S4 E61 | Moments that Matter with Sarah Smart

In this episode of Moments That Matter, Sarah tells leaders to put the diversity metric first, and don’t be afraid to look for where barriers are being created that stop progress.

Announcer 0:02
You’re listening to Moments That Matter, a special CXR podcast series, where leaders and telling professionals share their own experiences with varying aspects of discrimination and inequality. Hear on Moments That Matter, we are dedicated to creating connected conversations around specific moments. These are moments that matter.

Nicole Wormley, Danaher 0:26
Hello, everyone, my name is Nicole Wormley, and I have the privilege of leading diversity attraction and university recruitment for Danaher Corporation, I am pleased to have a quick chat with Sarah Smart, the Vice President of global recruiting with Hilton, we’re taking part in a quick conversation on the CXR sponsored series called Moments That Matter where leaders connect to share an instance or two within their lives where they experience or witness a form of discrimination, or inequality, and had the realization that something in their lives or their work environments needed to change, a pivotal moment that matters for them. So Sarah, can you share a little bit about yourself and tell us about the moment that you decided to share with us today?

Sarah Smart, Hilton 1:12
Thanks, Nicole. Hello, everyone. I am delighted to be able to be here today. And to share in these conversations with the CXR community. A special shout out to Gerry and Chris and the entire team for creating this platform. It means a lot. So thank you, Nicole, it’s a great question. I actually had to think through sort of all of the many moments that I have experienced in my life. And I’m sure that everyone here has as well. But I kept on going back to one thing and i think it’s it’s you know, I’m going to share a little bit of personal history here as well. So I was raised by two activists, they back them used to be called the hippies, sort of post hippie these would be the protesters out today. And in fact, I’ve had a couple of conversations with my mom about not going to protests during the time of COVID. And they were very early in my life, my family made the decision to move to inner city, Wilmington, Delaware, which is Delaware is the state that Joe Biden was the senator for back he was the senator during the time that time and they made the decision to move to Wilmington, Delaware, in downtown Wilmington. Because there was busing that was made available to children in downtown Wilmington to be bused to the suburbs to have access to better schools. This has been an issue that’s actually come up in the election that has come up for Vice President Biden several times. My parents were not wealthy, they, my family was not wealthy, they spent the majority of their time and their money trying to make social change. In this on their side, on the side jobs, they were teachers. So just to emphasize how little wealth there was, at the time, being someplace where you could be bused to take advantage of great school systems was a huge thing for my family. So first through third grade, went to a local school, and then the busing started. And I remember going to the bus stop. And there was a sort of a period in our lives where we were the only white people within maybe, you know, white family within maybe a 10 to 15 block radius. Um, and I remember getting on the bus for my fourth grade, my first trip out to HB DuPont, which was in the suburbs of Delaware. And it was me and my brother, and we were the only two white people on the bus. And I remember getting off the bus and we were greeted by protesters. Um, and I didn’t understand it. It didn’t. I was I, I was on a bus with my friends, I was with people that I had grown up with that had gone to all of the classes that I had gone to at Lewis elementary school when I got off the bus and there were protesters, and they were telling us to go home. Um, and I remember just being in tears and in tears from most of fourth grade. That happened for really the first six months and that sort of dissipated, but it was really, it was quite a thing to experience as a young kid. And I remember going home and talking to my mom about it and saying I didn’t understand why it made no sense to me. And she said, You know, sometimes people just want to put up barriers, because they’re afraid. And I feel like that moment, you know, it’s not necessarily something that’s been incredibly pivotal. It’s just sort of formed for me my philosophy around talent acquisition, which is as much as I can do to take away the barriers for anyone is there considering an opportunity in any company I’ve worked for, I’m going to do it. Because I don’t want to accidentally be that group that’s protesting. I don’t want to accidentally make anyone feel like they’re not welcome, when those people actually deliberately wanted to make sure that we didn’t feel welcome. So that was, yeah, that’s been probably one of the biggest moments for me and in my life and thinking about my career. I’m, you know, I’m delighted to say that I have not actually seen that recently. But I’m, you know, happy to answer any questions you might have.

Nicole Wormley, Danaher 5:33
Right, I was actually going to, to ask a question similar to what you just said, Sarah, first of all, thank you for sharing. I too, was bussed so I, I can empathize. Would you say and even if it’s on a smaller scale, would you say during the course of your professional career, you have the opportunity to experience that same type of energy in any of your roles as a as a leader, whether it be Hilton or prior?

Sarah Smart, Hilton 6:00
In terms of the energy to make change?

Nicole Wormley, Danaher 6:02

Sarah Smart, Hilton 6:03
Yes. Well, I think that I’m absolutely at Hilton. You know, I think it has been, we have done a tremendous amount, not just under my leadership, but across the entire organization in terms of actively looking for ways where we may not even know that we’re doing it as a company where we’re creating a barrier for either progress, whether it’s community progress, or applicant progress, or career progress. But across the board, I would say that the company has done a really good job of being introspective and saying, what can we do better? to, to, I think Tara mentioned that as well. But I also think that nta in particular, there’s an opportunity and indeed a responsibility for us to say, Okay, great, we need to look at what’s the applicant process? Where are we accidentally having a fall out in the funnel? That could be something that we don’t see, and how do we analyze that, and maybe we need a third party consultant to come in and help us analyze that, because we have a blind spot. Um, and that’s been something that I’ve been lucky to have the freedom to address at home. And it’s been very important, I think, in terms of our success as some as a company that is able to grow a diverse population of leaders.

Nicole Wormley, Danaher 7:21
Okay, great. Last question. What advice considering that success that you just mentioned, what advice would you give leaders and talent acquisition as they might be earlier in their journey to helping to support some of those recruiting process advancements that it sounds like you’ve made it Hilton?

Sarah Smart, Hilton 7:37
Sure, you know, this is a hard one. And I say, this is sort of, you know, when I think about recruiters, and they’re there, they have to be leaders. But they also happen to have to typically run a desk and have open requisitions, and all those other fun things. And you know everyone has a metric that’s flying at them at any given time. Put the diversity metric at the top. It’s the right thing to do. It will help you find amazing talent. Push on that help your clients understand why it’s important. And don’t be afraid because I think more and more you are going to find that not only will your leaders have your back, but the rest of the company will have your back as well. And, and you should be able to take advantage of that momentum at this point.

Nicole Wormley, Danaher 8:21
Great, thank you, Sarah.

Announcer 8:24
You’re listening to Moments That Matter, a special CXR podcast series, where leaders and telling professionals share their own experiences with varying aspects of discrimination and inequality. Hear on Moments That Matter, we are dedicated to creating connected conversations around specific moments. These are moments that matter.