Kalyn Wilson, Founder and Shellon Johnson, Principal Consultant, Dream Forward ConsultingKalyn Wilson, Founder and Shellon Johnson, Principal Consultant
Founded in 2016, Dream Forward Consulting is a Black womanowned boutique consulting firm that specializes in people and culture and DEI consulting. The company today works with startups, government agencies, and large enterprises to help them embrace all forms of employee diversity with open arms.

In an interview with Manage HR, Kalyn Wilson, CEO, Dream Forward Consulting, explains how the company helps clients address key concerns around people, culture, and diversity and create a DEI-friendly environment in their organization.

Can you give our readers a brief overview of the services Dream Forward Consulting offers?

Our services include everything from executive coaching and formal learning programs to psychometric assessments for leaders and decision-makers and creating a strategy around the future of inclusion, people, and culture practices in a company. We are constantly looking for innovative and excited clients who wish to go to the next level of their DEI journey.

What are the challenges that your clients often face in the DEI space?

Managing leaders’ emotion is a major point. Many leaders find themselves at a loss on how to approach DEI, people, and culture without hurting the sentiments of one group or other. They also quite often misunderstand the idea of a DEI initiative. After developing a DEI program, the management usually expects the employees to adjust to the new work structure. Though well-intentioned at heart, this approach can only increase hostility in employees.

Is there a particular methodology that you implement while trying to understand the root cause of your client’s DEI issues? Then, how do you deliver your solutions to them?

We follow a three-pronged approach to understand and address clients’ pain points. Initially, we hear the voice of the employees. Then, we conduct two kinds of assessments: inclusive culture and design evaluation and people and culture efficacy assessment. The surveys help us understand how the employees view the company’s work environment. We also conduct focus groups and individual interviews to know what they want from the organization. Finally, we combine the assessment results to draw a picture of what the workers expect from the organization.

From there, we offer our report to the clients and help them understand the aspects where they are successful and the areas where they are lacking. We then go into strategy development, where we take a group of people from across the company and work with them to develop plans and roadmaps around DEI. The next step is implementation. We work on some pilot projects and help people understand what works for them and what doesn’t.

Clients also get a chance to understand more about their motivations as a company and why the DEI journey is meaningful for them. Our plans also serve as a vehicle for leaders to find other emerging high potential talents.

We even do individual executive coaching with leaders from around the company and have training programs around everything from anti-racism to leadership development and their own DEI journey.

Would you like to elaborate more about the experience you hold and how you steer your company to its success?

As an individual, I have always believed in continually learning and evolving with time. I enjoy leveraging that strength to continue building Dream Forward Consulting. I have honed my knowledge over the years regarding HR principles and compliance, psychometric assessments, and semantic coaching to learn how to be a better DEI firm. Being a highly intuitive, good listener also works in our favor. We can combine the analytical skills and the intuitive knowledge with our coaching passion for finding solutions that dig deep in a company to find the root cause of their issues.
  • Our services include everything from executive coaching and formal learning programs to psychometric assessments for leaders and decision-makers and creating a strategy around the future of inclusion, people, and culture practices in a company

Additionally, we have Shellon Johnson, a fantastic project manager and an excellent strategist. She is result-focused—a quality necessary for any DEI program development team. Shellon can build the best DEI processes that can deliver tangible results and motivate people.

We are not only HR practitioners but also HR strategists. We have helped many of our clients develop DEI programs by being their voice of reason. Sometimes, we work as a client’s confidant. Other times, we act as a co-ideator, who helps them work through their DEI ideas.

Along with teaching DEI mechanics to our clients, we also help them understand themselves as an organization. That way, they won’t lose their sense of self but can build on the best parts of themselves and avoid the pitfalls while growing from a small startup to a big company.

What do you envision when it comes to the following 12 to 18 months? What’s the next big step that your company would be taking?

We are going to expand our services. Our next big plan is to conduct startup advising. This holds immense importance for me, given that the startup landscape is undergoing rapid change. I am really passionate about creating inclusion from the very beginning for companies that are serious about it.

We are also working on the leadership development aspect. People want to have a place where leaders can come and ask questions that they usually are ashamed to ask due to their fear of legal pushback. We provide a safe space for them to ask those questions without judgment and effectively solve their DEI challenges.

Additionally, we are building a new training concept where we have informal learning spaces for diversity and inclusion. Here, people will be able to discuss and debate over DEI ideas. We are also planning to trademark the concept to build it out as a facilitation guide.