Diversity & Inclusion;
What do they mean?
When we talk about diversity, we’re talking about becoming more diverse as a team. It’s about bringing different perspectives together — no matter if those differences come from religion, gender, hobbies or cultural background.
And without wanting to sound like Oprah, the sum of all these different perspectives is what makes you stronger as a company.
You’re inclusive as a company when everyone on your team feels that they can bring their whole self to work. When no one has to hide any part of their identity out of fear to get bullied for it. In an inclusive team you celebrate each other’s differences, instead of making fun of them.
To sum it up, we’ll quote inclusion strategist Verna Meyers:
“Diversity is inviting everybody to the party, while inclusion is people feeling free to dance at that same party.”
And what’s a party where no one dances?
Yup, not a lot of fun.
Why does becoming a diverse and inclusive company matter?
We all know that paying attention to these topics is just the right thing to do. But when it comes to prioritization, doing good will often lose from tasks with a financial incentive.
Here are some arguments that will show you, your team or your manager that spending time on diversity & inclusion will be the best investment they can make in the long run. Because before people change, they first want to know why.
1. It makes you more flexible
Fostering an environment that embraces differences will make you — as a team — more flexible. You’ll be able to deal with rapid change in your industry thanks to having many different perspectives on board — therefore you won’t risk making poor decisions as a result of homogeneous ‘groupthink’.
2. It makes you more innovative
The more flexible, the more innovative your team will be — which in turn gives you a competitive advantage. Research involving over 4,200 companies showed that businesses employing more women were more likely to bring radical innovations to the market over a two-year period. Here’s to the crazy ones :)
3. It saves you money
Also, you’ll save a lot of money by becoming more inclusive and diverse. If your employees feel like they can bring their whole self to work, this will decrease costs incurred by absence and mental health support. Also, have you thought about how much it costs to hire new people every time someone leaves because they don’t feel at home?
4. It strenghtens your Employer Brand
By supporting equal opportunities for everyone you’ll strengthen your Employer Brand, which enables you to attract a wider range of talent. We all know by now that millenials value purpose over paychecks, and working for a modern employer is definitely part of that.
5. It helps acquiring a bigger customer base
People like to connect with brands they can identify with — just think about how we tend to like people who are similar to ourselves. If you diversify your team you’ll be able to connect with a broader audience, enabling you to acquire a bigger customer base.
6. You set an example for other companies
“Ask yourself at what point you can stay competitive with a homogeneous team, because to be honest you won’t be able to stay as part of the international conversation for any longer.”
"Diversity is proven to make teams more innovative. More perspectives also create better products, and additionally we believe it's the right thing to do from a values point of view."
How do you become more inclusive and diverse as a team?
Did you convince everyone? Awesome — now dive into this list of initiatives, best practices and ideas to choose what would work best for your specific situation. Change doesn’t happen overnight, but don’t worry — if you follow these steps, you’ll do just fine.
First inclusion, then diversity
Almost all experts we’ve talked to agree; you need to become inclusive before starting to attract diverse talent.
Why? It’s simple — if you start hiring differently than you used to while your company culture stays the same, your new colleagues won’t stay because they won’t feel at home or like they belong at your company.
If you want to do this right, make sure you start by becoming inclusive first — only later you invite others to join your party.
This is how you kickstart your efforts. You’ve decided to shake up your team, you’ve read our guide and now it’s time to make sure you prep well.
1. Get your bosses on board
If you’re not the founder or CEO, go talk to the people in leadership positions. Before doing anything else, make them believe in your quest — they need to fully understand its importance to make sure it becomes a priority for everyone.
2. Involve your team
Give a presentation to your team to explain the importance and definitions of diversity and inclusion. Make sure there’s plenty of room for questions, concerns and discussion. Let them feel involved in the process.
3. Send out a survey
Set a baseline by doing an (anonymous) survey. This way, in a few months time you’ll know whether things have actually changed.
Get started with a survey
If you want to know what to change, you first need to know what the problems in your company are (and really get to know the people on your team). You probably have a hunch about what the outcome will be like, but make sure to back it up with real-world data. We suggest to use a Typeform or if you’re a bigger company, to talk with the folks at CultureAmp.
It’s important to find a balance between asking basic questions about people’s gender and background, and more in-depth questions on how they would define your company culture. For example, when do they feel the most safe within the team, or what are some company rituals they dislike?
2. Kickstart the change
Now that you’ve talked to your team and had everyone fill out the survey, you’re ready to define your company’s biggest pain points. Take some time to gather all necessary information and communicate the outcome of your survey with those who took it. Make sure everyone feels engaged, and sit down with your seniors to discuss the next steps.
Some common pain points:
· Lots of companies don’t have gender-neutral bathrooms, which isn’t inclusive towards people who don’t identify as male or female.
· Today, many businesses have open offices where there’s little to no privacy. This can specifically be hard for those who need a private space to pray, meditate or breastfeed.
· It took us a while to realize that using ‘Hey guys’ as a greeting is very male-focused. Though subtle, it can make other groups feel excluded from the conversation. So use 'Hey team' instead.
· It’s pretty common for job posts to use a list of bullet points for job requirements. However, research has shown that job posts with a long list of requirements attract less female candidates because of imposter syndrome.
Here are some steps you can take to start changing things:
1. Fix the quick fixes
Make a long list of all pain points that came up after your survey and presentation, and share your outcome with your team. Together, you then define 3 quick wins based on this.
For many creative companies it’s common to have a beer at the end of the work week. However, for some people these Friday drinks can feel a bit uncomfortable, because they can’t drink alcohol for health, religious or other reasons — maybe they just don’t like to drink. Here, a quick win could be to offer more non-alcoholic options so everyone can celebrate the start of their weekend in their own way. Also, make sure to lower the social pressure by pointing out that it’s not cool to ‘shame’ people when they don’t drink alcohol.
2. Apply focus
Set a baseline by doing an (anonymous) survey. This way, in a few months time you’ll know whether things have actually changed.
Based on your long list, decide on 2-3 long term projects that you and your team want to spend time on.
Also consider these projects that we’ve found to be very useful for any company trying to become more diverse and inclusive:
The bad news — everyone is biased. You, me, even your super woke friend. The good news is that once you know what your biases are, it’s easier to recognize and dismiss them when you have to make a judgement call. That’s why we recommend every team to do an anti-bias training, together.
Close the gender pay gap
We think this needs little explanation. Practice what you preach — if there’s a gender pay gap in your company, close it :)
Code of conduct
This might sound like ‘overengineering’, but when you’re in the middle of a big transition, it’s good to have something to fall back on that leaves no room for interpretation or confusion. Write up a code of conduct together with your team and include how you behave, what’s deemed ‘okay’ and what’s not. When it’s done, make sure to ask everyone on your team to read it and give feedback.
Also include your company values if you have them, as they’ll help with structuring your hiring process.
If creating a code of conduct feels like one step too far, then make sure to integrate diversity & inclusion into your company values. This can make for a first and important step in the right direction.
Looking for inspiration? We were impressed by the code of conduct made by the product team over at Vox.
Structure your hiring process
Even though we’ve said you should first focus on inclusion before hiring a more diverse set of people, we strongly recommend structuring your hiring process as soon as possible. Why ASAP? It’s mostly to avoid any spontaneous hires that won’t fit your changing team.
When you don’t structure your hiring process — meaning not having prepared interviews or job briefs — chances are that biases can run loose. Eventually this can result in hiring someone who’s just like you or your colleagues. (Self-replication really is a thing!) How do you get it right? Our The Art of Job Interviewing guide should have you covered.
“Don’t stop with your diversity efforts after hiring a new colleague. Always ask yourself the question what you can learn from these new team members. It’s an exercise in being humble. Stay curious.”
"Something we do at Buffer to be more inclusive is prioritizing asynchronous communication. Since we're spread out across 17 different countries and many different time zones, focusing on asynchronous communication allows us to make sure all teammates are able to participate equally in conversations and decision-making."
Define your hiring values
When looking for new colleagues it can be hard to determine who you should choose. Many companies make this decision based on ‘cultural fit’ — do they fit in the team? —whether someone is a ‘culture fit’ meaning; does someone fit in the team? This results in hiring people that just look like each other. Instead, work on a set of common values, hiring values, that you can use to guide your team’s hiring decisions when hiring. In short; don’t make your decision based on culture fit, but rather on value fit.
Update your job posts and career site
Once you’re becoming more inclusive as a company it’s also important to showcase your efforts. Many people have said that homogeneous teams are the result of a pipeline problem — in other words, 'there is just no diverse talent’. We don’t buy that. Attracting diverse talent succeeds when you’re showing them they can belong at your company. So make sure you review your career site and job posts and, ask other people to chip in — is the language you use inclusive? And what about the visuals and job titles?
Did we miss an initiative? Let us know via the blue button or reach out to Yuki. We’re more than happy to add your suggestion and make this list as complete as possible.
Where there's change, there's resistance
Cliché but true; where change is, is resistance. When you’re just starting out with D&I most of your team will probably encourage you — but when they realize it’s a permanent thing, they might start resisting. In the end, real change forces everyone to change, so we asked some leaders in the creative industry how they deal with resistance in their teams:
“Becoming diverse and inclusive comes with a lot of advantages, but it’s challenging too. Be realistic. Make your team feel heard. Don’t deny their frustrations on the journey. Keep explaining why this transition is important for everyone.”
"We get everyone involved in changes by making them a conversation that anyone can participate in. For example, our team-wide code of conduct has been edited and iterated on by many different teammates; with each perspective sharpening the last."
3. Don’t stop, keep it going
You’ve got the quick wins implemented, the first big projects are in progress. Everyone has started focusing on their jobs again. Here’s how to make sure D&I stays top of mind, even after the initial excitement has faded.
1. Set up a Diversity & Inclusion taskforce
Make sure you have a small D&I taskforce — a group of colleagues that comes together regularly to discuss the latest developments, what’s going well and what isn’t. Just make sure you’re not alone in this. Bonus points if you make sure at least one seat is taken by a senior team member.
2. Repeat your survey
After 6-12 months, repeat your survey. You know the baseline, and it’s valuable to see the kind of change you’ve achieved over this period of time. Repeat your survey every 6 months to track your progress and back it up with real-world data, while making sure to communicate the outcomes with your team.
3. Find a mentor
Find a mentor or someone who’s in a similar position in another company. Throughout the process of working towards a more inclusive and diverse team you’ll celebrate victories, but you’ll also encounter frustration. Find someone who knows what you’re talking about, and it’ll all be much easier.
Done? Great job!
You’ve made the first steps to creating a more diverse and inclusive team for your company — and now it’s up to you to keep it going. Make sure you stay on track by listening to your employees, refining your processes and ultimately creating a workplace that works for everyone.