a mini-MBA program designed to help employees better understand our business as well as how we measure success.

Related: Want to advance DEI? Drive progress through data

We are a highly diverse population of employees at FOLX who represent a wide intersection of identities, which fosters opportunities to celebrate and recognize our uniqueness. This is truly a partnership between myself, the leadership and all the staff members at FOLX.

HRE: Does FOLX use technology to achieve DEI goals, such as anti-bias software that is powered by artificial intelligence? Employee surveys?

Diagne: Not at this time. We have an HRIS system; however, we are reviewing opportunities in 2022 to advance our ability to collect and analyze data and ease reporting. We are simply not there yet.

HRE: Do you verify vaccine statuses of your employees?

Diagne: As a virtual organization with less than 70 staff members, we currently fall under the threshold to verify vaccine statuses of our employees. However, we will review our policy as we move closer to hosting our annual retreat in 2022.

HRE: Do you have an HR technology wish list? Do you wish there was a new piece of gear that would erase your tech migraines?

Diagne: Absolutely. My wish list starts first with ease of implementation [and] continues with an easy ability to capture and mine data with robust reporting and analysis. I’d love the HRIS to quickly generate charts and graphs with ease of exporting into PowerPoint. I have an idea to create skill assessment surveys during the onboarding process for new hires and managers to openly discuss development needs within the first 30 days. I would love a tool that can support both the skill assessment, as well as workforce development, including performance. 

Last but not least, my wish list also includes an HRIS with vendor and contractor management that has integrations like payroll if required. I would like an intuitive user interface for staff members. This is my starting list while still focused on meeting the needs of a smaller organization like FOLX. 

Phil Albinus
Phil Albinus
Phil Albinus is the former HR Tech Editor for HRE. He has been covering personal and business technology for 25 years and has served as editor and executive editor for a number of financial services, trading technology and employee benefits titles. He is a graduate of SUNY New Paltz and lives in the Hudson Valley with his audiologist wife and three adult children.