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Corporate culture

Five best practices to improve diversity and inclusion in your workplace

Ivana Markovic
Mar 04, 2019 ∙ 5 mins
black background with color pencils

Here at Osedea, one of our five values is Diversity is our Middle Name. We strive to have a team that’s representative of Montréal’s diverse population, but also diverse personalities and passions.

Most companies today will talk about the importance of diversity and inclusion, and draw on these ideas when crafting internal communications and setting key priorities. Whether it’s incorporating diversity and inclusion into their core values, employee engagement initiatives, or recruiting efforts, organizations are trying to implement these principles to the best of their ability. But when we assess what’s really changed as a result of their attempts to do so, it’s clear that oftentimes, the answer is “not much”.

So what’s a conscious company to do?

Well, the main issue with meaningfully adopting diversity and inclusion within an organization is the question of how to transform them from just another to-do on a checklist, into a living, breathing part of your organizational culture.

As a growing team seeking to integrate our values more into our daily routines at the office, we found ourselves facing the challenge of making Diversity is Our Middle Name something that we approach with even more intentionality. You’ll see from the ideas we share below that not only have we managed to bake a focus on diversity into our talent pipeline, but by emphasizing diversity in everything we do, we’ve attained an impressive new level of employee engagement.

Plus, according to our Officevibe stats, our employee net promoter score (which has to do with how likely our employees say they would be to recommend Osedea to others as a great place to work) has gone up as well.

Now, how can you get started on doing the same?

Involve your team

Ensuring that diversity and inclusion are tangibly expressed through various aspects of your company’s activities shouldn’t be a one-person job. It’s important that it become a shared responsibility across various roles within the organization — which for us, looked like setting up a Diversity Committee. The Committee’s mission is to develop and execute initiatives on all levels of company activity, with the mandate that these initiatives include participation from all team members.

Team members signed up for the Committee based on their interest in emphasizing diversity at work, and we ended up with representatives from across our dev, design, and business teams contributing their time and ideas to the group.

Start with actionable quick wins — and expand from there

Launching a new initiative at work can be overwhelming at times. To counteract any discouragement that you might feel at the outset, start by setting up quick wins: small action steps that speak to what you want to accomplish, yet don’t put you at the mercy of long approval processes, or require much in the way of company resources.

In our case, our team brainstormed dozens of ideas — but we narrowed our focus to the next three months, and what we could do within that time frame. We decided on five initiatives that we would pursue — each with different levels of complexity — to maximize our chances of delivering on our objectives.

Once we completed those, we added five more initiatives, and so on. So far, we’ve seen through close to 20 initiatives in less than a year. We think this is an impressive number, and we have our mindset and commitment to enjoying the benefits of a more diverse workplace to thank for it.

Play with frequency

Diversity and inclusion should be part of your day-to-day, but you can create different initiatives with different frequencies (weekly, monthly, and quarterly). That way, diversity is much more than a simple metric that you ensure is fulfilled and then forget about (e.g. “do we have enough women on staff? What about people from visible minorities? Yes? Then we’re good!”). Rather, diversity and inclusion become an ingrained and ever-evolving part of your culture.

Share knowledge and integrate Diversity across your whole team

Make sure you communicate with your team and your stakeholders regarding the importance of diversity and inclusion, by explaining the benefits that a focus on these tenets can have on company culture, productivity, and so on. In our case, we update our team on our diversity initiatives on a quarterly basis, filling them in on everything that has happened, and that will be happening in the coming months.

For our software development company, these updates are just as important as our financial results or team performance results. Because diversity and inclusion are an “everyone” priority.

To get you started, below are some of our favourite initiatives we’ve tried so far

Trainings that highlight themes related to Diversity and Inclusivity

  • We brought in an external resource (Miriam from Brain Spa) to give us a helpful training on unconscious bias (what it is, and how to notice when it rears its head). You can read our blog post about it here.
  • We’re lucky to have a team member who went to school for psychology. To leverage her knowledge, we hosted a workshop on the Myers-Briggs personality types and how they interact in the workspace. The session was very useful, and we now run it as a yearly training with our group of new team members.

Initiatives that help us get to know our coworkers better, to make all of us more inclusive

  • During our regular Lunch and Learns, we incorporated a series of Lightning Talks that give our team members the chance to present on a topic they’re passionate about. We called this initiative “Diversity of Passions”. So far, we’ve had sessions on architecture, dog sports, 3D printing, bouldering, and ballroom dancing, as well as different travel destinations. Now, we’re expanding "Diversity of Passions" into “Diversity of Cultures”, which is an opportunity for team members to give a talk on a culture they find fascinating (their own, or someone else’s).
  • Inspired by the game “Two Truths and a Lie”, we played a casual internal game of our own with the help of our design team. Team members share three intriguing pieces of information about themselves, and everyone has to guess which one is made up.

One of our diversity initiatives, to get to know each other

  • We started a “Coffee with a Coworker” initiative that gives everyone a chance to meet up with a colleague and get to know them better. The initiative was so popular, we even came up with a spinoff called “Cowork with a Coworker”, which pairs you with a fellow team member for 30 minutes to watch the way he or she works, and get a better understanding of the professional priorities of different people in the company.

Implementing diversity in our hiring pipeline

  • We make a point of attending and presenting at events for Women Techmakers. We also work with local university groups to introduce more female computer science students to the types of careers we offer.
  • We ensure that all our external communications, including social media posts and job posts, speak to our values of diversity and inclusion.
  • We attend various community events, and fund our team so that they can go to diversity-centric conferences. If you want to learn more about internal initiatives and activities, you can look up our corporate culture blog page or reach out to us!

One of our Diversity of Passions Presentations

Photo credit: Sharon McCutcheon