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Walking the Talk: How the Challenges of 2020 Turned Into a Workplace Movement

June 17, 2021
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Looking back, 2020 was an unusual and challenging year for many reasons. Not only were we faced with a global pandemic but protests and civil unrest captured the attention of our country. As an African American-owned and operated architectural firm, these events affected us deeply and inspired us to have conversations that aren’t the easiest to have.

These conversations led us to realize that we often talk about being a diverse firm, but our team members may not understand the history and cultures of their colleagues. Simply put, we were talking the talk but were not necessarily walking the walk. This realization lead a group of employees, with the support of senior leadership, to create a platform for open, respectful dialogue regarding systemic issues of racial tension, equity, and understanding in our world. As a result, in 2020, Moody Nolan instituted Juneteenth as a paid holiday and decided to use this day to host our first internal grassroots conversation to educate our employees about the history of this landmark milestone/holiday.

The first session turned out to be a huge success and employees were quick to share personal experiences and viewpoints, listen to each other, and converse respectfully. Following the first session, we hosted a meeting and asked employees to provide input on the series. Our employees provided 40 different topics they were interested in talking about and the “Walking the Talk” series was born. Walking the Talk (WTT) is a call-to-action series created to explore what it means to work at Moody Nolan in the current climate, to better understand and support each other, and to learn how we can work together to improve our culture & the AEC industry.

The WTT leadership team crafted an evolving curriculum of sessions, each based upon a new topic. In each session, the team provides historical background on the topic, supports respectful dialogue between co-workers, and facilitates interactive activities that engage and educate participants on the topic. Goals of the sessions include:

  • EDUCATE: Gaining a cultural understanding of our diverse environment
  • ENGAGE: The responsibility & power of our platform to “be the change” we wish to see in our industry.
  • EMPOWER: Determining our systemic response to sufficiently address the issues inside and outside of Moody Nolan.
Walking the Talk Team

The Walking the Talk series has facilitated a firm-wide environment that encourages thoughtful dialogue we weren’t having before. In fact, some employees have utilized the series as a way to educate their children about systematic issues related to racial tension, equity, and understanding in our world. We believe this program helps us to better understand and support one another and learn how we can work together to improve our culture. It has begun to connect our staff to others around the firm creating a tighter-knit family.

The Walking the Talk series has also received attention outside of our firm from entities such as the National Organization of Minority Architects, the American Institute of Architects, and Steelcase Inc. To learn more about this series, or ways you can implement a similar education program at your firm, please contact Elizabeth Robbins at [email protected]