Interview w/ Bad Ass Diversity Prophet Torin Ellis


Meet Torin Ellis, one bad MFin' diversity bad ass. Buckle-up kids it's about to get lit up in this Nexxt Exclusive podcast!

PODCAST TRANSCRIPTION sponsored by: Disability Solutions helps companies find talent in the largest minority community in the world – people with disabilities.

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Joel: Yep.

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Chad: Yeah. I know. I call it our Pavlovian dog reflex to text messaging

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Announcer: Hide your kids. Lock the doors. You're listening to HR's most dangerous podcast. Chad Sowash and Joel Cheeseman are here to punch the recruiting industry right where it hurts. Complete with breaking news, brash opinion, and loads of snark. Buckle up, boys and girls. It's time for the Chad and Cheese Podcast.

Chad: It's time to do this.

Joel: Ho ho.

Chad: This is Chad Sowash. Today we're going to be talking to Torin Ellis, diversity strategist, published offer. You might have heard him on SiriusXM Radio. He does a little contribution there. Torin's all over the place, man, but he is a diversity stud. Torin, say hi to the listeners, man.

Torin: Ah, that big good morning. We like it. We like it. We like it. And I absolutely appreciate the both of you for giving me some time, some bandwidth. Let's jostle a little bit and have some fun.

Joel: Torin, this is Joel Cheeseman, the cohost of the show. We're meeting for the first time. The name Torin is not a common name. Is there a story behind that?

Torin: No, it's not. Actually it's a Scottish name and it mean's king. And my mother, when she was 18, a lot of people told her that she nor her children, because they were kind of clairvoyant and they figured she'd have multiple kings and queens, and so that said that "Neither you nor your children would be successful." You got to understand that I grew up in a time ... I was born in a time where a black man could not swim in the Atlantic Ocean. I'm talking about a pool in a community. I'm not talking about the YMCA. I'm talking black people could not swim in South Florida in the Atlantic Ocean. And so a lot of her instructors told her that she would never successful. And she said she would start naming der firstborn with a name that had power, and so it means king.

Joel: Was that some undo pressure on you, though, to be a king?

Torin: No, not at all. Absolutely. I felt like ... First of all, I didn't know what it meant until probably 20 years old or so. But no. No pressure whatsoever. I mean, my mother and my father were incredible role models. They were incredible parents. And so they just raised me to be human, if you will. They raised me to try to respect the law and follow directions and do the best that I could. And so that's what we've tried to do. We've made a couple of mistakes, but we're here now. We're good.

Chad: Well, today we're here to talk about diversity. We talk about diversity. A couple of angry white guys, as you'd like to call us, talk about diversity on this show.

Torin: That's right.

Chad: And I thought, let's get somebody who really gets down deep into diversity and let's really ... let's get into the scrum on this one. Let's talk about what needs to happen, what is happening, and all the bullshit talk that's happening out there. So-

Joel: Can I interject-

Chad: Yeah.

Joel: ... because I'm a newbie in this diversity thing?

Torin: Yeah.

Joel: I'd like to hear a definition of diversity from someone who is really knowledgeable about this.

Torin: Oh, it's real simple. For me, it's bringing unknown resources, people, things together and not being afraid to be married, if you will. And just think about that. I don't need a complicated academic definition. It's about just bringing things that are not necessarily normal to be together, bringing cultural insiders, cultural outsiders, bringing them together, and not being afraid to be "married" professionally, socially, communal, if you will. It's bringing stuff together. That's it.

Joel: Got it.

Chad: Getting away from the old, generic, boring bullshit and trying to spice it up.

Joel: Flavor.

Chad: Right?

Joel: Absolutely. Absolutely.

Chad: Right, right? I mean-

Joel: Yes. Absolutely.

Chad: ... diversity of thought. I mean, we talk about backgrounds. So it doesn't matter what kind of background. But we talk about trying to bring that diverse thought in. In most cases, the way that you get that diverse thought is from an individual who is nothing like you, doesn't have the same kind of opinions or ideas, or maybe, in some cases, there are obviously some common grounds. But how do you really excel in being able to drive diversity? And that's always been my thought.

Torin: Well, and, again, when you take it like that ... So I use the phrase cultural insider. On your side, Joel and Chad are cultural insiders, both white men.

Chad: Yep.

Torin: I'm the cultural outsider in this conversation, yet we are still grooving already. Two, three minutes in, we're already in our flow, getting that mojo, and we're about to make an incredible conversation come forth. That's what I'm talking about, just bringing it together and not being afraid to do that. Now, on you all's side, there's still a difference in who you all are. Chad is different than Joel, vice versa. But together, there is a little bit of cultural outsiderness, if you will. But for the most part, you all are cultural insiders. Bringing the two together, outsiders, insiders, and making magic happen.

Chad: So why is it so hard? I mean, we got three guys get on a mic, right, and we start talking and we start the flow, right out of the gate. And you have this sharing of ideas and opinions. Why is it so hard for companies to be able to really grasp this? They talk about it all the time, but we aren't seeing it in the actual numbers. And I know we don't talk about benchmarks or for hiring percentages, but it is important to understand the actual composition of a workforce to understand whether you really are diverse or not. Right?

Torin: No, absolutely. And I think companies have struggled for a variety of reasons. Too many of them have had demoralizing results. They've had fatigue of conversation. And, honestly, Chad, that's because a lot of them have had faulty plans, bandaid-like tactics, if you will. "Let's kind of show up at this one event." Just one. I mean, there's 15,000 events that a person can go to. Let's just do one of them. Well, that's what I call a bandaid. Companies have struggled because they've had drips of interest versus that full-throttle effort. There's absolutely no way that for whatever software, 2 point whatever, whatever, whatever, you would kind of half-ass go at it. You would put your entire team on it to make it right. Even though you may deploy a version that's not 100% ready, you're not going to leave that lack of or that gap of closure out there in the marketplace. They're going to have their team fully on that, trying to make it right.

Torin: So that full-throttle effort has been missing inside a lot of organizations. Oftentimes, people like myself, strategists and consultants and trainers, we go in and we go in with a punitive conversation around leadership and white men, if you will. And shit, nobody wants to get beat down on like that. So, I mean, that doesn't necessarily bode well for bringing about progress. But most of all, what I think is really missing from most of the work that's being done. And mind you, when I do diversity strategy, I'm not doing it for bias training or unconscious bias training. I'm not doing it for anything other than I'm looking at the recruiting lens. I'm looking at how do we build high-performing teams, and not absolutely feel like recruiters and sources on the vanguard of incredible organizations. We are the frontline, if you will. And so I do my work focused on them.

Torin: The mai