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With any organizational change or initiatives, there must be a strategic plan with buy-in from all levels of the organization.

Kyle Ellington

Director of Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging

Oakland Athletics

× The interview with Kyle Ellington was conducted via a typed conversation. Editing changes were made to make it easier to read while maintaining the voice of the interview.

1Tell us about your role as Director of Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging at Oakland Athletics. What does a typical day look like for you?

Every day is unique, but I’ve been tasked to partner across all levels of the organization in developing, implementing, and tracking progress against ongoing strategic initiatives that enrich the Oakland A’s approach to Diversity, Equity & Inclusion.

I support our organization’s internal employee resource groups and diversity council, cultural acknowledgements & celebrations, employee engagement, recruiting & sourcing, supplier diversity and DE&I training initiatives.

However, there is never a dull moment and am constantly learning.

2You are the first to hold this role for the Athletics! Tell us from your perspective why this role is so crucial to the organization’s success.

Here are some reasons why I believe Diversity, Equity & is crucial to the organization success:

  • Employee Engagement –Employee Resource Groups and Affinity Groups help foster a culture of inclusion and engagement which improves employee retention.
  • Innovation – A diverse and inclusive workforce increases creativity, innovation & openness.
  • Performance – Gender and ethnically diverse organizations outperform their peers by +25% and +36% respectively. Diversity provides a range of skills. By having an inclusive and diverse environment, it allows wider perspectives to be integrated when brainstorming, problem-solving and developing new ideas in business.
  • Brand – Consumers are more likely to support social causes and are more likely to buy a brand when they do. 71% of fans support teams and athletes who speak out on issues of social justice and racial equity – 2020 ESPN Survey.

3Part of this role is helping to create a strong workplace culture where everyone belongs. What are the challenges of entering an established organization with the goals of change and adaptability?

I do not see this as a challenge. I see this as an opportunity to learn from others and educate employees on the importance of diversity, equity & inclusion.

With any organizational change or initiatives, there must be a strategic plan with buy-in from all levels of the organization. We have a great foundation at the Oakland Athletics and are committed to stay on this journey.

One of our earliest successes was our Diversity Taskforce creating a DEI Mission Statement. The Diversity Taskforce, which encompasses the Executive Team meets quarterly.

This taskforce brings together different senior executives that strategically execute DEI efforts and embeds inclusive practices throughout the organization.

Below is our DEI mission statement:

“Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion are rooted in our organizational DNA. Our commitment to these values is unwavering on and off the filed. Together, we continue to build an inclusive, innovative, and dynamic culture that encourages, supports, and celebrates belonging and amplifies diverse voices.”

To learn more about the work we have done – please click here.

4Prior to working with the Athletics, you worked for the Sacramento Kings as Director of Human Resources and Diversity & Inclusion. What knowledge and experience did you take from that position to your new position?

The Sacramento Kings and NBA do a great job in amplifying and supporting DEI initiatives respectively throughout the organization and across the league.

My previous experience working in Human Resources and D&I has been very helpful in creating my strategic plan for the Oakland Athletics.

My HR background in recruiting, sourcing, and employee engagement has propelled me to be innovative and creative when thinking about how to create and support DEI processes and initiatives at the Oakland A’s.

5Many organizations are implementing Diversity and Inclusion departments as of recent. Where do you see this type of work heading in the future? What hopes do you have for the sport industry?

The importance of DE&I practices in the sports industry is unparalleled.

I have experienced a noticeable uptick in questions, calls, and emails from my colleagues in the MLB and other leagues to discuss best practices. It has been overwhelmingly positive having great colleagues and conversations which have made my job much easier.

I have a lot of great strategic resources and advocates.

This job has been rewarding and inspiring to me as I continue to help shape our organizational culture that embraces and understands the importance of DE&I work and the impact on our business.

As an industry, I really feel like we are making an impact on society for change. Every week and every day you're seeing changes happen in the world that hasn't happened in the past.

This is not a moment. This is a movement.

6What advice do you have for aspiring sport professional looking to enter the sport industry? More specifically, someone who may want to work in HR and/or Diversity & Inclusion?

  1. Patience is critical when you begin a career in the sports industry specifically HR and/or Diversity & Inclusion.
  2. There are few positions within Teams that have these positions, so when they come available, you must be assertive when applying for those opportunities.
  3. It is important to have mentors and connections with subject matter experts in the space of D&I and HR to help further your knowledge and understanding.
  4. Take the opportunity to work, volunteer, or intern for any local sports team (college or professional) to gain hands-on experience.

Emma Greer Emma's Final Thoughts

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