United by purpose: How diversity drives innovation at these 4 Seattle tech companies

by Quinten Dol
January 30, 2019

We all know that teams are more successful when they include a diverse array of personality types, cultures, genders and backgrounds. And in the tech industry, where competition for talent and market share is fiercer than ever, the edge that comes from diverse and inclusive teams couldn’t be more important.

We spoke to representatives in a variety of roles at four tech companies throughout Puget Sound about how they’re making sure their teams remain welcoming to all and, in doing so, maintain an advantage over their competitors.

 

limeade seattle tech diversity and inclusion bellevue
photo via limeade

Limeade seeks to build great places to work by improving workplace culture and employee well-being. The company’s software solutions focus on employee well-being, engagement, inclusion, communication and social recognition platforms, with the goal of boosting  engagement, culture and, ultimately, overall business performance.

Brand Manager Lauren Ferguson said one of the easiest ways Limeade can improve its diversity and inclusion initiatives is by testing their own product on themselves.

 

How does having a diverse team shape your work?

At Limeade, we help build inclusive cultures at companies across the country, from manufacturing to healthcare to tech — and we can’t do that if we don’t hold ourselves to the same standard. Building and developing our own diverse and inclusive teams is critical to developing product features, content and functionality that celebrate the diversity of our users.

For example, we took a collective approach to developing and improving our Limeade Inclusion product by testing it internally first. All employees became “users” of the product and were strongly encouraged to provide feedback on the content, functionality and experience to make the product reflective of its goal — to welcome, value and acknowledge the unique perspective of every employee. This process proved to be incredibly valuable. We were able to catch bugs in the product, get more creative with content and refine the delivery so that we could reach more users.

 

Acting is even more important than asking.”

 

How will your company continue to strengthen its diversity and inclusion initiatives?

We’re constantly researching, ideating, and implementing new ways to bring diversity and inclusion to Limeade. One new approach for us this year is called the “Kaleidoscope Council” — a volunteer group of employees who have committed to advancing D&I at Limeade. Within the council, there are sub-teams that focus on different aspects of our D&I strategy, one of which is entirely focused on recruiting and hiring. The intent of the group is to bring together perspectives from different teams, skill sets, identity groups and backgrounds to hire a more representative and diverse workforce.

In essence, we want to strengthen our D&I efforts by making inclusion central to those efforts. The council elevates the voices of employees to the leadership level, and also tactically implements new processes, systems and events. We’re going to re-evaluate the success of this shared decision-making and ownership model at the end of the year and see how it helped us achieve our company goals. We’ve also aligned with other great organizations. Last year we signed the Paid Leave Pledge and recently joined the CEO Action for Diversity and Inclusion.

 

How does your company ensure that everyone is empowered to share their perspectives?

We start by using our own product. Every six months, it sends out a confidential inclusion survey to all our employees. The survey asks about many different aspects of inclusion, which roll up into one aggregate inclusion score. We track and measure progress against this over time. We also use the insights from the survey to prioritize efforts for the Kaleidoscope Council, so the voices of our employees are the driving force for all of our efforts.

Acting is even more important than asking. We follow up each survey with a company-wide presentation of the results, and a summary of the actions we’re taking to address the top three areas of improvement. In addition to the bi-annual inclusion survey, we also have quarterly learning days, weekly one-on-ones with managers and monthly company meetings where we encourage employees to ask questions and share their perspectives.

 

west monroe partners diversity and inclusion seattle
photo via west monroe partners

Business and technology consulting firm West Monroe Partners solves technical challenges for business clients. Headquartered in Chicago, the company has a number of offices sprinkled throughout the United States, including one near Pike Place Market.

Managing Director and Seattle Office Leader Brian Paulen said making sure everyone feels included creates real businesses value.



How does having a diverse team shape your work?

For us, inclusion and diversity is about building a workplace with the representation of ideas and experiences necessary to create the best solutions for our clients. That means diversity is not just about specific demographics, but bringing together different experiences, backgrounds and perspectives.

Internally, we experienced the power of diversity of thought when we implemented Salesforce several years ago. While, on the surface, the team was diverse, there were also less obvious differences in work styles, approaches and backgrounds. This team was able to break down silos, consider a broad range of stakeholder needs and ultimately create a more successful outcome.  

 

Diversity means nothing if people don’t feel like they belong.”



How will your company continue to strengthen its diversity and inclusion initiatives?

Inclusion and diversity is one of our firm-wide strategic initiatives for 2019, and has been for the past few years. We will continue to strengthen our platform for inclusion by investing in our inclusion and diversity council and employee resource groups. We also partner with outside organizations such as The Ellevate Network, Girls Who Code and Jumpstart to both support our employees today, and seed the future pipeline with diverse talent. Additionally, we offer our employees I&D-related training, lunch-and-learns and discussion groups. Finally, we will continue to communicate on our progress openly and consistently with our more than 1,000 employees.



How does your company ensure that everyone is empowered to share their perspectives?

We intentionally call it “Inclusion and Diversity” because we believe firmly in leading with inclusion — diversity means nothing if people don’t feel like they belong. Thus, building an inclusive culture where everyone can bring their authentic selves to the table has been our top priority. We encourage an open line of communication between our people and our leaders and the I&D council. One specific tactic we’ve used to foster a culture of trust and openness is an in-office discussion series we call “Let's Talk I&D,” where employees are invited to talk about a specific topic with their peers in a safe, judgement-free environment. This also serves as a way to educate our employees on tactics to create inclusiveness within their teams. Recent topics have included allyship and unconscious bias.

 

skykick team seattle tech
photo via skykick

SkyKick’s software tools assist small and medium-sized businesses with their cloud migration, management and backups, with a focus on automating as much of the process as possible. SkyKick’s flagship product is Migration Suites for Office 365, which streamlines a business’ adoption of Microsoft’s cloud-based work productivity apps.

Director of Recruiting Donna Day said the diversity of SkyKick’s workforce translates to increased productivity and smarter innovation.

 

How does having a diverse team shape your work?

SkyKick embraces diversity. It’s a key component to ensuring the company’s growth and stability as it expands beyond the Puget Sound region into countries like the Netherlands, Australia, Japan and the United Kingdom. Having a diverse team means we’re constantly seeing an increase in productivity, and a desire to innovate. It also means we have a workforce that comes to the table with varied approaches to solving the challenges our partners face in building and growing their Office 365 cloud practices.

 

Not only do we encourage SkyKickers to share their ideas and differing viewpoints in order to drive the business forward — we expect it.”

 

How will your company continue to strengthen its diversity and inclusion initiatives?

SkyKick is actively involved with a number of groups focused on inclusivity in the workplace, including the Greater Seattle Business Association, a Seattle-based LGBTQ and allied chamber of commerce. In addition, we support various events throughout the year that advance the careers of women in tech. Most recently, these events have included the 2018 Seattle conference for Advancing the Careers of Technical Women; the inaugural Black Women in Technology Northwest Summit 2018 and the upcoming 2019 Women in Cloud Summit.

 

How does your company ensure that everyone is empowered to share their perspectives?

People come energized to work and collaborate with their colleagues every day; it’s a culture that we have been very thoughtful and methodical about. This means that there is an organic combination of perspectives and ideas on a daily basis throughout the organization. Not only do we encourage SkyKickers to share their ideas and differing viewpoints in order to drive the business forward — we expect it.

 

glowforge seattle tech company 3D printing
photo via glowforge

Glowforge’s groundbreaking range of 3D printers have been on the market since April last year, and allow users to design and create objects using a wide variety of materials — even chocolate. Rather than layering plastic filaments like traditional 3D printers, Glowforge cuts materials based on designs uploaded by the user, whether they’re designed by precision software or hand-drawn by a child.

Senior Vice President of People Cynthia Mason and People Ops Coordinator Miriam Shoemaker said Glowforge uses a mix of personal strategy and diversity-driven software to empower employees of all backgrounds.

 

How does having a diverse team shape your work?

We are united by a purpose, not a personality or background type. When our tech team approaches a problem, having a diverse group is valuable in creating better products. If the entire team had the same background as their manager, they would get stuck. Having different people with different perspectives requires growth across the team, to work effectively together with people with different skills.

In the customer success team, it is each employee’s duty to learn what all of our customers are facing, and to communicate effectively with them. The best way to achieve this is to have a diverse team with different skill sets and learned processes.

 

How will your company continue to strengthen its diversity and inclusion initiatives?

Strengthening diversity initiatives in Glowforge starts with the recruiting team. Strengthening our inclusion initiatives starts with the People Ops team, and trickles down to every employee. We post every job to LinkedIn, Built In Seattle and a variety of job boards catering to a variety of communities and backgrounds.

 

We are united by a purpose, not a personality or background type.”

 

We do not narrow our recruitment search to Seattle, enabling us to employ people from very different backgrounds, places and stages of their careers. We have a generous relocation package for out-of-town hires and make sure our out-of-town candidates have just as seamless of a candidate experience as our local candidates. We also offer a referral bonus for diverse hires.

We run all of our job descriptions and internal policies through a software platform called Textio, which provides guidance on how to word our job posts in a way that will appeal to applicants of all genders. We are also working with a local company called Diverse City, which specializes in diversity and equity assessments, training, coaching and accountability systems. They help us build sustainable diversity and inclusion strategies.

 

How does your company ensure that everyone is empowered to share their perspectives?

We have a culture of one-on-ones with each employee and their manager, as opposed to any sort of recurrent review. Having continuous and consistent communication with each employee and their supervisor has proved to be empowering for all, and creates an open environment for employees to share their perspectives.

Every one-on-one has a guideline, but each is executed differently, depending on the employee.  Every employee shares their perspectives differently, and it is important that we react by facilitating an environment that allows those differences to shine.

 

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