Home Blog & Media ACDI/VOCA’s HR Team Shapes an Inclusive Workplace

ACDI/VOCA’s HR Team Shapes an Inclusive Workplace

March 14, 2022

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Meg Weaver

Senior Director, Communications

*2022 Humentum OpEx Awardee*

Recent events—the COVID-19 pandemic, the remote-work pivot, the racial justice movement, the urgency of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) efforts, increasing socioeconomic disparities, the mounting climate crisis, child-/eldercare challenges, among others—have put a lot of new, nuanced, and pressing work on the plates of Human Resources professionals. This is very much the case at nonprofit development implementer ACDI/VOCA.

Yet, during these times we have still found a point of light. ACDI/VOCA’s Human Resources team has made significant, substantive changes to our HR policies and practices to shape our organization into a more diverse, equitable workplace while better supporting staff. Our HR team itself embodies our organization’s commitment to diversity and inclusion: it’s a diverse, women-led group comprised of seven individuals, five of whom are women and all of whom are people of color.

And talk about leading by example. From Quanita Pokolo-Hassell, Senior Vice President, HR, herself: “Our approach is to always listen, offer a compromise if necessary, and to remain as flexible as possible. Many of our policies such as the back-up-care benefit, wellbeing leave, telework, and others came about as a result of taking this open approach.”

Toward Salary Parity

As a first step on the march to salary parity, the HR team conducted a comprehensive review of our salary structure and recruitment approach, engaging a consultant in 2019. This review resulted in creating a compensation committee to ensure that salaries across the organization are skills-based, aligned, and fair, regardless of gender or race. The HR team also developed metrics to monitor salary parity and are building accountability around those metrics to ensure compliance.

Committed to transparency and inclusion, HR partnered with its employees as stakeholders and communicated openly with them throughout this process. ACDI/VOCA employees had access to the data from the consultant’s study, including market pricing and salary structure analysis. A point of pride: Since 2019, ACDI/VOCA no longer asks for pay history in its application process.

Supporting Remote Work

The March 2020 shift to 100 percent remote work prompted the HR team to rethink how employees work. In collaboration with leadership and while listening to colleagues, the HR team quickly shifted their focus to staff members’ health and wellbeing. They realized that the sudden closing of the office and subsequent stress of working at home created additional burdens that could lead to staff burnout and attrition.


ACDI/VOCA’s 2021 HR team includes the following members (from L-R): Abdoul Ouattara, Janelle Brown, Maya Spiers, Quanita Pokolo-Hassell, Carina Mack-Caldwell, Ruth Arriaga, and Jaha Zakhidov.

The HR team developed a comprehensive approach to provide staff tools to help them work efficiently and effectively, with an eye toward wellness. The wellness approach hinges on four guiding principles, with strategies and plans to support each: Emotional Wellbeing, Social Wellbeing, Physical Wellbeing, and Financial Wellness. To support these areas of emphasis, HR regularly shares actionable resources with staff in its “tHRive on Thursdays Series” posted on the intranet.

Boosting Employee Well-being

In August 2020, HR supported the launch of the Parent2Parent Microsoft Teams channel where colleagues who are parents regularly share resources, photos, and gripes. More than a mere point of connection in a virtual workplace, the channel offered a space where colleagues could communicate their needs openly and directly with HR. HR listened, put in the legwork, and executed several tangible policy changes in 2021 to boost employee well-being.

Wellness Days

The first such change was the implementation in 2021 of Wellness Days that allow staff to use four sick days for well-being needs. This policy shift is an important step in elevating mental well-being to be as essential as physical well-being. It’s been well-received by staff who’ve said that it’s a morale booster and a mark of “how much [ACDI/VOCA] care[s] about the well-being of [its] staff.”

Back-up Care Benefit

Because of the pandemic, the delineation of work and home, professional and personal, has blurred and employees seek a more responsive, compassionate employer. Along these lines, HR instituted another innovative benefit: the Back-Up Care reimbursement benefit, which provides employees reimbursement for alternative care (for children, older or ill family members) arrangements made during an emergency. Six employees have used it since its August 2021 launch.

Fueling DEI Efforts

ACDI/VOCA’s HR team has also collaborated with our Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Exploration Group (DEIEG) to further DEI efforts at our Home Office and in the countries where we work. The groups work together to recruit more diverse candidates, institute company-wide DEI training, launch a Mentorship Program, and expand efforts to retain and advance the careers of people of color, women, and LGBTQ+ individuals. One HR team member co-leads the DEIEG’s efforts, while other HR team members have been key movers on these key initiatives.

What’s Next

Looking ahead, the ACDI/VOCA HR team continues to support the organization’s efforts to provide a nurturing, safe, inclusive, and healthy work environment. The team honors its ongoing commitments toward diversity, equity, and inclusion. In 2022, HR continues to prioritize how it can support employees and their families’ wellness and life balance. Plans include the development of metrics around these priorities and the launch of a calendar of wellness events with a focus on training and resources for managers to proactively manage remote and hybrid staff. Stay tuned!

Check out our upcoming HR roundtable