Diversity in the Workplace & What It Means for Company Culture
During my recent sabbatical I’ve taken the time to reassess my personal and professional priorities, leading me to join several eye-opening conversations along the way. It’s become apparent that my peers and I want more out of our careers, but the common thread amongst our struggle to find a company that values our goals surfaced: company culture lacks impactful diversity and inclusion.
Diversity Recruitment as a Solution
I recently attended a panel addressing this topic led by top media staffers who shared their tips in creating and maintaining a healthy, diverse, and productive company culture. Job seekers (like myself) in the audience leaned on these panelists’ answers in choosing the right work environment, and though there were a few insightful moments, it was clear that shaping company culture is an ongoing challenge. However, many see diversity recruitment as a productive solution. I took it upon myself to weigh in on the issue through the #letstalkculture and #askmemás hashtags on Twitter which received support from fellow attendees, and drew attention from minorities in tech.
One panelist admitted he and his company could do better in recruiting people of color, while another panelist felt minorities don’t make themselves visible enough. I was shocked, disappointed, and felt it imperative to share the resources as a Latina in tech as a rebuttal. Minorities in tech are in fact present, and equally qualified for jobs their peers are offered. To boast, there are communities actively providing resources (see descriptions below) to raise visibility for people of color, specifically women of color, and encourage anyone in charge of hiring or on-boarding staffers to tap their communities for talent. I can speak to the fact that working on a diverse team brings out the best creativity, different points of view, and collaborative success. When you bring on talent with diverse backgrounds – race, gender, sexuality and especially career paths – you have an opportunity to create a unique learning environment. Yes, it’s hard to achieve diversity – but – it’s rewarding if done right. Diversity is a great thing. Diversity is what sets you apart from competitors. Diversity is the key to successful company culture.
Interview Questions to Discuss
It can be uncomfortable bringing up diversity throughout the hiring process. I try to make it a point to integrate the question of diversity as part of a larger company culture dialogue. Here are several questions that can help you steer that conversation:
Describe the communication style amongst your team. What tools do you use to effectively communicate cross-functionally? What are the best and worst examples of communication styles you’ve seen implemented?
How is the team dynamic currently and what structure has worked best for efficiency and productivity?
Can you describe the growth of the company and what type of candidates have seen the most success?
What other platforms are you using to source talent? How have candidates found you?
What is the typical career trajectory for a person in this position? What would you say are the top three personality traits someone needs to do this job well?
Challenge: without saying beer, coffee, snacks, ping pong, or happy hour, describe some of your favorite team bonding experiences that have added to positive company morale.
Follow up: Why do you like working here?
I know this company prides itself on X and Y, so what would you say is the most important aspect of your culture?
Does the company offer continued education and professional training? What does the on boarding process look like for new hires?
What communities or organizations outside this company are employees involved with?
But this is just the beginning. There are more resources out there. Do the research. Invest in the future of your team. I’m ready, willing, and able to aid in the innovation needed to improve recruiting efforts and would be happy to lend my advice and connections to help do so. Just ask how.
Below I’ve compiled some of my favorite communities that I feel are doing the grunt work in shaping the career paths for minorities in the digital workforce. I encourage job seekers and hiring managers alike to explore these communities, reach out to them, and set aside time to hold candid conversations about making diversity recruitment a top priority. I also encourage readers to expand their definition of “tech” beyond coding and engineering. There are plenty of non-techies who work in tech (eh hem, me) who are essential for a growing digital company. Think: content/writing/editing, marketing, public relations, accounting, for example. These professionals can complete a well-rounded team and often work alongside designers and developers to see projects through.
Tips for On-boarding & Welcoming New Hires
Once you hire dynamic people with awesome, diverse points-of-view, make them feel welcome. Do away with the stocked liquor cabinets, free beer/coffee/snacks, monthly happy hours, and ping pong tables. Instead, focus your energy on making them feel included in meaningful ways. It might come as a shock, but not all new hires want or care about how much free food they get while working overtime. They care about getting work done in a healthy, pleasant, and inclusive environment.
Today, more than ever, employees seek out inclusive work environments that make them feel appreciated and valued. Just ask around. A great first step in retaining new hires is to create a welcome kit complete with a proper on-boarding process, one that provides training, sets them up with a buddy, and allows them to contribute to their team with small test projects/accounts/assignments. Not sure where to start? I recommend reading the pop forms blog which has fantastic resources on leadership and team building.
From there it’s up to you to instill trust and flexibility that allows talent to grow and hopefully turn employees into company ambassadors. Allow a safe space for them to speak out, share ideas, and get their best work done. As my friend Stacy-Marie once said, don’t be the reason people quit.