Diversity - everyone agrees that it’s a good thing. After all, it brings new ideas and viewpoints to the table, contributed by employees from around the world. By some measures, having an inclusive workplace makes your organization more efficient, more successful and more profitable.
When we raised our funding round in September 2017, we committed ourselves to creating a diverse workplace where everyone could be themselves. After over an year of implementing and reviewing practices and strategies, we’ve reached the initial goals that we’d set.
The Initial Goals.
- 50/50 workplace. Achieve a balance in the male-female ratio, especially in the engineering team.
- Bring employees from an underrepresented groups to 40% of the workplace (from the starting point of 25%).
Along the way, we learnt many lessons about making diversity initiatives successful, and the kinds of obstacles that come with that. I want to share some of our learnings so teams around the world can learn from us and create diverse workplaces in their organizations.
1. Set Realistic, Tailored and Measurable Goals.
Every organization is unique, so every diversity initiative has to be unique too. Often, we may set unrealistic goals (something like “hire only women engineers for the next year”) or unmeasurable ones (“make sure everyone is inclusive at work” - how do you measure this metric).
Clearly defining what you want to achieve is a good way to get started. Create an end goal in mind, and work out a strategy that will directly help you achieve it. For example, we started our diversity initiative with our engineering team. We aimed to increase the proportion of female engineers in the team from 25% to 30% within an year, and centred our talent hiring efforts around this goal.
Setting measurable goals is just as important as setting attainable ones. That means, you need something with numbers. While numbers rarely paint the whole picture, every organization needs to be able to measure some metrics that coincide with their goal to make sure that they’ve hit it. These metrics can be percentages, employee counts or anything that helps solidify your diversity efforts into factual data you can use.
2. Quotas Won’t Cut It.
Hiring quotas are really powerful - in fact, it was our go-to move when it came to improving our numbers. But quotas aren’t enough to nurture an inclusive culture in the company.
We quickly realized that many of the problems remained even though the numbers we had been focusing on were improving. That’s when we added new tools to our diversity arsenal - things like (anonymous) surveys, weekly townhalls, diversity sit-downs with every team and more. Numbers are a great start, but to change culture and inculcate inclusivity, it takes more than that. This brings me to my last point.
3. Empathy Is The Most Powerful Tool You Have.
Chances are that you’ve experienced discrimination at least once in your life; maybe you were excluded from a group conversation, ignored at a restaurant or some douche hurled a racial slur at you. As a leader (and employee), you have to recall that time and identify with the reasons behind the diversity initiative.
Empathy to people’s experiences is the most powerful tool managers have when pushing for diversity and inclusion. When the leadership feels connected to the goal and driven by its purpose, the likelihood of the initiative succeeding will skyrocket.
Every diversity effort, no matter how large or small, is continuous and ever-evolving. That’s why, here at Team Labs, we’re always working on making our diversity policies even more effective with feedback from our team members. I hope that the learnings from our experiences help your startup move towards creating an even better diversity plan.