- By Yassmin Khalifa
The journey of diversity and inclusion (D&I) means a more productive and innovative workplace for everyone in it. But the work is not always fun or easy; sometimes it can be a difficult and uncomfortable experience, much like a lot of outcomes worth pushing for.
At SweetIQ, we already knew why diversity was important for business. Further, we took a look at the state of women in tech to get a better understanding of what we needed to do. From there, our work focused on education and empathy building in our workplace. The results turned out to be more than just a happier workplace – our business got significantly stronger.
The importance of D&I
Fundamentally, we want our workplace to be a respectful place to work. The reason behind prioritizing respect and inclusion is about the win-win scenario; people feel better about their work and the business does better. Studies such as McKinsey and Company’s findings show companies in the top quartile of racial and ethnic diversity are 33% more likely to have above-average market returns. By beginning to identify gaps that, if solved, we can create a more inclusive workplace and get closer to increased bottom-line results. With that desire in mind, D&I has become an increasing priority for us.
How we do D&I at SweetIQ
Our strategy centers on meeting people where they are with education and helpful resources. Instead of forcing people to take a seminar or demanding people use a new tool, we integrated diversity and inclusion education into our normal workflows. For us, that meant Slack.
Our strategy has a few key elements to it:
Alignment to corporate values
We knew that building a D&I program had to be fully integrated with our company. It would fail if we held it off to the side. Not only would it be less effective, but it wouldn’t have any business benefits if we just put it as a side learning initiative. This is why we’re aligning our initiatives with our parent company, Gannett, who are also actively working on D&I strategies.
Telling people to “be more inclusive” wasn’t going to fly in our office. We have a lot of opinionated, intelligent people from a variety of backgrounds – a vague statement like “be more inclusive” wouldn’t go far. On the same note, we couldn’t just say “this is how you can be inclusive” because the word “inclusive” has so many meanings and opportunities for engagement.
Instead, we focused on education first. With this approach, we’d give people the opportunity to engage at their level, when they were ready.
Standardize where possible
One of the cool parts about D&I is that it helps you create more standard procedures across your whole organization. Not only does it help with inclusion because it removes the opportunities for bias to creep in, but it also makes your whole organization more scalable and efficient.
For us, working on standardizing the hiring procedures on our development team was one of the first things we did, because that’s where we identified a significant D&I gap.
Similar to telling someone to “be inclusive”, we also couldn’t expect people to follow a solely top-down approach. Instead, we opted for a community focus. This empowered our employees to speak up about what they needed or wanted to see at work. If it aligned with where our organization was trying to go and fit the mantra of education, it gave employees the chance to spearhead projects supported by the organization.
Not just limited to the company itself, projects that align with our values could be out in the local community or with other nonprofit and community groups. We called our group EmpowerIQ.
Powering D&I education
We decided to work with Crescendo, a platform that helps companies build more inclusive and empathetic workplaces, because it seamlessly integrated with how we work in Slack. The team helped us set up a great, personalized experience that delivers new experiences, facts, and stories to our team as they go through their day.
This “nudge” opportunity worked really well because it didn’t force people to do anything, but instead naturally gave people the opportunity to engage when they were ready.
“Crescendo allowed us to have an employee-driven initiative where the team is empowered to learn and decide what it means for them to work with other people, feel safe, heard and understood and to drive changes within the organization.” – Alix Vander Elst, Director of Product Management & User Experience SweetIQ
Not only is the Crescendo team helpful, but they have a ton of free diversity and inclusion resources available to anyone on their website. Their resources can help you figure out if you have a problem with D&I in your company, where your core D&I focus areas should be, and more. They will even help you find D&I metrics so you know what to measure.
Respect and inclusion at work
Crafting a multi-pronged D&I strategy began, for us, out of the desire to build a more respectful and inclusive workplace. We’re working hard to ensure each piece of the strategy not only ties to each other, but back to the organization’s goals and needs. It’s been a fun ride so far, but there’s plenty more to do. We’re excited to continue the journey here and look forward to sharing more of our process in the future.